Friday, 15 December 2017

The Joys of Camping, 1930s Style

When I was at the open evening for the new school, I came across John Price, who told me about some interesting local history (he's the chap who was at the Cusop History Society evening, with the recording of the Ballad of Cusop Dingle).
I didn't have much chance to mention this before, because I like to report on events while they're still fresh in my mind - but now I've had a chance to sit down and enjoy the links that he sent me.

In 1933, May Morris and her companion Mary Lobb spent a month camping at Cockalofty, near Hay Bluff. May Morris was the daughter of William Morris, the author, designer, and leading socialist. She ran the embroidery department of Morris & Co from the age of 23, and was an artist in the Arts and Crafts movement in her own right. In 1907 she founded the Women's Guild of Arts, in an attempt to raise the professional status of the women who made their living from working in the arts and crafts, such as hand embroiderers. May was also prominent in the socialist movement, which brought her into contact with George Bernard Shaw. There were, it seems, passionate feelings on both sides, though May eventually married another socialist, Henry Sparling - though they separated four years later.

By the time she came to Hay, May was 70, and her companion Mary(who presumably did all the heavy lifting) was 55. Unusually for the 1930s, Mary Lobb always seemed to wear knickerbockers and tweed jackets. During the First World War, she campaigned for women to be allowed to do farm work and was one of the first to sign up to the Women's Land Army in 1917. The farm she worked on was quite close to Kelmscott Manor, home of the Morris family, and when she left the farm (under something of a cloud - it's not clear why she was dismissed) she went to work at Kelmscott as a gardener, and later became May's companion. George Bernard Shaw apparently thought she was terrifying, but she and May seemed to get on together very well, and stayed together until May's death in 1938. They even went to Iceland together - William Morris had been inspired by the scenery and the literature in his youth, and May wanted to see the places he had been to.

Camping holidays were still a little bit eccentric back in the 1930s - there were no organised camp sites, which is why the two ladies hired a field for a month to pitch their tent, and had their mail delivered to the nearby farmhouse. While they were there, they visited local farmhouses (praising the cider at Llangwathan!) and admiring the architecture. Details of their stay, from diaries, can be seen at Jan Marsh's blog starting with an entry in September and with more in November, including a not very complimentary review of the Hitchcock film Sabotage, which they went to see in 1937 in Llanidloes.
They came camping to Wales again in 1934, but this time close to the River Severn. They made winberry jam in the tent - but didn't manage to enjoy much of it. A sheepdog from the farm managed to get into the tent to get at the food, and they returned to find the jam all over the floor and the tent full of wasps!

Ale Voice Choir

Beer Revolution's Christmas window display

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Cusop History Society Christmas Meeting

Later on Saturday afternoon, after the Carols from the Front service, I went to the Cusop History Society's Christmas meeting.
Quite a few people are doing research on local history, such as the floods of the early 1960s and how they affected Dulas Terrace. There are photos showing the height of the water in Eric Pugh's book, Old Hay.
Another chap has done a lot of work on Victoria Terrace in Cusop Dingle, built on land auctioned off from the Llydyadyway Estate (this was also mentioned by the chap from Hereford Archives who came to speak a little while ago). He lives in one of the houses, and has been able to find out who lived there back in 1901, and who all the neighbours were, thanks to the National Census (a timber feller, with his wife and six children!). He was able to access the population census free on a PC in Hay Library, and he had a handout including maps and a poster advertising the auction, held at the Crown.

Then we settled down with wine and nibbles for a short film (well, half a film, as they couldn't get the second half to play on the computer), showing the glories of Welsh tourism sometime in the early 1970s. There were some good shots of Brecon Beacons from the air, and Cardiff Castle, and quite a bit from the Eisteddfod, with choirs and druids, and a cattle market.

Another member had brought a recording along of the Ballad of Cusop Dingle, recorded in the early 1970s (so about the same time that the film was made), in one of the local pubs, which brought back a few memories for some of the members.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Carols from the Front

On Saturday afternoon I went up to Cusop Church for a carol service with a difference. Organised by Kelvyn Jenkins of the British Legion, it was themed around the First World War, to raise awareness and money for the proposed statue of Herefordshire's only winner of the VC, Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis, who died in September 1918.
On the way into church, we passed several people in First World War uniforms, including one German officer.
Inside, the church quickly filled up until it was standing room only.
There was a small brass band up near the altar, which had come all the way from South Wales for the occasion, and the St Andrews Singers were also there.
Rev Jane Rogers began the service with a prayer, followed by Once in Royal David's City - we were singing some of my favourite carols throughout the service - In the Bleak Midwinter, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and finishing up with Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In the middle of the service the St Andrews Singers sang Silent Night in English and German, which I thought was a nice touch.
Between these were some quite sombre readings. Rev Charlesworth read a poem called Christmas in the Trenches, and talked about the terrible loss of life. The poet said something along the lines of - at Christmas, the soldiers at the Front were not encountering the innocent baby in the manger but Christ in agony, crowned with thorns.
Other poems were the famous Flanders Field, and Rudyard Kipling's poem My Boy Jack, written after his son died on the Western Front, after he had been instrumental in getting Jack a commission even though he was medically unfit because of his bad eyesight.
The second half of the service focussed on Lance Corporal Lewis, with a poem about him, the VC citation describing what he had done (singlehandedly taking out a machine gun nest and taking the surviving German soldiers prisoner, thus enabling his battalion to advance), and Dawn Lewis, the Lance Corporal's great niece, said a few words.
After that, Captain Lyndon Davies was supposed to sing White Christmas as a solo, but first he said he'd been asked to sing something else - Keep the Home Fires Burning, which everyone joined in at the chorus, and everyone joined in with White Christmas, too. He said he'd served in Afghanistan over Christmas, at Camp Bastion, so he knew exactly what it was like to be serving in a war, far from home, at Christmas.
At the back of the church, after the carols, there was tea, mulled wine, and mince pies, provided by the Co-op and the Swan Hotel, and the opportunity to see the artist's sketches of what the statue will look like. Part of the display also showed a pub in Neath which has been named the Allan Leonard Lewis - before he joined up, he worked in Neath for the GWR.

In the run up to Christmas at Cusop, there will also be a Carols and Candles service on Sunday 17th December at 4pm, suitable for young families, and on Christmas Day there will be a Family Communion led by Bishop Michael Westall.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Winter Wonderland

This morning on Broad Street

A Thank You Note

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Council Meeting - the Future of Welsh Politics?

Some good news from the Miles Without Stiles project - work will begin on the Bailey Walk in the New Year to make it more easily accessible. There was also a good meeting with the Warren Trust and the National Park - the car park at the Warren will be improved, too. The Woodland group are also happy to get involved, with things like cutting back overhanging bushes.
As ever, though, the Town Council needs to know what the County Council are doing before they can make more concrete plans....

Down at the Gliss, talks are progressing and compromise solutions have been proposed and rejected between the Town Council and residents who are all claiming the same bit of land. The Land Registry has yet to make a decision - they're even slower than the County Council.
Meanwhile, Welsh Water needs to do work soon on electrical cables which run right through the disputed area.
And while they were on the subject of the Gliss, someone asked about the plans of the Globe for a bridge across the Dulas for their festival next year - it seems this will not be built after all.

Everyone was very pleased with this years' Winter Festival - apart from various parking problems. The car park at the sports pavilion, for instance, was closed to the public for a football match, so that the footballers could park - but the sign is still there, and prevented other people from using the car park over the Festival weekend.
Attendance figures for the Turning on of the Lights were double previous years. There was a suggestion of incorporating fireworks next year - rockets over the Castle timed for when the lights are switched on would be pretty spectacular!
However, there were queries about the huge sum the County Council charges for closing roads - Castle Street was closed for the evening, and Gibbons' the butchers burger van was parked in the middle of it. Town councillors thought that the least the County Council could do would be to man the road closure to make sure cars were diverted.

The Town Council is sent a mountain of paperwork (well, email, but it's all a lot of reading) and there was a suggestion that the various subject areas could be divided up between the councillors so that they didn't all have to plough through everything - and then anything important could be brought to the attention of the others. So on Monday they were dividing up the subject areas between them. Rob Golesworthy instantly volunteered to do UFOs!
Next August, a piece of legislation, the Wales Bill, will be debated in the Welsh Assembly - and it will affect the future of town councils all across Wales. This is one of the important things that is easy to get lost in the mountain of paperwork, which Richard Greatrex brought to the Council's attention.
Richard went to a meeting organised by One Voice Wales on the Wales Bill, as a consultation exercise. Questions they were asking went right back to basics on what Town Councils should be doing - what responsibilities should they have? What is the best way for them to operate? What standards should they be held to? How will they best represent local people?
The general feeling seemed to be that Town Councils would be taking on more and more responsibilities in the coming years - Solva, in West Wales, is already running an adult care home - but town councillors are not professionals, and they aren't trained for this! Meanwhile the county councils have the staff and resources, but seem to be doing less and less....
There is a theory that the Welsh Assembly want to do away with County Councils altogether, and go back to the old system of District Authorities. So, could Hay be rid of the County Council and all those problems - or would it be a case of even more headaches in the future?
Another area which will be of great importance is Health and Social Care, considering the problems the County Council are having with funding social care at the moment. They are asking the Welsh Assembly to step in to help. There are department heads missing in the social care department of the County Council, including one who has gone on sick leave for a scheduled knee operation.
Meanwhile, the full County Council will be meeting at the end of January to debate the budget - but they need to know what precept has been set locally by the 21st January, before the town councils know what the PCC is going to be doing.
The quote of the evening came at this point: "We're finding it very difficult to get responses from Powys".
It could be the Hay motto, inscribed on all official paperwork!
And not only Hay, of course - at the meeting about the Wales Bill, Richard met the Mayor of Knighton, who said they have similar problems with Powys.

Trudi, meanwhile, has been asked to sit on a committee on how to draw up Town Plans - somebody is impressed with the Town Plan for Hay! She will also be opening the Fairtrade Fair on Saturday 16th December, and will be attending the St Michael's Hospice service on the 17th December. She will also be at the Christmas in the Trenches service at Cusop Church on Saturday 9th December, at 2pm. She will also be doing a video - in French! - in reply to the one the Mayor of Timbuktu sent to Hay for the tenth anniversary of the town twinning.

One issue came out of the Open Evening at the new school - the County Council want to use the space where the old school now stands as car parking - but as an extension to the public car park. The school wants the space to be for the school only.

After a short discussion of Affordable Housing, I was asked to leave, as the council had something secret to discuss....