John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
Devil's Pulpit, New Fancy View and the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
Abergavenny
Tuesday in the Borders
London to the Forest of Dean
Sunday
Tarp on the Heath
Friday
Heath
Bluebells again
Bluebells
Easter Monday
Easter Sunday
Mum's Garden
Good Friday
Christian's Garden
Wednesday
Sunny Heath
Monday
Sunday
Sleepover
To Bermondsey and Back Again
Thursday
Wine Deliveries
Worst Witch
Flowers
Sush
Den

Devil's Pulpit, New Fancy View and the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
[Thursday 15th April 2021]
Having visited all the family in the area the previous two days we had a day to ourselves. Went to see the view at the Devil's Pulpit in the morning, then a picnic lunch (leftover lasagne!) at the New Fancy View in the middle of the forest, followed by a walk around some of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. After that we sort of ran out of things to do a bit, and so spent the remainder of the day back at the cottage watching movies.
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Abergavenny
[Wednesday 14th April 2021]
Slightly quieter day today - went for a little walk to the Buck Stone near Staunton on the way to Abergavenny. Spent the afternoon with Robin, Robert and Louise (and Lilly the dog!) before heading back to the cottage for dinner - lasagne made with the wild garlic I'd foraged yesterday.
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Tuesday in the Borders
[Tuesday 13th April 2021]
A packed itinerary today and I think the best day of our holiday. After breakfast at the cottage we headed to nearby Puzzlewood for an atmospheric wander around. Next lunch at the Saracens Head in Symonds Yat, followed by an after lunch walk up to Symonds Yat Rock. We then headed to Usk to visit Vera's grave before heading on to Undy to see Bec, Dave and Jessica in the garden of their new house.
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London to the Forest of Dean
[Monday 12th April 2021]
Today was the first day following the latest period of Orwellian nightmare where self catered holiday accommodation was allowed to open, and as soon as this date had been announced back in February I'd immediately looked around for something, particularly as this also fell in the second week of Erika's Easter holidays. At that time Wales still hadn't yet announced its plans for relaxing of the rules, so I decided to book somewhere as close to the border as possible, but on the English side. I really like the Wye Valley and also really like The Cottage Co. so restricted my search to whatever they had available in England, and ultimately settled on a cottage in Clearwell. As Erika is still into Harry Potter this would also work nicely as it features in the story and also a couple of spots were used as filming locations for the movies.

So this morning we packed up the car and left London, bound for the Forest of Dean. I was pleased that Google Maps actually suggested the M40 / A40 as a quicker route on this occasion, as it's much more scenic, and also as I was driving I'd much rather be on smaller roads than motorways.

I had hoped we might be able to stop in the Cotswolds somewhere for lunch, and celebrate the reopening of pubs, also happening today (albeit only for outdoor service), but after a bit of research I was reminded there hardly any pubby pubs left in the Cotswolds, and lots of places required reservations, which is a bit difficult when you're part way through a long drive as it's hard to know exactly what time you'll get there. So in the end we just had a far from idyllic lunch at Oxford services, just off the M40, as Erika needed the loo at that point. I was bemused to note that indoor dining seemed to be allowed there for some reason - so if before mid-May you are desperate to dine out and the weather looks awful you could always head to a motorway service station.

Even though the Cotswolds did not provide us with lunch on this occasion, it did present us with pleasant countryside views as we motored along the A40, which in places was lined with snow, to our surprise. It was certainly a lot more pleasant than the M4 which gets extremely boring in places.

Once into Gloucestershire, we made another brief stop at Birdlip Hill to admire the view, which seemed particularly glorious today, and gave the first sense on this holiday of being genuinely out in the countryside, in a wide open space. Indeed the first time I'd felt that in over 6 months, since my last proper country walk.

I'd decided to take a slight detour on the route as we approached the Forest of Dean, to visit Severn Cider at Awre. It's quite a magical spot actually, wonderfully isolated, on a horseshoe bend of the river Severn, with the village itself being just a handful of houses, beyond which a large expanse of fields, and then a particularly wide section of the river. The little lanes leading to Awre after we left with A48 were lined with daffodils and another very pale blue flower and looked rather idyllic. Severn Cider occupies the old vicarage, next to a farm, and was all gratifyingly rustic. They were in the process of refurbishing their job, so instead I picked up cider directly from the warehouse, which looked like it also housed their cider making equipment. I was particularly keen to try their perry, as it was predominantly made with Blakeney Red, and Blakeney was the next village along - you couldn't get much more of a local product than that!

From there we had a very pleasant drive through the Forest of Dean to get to our destination - a little cottage in Clearwell. It's always fun arriving at holiday cottages, and Erika and I spent the first few minutes dashing around inspecting the different rooms. It was tiny - given that we live in a small flat in London (given in our part of town a square metre costs about 10,000), we're used to renting holiday accommodation which is bigger than where we normally live, but for perhaps the first time I think we were actually in a smaller space. Still, it suited our needs, it slept 3 and had a well equipped kitchen. Although we did of course have a few grumbles here and there - the stairs were very steep (which can't really be helped given the space) and also dangerously slippy (Chie fell down at one point). I think they had perhaps been repainted over the winter. Also the kitchen sink was a bit annoying, it didn't seem to drain properly, and the taps were very loose. Oh also there was another cottage right next door, which the pictures had carefully cropped out - after fleeing London I was really hoping for a bit more of a sense of isolation - but that said we didn't really hear much from them so I suppose it wasn't really a problem. Those gripes aside though it was nice and cosy and we enjoyed our time there.

As there wasn't much in the way of food shops in the immediate vicinity I thought it might be convenient to have an Ocado delivery on our first evening, but the earliest slot available was 6:30-7:30, and given that we normally eat just after 6 with Erika I thought that could mean dinner ended up a bit too late. So I popped into Coleford to pick up some Chinese takeaway. Maybe Coleford has always looked a bit down at heel, being a former mining town, but the added grimness of the last year made it look particularly, well, grim. Although in fairness it was just after most of the shops had closed on a Monday evening, so perhaps there are more signs of life at other times. Having weighed up the surprisingly large array of Chinese takeaways online (I counted at least 4, which seemed like a lot for such a small town) I had settled on "China 21" and therein ordered a variety of dishes, which turned out to be surprisingly nice considering how embarrassingly cheap it was - it occurred to me I have ordered starters at London restaurants which cost more than that entire meal for three people, which would actually have comfortably served four. I thought being out here in the sticks it might all be a bit pedestrian but the Szechuan sauce was punchy and tasty, and the ginger and spring onion sauce was fragrant and flavoursome, and there were some interesting ingredients to be found in the midst, such as Chinese pickled vegetables.

Spent the remainder of the evening at the cottage, enjoying the Severn Cider perry (a lovely delicately flavoured perry, a really nicely balance of sweet and sour, with a little hint of savouriness), the woodburner, and the glimpses of the sunset we could see from the cottage garden.
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Sunday
[Sunday 11th April]
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Tarp on the Heath
[Saturday 10th April 2021]
We'd arranged to meet Erika's friend on the heath, but a not very promising weather forecast inspired me to take a long a tarp, and set it up there as a shelter just in case, which was quite fun.
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Friday
[Friday 9th April 2021]
Last working day before our holiday. More checking of the status of the bluebells in the daytime then clocked off a bit early for a walk to the heath.
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Heath
[Thursday 8th April 2021]
A bit of a grey walk to the heath.
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Bluebells again
[Wednesday 7th April 2021]
Further checking on the state of the bluebells.
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Bluebells
[Tuesday 6th April 2021]
Checking up on the progress of the bluebells.
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Easter Monday
[Monday 5th April 2021]
One final Easter egg hunt in the garden with Erika then off to the heath for a bit in the afternoon.
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Easter Sunday
[Sunday 4th April 2021]
Erika went to an easter egg hunt on a nearby street in the morning, then in the afternoon we went for lunch in our friends' garden. Also I fit in a walk to the heath later on.
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Mum's Garden
[Saturday 3rd April 2021]
Finally got to see Mum after a year and a bit.
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Good Friday
[Friday 2nd April 2021]
Purposefully had a fairly lazy day, and stayed close to home. Some pictures of the garden, then later in the afternoon took Erika out for a scoot around the neighbourhood.
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Christian's Garden
[Thursday 1st April 2021]
Took the afternoon off work for some wine in Christian's garden.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 31st March 2021]
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Sunny Heath
[Tuesday 30th March 2021]
Lovely warm spring day today, and with the easing of the stupid restrictions the day before, the heath was joyously full of people enjoying the weather this afternoon.
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Monday
[Monday 29th March]
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Sunday
[Sunday 28th March 2021]
Checked up on the state of the garden in the morning. Walked down to Regents Park in the afternoon to see the cherry blossoms.
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Sleepover
[Saturday 27th March 2021]
Erika had her friend (who we're in a "childcare bubble" with) over for an extended playdate / sleepover today. I went off to the heath for a bit in the afternoon.
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To Bermondsey and Back Again
[Friday 26th March 2021]
My company had another global day off today, under normal circumstances I would have liked to go for a walk in the countryside, but frustratingly that relaxation of the ridiculous rules wouldn't come until the following Monday. So instead I did a long walk in London - all the way to the Angel in Bermondsey, about a 15 mile round trip in total.
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Thursday
[Thursday 25th March]
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Wine Deliveries
[Wednesday 24th March 2021]
A couple of wine deliveries today - a mixed case of ESW from Waitrose wine, and a bottle of Vacqueryas from Tom the wine merchant.
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Worst Witch
[Tuesday 23rd March 2021]
Erika put together a Worst Witch type uniform and I went for a quick early evening stroll to the heath.
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Flowers
[Monday 22nd March 2021]
Just one picture, checking on the state of the flowers in the garden at lunchtime.
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Sush
[Sunday 21st March 2021]
Sushi for lunch, which we went to pick up in the car. In the afternoon I had some Nuits St Georges on the heath.
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Den
[Saturday 20th March 2021]
Made a den for Erika in the lounge with one of my tarps.
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