Sunday, 22 October 2017

HARC - Archives are Fascinating

I went up to Cusop Village Hall on Friday evening for the talk on the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre, and it was entirely fascinating.
Before we started, I was told that membership of the Group was free (having paid my £3 to get in). I wasn't going to bother - I was quite happy to pay for the talk, but then I discovered that there is a members' trip in the New Year to the Ashmolean Museum, with a talk and a look behind the scenes. This was too good a chance to miss - I've wanted to go to the Ashmolean for years - so I joined up on the spot and paid my deposit for the trip!

The Archives service used to be housed in an old barracks building in Hereford - it was old, it was big, and it was empty, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, it was also damp - just about the worst thing it could be for old records. Some of the mould was, apparently, rare Herefordshire apple mould, and a form of penicillin, but even so....
So, just before recession and cuts hit local authority services, HARC moved to a brand new, purpose built facility in Rotherwas, which may be unique in the world. It's built on the passivhouse principle, with so much insulation it's a constant temperature like a cave inside, which saves them something like £100,000 on heating and air conditioning bills a year.
Rhys Griffiths, the speaker, said that he was very pleased to be in Cusop, because it demonstrated the importance of boundaries. In Hay, there is also a history group, which is very Welsh based, whereas Cusop is firmly based within Herefordshire, even though they are very close together. As well as the county records, HARC also keeps the diocesan records, which extend into South Shropshire.
There are maps, of course - one interesting thing they're doing is to take the 6inch maps of the area and match them up with aerial photographs - some of the field boundaries have stayed the same for centuries. He showed one early map of Cusop Dingle with pictures of four little water mills spaced out along the stream.
He also showed examples of form filling from 1720, with a local vicar ticking boxes (as it were) to say, yes, the church did have a fair chalice for services, and the chancel was in good repair, and there were no dissenters in the parish. An even earlier Visitation for Cusop had the vicar of the 1390s describing the adulterous relationships between members of his parish, in some detail! (So-and-so has thrown his wife out of the house and installed his mistress!).
The records are also good for people who are interested in the history of the railways, with many records and maps. A lot of these come from the Quarter Sessions, which were a sort of proto-County Council, responsible for the upkeep of roads and so on as well as local crime. The Quarter Sessions accounts also cast a light on poorer people in the area who were involved in crime - the horse dealer convicted of stealing a chestnut mare, and sentenced to transportation, for instance, and on the same page, the sad story of a girl who had tried to commit suicide, who was sentenced to a short period of imprisonment for it.
There are also wills, showing what the average household contained over the centuries, as there are often inventories of contents.
Rhys Griffiths said that, in the past, archivists had been a bit sniffy about family history researchers, preferring academics with leather elbow patches in their tweed jackets, but now they welcome people who are researching their own families - one of whom was in the audience, and chipped in to provide extra detail a couple of times.
For instance, there was a map showing the sale of part of the Moccas estate - we had been following the fortunes of Llydyadyway Farm, under its many different spellings - and the chap from the audience pointed out the small plots along the main road, where big houses like York House were built, and the field behind, where Victoria Terrace was built the following year, as a speculation - the houses were then bought by landlords who let them out to poorer families.
He talked a bit about palaeography - the study of old handwriting - and how the Mormons have helped by transcribing records for their own purposes. A lot of information is now online, but it is still possible to visit the Centre in Rotherwas for research, and there are some records that can only be consulted in their original form.
And then there's the census, started in around 1810 mainly to count how many able bodied men there were in the country who could be called up for military service in the Napoleonic Wars - and as time went on the civil servants realised they could collect all sorts of other useful information at the same time, including how people moved from place to place - the rural population was not as static as people tend to think, especially after the coming of the railways.
So, with a bit of work, and help from the archivists and their team of volunteers, all sorts of information can be extracted from the most boring-sounding documentary evidence.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dentist - NHS or Private

I got a letter from my dentist this morning. That's the one to the side of the little car park, opposite the chapel on Oxford Road, known as {my}dentist.
After careful consideration, he says, Dr Reshad Naghshbandi has decided to treat only private patients from February next year, apart from people under the age of 18 or in full time education.
There's a lot of information in the letter about the private dental plans available, from only £7.25 a month (I've been on a very tight budget, and even £7.25 a month was completely out of my reach in those days).
I have great sympathy for Dr Naghshbandi when he says that his NHS practice has meant more "meeting targets and ticking boxes" in recent years, and that he wants to concentrate his efforts on improving dental health and preventive dentistry - but I won't be going private, because I want the NHS to continue to exist, for everyone.
Fortunately, there will be provision for adult NHS patients after February, just with another dentist in the practice. When I started reading the letter I had a horrible sinking feeling that I'd have to trek all the way to Hereford for the emergency dentist in future, as I had to a couple of times before Dr Naghshbandi came to Hay 13 years ago.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Job at Bronllys Well Being Park

Here's an interesting opportunity for someone - Bronllys Well Being Park are looking for a Project Development Officer.

It's a full time post, initially for a year (but they have funding for three years), and the pay is £37,000 a year. The job entails managing projects within the Well Being Park - though there isn't a lot of detail in the advert about what this would involve, apart from enhancing the facilities that are already there.
The closing date for applications is 25th October, and they intend to hold interviews at the beginning of November.
More information, including the application form, can be found on the PAVO website at

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

h.Energy Festival

I had some things I wanted to do in Hereford on Saturday (well, okay - I wanted to get the DVD of Wonder Woman, mostly - which is awesome, by the way), and as the bus went over the bridge into town I saw a crowd in the courtyard outside De Koffie Pot.
So I did all my errands, and then headed down there - there's a cut through that starts by the Cathedral and goes down past the Bishop's Palace, ending up at the courtyard - where I found the h.Energy Sustainability Festival in progress.
There were several electric cars parked there, and a French van (I'm not sure what that was doing there).
There were workshops for sewing, felting, and scrap metal upcycling.
Further along, at the KLEEN energy bikes stall, you could pedal a bike to power kitchen machinery, and fry an egg. Another stall, the Marches Energy Agency, had help to reduce home energy costs. Super Nourished had gorgeous looking chocolate, and Growing Local had gorgeous looking local vegetables, grown by children at Tillington educational garden.
The Woodee was there, with their hand crafted fire pits and accessories, and the Nappy Service, with information on re-usable nappies, continence and menstrual wear. New Leaf Design was selling handmade herbal bodycare products.

The Size of Herefordshire is a project which is trying to protect rainforest in the Amazon by sponsoring an area of Herefordshire on an interactive map. Money from the project goes to the Forest Peoples Programme, which assists indigenous groups in securing legal title to their land, which helps to safeguard against loggers, miners and other groups which want to exploit the resources on tribal land, and Cool Earth, which helps communities at the edge of deforestation to develop local livelihoods for themselves. The two tribes they are helping are the Wampi and the Awajun, in Peru.

Next to them was the Hereford Community Land Trust, which is focussed on affordable housing, designed by the community which will be using it, in a sustainable manner. They aim to build low-cost, high-quality homes for sale or rent to local people, including workspaces, green spaces and allotments in the community design. At the moment they are working with Hereford City Council, which has received £503,000 to develop community-led housing, and the Trust has applied for £10,000 start up funding.

I treated myself to a coffee and chocolate fudge cake from De Koffie Pot, and it was warm enough to sit outside with a view of the river.

Other events were going on over the weekend, across Herefordshire, including a puppet show of The Selfish Giant, music and folk tales from Sproatly Smith and others, talks on solar power and climate science, a 5km fun run at Queenswood, with Art in the Park made by students from Hereford College of Arts, and guided walks for sketching and looking at different tree species. There were also films at the Courtyard in Hereford.

h.Energy is organised by New Leaf Sustainable Development in partnership with the Herefordshire Green Network.

Monday, 16 October 2017

House Fire in Castle Street

On Saturday afternoon, there was a house fire in Castle Street. The house had been up for sale, and the new family had only recently moved in. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but there's been a lot of damage inside the house.
Pughs/Londis are acting as a collection point for donations for the family, of money or goods they will need - the report on the Pughs Facebook page says that the family have lost everything. Someone is putting them up for now, but they are looking for a place to rent over the winter, and until they know whether it will be furnished or unfurnished they don't know what they will need. When Pughs have a list of things that the family need, they will let everyone know - some things have been offered already, including furniture, and at the moment they are only accepting monetary donations.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Botany and Other Stories

A couple of days ago Fran├žoise, the lovely French lady who lives in Hay, invited me to see her new art studio in Bear Street. It used to be some sort of workshop, and possibly a store for salt. She's got the ground floor set out for art, and has plans for the upstairs as soon as the leak at the back is fixed.
She's a very talented lady - she showed me her botanic illustrations - she did a three year course for a diploma, and it seems to have been a very competitive course. She also showed me a sketch book she made during the course - she did some of the work at the botanic gardens in Lyons, where the staff allowed her to draw plants that were not normally available to the public. It looks like a wonderful place, with Victorian glass houses like Kew Gardens.
And now she wants to share her skills with children. There have already been children of her friends coming to the studio to paint, and she's been out to schools in the area - she showed me the picture of a pomegranate she painted, with spots of juice around it from the real pomegranate she took in to the kindergarten to show the children. She got them to dip their fingers into the juice and dab onto the paper, and then taste the juice. Another, older group, painted leaves, and then she made them into a forest as a collage afterwards.
Her idea is to make a calendar with the children, and several shops around Hay have already agreed to stock it. She's calling the project "Botany and other Stories".
A further idea from a young friend who has just done an art course was to make the calendar as postcards, with the days of the month set out at the bottom, so the picture could be sent as a postcard after the calendar is finished with. She thought this was an excellent idea - and then found that it had been done before, in France - she showed me some of the postcards, which she was going to show to the printer later.
It's a wonderful idea, to encourage children to look closely at nature, and make art. Fran├žoise isn't doing this to make any money - she's spending money on the project, and she seems to be enjoying herself as much as the children are.
And she was listening to one little girl talking to herself as she painted, saying "Be kind to the berries," as she painted red berries on a branch - which may end up as a caption on one of the paintings in the calendar.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Another Meeting in Clyro About the Chicken Shed Application

I didn't hear anything about the results of the last meeting of Clyro Council until a couple of days ago, when someone told me what had happened.
First of all, he gave me clarification of what actually happened in the previous meeting, which ended in disarray:

"Clyro Community Council had a normal community council meeting on Tuesday 12 September. At 7pm when the meeting was advertised to start the chair decided that no public should be allowed to listen to their discussion in the small room of the village hall. The public were left outside wondering what was going on, when it was pointed out by a member of public who had googled the rules on his phone that the council were not within the rules to be barred and the meeting was suggested to be held in the bigger hall which could accommodate the larger number, the clerk then resigned so the meeting could not take place.

Clyro Council then tweeted this apology:

Many apologies. Tuesday's meeting fell far short of what you expected of us, and what we expected of ourselves. We can and shall do better.

The Council are looking for a new Clerk and one of the Council members is acting as a temporary clerk until the post can be filled. If anyone is interested in applying for the role, please do via"

And so we come to the special meeting which took place on the 28th September. This time, the Powys monitoring officer was there, to make sure proper procedure was followed. The public were allowed to attend this time. The councillors voted to rescind their previous decision to approve the chicken sheds, and there will be a public meeting on Tuesday 17th October, where members of the public will be able to express their views, and the council will then vote for or against the application. This will be in Clyro village hall.