Herefordshire Week 065: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 March 2021

Hail! Jobs Done. Partridges and Wild Garlic (not together).

Spring is definitely here.

On the flower front, we’re at the yellow stage: daffodils, primroses, cowslips, dandelions, celandine; but the purply-blues are starting to make an appearance too – the first bluebells are flowering, joining the violet violets at the entrance to the orchard and we have periwinkles by the driveway.

Montage: Spring Flowers
Montage: Spring Flowers

Leaf buds are starting to appear on the fruit trees, some unfurling there and in the hedges too.

Montage: Spring Greens - Leaves and Buds
Montage: Spring Greens – Leaves and Buds

And as well as our Resident Pheasants, this week we had a Pair of Partridges appear under the Pear Tree:

Partridges by the Pear Tree
Partridges by the Pear Tree

Blackbirds, chaffinches, tits and robins all singing away lustily.

Tuesday morning I ticked off lots of little to dos which had been occupying space in my calendar and mind: Tied water butts to the greenhouse, fed camellia, reseeded lawn patches, hauled logs from slope to log store and last of the loppings to the bonfire. Phil and I also tried to work out our spec for the garage rebuild. Tricky.

Tasks continued on Friday morning, after another busy week at work and a miserable windy, rainy morning (and we’d sat outside in the sun on Thursday lunchtime): updated my Where Next page, FINALLY submitted our FIT meter readings to Scottish Power (successfully – which did somewhat surprise me), got my account balance update from Three (can never log into their website, so it always has to be done via chat), emailed the TRC ladies and other friends near and far, sorted out a date to see Carl, caught up with Robert, organised the next LED Trustee Call and sanded and painted the polyfilla’d wall plug holes. Tick Tick Tick!

Just before lunch, Phil and I headed down the hill to rendezvous with Thea for a lunchtime walk, and got caught in hail all the way down. Nuts. Lovely walk though! Did a bit more phoning around in the afternoon trying to sort out replacements for the double glazing windows that have blown in the conservatory, and the soffits along the front of the house, where we’ve gaffer taped one end to stop birds getting in. Caught up with Simon, Susa and Jane before Friday Night Pizza.

Meanwhile, over in Walton, AJ’s team finished repainting the hut and (hopefully) sorting out the leaks at the front – we’d booked that in when we were moving out all our stuff last October. Who knows when we’ll be able to see it for ourselves. Although I do have a cunning plan…..

I started off Saturday with the Bacton Square, picking a big bag of wild garlic down at Bacton Stud (and a nice big bunch of binder twine a little further down the road), and taking receipt of surplus potatoes from Ivy Cottage. Moved the old trestle table top back down to the quarry and (Phil) fixed the vent in the greenhouse, then tackled nettles and ivy by the very-pruned-shrub.

Radish seedlings
Radish seedlings

A hydrangea, baby bay tree and arrowwood (Viburnum Bodnantense) arrived in the afternoon. The hydrangea has been planted by the very-pruned-shrub, and the bay tree repotted into a larger container ready to put into a terracotta pot by the front door for easy access, once it’s harden up a bit. Still pondering on where to plant the arrowwood

The clocks sprang forward overnight, making Sunday a slightly out-of-sorts day. Phil and I headed out in the drizzle to Do Bacton, then started the second half of his Christmas Cheese Selection for lunch.

Mid afternoon we walked over to Whitfield to stroll around the gardens and to admire the magnolias, coinciding with dad and Jean. Whitfield were open as part of the NGS Open Gardens Scheme, but I’m still not sure how that squares with the lockdown rules, even with social distancing (not exactly a challenge).

Gorgeous day Monday, spent in the garden: sorted water butt drainpipe, stands and stake; tidied away the greenhouse and water butt spare parts; cleared dead bramble from the shed roof; scrubbed down the “nice” patio garden table and chairs ready for guests; did a “Honda Mow” to get to the places the ride on mower won’t go (even managed to start it myself, once); raked the path around the slope to clear windblown wood debris and carted 3 wheelbarrow-loads to the bonfire; Phil hauled the last Western Power branch from the bottom of the slope to the bonfire; tied up the stake to Sophie’s Walnut Tree; secured the tarp over Nellie’s Bench with some of my collection of “picked up whilst out on walks” binder twine (how satisfying) and tipped the rain water off the train set tarp.

Water butt: drainpipe and stake redone
Water butt: drainpipe and stake redone

Lunch in there somewhere too, sat outside on the patio, and tea, crumpet and cookie at 5pm.

I did sustain two garden-related injuries – bumped my head hard on a big, low branch and sprained (I think) my left hand, with the back of my hand swelling up sufficiently to hide my middle knuckle and making it painful to open my fingers or to use my hand at all.

TV: More of season 4 of The Crown which is the first where I have memories of many of the events, (Thea’s tip) Escape to the Chateau as our new Friday Night Pizza Treat viewing and Destination Wedding as an OK-ish Saturday night film.

Podcasts: History ExtraDressed: The History of FashionThe Allusionist, The History of England, The Infinite Monkey Cage and In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 65 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-28.

2nd April – Just seen I failed to publish this on Tuesday. Horrors! And apologies to all my regular readers 🙂

Where next: 2021 – COVID-19 Update

Here’s a copy of my Where Next page that I made today (26 March 2021). The page displayed all the optimism (and desperation) of January 2021. My updated “Where’s Next” page has a little less of both….

None of these trips are going to happen.

I’ve written off any foreign travel this year, and definitely no big trip – even if we’re vaccinated I can’t imagine Nepal will be, and the prospect of sitting in an aeroplane for 7-10 hours with a transfer in India or Dubai does not appeal. With Europe heading into its Third Wave and post-BREXIT relations already soured, Italy and Spain are highly unlikely. That said, I’ll be happy if we get to the autumn and I’m proved wrong.

Plus we’ve really not explored around here yet, and I really want to see family and friends – right now the prospect of being able to spend a long weekend in Pembs with the Everest Trek Crowd at the end of May is a huge highlight.


I’m hoping to be able to do some of the 2020 trips that we had to postpone due to COVID-19, and to get to see more of the Marches and Wales.

I feel I got off lightly last year – 2020 was always going to be focused on relocating to Herefordshire and so I’d not made any Big Travel Plans. In fact the only trips in the diary were a return to northern Spain with Steffi and Hazel to walk the El Anillo de Picos in the company of Alfonso who led 2019’s week in the Picos plus a week or so in northern Italy for Michael and Katja’s wedding.

Trip No. 1 of 2021: Northern Italy (postponed from 2020)

Destination: Val d’Aosta, north of Turin

When: Summer 2021

What: City break + History + Mountains + Friends. Maybe taking advantage of Michael and Katja’s Aosta Wanderlust.

How: TBC – last year we ended up booking flights to/from Turin, but the idea of travelling there and back by train still appeals….

Why: For Michael and Katja’s wedding.

Trip No. 2 of 2021: El Anillo de Picos (postponed from 2020)

Destination: The Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.

When: August / September 2021.

What: Steffi, Hazel and I – plus Rache – return to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos.

How: In the wonderful company of Alfonso Gallego de Lerma who was our excellent guide/leader on Exodus’ Picos de Europa trip we did in July 2019.

Why: July 2019’s trip whetted the appetite even though the bad weather restricted our routes and made the Grade 5 trip closer to the standard Grade 3 holiday than any of us would have wished.

This time we’ll get to spend a long week in the Picos de Europa proper, hiking in and around  the three massifs. We will be staying in refugios and carrying “everything” with us.  That shouldn’t be as dramatic as it sounds – we are used to carrying wet weather gear and warm layers, plus lunch and water, in our day packs and will only need a sheet sleeping bag for the refugios which will also provide all our meals. I for one am not renowned for my vast wardrobe when I’m walking …. Plus we will have clean clothes to enjoy once we’ve competed El Anillo.

Itinerary: Factoring in travel to/from London, our itinerary is:

  • Day 0: Travel to London
  • Day 1: Fly to Bilbao. Travel to Arenas de Calabres.
  • Days 2 to 8: Trekking through the Picos.
  • Day 9: Relax and swim…. Drive to Bilbao or Santander. Visit the city.
  • Day 10: Fly to London
  • Day 11: Travel back from London

Trip No. 3 of 2021: Kanchenjunga Base Camp and Beyond …

Destination: Kanchenjunga, Eastern Nepal.

When: November 2021 TBC

What: Trekking to one/both of the Kanchenjunga base camps and out again. Route TBC. All Nepal side. Val ran through some options when we met at Steffi’s in 2020. With hindsight, getting everyone to Pembs then was a rare event! Options are:

  • North & South Basecamps (~5100m & ~4780m) – 25/26 days
  • North Basecamp & Lumba Sumba (~4700m) – 23 days
  • North Basecamp there and back via the Milke Danda & Tumlingtar – 21/22 days

How: Trekking with the amazing Val Pitkethly and Chhering. Not sure who else!

Why: More high mountains, more remote communities and another section of the GHT.

Kanchenjunga Routes - Val's map
Kanchenjunga Routes – Val’s map

Herefordshire Week 064: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 March 2021

Phil’s birthday. Dad’s birthday. Jabs. Back to the Cat’s Back.

Got my first COVID vaccine jab on Tuesday morning. Phil drove me to the surgery in Ewyas Harold and it was all over and done with in 5 mins or so.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination Docs
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination Docs

Timely – it’s been a year since Janette’s visit, which was all too swiftly followed by the first lockdown.

No after effects and the weather was nice, so I decided to walk back along the Dulas road. The tiny daffodils are out in Dulas Churchyard, and primroses, celandine and wild violets lined the lanes. Making the most of the good weather, I decided to walk the long way home, turning left onto Tremorithic Road at the end of Mill Lane, and walking home via Fair Oak, Bacton and Kerrys Gate. 8 miles, 784 ft ascent, 535 ft descent.

Wild violets
Wild violets

Thursday was Phil’s birthday. A lovely day – breakfast “Shepherdess”, cards and pressies, stroll down to the Abbey and back, bumping into Bob at Ray’s produced more cards. Balfour Beatty were filling in the larger potholes on the straight stretch down in Abbey Dore. Still plenty of lesser holes left mind you.

Birthday Cake at 4pm, featuring the Delia Smith Christmas Cake we didn’t manage to get to last December.

Big Boozy Birthday Cake (Very Mature)
Big Boozy Birthday Cake (Very Mature)

For dinner we treated ourselves to The Cinnamon Club Vegan Meal Kit from The Cinnamon Club restaurant. Not cheap, but delivered, chilled, in the morning and easy to “cook” plus plenty for 2 evening meals – although not of the Smoky Mumbai Manhattan cocktail…. Dinner totally tasted of Kerala.

Birthday Dinner courtesy of The Cinnamon Club
Birthday Dinner courtesy of The Cinnamon Club

I think our last meal out might have been a disappointing pre cinema burger at Wildwood back in Week 10.

Friday’s highlight was a return to Ewyas Harold for Phil to get his jab. Speedy work from our local GP Surgery.

Still taking great delighted in my Friday morning achievement: hemming the frayed cuffs on the blue ice breaker I inherited from Phil. Also been reading Michael Wood’s   very readable The Story of China.

(For Phil, I think the morning’s highlight was the delivery of six Crosstown Vegan Sourdough Doughnuts to add to yesterday’s Grassmere Gingerbread gift. Good friends.)

Saturday was Dad’s birthday – and he got his second jab that afternoon.

Phil was feeling a bit under par, so settled in front of the telly. How handy we recently got Netflix 🙂 That left me free to get some jobs done: removed the wall plugs from and polyfilla’d the small holes in the walls we’ve been living with since we changed all the loo roll holders about 6 months ago; hammered in strong stakes next to the greenhouse and reestablished the water butts. Watered the seeds – radishes and mixed salad are putting in an appearance, and indoors my Rocket Micro Greens have progressed to sprouting on Thursday to lanky seedlings on  Sunday.

Spring officially sprung on Sunday, and having been woken most of the week by the enthusiastic dawn chorus, I can confirm the days are getting longer. The blackbirds are the noisy ones, but I did spot two jays down by the railway track and on Monday Phil spotted two partridges. The squirrels are also back…

Buds on the pear and apple trees, leaves on hedges, and green green grass – meriting the first mow of 2021. Successfully started the ride on mower and completed the first “lap” of the year.

Decanted the Blackberry Whisky made last September.

Blackberry Whisky Decanted
Blackberry Whisky Decanted

Monday’s weather forecast looked promising so we set off to do The Cat’s Back and the Olchon Valley loop. After navigating the narrow country lanes, and potholes, to The Black Hill picnic car park, we had a magic few hours up on The Black Hill. Sunny, albeit with a cold wind on top, and views over Herefordshire to our east and along Hatterall’s Ridge and into the Brecon Beacons to the west.

The Cat's Back & Olchon Valley, with Phil
The Cat’s Back & Olchon Valley, with Phil

Late lunch sat outside on the patio, then spent a couple of hours dragging the last of Richard’s brash up to the bonfire, and making a start on lopping off the branches from the tree that’s fallen out of the hedge at Mower Turn, bringing the wild plum with it.

Dad and Jean delivered my early birthday present – a blackcurrant bush – now planted in the orchard.

TV: Bailed out of Stranger Things (too scary) and galloped through The Queen’s Gambit instead. Enjoyed The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as our Friday night film and started season 4 of The Crown.

Podcasts: Predominantly History Extra and The Essay plus Dressed: The History of Fashion (appropriately enough whilst hemming) and The Allusionist.

Photos: Herefordshire week 64 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-21.

Herefordshire Week 063: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 March 2021

COVID Jab Booked. Socially Distanced Coffee. Seeds Sown. Goodbye NOW TV, Hello Netflix.

The week started with a surprise. A good one. Out on the Cockyard circuit on Tuesday morning, I got a text message telling me I could book my COVID jab at EH Surgery, next Tuesday. When I clicked through on the link that evening everything worked like a dream and I got the 9.40am slot.

Herefordshire is really powering through the vaccinations. I think it helps that the County COVID vaccination team did make a really speedy start – most 90 year olds dad and Jean know got their jabs before Christmas, and Herefordshire is pretty sparsely populated too – especially with younger folks in the real sticks.

The roof survived gales overnight Wednesday / Thursday, but we did lose a branch from the hawthorn by the large pond. Lunched in the conservatory on Thursday with rain pattering on the roof, army guns clattering away beyond the woods. Nice and warm. Back to windy and wet on Friday.

Work week went well. VWW and Family Zoom as usual, plus a Wine Zoom with Cat on Saturday evening.

Spent a lot of Friday doing various errands in Hereford: topping up the shitty Asda delivery with a quick whizz around Aldi and a tactical peanut butter strike in Tescos, picking up click and collects from Wickes and B&Q (including bathroom paint, orchid repotting mix, compost & a tom growbag, woodworm treatment), returning my library books, paying in a cheque, collecting CHEESE from The Mousetrap Cheese Shop – and meeting Jean for – literally – a coffee on a bench, in Bishops Meadow courtesy of Coffee Spot Co by Victoria Bridge.

Back for a late lunch followed by admin, including taking over the water bill. Incredibly easy to do online. Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water could teach Scottish Power (more than) a thing or two….. Yes, STILL waiting to be set up as the new owners of the solar panels and payments. I have chased. So tedious.

Plenty of big grey clouds on Saturday morning, but that didn’t deter me from hauling out great wodges of weed from the big pond with a rake, and yanking out mint and flag from around the edges. Even a series of passing hail showers failed to deter me. It did put paid to the plan to go for a walk with Thea and Joe though.

Either side of lunchtime,  I finally got to grips with sorting out the greenhouse and the various garden-related purchases.

Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse Yesterday
Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse

After organising kit, plastic pots, bags of “stuff” and trays, I got to work: repotted my three orchids into larger vessels, then sorted the assorted seed packets into date order and sowed some of the “March starters”: tomatoes (in the covered container), radishes, mixed lettuce (in the larger collection of halved loo roll middles) and poppy seeds from Walton.

Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse Yesterday
Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse

The Rocket Micro Greens lucked out, getting sown in the posh pots liberated by the orchids:

Rocket Micro Greens
Rocket Micro Greens

In the afternoon, I converted our old King Size duvet that’s been serving as a tablecloth in the conservatory into a properly hemmed, single thickness tablecloth (one side) and a spare single duvet cover (the other side). Very satisfying.

Took things a bit easier on Sunday. Leisurely breakfast, then out for Camp Crossroads + Cockyard +  Kerrys Gate backwards before returning to polish off leftover tacos for lunch in the conservatory, with a brief interlude when Dad and Jean turned up to collect more paving blocks. Spent most of the afternoon in the conservatory intending to read Michael Wood’s The Story of China, but instead listened to a couple of Speed of Sound podcasts whilst playing Patience on my iPad – I’m not outrageously productive all the time.

Sunny Monday proved perfect for a busy day in the garden getting lots of Jobs Done: wheelbarrowed the weed round to the quarry, watered my seedlings, planted broad beans and peas in the veg patch / herb bed…..

Sowing peas and broad beans: trenches prepped with an old horse manure base
Sowing peas and broad beans: trenches prepped with an old horse manure base

…. prepared the selected spot for the blackcurrant bush dad and Jean are getting me for my birthday, pulling up all the ivy runners, which ended up extending to both sides of the fence, which then turned into “hack back all the ivy that’s grown up over the fence post and remaining wrought iron gate”. And lopping the lower branches off the wild plum tree. Ooof.

With Phil’s help I wheelbarrowed the cuttings / pullings down to the quarry bonfire, and returned with a wheelbarrow load of paving blocks for dad to pick up. A few times. And last, but not least, started dragging some of Richard’s brash up to the bonfire. But stopped when my gammy leg really started to complain…..

In the midst of all the activity we lunched outside, and then Phil ventured up the tall ladders to gaffer tape the fascia corner where we’d spotted great tits sneaking in and out on Saturday, presumably checking out the nesting site potential. NO WAY do I want birds in the loft!

But gazing out of the kitchen window waiting for the afternoon tea to brew, I’m pretty sure we’ve got either a willow tit or a marsh tit visiting the bird feeders….

Marsh Tit or Willow Tit - the Conundrum Continues
Marsh Tit or Willow Tit – the Conundrum Continues

…. to add to the female blackcap and greenfinch spotted on Saturday. The blackcap is a fairly frequent visitor, working her way round the base of the peanut feeder and chasing off any of the other small birds that try to tuck in too.

Female Blackcap Warbler
Female Blackcap Warbler

TV: Finished off Deutschland 89 during the week and then spread Hoop Dreams out over two evenings (it’s about so much more than simply school basketball). On Saturday we said Goodbye NOW TV, Hello Netflix! starting with Stranger Things that night. Uh oh. I’m renaming it Scary Things …. think it might be a bit too  much horror for me. Had to wind down with The Speed Cubers on Sunday night, which was just lovely. Humans at their best. Fell asleep to Kicking and Screaming, and didn’t warm to Superstore.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay, The Allusionist, The History of English, The History of England and Speed of Sound.

Photos: Herefordshire week 63 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-14.