Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hereford Hop

I went into the wholefood shop the other day to get some cheese - one of my favourite local varieties is Hereford Hop, a mild and mellow cheese with hops pressed into the surface of the cheese. When I first came to the area, I thought that this was a traditional variety of cheese - but it turns out it was first made in 1990, by Charles Martell, who is also the cheesemaker who came up with Stinking Bishop. He has a farm in Gloucestershire. An article in Beer, the magazine for CAMRA members, tells me that the hops are first roasted and then pressed into the surface of the cheese, and the variety of hop is usually locally grown Fuggles.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Celtic Evening at the Globe

It was a fine night, organised by Thomasin and with several musicians I didn't know, including a lady who sang in Scots Gaelic (Katie?) and three men who played Appalachian dance music on fiddles and guitar while two women, who I think must have been mother and daughter, did step dancing. The room was full, and I think everyone was enjoying themselves. I certainly was.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Post Office Vans

I was in the newsagents the other day, and a couple of Post Office vans were parked on Lion Street, which is the closest they can get to the back door of the Post Office, where the post is taken in and out. They park on the double yellow lines, and block the street while they're there.
Margaret was not happy about it. She sees it most days, and she'd had enough of it.
"It's not the boys from Hay," she said. "They park round the corner. It's the boys from Hereford."
So she had rung up one of the managers in Hereford to complain.
He was less than sympathetic. "There's nothing you can do if they're legally parked," he said, according to Margaret.
But the whole point was that they were not legally parked. Margaret told him exactly what she thought of him, and slammed the phone down.
A little while later, however, the vans were moved....

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Discussing the Future of Hay Library

The top area at the back of Tomatitos was packed out for the meeting called by HOWLS to discuss the future of the library. The new portfolio holder for Powys County Council, Rachel Powell, is due to meet with HOWLS shortly, and the committee wanted to make sure that they knew what the membership of the organisation wants before they go to that meeting.
At the moment the most important question to ask is - do the members want the Library to stay in the current building, or move to the school?
The meeting started with some background information so that the people at the meeting could make an informed choice. Deb Johnson, a local architect, has drawn up the plans showing the present library at the same scale as the proposed library in the school, for direct comparison. The room in the school is about a third smaller than the present library, and the present library also has a toilet and little kitchen and storage area. The room in the school is also the larger of the two rooms put aside in the plans for community use - there was a site meeting at the school for the Powys Cabinet recently, where they made that decision - there has been some uncertainty over whether the library would get the large room or the small room, and they decided on the large room, with the small room available for community use, when it's not being used to store the bookcases on wheels from the library. So much for Hay having a new community centre to replace the one that was knocked down.
However, the library room will have fixed furniture, such as a counter/desk for the librarian, and some shelves. So the school is disappointed that the room cannot be emptied completely so it can be used for things like yoga classes. However, the current library has computer terminals. It is unknown whether the library in the school will have any computer terminals, which are a necessary part of a modern library.
The access to the library and community room is separate from the access to the main school, so there is no possibility of library users wandering through the classrooms - as Rev. Charlesworth said, there are no safeguarding issues with this layout of the buildings, just as the swimming pool at the school is presently used by the public with no issues.
Powys County Council have said that, if the library remains in the current building, it can only open for 6 hours a week.
If the library moves to the school, it can open for 12 hours a week.
At the moment, the library is open for 23 hours a week.
It is unknown what will happen to the present library building if the library moves into the school.
If the library stays in the current building, the rooms in the school will be available for the school to use as they wish. The school would be paying for heating and lighting for those rooms if the library was there.
If HOWLS wants the library to stay in the current building, Powys County Council have said that they will have to put together a viable business plan by the 31st December. In the last few days, and with the help of Kirsty Williams the AM, HOWLS have got a breakdown of the costs involved in running the library, but they haven't had much time to study it yet, and it still seems worryingly vague. However, the minimum the community would have to raise would be £8,000 a year - and maybe as much as £15,000 a year. Since donations to the cause so far stand at around £200, this seems like a lot to find, especially as the Festival will not be donating any more money to the library after this year. The figures provided don't seem to include rates, either, though HOWLS could apply for rate relief if they did decide to go down that road.
According to the County Council, most of the other libraries at risk of closure around Powys have found solutions to the problem - but they weren't very forthcoming about what those solutions might be.
One question from the audience was about the library buying new books - would this be done by the county library service, or would the library have to raise money to do it themselves?
Jayne, the Librarian, was unable to comment on the County Council's plans, as an employee, but she did point out that lending books was only part of what a library does. She added that book lending has gone up significantly in the last 3 months. It was also mentioned that, since the school has started to take the children up to the library for visits, children have brought their parents along to the library - parents who may never have been to the library before. The school also saw benefits in walking the children through their community to visit the library, and it was also pointed out that the library is a safe place for children to go to - and there aren't many places like that around.
It was also pointed out that the plan of the new school is basically two sheds, with moveable internal walls - and who can say what the library's place will be in future years? Maybe the entire school will become a "learning environment" for adults and children alike, and it would be better for the present library to be in a flexible space, which can also be moved around for different styles of classroom teaching?

So everyone had post-it notes on the tables, where they could write their comments - yellow for positive comments and green for concerns and negative comments.

Once this was done, the comments were to be taken away to be collated, and HOWLS will be emailing members shortly with a digest of what the mind of the meeting turned out to be.
For the future, HOWLS are bearing in mind that it is not just the population of Hay that uses the library, but people from all the villages in the area, and it would be a good idea to get all those community councils on board with whatever decision is made about the library's future.
Hay Town Council will also be meeting with HOWLS shortly - Alan Powell was there representing the Town Council, and Gareth Ratcliffe was also there as county councillor.

HOWLS will next be meeting on August 15th at 7pm at the Library.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Visiting Cardiff, and a Tour of South Wales

This was another day out with vague plans made. The one essential feature, though, was to visit the Doctor Who Experience on Cardiff Bay. It's closing in September, and there are a few things that are only available through the official shop there, so I was on a mission to get what I could.
This meant getting up at the crack of dawn for the first bus into Brecon, where I changed for the T4 to Cardiff. It's a nice run down, and I can do it all on one Explorer ticket, which costs £7.90. In Cardiff, I paused for a coffee at the Rendezvous Café in Queen's Arcade, and then got another bus down to the Bay - there was supposed to be a bus stop by the railway station, but I couldn't find it, so I went to the end of St Mary Street and found the bus stop there - the number 6 that I caught didn't do change, but I managed to scrabble the £1.80 out of the bottom of my purse and drop it in the hopper As we went round the railway station, I saw the bus stop I'd been looking for on the other side. There were quite a few well-dressed people on the bus, including one lady in a gorgeous deep blue and gold sari - I wondered if they were going to a wedding or something similar.
The bus dropped me right outside the Doctor Who Experience, a big hangar-like building painted Tardis blue. I didn't have time to do the Experience tour, so I passed the Lego dalek, and the three daleks from the series, and went up the stairs to the shop.
I bought quite a lot....
Then I walked along the edge of the Bay, past the Norwegian church (and café and art gallery), to see a big crowd of people around the Millennium Centre. Many of them were wearing academic caps and gowns, and I recognised a couple of families from the bus ride. It seems it was graduation day for Cardiff University, and I saw students in their gowns all over the city centre after that.
I also visited Ianto's Shrine - the character from Torchwood (which had its secret base under the square on the Bay) who died in the mini-series Children of Earth. It's looking a little faded now, but still covers an impressive amount of wall space.
Then I got a bus back into the city centre from outside the Millennium Centre - a number 8 this time, which only cost £1.60 - and gave change.
Back in the city centre, I had intended to go to the Brewdog pub for lunch - but I'm not having a lot of luck with pubs at lunchtime at the moment, and they were closed. So I headed on to the comic shop, and Forbidden Planet, and did a bit more shopping around town. I ended up eating lunch from a Subway, at the bus stop for home.
Where I got on the wrong bus.
I didn't realise this until we were leaving Merthyr Tydfil, when I started noticing that this was not the route I had come by that morning. We went up through Dowlais, where there is a historic blast furnace, and a statue of the Trevithick steam engine. Then I noticed the road sign which pointed the way to Abergavenny.
I went up and consulted the driver. He said I could go to Abergavenny and get the X43 to Brecon. Okay, then. A little further on, we pulled into a modern little bus station, and I asked the driver where we were. "Ebbw Vale," he said, "and look - there's the T4 going back to Merthyr - it might be better if you got on that." This seemed like a good idea, so I ran down the bus station and caught the T4.
Fortunately I was in time, back in Merthyr, for the bus which got me to Brecon before the last bus back to Hay - and I'd done the entire mystery tour for not extra cost - all with my Explorer ticket!

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Best Laid Plans....

To be honest, the plans weren't really that best laid. I had the vague notion that I might like to get the bus to Dorstone, walk out to the castle at Snodhill to look round, and come back to the Pandy at Dorstone for lunch. And, because I grew up on the Famous Five books, I made sure I was equipped with a small backpack with fruit juice and chocolate (and an unbreakable steel goblet to drink from), like a 1930s rambler.
That plan lasted until I got off the bus at Dorstone. When I went over to check the opening times at the Pandy, they don't open on a Monday lunchtime.
Hey ho - I could still walk out to Snodhill. It wasn't that far, and on the way I bought some eggs from outside Snodhill Court Farm, from an honesty box.
The entrance to the castle had gates across it, and large notices saying that this was a hard hat area and there was no public access. At the top of the hill, the castle ruins themselves were hidden under scaffolding.
I couldn't see anyone about, so I thought I might just sneak in and take a photo, and then sneak out again.
I was caught straight away, by a very nice young man who came out of the tea hut, where the workers were having their break.
The Snodhill Preservation Trust is having work done to stabilise the stonework and stop the castle from falling into further ruin. The young man gave me a leaflet, which says that Historic England did emergency work on the castle last year, and the work this year is to clear the undergrowth, restore the standing remains and to investigate the surroundings to find out more about the medieval castle.
Surprisingly little is known about the origins of the castle - it may be built among the earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort, and may even be a rare, pre-Norman castle. The first certain information is in the time of William Fitz Osbern, first Earl of Hereford, around 1070 - he built all the early castles from Wigmore to Chepstow. He granted Snodhill to Hugh l'Asne, who held it until he died in 1100, when it passed to Robert de Chandos, who had married Hugh's daughter. The de Chandos family held the castle for the next 300 years or so, and at one point during Edward II's reign the castle was stormed by Roger Mortimer.
There are rumours that the castle was besieged by the Earl of Leven in 1645, during the English Civil War - cannon balls have been found - but after that it fell out of use, and stone from the castle was used to build nearby Snodhill Court.
The tower keep is unique - it's twelve-sided - and Historic England have started an extensive survey of the castle and its surroundings, including the nearby village and park, field systems and lanes.
The Preservation Trust are looking for Friends and volunteers to help with the work. To become a Friend costs £10 a year, for which you receive a newsletter called The Turret, and invitations to events over the year. They can be contacted at:
The Friend's Secretary,
Snodhill Castle Preservation Trust,
The Green
It's a fascinating castle, and I hope it becomes better known when the work is done - I'm certainly going to be going back next year, when it should be possible to get a better look around.
Later, I was talking to Mary Fellowes at Broad Street Books, and she remembers one of the local farms taking their pigs up to the castle for the summer!
Then, instead of going back to Dorstone, I walked on along the valley to Peterchurch, where I had a very nice half of Ludlow Gold at the Nag's Head, where the landlady told me that the people working at Snodhill came to have their site meetings. Then I caught the bus back to Hay - so it was a very pleasant morning out after all.
A few nights ago, Brian and a few friends were having a drink at Kilverts, and got talking to some other people sitting outside, who turned out to be working on the castle. If you're reading this, young man from Snodhill - take no notice of Brian - he was only winding you up! Apparently he was spinning some sob story about how I'd been looking forward to the visit to the castle for months, and saved up all my pennies to get there, and was bitterly disappointed to be thrown off the site! In fact, I completely understood why I wasn't allowed any closer, and the young man couldn't have been nicer!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Celtic Evening

I'm looking forward to going to the Globe on Friday evening - Thomasin, Justin and some of their friends will be playing Celtic music from 8pm. Tickets are £5. They're both very good musicians, so it should be a good night!