Tuesday 30 March 2021

Some tasty meals


I was busy in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, and as I had cooked up a pan of curried mince and veg, made half of it up into little pasties for the freezer, so we could quickly defrost/heat one up in the popty ping for a quick meal.  These smelt SO good when they came out of the oven we wished we had planned to eat them for tea last night!

At Tamzin's request, for some main meal inspiration (for us two - Keith only does plain food) we took advantage of the Gousto offer we'd been sent - 1/3 off.  We have now ended it as it's gone back to full price.   Only one choice was something I wouldn't make/eat again and that was something I had chosen - a  "healthy" Joe Wicks option - Speedy Ginger and Chilli Prawns with Rice.  If I had been thinking properly it would have occurred to me that I shouldn't be combining prawns with spinach - both high in histamine.  It was also VERY spicy with the chilli jam in.  I think I must be getting old as I can't deal with very spicy food the way I used to (back in the days when I always had a Prawn Vindaloo if we had an Indian meal).  This gave me indigestion and didn't help my asthma either!

This was nice - All-in-One Fragrant Coconutty Haddock Curry, which was more a risotto really.

This was lovely, Mexican Pulled Chicken Burger and Paprika Fries.

I think the nicest thing was the Hearty Meatball and Farfalle Soup, which we really enjoyed and the soup made enough for a quantity to be frozen.

There were a couple of Chicken Curry recipes too, which were enjoyed.  However, these are the sort of meals I would like now and again and what happens is you need to cook up your selection night after night (we  got double portions, on Tam's advice) and so we had each meal two nights running.  I wouldn't do that again.  There are times when you just want something simple like sausage and chips!

I also baked a Chocolate Apple cake at the weekend, but that went to a friend of ours who had been storing some Stock for us (which we collected from him yesterday).  

Now, just waiting for the sun to break through properly for this heatwave we have been promised (it arrived in Hampshire yesterday, as I spoke to one of my cousins and she said it was t-shirt weather down there.)  It arrived with us under cover of darkness but then we woke up to low cloud, as - being higher up - we seem to more often than back in Carms.  A gardening day I think, and then tomorrow, a longer walk which we will drive to, so that will be planned today.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Pheasant o'clock

 We have a cock Pheasant  regularly visiting our garden with his various wives (8 at most so he's nicknamed Henry the VIII of course).  Most seem to be off sat on eggs now but one or two accompany him daily to scrabble about under the bird feeders for what they can find.  As they peck the foliage of anything looking edible we will have to remove the feeders and chase them off before we plant vegetables this year!  He announces the day at 6 a.m. daily, with a raucous call and a whirring of his wings.  It never fails to wake me.

I had my 2nd vaccination yesterday, at the Showground hub, where they are VERY efficient, and I am glad to report that so far I just have a little soreness at the jab site, and had a very slight headache this morning.  Phew.  I was worried sick I was going to get the pain of the side-effects last time (very painful bad back) with knobs on.  Now the only worry is when Keith will get his as he had his AZ one in mid-January, several weeks before me.

Oooh look, Hay Bluff . . .

Stunning clouds when I stopped to take photos along a "short cut" - think Scenic route -  between Boughrood and Glasbury.

We found out last week that the weekly market at Hay-on-Wye has been on regularly and we felt as it was in the fresh air, and we have medical grade masks, we would risk doing some much-needed shopping there, on the Health Food Stall.  We came back laden with oats, dried fruits, preserved ginger x 2 BIG bags (the main reason for going), 3 different and wonderfully indulgent cheeses (a good farmhouse Wensleydale, Hereford Hop (oh my!) and Cornish Yarg); and several herbs and spices we were low on. All things we needed.

Then, on another stall - an indulgent "lunch".  Apple and Cinnamon Strudel (K) and a Salted Caramel and Pear Tart (moi.)  Tam had seen an amazing light, fluffy and jammy doughnut in a shop in the town, selling from the door.  No photo of that.  I have to say, they were SUCH a special treat for a special day out, eaten back at the car with much scrubbed and gelled hands.

On the wall at the back of the Castle.

I just about managed photos of the castle, front and back.  Repair work now nearly completed.  They had a Lottery Grant - just as well as I heard that the scaffolding alone (tremendous when ALL put up, at the front) cost a million pounds.

Entrances to the back of two over-the-shop flats.

Finally, on my way back to the car park, view across the much-damaged old stable? roof towards the fields beyond.

It was a lovely outing, much-needed, and allowable within the rural travel for shopping.  Keith is meant to eat ginger to help his health problem and buying it in a jar from a supermarket (and I can't get it in Co-op, which is the local shop here) is ridiculously dear.  I am going to drizzle melted dark chocolate over the chunks I got today, which is something we always used to buy when we were at Malvern Fleamarket.  Memories. . .

Tuesday 23 March 2021

A beautiful river walk along the Wye


There's nothing better than a fingerpost giving you freedom to walk and explore.  This one is on the Wye Valley Walk, which Tam and I enjoyed a short stretch of on Sunday.  We planned just to walk from The Groe (our daily walk) to Pwll Ddu, just 3 fields upstream.  Pwll Ddu translates to Dark Pool.  The new header photo is taken from just that place.

This was a bit more like our River Cothi in Carmarthenshire - big rocks and boulders mid-stream (although the Cothi ran through a complete rocky gorge, especially where we used to live).  We finally saw a Water Wagtail (the Grey Wagtail by its common name) on the field nearby on our way back.  We had them in our garden and on the rooves of the house and outbuildings in our old home.  Here they are conspicuous by their absence.

An Alder tree overhangs the river and rocks.  Lots of them dipping their toes in the water, which is their natural setting.  "Alder Carr woodland" was something which used to turn up in an archaeological context and it means wet boggy land where the Alders grow well.

To begin with we could hear the road, as it runs quite close to the river on the way to Rhayader.  That's an area we shall be walking (and puffing!) in the summer.  The Elan valley beckons!

We walked about 2 miles upstream, just beyond the railway bridge which takes the Heart of Wales line up to Shrewsbury, ultimately.  This bridge over the river takes the line to the railway station for Builth Wells, Builth Road, which is a couple of miles out of the town. I believe that the station in the town here was closed at the behest of Dr Beeching in 1962.  It's not a busy line - there are only 4 trains each way during the week, and 2 on a Sunday!

The path  through the woodland went through a block of former Forestry Commission pine woodland which had recently been cleared and replanted with hardwoods (lots of Oak).

Back to the fingerpost again, with the hills behind - to be explored in the summer.  The walk was about 4 miles and we had sunshine much of the way.  In the summer hopefully we can walk a bit further up the Wye, though Rhayader is too much of an ask for me, being 15 miles away.

Saturday 20 March 2021

Gardening on the first day of Spring


As you can see, we have odd ground levels here, due to the old mansion house here being modified and dropped where it stood and then a lawn of sorts grown on top of the rubble at the back.  The rubble extends around the house (more than 3 feet deep at the sides and back) with retaining walls, apart from at the very back where it abuts the house (all tanked).  It makes for a gardening challenge as there are lengths of drainage pipe and the power to the Summerhouse all  crossing it too - discovered  when we tried to plant things!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring.  It was a bit grey but it was dry and reasonably warm and after Keith and I had had our walk along by the River Wye and got the Telegraph, we came home and I was out in the garden.  When we did our banking visit to Brecon last Monday I had nipped into Morrisons (just that one gardening corner! which was sadly half-empty, but there was still a good number of Clematis and soft fruit packs.  I bought 3 more clematis, and a Thornless Blackberry and an Erisimum (Bowles Mauve).  I planted the Blackberry by the wooden fence across from the Summerhouse, to the right of the gate through into the top triangle of land.  The Erisimum went in a gravel border just where the right of the vase of daffodils is on my windowsill.  I have had to protect it with an Abergwili plastic tray to keep the perishing Pheasants off it - they are inclined to peck at anything growing and have done for a few Daffodils out there too.

This is the main garden area here, planted up for low maintenance gardening with shrubs.  Except it isn't really that low maintenance.  LOOK at those two huge hedges - those will be a lot of work to keep in trim.  Tam's best friend E popped in as she was passing on her way past recently (a journey for her job) and, as a professional Horticulturalist with an MA under her belt, gave us her advice - get 'em out!  So we shall, although it will mean a big tidy up in the little paddock behind, which is about to become the Orchard.   There are some hillocky bits just behind the hedge which - on closer inspection - appear to be chunks of masonry, so those will need shifting - rolling across to the quarried hillside on the far side I suspect.

    This is the area I was working on yesterday, as although the previous owner put membrane down everywhere, with some compost on top, this had moved down the slope and left bare areas, and there were a lot of weeds - grass, tiny wild strawberries which had to come out as they were thoroughly mixed in with the layers of moss and Liverworts, esp. the Common sort, which had also colonized it. When Liverwort "leaves" go over, they are not a good look!

    As the racing was on, every now and then I dashed in to watch a race, and then went out and gardened some more.  Tea was an easy affair as it was the 2nd half of a Chicken curry from Gousto.  Keith, not being a curry person, had two roast chicken portions from the butchers, peas and a jacket spud.  He likes plain cooking.

Here you can see much of the side garden, with the differing ground levels.  The roses in green planters are yellow Patio roses left here by the previous owner.  The blue Abergwili fruit box covers David Austin rose The Lark Ascending, and out of sight opposite it is the deep purple Indigo rose.  The seed trays were planted with various heritage tomatoes, chillis and peppers and are growing well on the windowsill in the Hot Pink Bedroom.  The brown planter has Tess of the D'Urbervilles in it, the bright blue planter is one of four left here full of Sage.  I don't need 4 planters of Sage so I have cut them right back and am planning to replant them all elsewhere in the garden (done one so far).  Then I can repurpose those planters.  The same will probably happen to that planter of leggy Lavender and I have a whole BED of Lavender at the back which, unless I am able to establish another border, will have to be dug up and replanted over beyond the pond where there is a blank area (as it is again close-to-the-surface rubble!)

The pond area of the garden, taken in January and this was wet snow falling.  Lots of leaves still to sweep up although I have cleared 2/3 of this now.  The Rhododendrons (probably the common or garden lilac sort) will be cut lower once they have flowered as they are blocking a lovely view.  I am going to grow a clematis each side up over the Summerhouse (in  planters again - Multi Blue and Rooguchi, 2 from Morrisons). The garden edging and half of the crazy paving around the pond is made up from the former flagstones in the house. A shame, but the quarry tile floor in the kitchen is so much easier to mop ( a five minute job) and at the table end of the kitchen, there is a set-in carpet.

    I'll take some more photos as I progress, and plant more things.  I have two different packs of Cosmos to start off for putting in planters in the yard and will get more annuals to add colour.  I got the two big Clematis from the Nursery in planters this week - one by the French doors end of the stable yard, and the other in a planter against the end of the Stables.  Another (Lady Diana, a hot pink one) from Morrisons, is in a planter in the middle of the stable walls.  

    I am full of plans, and about to order my heritage apples for the orchard, so there will be a post about that.  I will buy more roses too and may plant a couple of ramblers out the front - nothing too rampant as we need to get behind them to keep the holly hedge trimmed.

    Well, it is the middle of the night again, but I have had a 5 day run of steroids now and am pretty well back to normal (thank Heavens - I felt like death from lack of sleep by Thursday night, with just 4 hours each night).  I shall read a bit of my book and then hopefully be able to nod off again.

Wednesday 17 March 2021

A walk in the shadow of the Eppynts


Today Tam and I had a good walk - not too long (being on steroids and not 100% yet.  We drove up to the x-roads about 4 miles from home and did a circular route we'd picked out on the map, not too challenging as it was mostly contouring.  This is the view looking across towards Garth from where we were parked. It was just under 3 miles though it felt further because of my still being on Steroids.

Looking back towards the sunshine!!  Thought we did catch a little of it later on.

A lovely house sheltered in the valley, literally in the shadow of the first Eppynt bluff.

A steep cwm - bet there's lots of wildlife call THAT home.

Above and below: a welcoming lane ahead, overarched with trees.

The view looking back towards Builth (hidden in the dip) - just to the right behind those pine trees on the steep hillside, you can see Llanelwedd Quarry, the backdrop for the Royal Welsh Showground.


The original route we had intended taking went straight on behind that  gate on the right, and it takes us up through the woods ahead.  That would have added about another 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile so we saved that for another day, perhaps when there are some leaves on the trees and beautiful wild flowers in the hedgerows.

Instead, we went down the lane from a farm out of sight behind us, and joined the road and turned left.

 - thi

There were beautiful skies - this looked like grey candy-floss.

Signs of spring in the hedgerow with these leaves on the Hawthorn.

Four very happy cats out the front of the house.  They have been around the yard and garden all afternoon, and have supervised me moving planters around with some help from Keith and Tam, and planting them with Wisterias, various.  I found four good sized and well-rooted Aquilegias in one of the tubs we brought with us.  From their slightly gracile appearance, I think they are the Pink and White ones which aren't as hearty as some of the other colours.  I've planted them in little blue ceramic pots I bought with me, and one in the bottom of the drystone wall bank where the Georgian stable range once stood.

Finally, we have started a subscription to  Gousto, just for a month or so.  Tam wanted some more challenging recipes and a bit of excitement, and we got a special offer, so . . .  Last night we had a really tasty Fragrant Coconutty Haddock Curry with Lemongrass and fresh ginger.  Tonight it is Hearty Meatballs and Farfalle Soup, which is in the middle of cooking at the moment (I made the meatballs which are cooking in the oven, and Tam is doing the rest.)  We ordered portions for 4 and so have two meals of everything, some of which can be frozen of course.  Then there is Chicken and Butternut Squash Korma with Coriander Naan to look forward to.  Tam has some recipe cards from when she had a subscription back in Yorkshire, and they are all such tasty recipes and fresh produce.  With the reduction, only slightly an indulgence!

Tuesday 16 March 2021

A little Mother's Day Outing


Here are my Mother's Day flowers from the kids, which were accompanied by a bottle of white wine and two lovely bars of Italian soap.

Following on from my last post, I wanted a little jaunt up the road to see the site of Prince Llywelyn's death at Cilmeri - just 3 or 4 miles from here - less if we were to walk across the fields (but that would involve fording the River Irfon - not ideal!!)

It was raining - hence the big spot on the camera. If Derek Acorah from "Most Haunted" were still about and with us, he would probably say it was A Visitation from the past - an orb.  As you can see, on the anniversary of the battle on 11 December last year, tributes were laid - Welsh flags and two beautiful shields - one carved wood (on the left) and a smaller painted one on the right.

What this signage doesn't say can be found on the Coflein site, which puts the site of the actual battle actually IN Builth, and just across the River Irfon from the Groe, where we walk each day.  In fact, the Golf Course may actually be a huge burial site - if only Time Team were still around! With the conjunctures of the rivers Irfon and Wye, this would make sense as to the English army being shown a ford and crossing to the flank of the Welsh army. If this was the site, then it is possible that Llewellyn HAD been shriven at Llanynis Church, which is just a few fields from Cilmeri, and was making his way towards the battle.  Cilmeri is 3 miles from Builth.  Was he lured there?  Was he betrayed? We'll never know for sure.

Here's another take on it.

We made our way down to the well, which is by the stream (marked as Nant Llewellyn on the map).  There were coins in the bottom though why someone would think to turn this into a wishing well is open to debate.

Looking across the slow Heart of Wales train line and the fields in the direction of our new home - though it's out of sight behind the trees where there's a white building on the left a little down from the hills.

From there we drove a little way down the road to Llangammerch Wells - popular in Victorian times for the "taking of the waters" (as was Builth too of course).  Here is was Barium Chloride wells which were discovered in the late 18th C.   At the height of its fame, bottled water was being distributed by the rail network all over Britain and they were even selling their own brand of cigarettes!

The original settlement here dated from Medieval times, and there was a Medieval church but this one (which looked a MOST unlikely recipient for what I was searching) dates from 1915/16 with additions from 1927, and stands high on a promontary looking across to the Eppynt Hills.

This is what I was looking for - a relict from that very Medieval church of which nothing else survives.  This was formerly built into the Churchyard wall and later into the west wall of the church when it was restored c.1870.  The old red sandstone of which is made is not local - and could have been provenanced to a deposit some 20 km to the south.  Redknap and Lewis describe it thus:  "Carved with a ring-cross with sunken quadrants.  Beneath the cross are several pecked devices:

a)   a human figure with arms outstretched.
b)   a spiral.
c)   sunken squares, rings and a triangle.

The disposition of motifs is strange, and suggests that the stone might be an architectural fragment such as an altar front or tympanum.   However, the original edges of the slab on the top right corner and lower left side indicate that it originally had an upright rectangular form, like other cross-slabs.  Nash-Williams attributed the stone to the seventh to ninth centuries (but Redknap & Lewis think ninth to 10th Centuries). 

There are similarities with the cross- and spiral forms at several other churches, but they are also suggestive of stones from Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow.

Right, lesson over for today, here are some views from the churchyard.