17/05/21 UK Deaths: 5. Harborough Infected: 24. There are 86 local authority areas where there are five or more confirmed cases of the Indian variant with Bedford now joining Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen in surge testing. Covid-19 rates in the UK’s worst hotspots are being driven by a sharp rise in cases among younger age groups. Not surprising seeing as most of the over 50’s have been vaccinated.
Today, Sue had a less than successful U3A Petanque Group tournament, she blames her failure on humid conditions and probably extra practice by her opponents. I have promised to play a few games with her before the next tournament to get her back to winning ways!
During the evening, as a treat, Suraj took Lucas Go-cart Racing in Leicester.
18/05/21 UK Deaths: 7. Harborough Infected: 24.
A 9am start saw us drive the 149 miles to Tenbury Wells. We were meeting Sue’s sister and husband (Pip &Paul) to exchange belated Christmas and birthday presents and also visit family friend, Sheila Palmer. We arrived first and had coffee and biscuits before Pip and Paul made an appearance. Sheila had arranged for us all to have lunch at the nearby Fountain Inn for 1 pm and that’s where we headed to continue the family gossip and a consume some rather acceptable food. Afterwards, on return to Sheila’s, while Pip and Paul took coffee and biscuits, Sue and I took a walk into town where Sue reminisced at length on her childhood days and also discovered the recent havoc created by the worst winter floods in living memory.
Saying goodbye to Sheila and her cat ‘Prince’, we drove to our accommodation for the night, at the Cadmore Lake Hotel, located a few miles from Tenbury Wells and set in a picturesque location under the gaze of nearby Clee Hill. On arrival we were surprised to discover that we were to share the car-park with the Porche Club, on its first meeting of members since the beginning of lock-down in 2020. They had driven from all over the country to share a few hours, have a meal and admire the subtle varieties of each others vehicles that this sports car manufacture produces. Apart from the obvious palette of colours, we found the most fascinating aspect on display being that of their personalised number plates. A particular 007 TES on a Tesla, proving mildly controversial.
We found our rooms were most acceptable; spacious and well equipped, affording a lovely view across the lake which naturally tempted us to walk around its periphery, before retiring to a table on its shore for drinks and food. However, ordering refreshments proved no problem, but the large number of car enthusiasts had over stretched the kitchen and the chef could only provide us with a couple of bowls of chips. As the fries quickly disappeared, the rain arrived, forcing us to seek shelter inside for more liquid refreshments before eventually making our way back to our rooms.
19/05/21 UK Deaths: 3. Harborough Infected: 21. The UK is launching the first trial anywhere in the world of “booster” vaccines for Covid-19, with nearly 3,000 volunteers taking part.
We met Pip and Paul the following morning for breakfast. There were only two other couples staying in the hotel, it seems the majority of Porche Club members are not as high performance as their vehicles and preferred the quieter comforts of home rather than ‘rock’ through the night.
Our aim for today was to satisfy a long time wish of the two sisters and visit Witley Court, a ruined Italianate mansion. A place they had passed many times as youngsters on their way to school etc. and had never visited. As both our families are Geocache enthusiasts, this provided the opportunity to bag a few easy finds on the way.
Witley Court is now maintained by English Heritage, who have successfully managed to preserved more than a hint of its past opulence through stabilising many of its features and gardens. The highlight of our visit was to sit and watch the spectacular Perseus and Andromeda fountain ‘firing’ as it came to life, shooting a jet of water tens of metres vertically into the air. It does this every hour, on the hour.
In the 1890’s, fashionable society flocked to Witley Court, including the Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VII) but when a disastrous fire ripped through the court in 1937, it destroyed one of England’s greatest country houses. Charred timbers from the fire can be still be seen in this impressive carcass of a once grand and stately family home to the Foley and Dudley families.
With the ruins and gardens thoroughly inspected we ambled our way to nearby Great Witley Church, one of Britain’s finest Baroque churches. First taking cake and sandwiches in the garden of the adjacent little cafe, we later spent some time inspecting the interior of this bright and elaborately decorated place of worship, before heading off to the obligatory heritage-inspired souvenirs shop.
Prior to heading off in our separate ways, we took a last opportunity to hunt for what turned out to be one of the more intriguing and tricky geocaches, located at the entrance to Witley Court. This craftily secreted cache (hint: valve) turned out to thwart our best attempts for quite some time until eventually discovered right in front our noses!!!
With Christmas and birthday presents exchanged in the car-park, Pip and Paul made their way south to Devon and home while we set off to the Manor Inn Hotel, conveniently opposite the 12th century and 13th century parish church of St. Michael in the pretty village of Abberley. We had decided to have an extra night in Worcestershire to get in some rambling.
After checking in we took an early evening walk around the village, starting at St. Michael’s and taking in the large Victorian St. Mary’s church, built between 1850 and 1852, before taking a field path back to the the Manor Inn. We took our evening meal in the hotel restaurant and were pleased to discover that the resident chef was outstanding, producing a memorable meal that invited a future return visit.
20/05/21 UK Deaths: 7. Harborough Infected: 19. Significant rise in India variant cases in UK as 86 areas affected.
Despite lock-down easing, we discovered over breakfast that there was just one other lone guest staying in the hotel As expected, breakfast was exceptional. Perhaps people are not yet ready to exercise the same levels of freedom they took for granted just 18 months ago?
After checking out of the hotel we set off on a ramble under increasingly grey skies and a growing wind. We were following the Abberley Circular Walk.
The route proved to be very scenic and took in some wonderful vistas across the rolling Worcestershire countryside. The way-marks were excellent, with my GPS needed only on a few occasions in dense woodland. The second half of the ramble, up to and along Abberley Hill, proved quite challenging, principally through steepness of the ascent and later on the muddy condition of the descent due to an earlier brief shower of rain. Near to the peak, we managed to bag an EarthCache as we passed the precipitous edge of Shavers End Quarry. The woodland section along the top of the hill was delightfully covered in mats of aromatic blue-bells with patches of pungent wild garlic. Despite the murkiness, It was a pleasure to walk among this ancient woodland resplendent with spring foliage.
By midday we had returned to the Manor Inn and after changing footwear we set off on an uneventful journey to Leicestershire and home.
21/05/21 UK Deaths: 9. Harborough Infected:18.
On a horribly wet and gusty day, where stepping outside proved a most unpleasant experience, we had guests. Yesterday I took a delivery of Brockleby’s Wild Beaver Pies (steak & Ale) in readiness for a small return to normality. I was entertaining a gathering of five friends to watch Leicester Tigers take on Montpelier in the final of the European Challenge Cup. The inclement weather forced our number to remain within Covid-19 restrictions (6 indoors). Several chums had to be disappointed, if the weather had been kinder, the match could have been displayed outside on the patio and more attended (legally).
Earl evening Sue and I set about about preparing the pre-match food and arranging the lounge so that social distancing could be maintained. We were following the rules set down for pubs and restaurants; hand sanitiser, masks worn when not sitting, eating/drinking and windows open for fresh-air. In the past i. t has been our custom to visit rugby finals at Twickenham and have pie, mash, mushy peas and red-wine prior to the game at a small bistro in Twickenham village, and that was the fayre on offer this evening. Sue prepared the mash and peas while I heated the pies, in readiness for a 7 pm sit down.
Despite Tigers losing the game 18:17, it was the opinion of our little gathering that Tigers were marginally the better side and after the dismal performances of recent seasons there was good reason to be optimistic for the future. It is surely wonderful how a full stomach of hearty grub washed down with lashings of red grape juice can raise the spirit!
22/05/21 UK Deaths: 6. Harborough Infected: 17. From midnight on Sunday Britons will be barred from entering Germany over concern for Indian variant. The Spanish Government has announced that it will officially lift restrictions for UK travellers from Monday. Makes a bit of a nonsense the ‘united’ element in the EU acronym. Heathrow to open separate arrivals facility for travellers coming from red list countries. Common sense!
Today the last of the sweetcorn were planted and the side shoots of the tomatoes in the greenhouse were pinched out. Early evening we had a brief visit by Jamie in the R8 to pick up his late Christmas presents and to photograph the car as it appears he is selling it.
During the evening, for the first time in nearly a couple of decades, we watched the Eurovision Song Contest. Having not heard the UK entry we were intrigued to give it a listen, what an appallingly poor effort it turned out to be! Not only was the performance unimaginative and lifeless but the song was just drivel, it received no points and deservedly came last in the voting. The winning entry from Italian heavy-metal band Måneskin (and most others) was everything James Newton’s,’Embers’ wasn’t; Energetic and catchy. I am certain that if the UK had not received a ‘free’ pass to the final as one of the five countries making the biggest financial contributions to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, we would have been voted out in the earlier rounds. I think since Brexit, this is certainly an area that should now be looked at to save money. Financially supporting an organisation that doesn’t seem to to know where the borders of Europe begin and end has always seemed a little dodgy to me; Australia, Turkey, Russia, really??
Today is Sarah’s birthday. During the afternoon both the Rothwells and the Newbold Verdons descended on Willow Bank to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. It is the first time that the clan have assembled (less Jamie) for quite a long time. Accompanied by their dogs it was lovely to have the house once again buzzing with the sound and chatter of family members. Sadly, Covid-19 has brought silence to many homes. All too soon, with birthday cake cut and consumed the family off-shoots made their way home. Hopefully, if the weather improves, we can return to Friday family gatherings, fingers crossed.
Jamie, Ruth and Joey spent what seems a chilly but pleasant day in Derbyshire and a visit to Speedwell Cavern.