Sunday, 20 April 2014

Grand Opening of the Cheesemarket


It's a bit hard to see, but at the front of the crowd is King Richard, in his crown and robes, opening the Cheesemarket. Beside him is George the Town Cryer. We actually had two Town Cryers for the occasion - Ken Smith returned to the role for what he said was his last shout, and he's still got a good voice that doesn't need a microphone!
Everyone else did. Juliette Noble gave an account of the last six years of hard work by all the volunteers - the committee and the people who had gone to Brecon and Hereford and Aberystwyth to search for local records, and the potter who had made the tiles that were sold to raise money for the project, and the ones who had wrestled with the planning bureaucracy and applications for grants, and organised the furnishings for the new holiday flat.
As a by-product of the Cheesemarket project, we now have a History Group in Hay - and the meeting they had last week resulted in half a dozen people willing to lead guided history tours around Hay.
So, the tiles are up around the inside walls of the Cheesemarket, and the information boards showing some of the local history, including historic photos of the fair and the dancing bear and the railway station, as well as old photos of shops paired with their present appearance. It all looks very professional.

The holiday flat was also open for viewing - and they have done a marvellous job. I was last up there about eighteen years ago, when the Camera Club met there, and I remember a rather dusty empty space. After the Camera Club moved out (the last in a long line of uses for the room, which has also been a Catholic Church and furniture showroom amongst other things), the building was more or less derelict until the Cheesemarket project started. Now there's a double bedroom with shower and toilet at the staircase end of the building, and the rest of the space is open plan with a kitchen and dining area at one end, and living room at the other. There's a book in the flat listing all the people who paid for tiles, and some of the job titles they have chosen are quite imaginative - Lincoln Ratcliffe (son of Gareth) who is only about three or four, is down as "Future Fireman".
It all looks very posh, and the views from the windows are wonderful:


At the bottom of the picture you can just see the green and white awning of the stalls that had been set up, with displays of photos and pictures by children from Hay School. They were also serving cheese (of course!) from Neal's Yard, and wine.
After Richard declared the Cheesemarket open, the community choir sang, starting with a song about the Martyr of the Storm, a farmer who froze to death on her way back from market to her six children, just before Christmas around a hundred years ago. One person I spoke to said they would have preferred a more cheerful song - about cheese!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Small Business Saturday


The Hay Clinic - alternative therapies and tarot readings.

Castle Gardens

I'll be honest - I never thought the Castle gardens were anything special.
However, experts have been having a look at them, and they have apparently got quite excited. It is, after all, unusual for a mid-seventeenth century garden to survive pretty much intact and unchanged. That's the terraces with the evergreen trees on the Castle Street side of the Castle.
On the other side, the lawn was laid out in the Regency period, so the Castle has two pretty much intact historic gardens of different periods. This is sufficiently interesting for Sir Roy Strong to agree to be the Patron of the new gardens committee. He is, of course, a garden expert, and lives quite locally in Herefordshire. The Castle Trust are hoping to restore the gardens - they're looking for garden designers to submit tenders - so that they can be fully opened to the public.

Even in their unrestored state, the gardens are being well used. Just before the Spring Fair, which made full use of the Regency lawn, Clifford School had an Easter Egg hunt around the grounds, and made about £500 for the school funds! Part of this came from the teas table, where they asked for donations rather than having a set price for everything.

And one of my favourite modern sculptors, Sally Matthews, has been commissioned to build a site specific piece to go in the derelict part of the Castle. She's going to make wolves, and they should be ready in time for the Festival. A couple of years ago, one of her horses was placed just outside the Castle gates for the Festival.


I first came across Sally Matthews' work back when the Globe Gallery was first converted into an art gallery. We had gone to see the exhibition and entered through the lower doorway. As we climbed the narrow stairs to the main floor, I said: "What are Jenny's deerhounds doing in here?.... Hang on, they're not moving...." Sally Matthews had sculpted a group of deerhounds, and she had based them on Jenny's, which are often seen being taken for walks around Hay.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fire Engine

Over the past few months, there has been talk at the Council meetings of the old Hay fire engine, which has been found in a barn somewhere near Hay.
About a week ago, Alan Powell went along to take photos.
Sadly, it was not the fire engine they had thought it was. He showed me some of the pictures the other day.
What they had thought was that this was the horse drawn wooden fire engine - he showed me a photo of it, painted bright red and in pretty good condition.
There had been another fire engine, though, which was a horse drawn steam engine - and this was the one in the barn. Or rather, the remains of it after it had been stripped down for salvage during the Second World War. Only the bottom part of the boiler remained, and it would take an awful lot of work and skill to get it back to anything like the original condition. He showed me another picture of the fire engine in its heyday, with all the firemen posed around it, with gleaming brass.... Sadly I don't think it will ever look like that again.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Beacons Bus

It's finally sunny and warm, and people are coming to the Brecon Beacons and surrounding areas (like Hay) to go walking - so of course, Powys County Council have cut the Beacons Bus to save money.
The bus was originally introduced to make it easier to see the area without using a car, and has been operating over the May to September period, on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It's not going to be running in future. Neither is the Offa's Dyke Flyer, which went up to places like Longtown.
The Sunday 39A bus service was designed to link up with the Beacons Bus, and it was used by backpackers. The Sunday service is irregular anyway, and any loss of passengers may put that route in jeopardy too. At the moment, Herefordshire County Council, which provide part of the subsidy for the route, are holding a consultation, which is open until April 21st. It can be found at https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/busreview

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The University of Cusop Dingle

King Richard has been wintering in Spain, but now he's back he's lost no time in putting together his new venture.
The University of Cusop Dingle (motto: "We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell" from Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens, 1920 - the logo of the university is, of course, a snail) held its first meeting last week, at the Rose and Crown, with a talk on Homer by Tim the Gardener. I'm sorry I missed it, because it seems that Tim went to a great deal of trouble, even photocopying handouts for the audience. When I spoke to him later, he was still enthused enough about the subject to tell me about how Homer saw himself: "He wasn't just a praise singer - the only mention of a lyre, which was the symbol of his craft, was when Achilles was playing it and singing of the heroes of old, so you've got a little bit of Homer inside Homer, you see what I mean?" However, he was rather unhappy that no-one in the audience offered to buy him a drink!
Apparently Eugene Fisk, the artist, has expressed interest in doing a talk about the relationship between the artist and the person viewing the art, which may take place next month, date and venue to be decided.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Local History

On the way home from work, I met two ladies who were taking part in the History Group meeting at the Three Tuns. As part of the evening's activities they had been sent out with paper and pencil to collect six dates from buildings between the Three Tuns and the Clock Tower. The History Group are looking for people to lead tours around town to talk about the history, as Ken our retired Town Cryer used to do. And there are all sorts of interesting things to talk about, such as Matilda de Breos who built Hay Castle and the Armstrong poisoning case in the 1920s, to name two notable Hay characters.

Meanwhile, work is going on at the Cheesemarket to put up the interpretive panels on Hay's local history, and the tiles with the names of local businesses. The mosaic panel showing the town crest is already up - and one piece of the river in the background is mine! Even unfinished it's looking rather smart.