Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Treasure of Mouse Castle

I saw a friend in town the other day, who lives close to Mouse Castle, right on a public footpath. It's not normally a footpath that gets much use, but in the last week or so her family has been watching as hordes of eager treasure seekers head up to the woods in search of gold topped glass jars full of cash. And that's only one entrance to the woods, which are owned by the Woodland Trust, and so open to the public.
Three young men who followed the clues to the treasure were interviewed in the Hereford Times this week - they came from the Rhondda and Cardiff to search for the £1,000 prize.
Apparently, the jars were left in the wood by an American millionaire, as part of a Twitter treasure hunt called Hidden Cash. They have all now been found.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Timbuktu Silversmith Visits Hay

The visiting silversmith from Timbuktu having his lunch. He's set up his stall and blanket just outside Haymakers, which sells the silver and leatherwork from Timbuktu as a regular feature. He said he was only going to be here today and tomorrow - I presume he'll be visiting other places, as it's a heck of a long way to come for just a couple of days!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Commemorating the Great War

The Royal British Legion are marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War with a service of remembrance at the cenotaph on Sunday 27th July, at 6.30pm.
There are quite a lot of names on the cenotaph, of young men who marched away from Hay and never came back.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Powys Libraries Under Threat

There's a consultation going on at the moment about choosing between the different options to cut Powys Library services. Despite the county council saying that the libraries are being used now more than ever, the only choices on the table are between various cuts to the services. The survey form can be filled in at, and the main options seem to be cutting opening hours by 20% across the board, closing 5 libraries across the county and closing 11 libraries across the county, with options for the mobile libraries which either reduce their frequency from fortnightly to monthly, or increase their range to fill the gaps left by closing bricks and mortar libraries.
Here in Hay, of course, we're still waiting for the building to start on the new school, which is supposed to be where our library is moving to, at which point the separate library building would be closed down and sold off. I'm not entirely clear on what this means for the Library Plus service, by which council services can be accessed through the library rather than the dedicated council office that Hay used to have.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Small Business Saturday

St David's Hospice shop, by the Buttermarket. This used to be Mark Westwood's bookshop, and when he moved away it continued to be a bookshop, on several floors. I used to carry my dog up the stairs when she couldn't walk far any more, to the comic department - the SF and Fantasy books were arranged all the way up the stairs.
The shop was also used in the film Dandelion Dead as one of the solicitors' offices - the side of the Red Cross shop was supposed to be the other office, with Armstrong and his rival peering through the windows at each other. The actual offices are still on Broad Street, but there's a phone box there now which would have been right in the shot - not quite right for the 1920s! For the scene where they drove cattle down Broad Street, the phone box was disguised as a market kiosk with lots of sacking.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Presteigne and Pembridge

I've had a lovely morning!
Brian was going up to Presteigne to buy some stock for his shop from Tony Bird, the bookseller there, and offered to take me along for the run out. It's years since I went to Presteigne - though Tony seems much the same (maybe slightly greyer, and that's probably a different dog in his shop).
So, while Brian delved into the piles of books out in the shed round the side of the shop, I went for a walk up the high street. It's a pleasant place, with a library that was open when I passed, and the Judge's Lodging museum down a side road, and lots of black and white timber framed houses. There are a couple of restaurants - the Hat Shop and the Fig Tree. I bought a loaf that was still warm from the oven at the local deli; there's a greengrocer too, and a butcher - everything you could want in a street of little, local shops.
I went into the St Michael's Hospice shop, and came out with a sparkly silver and black scarf and a round black hat that only cost me £1, as well as a selection of picture frames that I'm going to use to frame some of my embroideries.
When Brian had finished stacking up the books, we didn't want to go straight home, so we headed off to a cafe he knows in Pembridge.
Pembridge is another lovely village that I hadn't been to for years. We stopped in a free public car park round the back of one of the pubs (and there were public toilets there, too - with facilities for the disabled).
Ye Olde Steppes is close to The New Inn, and backs onto the churchyard. It has its own website at It's a lovely black and white timber framed building, with a local shop selling everything from newspapers to local cider and vegetables and even ice cream, and a beautiful tea room, like something out of a Miss Marple mystery. We sat in the bay window, looking out onto the main road over the heads of the teddy bears' picnic that was arranged on the window ledge. They have a long garden behind the shop where customers can sit out as well. They serve a variety of teas and coffees, and I was delighted to see Russian Caravan tea on the menu, which came in beautiful crockery. Brian highly recommends the sandwich made with Hereford Hop cheese, and we both had slices of home made Victoria sponge, oozing with cream and jam, afterwards.
It was fascinating to look round at the ancient timbers and work out how the building had changed over the years - behind us was a blocked medieval doorway which had once led to a long hall, long since demolished. Where it once stood is now the garden of the chapel next door, which was built in 1888 and is now an art gallery with metal sculptures filling the front lawn.
I look at old buildings from an archaeological point of view, while Brian approaches the subject from his engineering background, so between us we can deduce the history of a building pretty well, and the conversations are fascinating (if you're interested in architecture and engineering, that is!).
After our snack, we ambled round the village, taking in the medieval market hall behind the New Inn, Bishop Doppa's almshouses across from Ye Olde Steppes, and the church itself. It's got a detached bell tower, which was open today, so we went in to marvel at the great wooden frame that holds the bells (built in the seventeenth century and last restored in 1956) - after putting 10p in the slot to turn on the lights!
Inside the church, we spotted the remnants of the Norman pillar embedded in the wall near the altar, and looked at the display showing the men of the village who had died in the First World War, decorated with knitted poppies. One lad had been a midshipman on HMS Indefatigable, which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 - out of a crew of a thousand, only two men survived.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Singing, Poetry and Dancing at Baskerville Hall

To start with, there was no beer!
There had been a big party over the weekend, and they were down to their last dregs of the Butty Bach, no Guinness, and no Theakstons - and I'm not really a drinker of cider or lager. Fortunately it didn't take Cally long to change the barrel.
I got to sing twice. The first time I'd rehearsed for - a Pentangle song called Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, but later Huw Parsons performed a couple of his poems.
The first was about the last execution in England to take place at the scene of the crime - three men in the 1830s had burnt the hay ricks of a farmer in protest against low agricultural wages, and were hanged for it. This was part of the "Captain Swing" protests. He's been recording it, along with a couple of musicians, for a CD.
Then, Huw had a poem based on the Sound of Music song My Favourite Things - and he asked me to sing the original before he read out his poem! Fortunately, he had the words with him!
Over in the corner was a family which included Charlie, a lad of about ten or eleven who had brought his guitar - he played pretty well, though he wasn't entirely sure how to end a song, and one was a song he'd composed himself. He apologised in advance for it being a "made-up song", and got thoroughly deserved applause at the end of it. His little brother lay down on the floor for a while with a coat over his head, but then he got his second wind, borrowed some egg shaped shakers from the Much Ado trio, and shook them about enthusiastically.
With them was a French girl called Juliette, who didn't speak much English, but had memorised the English lyrics to some songs. Another lad, Ethan, played the melody to one song, and at the end of it young Charlie came up to ask him to play it again because Juliette knew all the words. They went off into the hall to practice, and came back to perform to great applause.
In the other corner was a German couple. The lady asked if there was a piano - there isn't, so she spent the evening playing the spoons along with other performers. And the milk jug, and the tambourine Bob lent her. When Much Ado (guitar, flute/whistle and accordion) were playing, she got up to dance, and got young Charlie up to join her.
Brian, who took me over there, said there'd never been dancing before.
So it was a multinational, multi-talented evening, and all great fun!