Monday, 19 April 2021

Busman's holiday

 We have just got back from a lovely few days away. We have been staying at the Premier Inn at Buckhurst Hill because we have been working hard. For the last four days we have been turning Darren's sister's living room in to two bedrooms and a corridor, as she wanted to reconfigure her flat to make it work better for her family.

Darren built all of the stud walls, fitted two doors, insulated the walls and put up the plasterboard. We got in each others way a bit, but I taped and jointed the plastererboard, wallpapered it and did a bit of painting.

What made it extra nice though, was our early morning walks to work through Epping Forest. Every morning was frosty, dry and sunny and we saw wildlife, ponies, golfers, cyclists and dog walkers.

The leisure walkers such as ourselves were well catered for as there was a surprising number of tree swings, which I couldn't resist trying.

I also got a couple of feet up in to a tree, and I very sensibly didn't try to cross the stream over numerous fallen branches as I am getting very clumsy and it would only have ended badly.

We also found a great coffee shop and sat outside with a cappuccino and almond croissant every morning before starting work.

Round cycle trip to Waddesdon

 I don't know why I forgot to blog this grand day out, but five days too late I am doing it anyway.

Darren sorted out the route and the two of us and Susan, and we set out on a lovely sunny day. After a few miles we arrived at Brill which is a beautiful village at the top of a very steep hill. Susan had cycled it before and knew that our route took us up to the top of the hill, then back down again before finally going up again to a windmill and actually to the village. 

We then carried on to what we were expecting to be the highlight of the day - Waddesdon Manor. Unfortunately the manor house is carefully hidden in the middle of a wood on the top of a hill so we didn't see it at all, but we had a great time cycling along car free road in the grounds. Waddesdon Village is a sight to behold, but is on the very busy A41, so it was good that we turned quickly off and back on to quiet lanes.

Next stop was at Quainton, which I had never heard of, but turned out to be the highlight. It has a vintage railway station complete with steam trains.....

..... a very nice cafe with tables on the village green and an amazing view of yet another windmill. 

A route that I am sure that we will be doing again and at 54 kilometres, just the right distance. 

Monday, 12 April 2021

Snowy shopping

 It's very rare that I open the blinds in the morning and gasp in surprise, but I did today. Not Mount Fuji on the horizon, but snow, in our garden in the middle of April.

It was snowing quite hard, but as I was drinking a coffee I realised that it wasn't lasting long, and by the time I took some photos the world was no longer quite as white.

We were out early though and we had an exciting destination in mind. Bicester Village has been closed since last year and it was opening at 8am, and we wanted to be there to witness it.

We were slightly delayed along the way as the train crossing was closed, but we arrived at about 8.04am and we were just about the first shoppers at the station end.

We walked the whole length of the village and the crowds were pouring in from the car park at the other end.

I bought some glass cups from Villeroy and Bosh and Darren got a whole new outfit including shoes from Timberland. It felt great to buy some non essential items in real life instead of ordering them online. 

We were back home by half past nine and all of the snow had disappeared. The flowers in the garden recovered well from the shock, and I think that we are going again tomorrow.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Sharky bike ride

 Today we cycled to Oxford again, but on a different route. We also did a bit of sightseeing including the Bridge of Sighs, 

and the highlight of the day - the shark through the roof house.

I don't know why it's there, but we saw it a few years ago and it's good to know that it is hasn't fallen off.

Yet again we cycled though lovely villages and quiet country roads and racked up a fairly tiring 56 kilometres. 

Spooky fact, our route looks just like a giant shark caught on the end of a fishing rod. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Wedding anniversary walk

 I suggested a walk around Port Meadow on the outskirts of Oxford for our wedding anniversary. Okay, I know that in the past we have done much more exciting things, but it was the best that we could do.

We arrived and parked at the edge of a huge rather boring looking field and my expectations sank a little.

After skirting the edge for about 20 minutes the route then took us out through a little wood and it started to improve.

Then we went along the side of some well kept allotments and on to the beautiful canal. There are some very nice houses backing on to the water, some great seating areas and lots of canoes and rowing boats.

Our turning point in Oxford was the station so we nipped inside to use the facilities and grab a cappuccino and, luxury of luxuries, an indoor seat. Seeing as we were celebrating I splashed out on an egg and cress sandwich to go with my coffee. Disappointingly there was no empty chairs by the coffee shop so we had to sit right next to the ladies toilets. Even more disappointingly, my sandwich was semi frozen so it resembled a choc ice, but nowhere near as pleasant.

I forgot to take an inside shot of the station, but this is the view as we left.

Onwards and upwards, we then joined the river Thames and followed the southern bank all of the way back to a lock, an ancient ruined Abbey and our car. 

This section was lovely and it's always good to explore new places. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Kirtlington walk

A lovely walk today, but firstly a quick funny photo from yesterday.

Darren's two great nephews visited and opened their belated Christmas presents, which were crocodile and shark cardboard masks. They wore them all afternoon and after the shark tried to eat our fluffy nemo fish puppet, they then decided that the crocodile would eat the flowers in the garden.

But getting back to today we parked in Kirklington village which is just a few drive minutes from our house. We walked down to the end of the village where there is a quarry although it is now disused and someone has made a maze in the base of it. 

Just beyond the quarry is a canal that runs next to a river and railway line. 

We walked along it for about five kilometres and then through Heyford village which has a large narrowboat marina. 

We walked up through the village and then back over the fields. 

We walked back to Kirklington through a very tidy farmyard and then along a magnificent driveway with fancy fields on either side. There was some elegant horses in a few of the fields and I decided that in the extremely unlikely event that I ever owned a horse or donkey, then this is where I would like it to live. 

At the end of the driveway we exited via a good looking gate and found out that we had walked through Kirklington Stud Farm. There is also a polo field in the village so that explains the amazing stabling. 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Sporty few days

I am counting down the weeks until the parkrun starts again. I think that there are eight weeks to go, and every Saturday morning I do a fake parkrun. Yesterday I was very pleased as I managed quite a fast one, for me anyway.

Today we did a re run of the outing to Woodstock, but this time S and P joined us.

I was a bit worried about keeping up, but after about 15 kilometres it was going well so I went to the front of the peloton, just as we got to the top of a steep downhill section. I am now a fan of speedy descents, but as the leader on the road I thought it only right to set a speedy pace.

Unfortunately I went straight over a big pothole with a bounce. Undeterred I carried on and then at the bottom found that I had a puncture.

Fortunately Darren came to the rescue and fixed it for me, and I stayed mostly towards the back after that.

We stopped for coffee again at Woodstock but all of the benches were taken so we all sat on the pavement. Classily S and P brought a blanket along to keep them warm, but it was so nice in the sunshine that they just sat on it. 

A nice ride home and then we had wine and peanuts on their terrace. A perfect end to a lovely sunny day. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Bike ride to Woodstock

What a beautiful warm and sunny day today. We celebrated by going on an excellent bike ride. Bicester Cycling Club have put their cycle routes online and we followed their 52km taster ride.

It was a lovely journey along deserted roads through the Oxfordshire countryside.

At one point we got stuck behind a peloton of lycra clad club cyclists and I could easily have overtaken them, but it seemed a bit rude and fortunately our journey then took us on a side trip down a Sustrans off road section.

Obviously, no bike ride is complete without a coffee and cake stop which we enjoyed in the very upmarket and pleasant village of Woodstock.

Then a nice run home just in time for lunch. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Two social events

For the first time in many months Darren and I dressed up for a social event. Graven Hill Residents Association had arranged a virtual wine tasting event on Zoom, fortunately with real wine.

The dress code was Creative Cocktails and this was the best I could come up with. It was a lovely evening and the red wine was very tasty, the white wine not quite so. 

Today we finished setting up the outdoor living room on the terrace and as soon as the sun came out I tried it out.

Darren built the furniture, I painted it and Ikea provided the waterproof cushions.

It was very comfy and we gave it a proper trial this evening when S and P called round for a glass of wine or two.

Friday, 26 March 2021


 We have finished the watercourse between the top and bottom ponds. First thing today it looked like the photo below, and then it poured with rain so we collected quite a bit of water from the guttering on the greenhouse.

With a bit of trial and error we ended up with a meandering stream that starts with the overflow to the top pond, then the water dropped into a wide pot, down a concrete gutter to another pot, through a pipe into what Darren calls the dalek, and finally down another gutter into the bottom pond.

We haven't tested it yet because we are waiting for some filler to dry, but we are going to trial it tomorrow, so fingers crossed. If it is okay then it needs lots of plants around it. 

Not sure yet how attractive it is, but I think that it will be fun. I think that the fish will like the trickling waterfall, just as long as they don't try to slide down it. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Cycling to Oxford

First outdoor bike ride of the year - and it's good to get some fresh air and to be outside in real life on the bike.

We set off later than expected because it took us ages to get the bikes prepared, find bags and panniers, decide how many clothes to wear, pack some left over pizza slices, etc, etc. Got there in the end though, and then we were off. 

The route to Oxford was along quiet roads with the wind in our face. It made a change from the fan in our gym, and was quite hard going at times.

I was glad of the break in Oxford and we were living the dream - cappuccino and carrot cake from a lovely little coffee shop.

It would have been a five star dream if we could have sat inside to enjoy it, but fingers crossed that won't be too long away.

We cycled along enjoying the sights, couldn't stop too long as it was pretty nippy, and then we started heading back home. 

We were in for a lovely surprise as the wind pushed us forward and we charged along country roads in record time. In this map photo, we started in the top right hand corner and went anti clockwise down to Oxford in the bottom left. Cleverly, the map also records our speed and we were mostly going at green pace (slow) on the way out, but red (rocket pace) on the way back. 

A good first ride and already looking forward to the next one. 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Vaccination day

I got my jab this morning at the Bicester Heritage Centre. I have never seen anything so well organised and friendly. From my first step out of the car to my arrival back 12 minutes later, I spoke to at least a dozen helpful people who directed me to the right place, checked my name and address about five times, jabbed my arm and then directed me back to the car.

I waited for 15 minutes before driving home and felt totally fine, but I must admit that I have got a bit of a headache now.

I meant to take a photo but it was all so quick that I never stood a chance. Darren has his next week. 

But back to the pond, and our attempts to connect the two ponds. I am making concrete bowls and pipes and this is how far I have got so far.

Quite a bit of sculpting left to do, but Darren has already connected up the pump.

It definitely works, and we are also collecting water from the greenhouse roof, although it hasn't rained yet so I had to test it manually.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Stork on parade

We finished off the new pond today.

Firstly Darren got the hose pipe out and topped up the water. This is an unusual phrase to say, but, it didn't rain enough to fill it naturally. As we aren't patient enough to wait, then we were left with no choice.

He then fixed the edge of the pond down.....

...... and I painted the wood.

I then paid a quick visit to the nearby water garden shop and bought special water pots, special water compost, bits and bobs and two pond plants. I spent a happy hour turning our overgrown three existing water plants into seven, and planting up the two new ones.

They are making themselves at home either in the new pond, or spread out a bit in the old one.

Finally, our stork is now on parade on the edge of the pond and is staring proudly around the whole garden.