Monday, 31 December 2012


A Happy Welsh New Year!
Calennig means New Year gift, and this is the Mari Llwyd from the Chepstow morris side, which is traditionally taken from door to door on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Small Business Sunday

This is the solicitor's office on Broad Street that was originally the workplace of Major Armstrong, Hay's notorious poisoner (allegedly!), up until 1923.
Later, it was the workplace of Martin Beales, who lived in Armstrong's house in Cusop Dingle, and sat in Armstrong's chair at work, and wrote a book casting grave doubts on Armstrong's guilt.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

St Mary's Gets a Facelift

St Mary's Church has had a nice little windfall - the Heritage Lottery Fund has granted around £13,000 to set them off on a programme of improvements to the church.
There's quite a bit of maintenance work to be done, including a new roof, guttering, and repairs to windows and stonework. The money obviously won't cover all of that, but it does give the church committee a start to their plans so they can apply for a full grant later, and it will allow them to complete Phase 1 of their plans.
Phase 2 is the installation of toilets, something that has been talked about for several years now.
Phase 3 will be the installation of a kitchen, so the church can be used for concerts and recitals more easily. At the moment, they have to hire toilets which are put under the yew tree near the porch, and can't offer refreshments.
There's space at the back of the church for a lot of this, though I think they will need to move the font forward.
The church has already spent a lot of time, effort and money on the area around the altar, and the rather splendid new organ. Kitchens and toilets may be a bit more mundane, but they will transform the building both for worship and as a new musical venue for Hay.
Wouldn't it be nice if they could do something about the balcony, too, so they could accommodate even larger crowds?

Friday, 28 December 2012

New License for the Globe

A decision has finally been made on the new license for the Globe.
As reported in the B&R, they have not been given the late night opening they had hoped for - instead, they can only sell alcohol outside until 11pm on Festival weekend nights for When the Light Gets In and The Crunch, and until 10pm on weekdays over those festivals. The same hours apply for live music outside, though inside the building they can stay open until 2.30am. Regular opening hours remain the same - until 11.30pm from Sunday to Thursdays and 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, extended to 1.30am on New Years Eve and bank holiday weekends.
Hilary Lawson said after the decision that he would have to consider the future of the two festivals he puts on in the light of the new hours, because the extra revenue from food and drink sales during the festivals keeps the place running.
I'm not sure what he's got to complain about - I looked back through the blog to the discussions that were held before the Globe opened, and all the problems about noise were raised then, yet Hilary Lawson still went ahead and opened. Here's an extract from my post on 19th May, 2008, after a meeting at the Globe with concerned local people:

"Hilary and Mandy said that any music events they put on would be done in the basement area, which does not have the large windows and would be easier to keep soundproofed. They weren't entirely sure what sort of music, only that it wouldn't be the same sort as Clyro Court.
Hilary said that he was very happy to work with people and have a conversation about the space - but the problems that the local residents brought up at the meeting seem to be intractable ones that any owner of the Globe could do nothing about. They can have no power over where people park in the area, however much they would like them to walk or park on the main car park, and they can have no power over the level of noise when people have left the premises."

I'd forgotten about that promise that music events would all take place in the basement - it certainly didn't last long in practice, and I've been to lots of music events in the main hall, upstairs, the latest being the Village Quire just before Christmas.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Footpath Problems

It occurred to me, as I was pulling my wellies on, that I haven't worn them for at least a year, and I haven't been on a long muddy tramp in the countryside for more than that. It felt a bit strange going out without a dog, though I did meet a friendly sheepdog on Nantyglasdwr Lane.
I was going out to check on one of my favourite little bridges around Hay, after being told that the footpath had been closed temporarily for safety reasons. It's in the little dingle between Black Lion Green and Nantyglasdwr. This is what I found:

The large flat stone in the middle of the stream is the little clapper bridge, and with all the heavy rain the stream has cut a new course around it, leaving it in the middle. The notices at the ends of the footpath said that the closure would only be temporary, so they might be planning to repair the bridge soon.

In the field on the Nantyglasdwr side of the stream, the hedge has been newly laid, and as I walked on, I saw a rainbow in a patch of sunshine along the Wye Valley.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Hunt

Basil Brush, getting a good view of the hunt.

There was a good crowd out for the traditional Boxing Day Hunt this morning, with mince pies and mulled wine being passed around, and Santa with his sack of goodies for the children.
I had to take Basil Brush along - after all, as a fox, he's fairly safe these days from the hounds (in the speech at the beginning of the hunt, the Master of the Hunt did say that trails had been laid, and they would be keeping within the law).
As usual, they set off up the hill just after eleven - and twenty minutes after that, it started raining!
In previous years, Karl Showler has come along with a wheelbarrow (and a little santa hat) to shovel up what the horses had left behind for his garden. He wasn't there this year (and he's moving to Brecon shortly) so there's an opening there for someone local who wants good horse muck on their garden!

Someone else getting a good view!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

Village Quire

When I got to the Globe, it was already quite full. I went up on the scaffolding balcony, which had been decorated with jam jar and tea light lanterns - there must have been a hundred and fifty of them, or more. The lighting was subdued - the Quire have clever little lights that clip on to their music books.
It was a Christmas theme, of course, with Phil Smith doing the readings from the pulpit (which he was sharing with a large Christmas tree), and the Quire singing some little known carols.
Well, mostly little known. One of the readings (I think it was from Laurie Lee) described a group of boys from the local church choir going out carol singing, and at the squire's house one of them suggested "Lets give them 'Wild Shepherds'!" So after the reading, the Quire sang 'Wild Shepherds'/While Shepherds Watch - but to an unfamiliar tune.
Two of the songs had been collected by Ella Leather, the Herefordshire folklorist, in Dilwyn, from a gypsy woman who she persuaded to sing into one of those ancient gramophones (state of the art technology then!) to record her voice on a wax cylinder - which was then sent off to Rafe Vaughan Williams to transcribe. "He arranged it," said the leader of the Quire, "and I un-arranged it, because what he did was quite hard!" And it was beautiful, as all the music of the evening was.
The encore, after rapturous applause, was Phil Smith performing the drunken bell ringer, describing how the bell ringing team spent their Christmas and New Year, and a song in Welsh.

The Village Quire now do CDs. I have one called High Days and Holidays along the Welsh Border Marches. There's one based around readings from Thomas Hardy, and the latest collection is The Holly Bears the Crown, which is the Christmas songs and readings. They can be found at

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Quiet Drink

I went out to the Three Tuns the other night for a quiet Christmas drink with friends.
At least, it was quiet until the entire Talgarth Male Voice Choir entered, singing Sospan Fach at the tops of their voices!
They were collecting for charity - Air Ambulance and Marie Curie. They had a man with a tinsel-decorated bucket and everything, though I suspect that the cost of the beer and the minibus would have cancelled out anything they collected!
They'd already been round several pubs in town - this was the last one before the minibus picked them up to ferry them over to the Baskerville Arms, and from there gradually back to Talgarth.
It was rather nice to hear a few good traditional carols, with harmonies, though, and they certainly seemed to be enjoying their night out!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

The next shop in the row is Herbfarmacy, but I mentioned them quite recently, so I'll move along to Oxford House bookshop.
This building and the one next door used to be a single house. I've been round both of them, and you can see how they were divided, with floorboards running under the walls from one house to the other, and the same door latches in each house.
Just about all the houses on this row have been modified in some odd way or other!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Four Candles

First of all, congratulations to Flow for winning the best window display award this year! All that knitting (for the Twelve Days of Christmas) was worth it!
I treated myself to some new candlesticks from Oxfam - they're an unusual design, of a brass circle with four candle holders on the top, sort of like an Advent wreath without the greenery. So I needed four candles to fill them - actually eight candles, because there were two of them, but I bet everybody of a certain age is thinking of the Two Ronnies now!
Flow do them for £1 each, and they're tall - I think they're very good value. The best thing about them, though, is how carefully they're wrapped in tissue paper when you get them to the counter! I was most impressed.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Morwenna's Tower

I've just started a new blog to replace Gateway to Ytir.
This one is called Morwenna's Tower, after a character in my fantasy novels, and I'll be filling it with all sorts of things that make me happy but which have nothing to do with Hay - things like old films, historical re-enactment, Welsh history, costumes, and anything else that my magpie mind picks up. (Morwenna talks to magpies, after all!).
And occasionally I'll say "Please buy my books!"

Donations to Charity Shops

I was in the St David's Hospice Shop the other day when the lady behind the counter was talking about one of their more unusual donations.
She was down in the stock room when a chap called down to her: "There's a black kitten in the basket here." She looked up, and thought that he looked like a farmer, though not a local farmer that she recognised, and by the time she'd got up the stairs, he'd gone.
When she went to the back of the shop and looked in the basket, there was a tiny black kitten sitting there.
She's taken it home, and was in the process of introducing it to her own two cats when I saw her (I don't think they're too impressed!).

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Plan B at the Castle

"Dress warm", it said on the ticket - and "bring a torch".
I had visions of being led down secret passages far under Hay Castle - but the dressing warmly is only because the place is almost impossible to heat, and I didn't need a torch to get up the drive - there were plenty of lights on for us to see our way.
So around 100 people associated with Plan B met to chat, drink wine, nibble snacks and find out what the state of play is at the moment.
Which is in Limbo.
Once again, Powys County Council seem incapable of making a decision.
Members of Plan B have worked incredibly hard over the past year, issuing and collating a survey to show what the people of Hay actually want in their town, and presenting a report to the County Council. Tim Organ has designed a new, green, school, and there's been fund-raising going on, and meetings and so on.
So Malcolm Smith, the chair of Plan B, made a speech setting out the situation as it stands at the moment.
For the moment, there will be no new development, so Hay School continues to crumble while the surrounding schools either stay open for a bit longer or close and the children are moved somewhere more crowded.
It seems that the developer, when investigated, did not have an audit trail. "That means they hadn't done their sums" was the translation on the evening. It also seems that they have put a new submission in to the County Council, but nobody knows what it is.
Meanwhile, the chap who was in charge of education for Powys seems to be no longer in that position - and there are rumblings from the Welsh Assembly. They seem to be dis-satisfied with the way Powys are running their education service and may step in to take over in the county.
Myfanwy Alexander, from the Welsh Assembly, has said that Hay is the jewel in the crown of Powys - "no, of Wales!" - and they would not take any decisions which would spoil the town.
So things look vaguely hopeful for Plan B - but that didn't mean that they wanted to spend any of their fighting fund on drinks and snacks, hence the £5 ticket for the evening. It may be necessary yet to pay lawyers.
But the main purpose of the evening was to get to know each other. Plan B is such a large group that a lot of members are not sure who else is involved. I seemed to spend a lot of time chatting about the castle to various people - now the bookshelves have been removed, you can see the floor plan on the ground floor much more easily, with a large fireplace at each end of two rooms, with a corridor between them. The original staircase was behind the door at the end (that was destroyed in the fire of 1979) and the modern staircase is close up to one of the big fireplaces. Which sucked all the heat up out of the rooms, despite heaters having been on for hours.
There was a couple from Eardisley who always seem to have visitors while Hay Festival is on, and the couple who did a marathon bike ride for charity, and the chap who has a field for caravans where my sister and her family stay when they come to Hay, who asked me how they were getting on. And many others. Maybe it was the time of the meeting, or the time of year, or that these were the people who had most free time, but it was generally a crowd of older people from Hay - no young parents, for instance, that I noticed.
So now we'll just have to wait and see what the New Year brings.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Gateway to Ytir

For a few months now, I've been writing a second blog about fantasy and other things that interest me (but have nothing to do with Hay). The blog is called Gateway to Ytir.
Or, at least, it was.
Now it seems that it's become infected with malware, from a site called publetariat, so I'm shutting it down to stop the malware from spreading anywhere else.
Rats and botheration.

Rubbish Collection

I always get confused about when to leave my rubbish outside over the Christmas holidays. Fortunately, Gareth Ratcliffe has published the full list, over on his Facebook page, and here it is for everyone's delight and delectation!

Monday 24th December 2012 __ As normal – no change
Tuesday 25th December 2012__ Thursday 27th December 2012
Wednesday 26th December 2012__ Friday 28th December 2012
Thursday 27th December 2012__ Saturday 29th December 2012
Friday 28th December 2012__ Sunday 30th December 2012

Monday 31st December 2012__ As normal – no change
Tuesday 1st January 2013__ Wednesday 2nd January 2013
Wednesday 2nd January 2013__ Thursday 3rd January 2013
Thursday 3rd January 2013__ Friday 4th January 2013
Friday 4th January 2013__ Saturday 5th January 2013

Week beginning Monday 7th January 2013
All recycling and rubbish kerbside collections will return to the normal day.

In areas where kerbside recycling collections have been introduced and wheeled bins are emptied (or purple sacks are collected) every two weeks your week will not change.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Val Harris (who bought a nice hat from the Stitch and Bitch stall at Clifford the other week) is starting something new at the Parish Hall on Wednesday. From 7pm until 9pm, there will be Gongs! The idea is to take a mat and a pillow and a blanket, and relax on the floor as the sound washes over you.
Val has been along to the open mic night at the Globe recently, where she played one of her gongs - here's the picture from the HOMN* Facebook page:

*Hay Open Mic Night

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Hay Craft Company, a new addition to Broad Street this year, with all sorts of knitting and patchwork and pottery and wooden things on offer.
At the moment, they're flying a white flag outside - but I don't think they mean to surrender to anyone!

Friday, 14 December 2012

New Hearing for the Globe

Since the councillors couldn't make a decision at the meeting in Brecon, they have scheduled another meeting to decide on the new license for the Globe.
This time it's at The Chamber, County Hall in Llandrindod Wells, at 10am on Wednesday 19th December.
It seems that part of the new license conditions includes installing CCTV covering the area just outside the Globe, as well as existing CCTV inside, and section 18 of the Additional Conditions (I got the list as an interested party) states "The primary use of the premises should not be as a public house or nightclub but as an art/entertainment complex."

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Another Christmas Window

Marina, at The End on Castle Street, always has inventive window displays.
This one has a sort of badgery thing offering a Christmas tree to the white deer.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

If in Doubt, Do Nothing

There was a public meeting at Theatr Brycheiniog on Monday to consider the Globe's application for a revised license, so they could extend their opening hours for various festivals throughout the year.
The meeting lasted for an hour and a half, and presumably the County Council had to pay for the hire of the hall - and at the end of it the result was....decision deferred until another meeting later. So that's another evening that people who wish to go to the meeting will have to turn out - the new meeting will be on 19th December, but the B&R has no knowledge of the venue yet.
At the end of the meeting, around 25 people stood up to show their support for the Globe's application, but the B&R doesn't record how many people were there to oppose the application.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas Windows

It's a little hard to see, but here are all the Twelve Days of Christmas, hand knitted by the mum of the lady in the shop on Castle Street - a real labour of love!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Beacons Advent Calendar

The Brecon Beacons Tourism blog is doing a kind of Advent calendar, with a post about a different part of the area every day. On the 7th December, they chose Hay.
It's a good blog, and it does show the diversity of this area. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in this part of the world!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Clifford Christmas Fair

It's a long time since I last went to Clifford Community Centre - it's not on a bus route - so it was lovely to be able to get a lift up there with other ladies of the Stitch and Bitch group (and one long-suffering husband!). We had decided to share a stall and try to sell some of the things we'd made.
Clifford doesn't really have a village centre, so this sort of thing brings the locals out in force to mingle and socialise, as well as to buy things.

One of the lovely things about the Fair was how someone went out and bought all the morning papers and laid them out on the tables where teas and cakes were being served!
The hall and the side room were both full. Apart from us and our crochet and knitting and other crafts (and art):

there was chocolate and bread and sausages, and cakes from Lucretia who bakes for the WI stall in Hay market. There were other crafts, too, including a lovely young couple who painted little wooden plaques with messages and pictures. I bought a fridge magnet from them which says "Shine Your Light" and he bought a hat from our stall. One of the lovely things about the day was looking round the hall and spotting all the hats we'd just sold being worn instantly!
There was a lady selling Palestinian cross stitch items and Palestinian Fairtrade olive oil, too. I now have a new purse in blue geometric patterns. Having seen recent reports from Gaza, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something, even if it was only to buy a couple of Christmas presents from the stall. The women doing the cross stitch are in Bethlehem, rather than Gaza, but the population there needs help too.
We all had fun doing the stall, and sold more than we really expected to - a couple of commissions might have come out of it, too, as well as a possible new member of the Stitch and Bitch group.
(Edited to add: Thanks to Ros for the photos!)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the organic butcher's on Broad Street - local, delicious meat, interesting things like goose fat, and some local cheeses and milk, too.
And they're always cheerful when I go in.
I used to get all my dog food from there - they do freezer packs of the offcuts, and Islay loved it, just thawed out and squidged into her bowl with a few biscuits.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Restaurant Reviews

I went out for a couple of really good meals with my Young Man when he was here - and I haven't had time to write about them until now.
When he comes to stay, we usually have a take away for the first evening. I suggested Red Indigo, but this time we were feeling in more expansive mood so we decided to have a sit down meal. I've never had a meal at Red Indigo that was less than delicious, and it was lovely to feel pampered for a change!
(After all this time, I can't remember what we had! Or maybe the romantic atmosphere distracted me from the food!)

A couple of days later, we noticed that Kilvert's were doing a meal with faggots and peas for £7.00. This used to be the Young Man's favourite birthday meal, so we turned up all anticipatory in the evening - only to find they had run out of faggots!
Instead, they did us the best fish and chips I've had for years - a small portion, but just enough, with crisp batter and wonderful chips. And, of course, fine beer.
At the moment, I think the kitchens at Kilvert's are out of action for a few days while they're being done up, but I hope they hang on to the chef!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Many Meetings

I wasn't very well over the weekend, so I've been taking it quietly this week.
So I wasn't at the Council meeting on Monday, much as I would have liked to find out what the latest news is on all sorts of local issues.
I also missed the Transition Towns AGM - which sounded very interesting. That was at the Globe last night, and they'd invited someone from the Green Valleys project to talk to them. I've seen a chap from Green Valleys talk before, and he was quite inspirational about what can be achieved. They put micro-generators in streams all over the Black Mountains, using the water power to make electricity just as the old mills used to provide power for all sorts of small industry back in the 19th century. They do other things with green energy, too, and it's worth visiting their website to find out more.
And tonight it was the Hay Tourism meeting in one room of the Swan, while I was with the Stitch and Bitch ladies in another. "Why didn't I know about that?" seemed to be the question of the evening, as we talked about the Hay Feminists, and a new group that seems to have come out of a talk at the Winter Festival about women in business, and the credit union, and Hay TV - and there are two jobs available in the office of Dial-a-Ride. There are also new rumours about supermarkets and the school, and "can't something be done about the phone mast?"
We were trying to convince one lady to go to Ireland as apprentice to a famous weaver in Donegal - "You could commute!" - and there were also arrangements to be made for a stall at the Clifford Craft Fair on Saturday - several of us are going to be there with a variety of knitted or crocheted or woven items, and some original watercolours, too. So it was, "who's got a cloth for the table?" "Should we bring something to hang the scarves on?" and "What about a float?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Parking Problems

Here's a picture of a poster I've started to see around town, pointing out how unfairly Hay is being targeted by the County Council for parking fines. Underneath the poster (I couldn't quite fit it in) was a graph showing just how much more is being collected from Hay than the other major centres of population in Powys.

In better news, however:

From 8th December, parking will be free in the car park for Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hay Feminists

This is a group that has been meeting for a little while now, mostly on Sundays at the Globe (that's usually the second Sunday of each month) - so that women with children can take part while their children are watching the free film. Over the weekend, though, I managed to make it to an evening meeting, over Mexican food and wine.
The idea of the evening was to try to find some way to help women in Timbuktu in this difficult time when Islamic fundamentalists are in charge of the city and are enforcing sharia law. It's very difficult to get in touch with anyone in Timbuktu at the moment, though, and the group here in Hay needs to find someone in Timbuktu to talk to so they can find out what the women and girls there actually need, and what we can do to help.
The Hay WI and Two Towns One World groups also want to do something, but it's hard to see what will be possible under the present circumstances.
Nearer to home, the group have been discussing government funding cuts (which affect women far more than men) and local problems with domestic violence. There's a website specifically for Wales about domestic violence and what can be done about it at
As well as the blog on the side bar, there is a Facebook page.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Consultation Period Extended

According to a message on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, the Powys teaching Health Board has decided to extend the period of consultation about the stroke services in South East Powys for a further two weeks, until 14th December. Members of the Powys teaching Health Board will be available at Mansion House on the Bronllys Hospital site in person on 11th December, from 10am to 6pm to talk to any member of the public who wants to come along. They will then be holding a further stakeholder meeting in January, and will receive a report from the Community Health Council at their board meeting in February.
So there's still some time for members of the public to make their wishes about Bronllys Hospital and the Stroke Unit known.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


The shop part of the business closed a few months ago, so they could concentrate on the therapies and wholesale business, but herbfarmacy will be open on 8th December for a Pre-Christmas Table Sale, with make up, nail varnishes, natural perfumes and more.
And a glass of mulled wine, too.
They're also offering 15% off a mini facial - though it's best to book in advance for that one.
(They did a table sale yesterday, too, but I didn't get round to mentioning it until now).

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's Gym and Tonic, where everyone who wants to get fit goes. It's reached through the little alley way between the fish and chip shop and the butchers on Broad Street.
At one time, it was used as a dance hall - it was said that Lucy from the Three Tuns was a good dancer, and enjoyed the dances there.
Later it was the auction hall for regular book auctions, and still had the shiny parquet flooring from the dance hall days. I remember Islay (famous dog of Hay) discovering that she could take a little run up and then slide across the hall - and she had such a cheeky grin that the staff let her get away with it!

Friday, 30 November 2012

10 Best... Country Pubs

The i newspaper runs a regular feature choosing the ten best of something.
On Wednesday, the subject was country pubs - and there are two on the list which are reasonably local to Hay!
The first is the Bell at Skenfrith, a Jacobean coaching inn on the banks of the River Monnow in Monmouthshire. The article doesn't mention the beer, but it does mention a restaurant that uses produce from the pub's own kitchen garden.
Skenfrith also has a rather good castle (which once featured in a Doctor Who episode!)

The second is the Bull's Head at Craswall, which is described as remote, "but it's worth the effort to get there." Here they mention some fine real ales and farmhouse ciders.
There's a nice picture of what looks as if it might be the original bar, with the big corner fireplace, low beams and stone walls. If I'm right, the old serving hatch (they didn't have a bar at all twenty years ago) would be just off the picture to the left, and the photographer would be standing close to the steps that used to lead to the private house but later were opened up into a restaurant area.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

New Bee Books

Karl Showler, who was at the Turning on of the Christmas Lights last week dressed as Father Christmas, has just launched two new books.
He's long been known as an expert on bees - he used to have Hay's smallest bookshop, selling nothing but books about bees, and he also sold his own honey, and made straw bee skeps. He's done original research on the flight paths of honey bees - I remember attending a talk he did for the Wildlife Trust, where he talked about wandering the hills with a long flexible pole to follow them. I think the pole had some sort of bee friendly chemical on it to attract them.
Now he's written a biography of James Atlay, a former Bishop of Hereford, and Aspects of Beekeeping, which is a look at important people in the history of beekeeping.
I hope I have as much energy as him at eighty!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What's Happening at the Castle?

I've been asked that several times over the last few weeks, as visitors who had not been in Hay for a while noticed that the Castle is no longer open as a bookshop.
King Richard has, of course, moved out, and now has a much smaller shop across the road from the Castle - called The King of Hay.
Restoration has started inside the Castle, with new skirting boards and repairs to windows. There are plans to restore the enormous fireplaces, and plans to put a wheelchair ramp in through the original front door.
This weekend, for the Winter Festival, there will be a dinner for the Friends of Hay Castle, and there will be guided tours of the castle during the day.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hourglass Gallery Gearing up for Christmas

In the run up to Christmas this year, Lisa Beeching will be displaying her art at Hourglass Gallery. They're holding a wine and cheese party on 1st December, starting at 1pm. Lisa Beeching will be there, and so will Tim Francis, a local author who will be signing his book.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Food Fair and other Delights

I felt sorry for the French onion man (complete with bicycle), who had almost no shelter on a dismal rainy day. It was better inside the marquee - and it was packed with people. Outside under a shelter, there were male voice choirs, and Brecon Town Band and other entertainment. The Food Fair always shows off the best of local produce - I treated myself to a lemon drizzle cake (made in Rhosgoch) which is packed full of flavour. There were several brewers there - Brecon, Rhymney, Untapped, Jacobi - and Penderyn whisky, Black Mountain liquours, and other strong drink. Volunteers from Talgarth mill were there, selling their wholemeal flour. There was bread, and local beef and mutton, sausages, and meat pies, and honey and chutneys and chillies and chocolates and crisps, spices and cakes. It was all very tempting, and I treated myself to a few things, and got a few Christmas presents too.
There was more outside, along with fast food stalls and coffee sellers, huddling under shelter.
In the Buttermarket there was jewellery and more good things to buy.
Then I went on to the Parish Hall, where the vintage clothes and so forth were on display. I was tempted by the crinoline underskirt - and there was one stall with some gorgeous bodices (all far too small for me to fit into - I couldn't get into the plus fours, either!), though I did find a nice linen smock top, and a belt that I may be using as a swordbelt next year. Another lady was spreading out oriental rugs, and there were tweed suits and hats and blouses and skirts, shoes and children's clothes and old fashioned pharmacy bottles, and Eugene Fisk with some prints - lots of tempting goodies!

I saw some of the stall holders from the Parish Hall the following day, setting up in the marquee for the vintage fayre - I'm told there was a lot more there, too, but I had to pass by before they started and get to work. I did bump into the organisers on the way home, and they seemed very happy with the way the day had gone.

I also met John Evans, of the Chamber of Commerce, who told me that the collection for the Bryngwyn Riding for the Disabled on Friday night had raised around £700!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Bronllys Petition

"We have been focusing on our Hay area - and over 2,000 people in our small part of South East Powys - who have been asked their opinion, are really upset with the Health Board: how it is managed; the money that has been wasted; the fact that it has no serious strategy for health care in it's region; that it has systematically ignored the opinion of the public for over 15 years on this issue, and that it now has the gaul to propose yet another asset-stripping policy."

"This is a wake-up call, and we are confident that the Welsh Assembly Government will now take a good look at the Health Board, its management, its processes and procedures with a view to cutting endless meetings and costs. What the people are demanding is that our Health Board focus on providing the Health Care needed in South East Powys with Bronllys Hospital at the centre of its strategy. It's a no-brainer."
So says Michael Eccles (on the far right of the picture, next to Father Richard).

The petition will be handed in to the Welsh Assembly AMs at the Senedd in Cardiff on Tuesday 4th December, at 1pm, so there is still time to add to it. The website is,and the organiser of the petition (centre of the picture) is Lydia Powell.

Also in the photo are local shopkeepers, hill farmers, hill farmers' widows and other Hay locals.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Christmas Lights

A lot of effort was put into the switching on of the Christmas Lights this year - and the crowds turned out in force.
When I got up to the town square I could hear George the Town Cryer testing the microphone by singing in Welsh.
In the Buttermarket there was mulled wine and gingerbread and mince pies, provided by the Swan, and being given out in return for donations to Bryngwyn Riding for the Disabled, which was the charity Josie Pearson had chosen. There were people going round collecting in buckets, too. There was also a post box for letters to Father Christmas, and Father Christmas himself, in the form of Karl Showler (who has the beard for it!). I sidled up to him while he was standing there, and said: "I think you ought to know - I have been very good this year."
In the marquee that has been erected in the car park for the Food Fair, the stalls were being used for local businesses and groups for the evening. Stuart the Greengrocer was right by the door, with clementines and chestnuts and dates, and other seasonal treats. Inside, Londis had made up Christmas hampers, Hay School were selling raffle tickets, Castello de Haia soaps were there, and so was the WI. There were other stalls selling hats and scarves, and chilli sauces, and the Eighteen Rabbit man with some purses and wallets made of old car tyres as well as some of the things I'd seen in his shop.
The Cheesemarket committee were selling cards with the design of their tiled picture on them, and you could buy a tile for £10. There are 900 tiles in the finished picture, and one of them will be gold coloured to commemorate Josie Pearson's Paralympic win. Others include a rabbit for the Warren, a marquee for the Festival, and a Tuareg cross for the twinning with Timbuktu. They're hoping to put up the finished picture in the Cheesemarket.
Outside, there were carols from Clyro, Llanigon, Clifford and Hay schools, and the fire engine was parked by the bank. Shepherds had stayed open late, too.
John Evans took the microphone after the last carol (which was Away in a Manger so everyone could join in), and announced that the Cheesemarket Committee had just got the news that they have been given the grant they were hoping for - £300,000 to restore the Cheesemarket!
And finally, the lights were switched on by Josie Pearson, to a great "Ooooh!" from the crowd.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Future of Specialist Hospital Services for South West Wales

Or in other words, this is a meeting about the Stroke unit at Bronllys being transferred to Brecon, amongst other things.
It will be held at the Community Centre on Wednesday 5th December, starting at 2.30pm, so bad luck to anyone who works full time and wants to attend. However, there is an online questionnaire at, which also has more information.
Kirsty Williams, AM, has been encouraging people to attend these meetings, and said that "if we don't get this right it could see all of us travelling a lot further, it affects accident and emergency and other services."

This afternoon, I was walking past the bottom of the drive up to the castle when I came upon a group of people who had just been involved in a "photo opportunity" for the Save Bronllys Hospital campaign. Hopefully, I may get a picture soon.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Supermarkets Again

At the October Council meeting there was a lot of discussion about conflict of interests, and how all the town councillors needed to have a blanket legal dispensation before they could even begin to discuss the development plans for the school site and anything else around that subject.
They dutifully sent off all the necessary documentation to the County Council - and nothing has happened yet. So they're still effectively gagged.
The Town Clerk is now going to write to the Chief Executive of the County Council to complain.
In the meantime, since the county council didn't give the dispensation in the time frame they said they would, the town councillors discussed the latest on development anyway. There has been a Plan B meeting with the County Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Learning. She said that the County Council is aware that Hay is a "jewel in the crown of Wales", and that the County Council would be foolish to spoil this. She said that they would be looking at all options within the next two months.
Steve Like commented that this was all very well, but they haven't invested in Hay for the last thirty years!
Some of the Cabinet members came to visit Hay and look round recently, and although it was a Tuesday afternoon, one of the quietest times, they were surprised at how many people were about.

Plan B will be having a meeting at Hay Castle on 18th December.

Meanwhile, they have done a comparison survey of a shopping basket of goods from supermarkets and from the small shops in Hay - and found that the small shops in Hay came out over £7 cheaper than the supermarkets, before they took travel costs into consideration.
An Explorer bus ticket costs £7 now (I've no idea what the petrol would cost to get to Brecon or Hereford), so if you were going to Brecon or Hereford on the bus to do supermarket shopping, it would cost £14 more than staying in Hay, and take a lot longer, too.
There's a small notice on the door of the Wholefood shop with all the figures on it - I told them they should have printed it three times bigger, at least!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Latest on Timbuktu

On 24th October, there was a big meeting about Mali down in London, and Sue Felgate was there on behalf of Hay. She was able to ask the first question of the question and answer session, when she passed on what the Mayor of Timbuktu wanted to say. They have been under occupation by the rebel forces for seven months now, with no work (so some of the young men are joining the rebels), no schools and little food. He's very grateful for the emotional support, knowing that people in Hay are thinking of his city and trying to find ways to help.
Some money has been sent to local communities to buy seed, as they have access to water so they can grow crops. There was a concert at the Globe earlier this month to raise money to send out, organised by Oli Lewis, an ex-pupil of Gwernyfed High School who was lucky enough to visit Timbuktu in 2009 as part of a documentary for BBC Wales.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Warden Watch

Car parking was the third big issue to be discussed in last Monday's Council meeting.
The revenue from car parks across the county was down by 18% this year, and to put that into context, Hay car park alone raised a total of £140,000 last year. That's 15% of the total car parking revenue for the county - and Powys is a big county, so that's quite a big contribution from a small place, even if we are popular with tourists.
The town council asked someone from the County Council to come and talk to them about car parking - and they're still waiting....
They asked about the number of parking tickets that had been given out across the county, and they did get an answer for this one. 6,255 parking tickets have been issued. 643 of those were in Hay. The only place where more parking tickets were issued was Brecon. 210 of those tickets were issued in the car park, and 433 on the streets.
Across the county, the income from fines was £139,829, of which £22,505 came from Hay, which works out at £15 per head of the population.
It would appear from the figures that Hay is being targeted for parking tickets over places like Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells. There have also been complaints that Hay is being disproportionately targeted in the mornings, after which the officials who give out the tickets move on elsewhere.
So small posters have started appearing in windows along the roads where the traffic wardens tend to go. Titled "Warden Watch", they ask anyone who sees a traffic warden to warn other motorists along the road so that they can move their cars before the warden gets there.

Monday, 19 November 2012

New Licence for the Globe

The mobile phone mast wasn't the only controversial issue discussed at last week's council meeting. There were nine members of the public there (including me, but I was only there to take notes). Three of them came because of the mast, and the other five were there because of the Globe. One of them was Mandy, to speak for the Globe, and she was able to clear up a few points about the times that they have asked for.
The rules about temporary licences for special events changed recently, and the licencing body now has to take into consideration such matters as noise. The Globe wants to hold events, like Le Crunch and How The Light Gets In, which spill over from the building into tents on the little field outside. They also want events to continue at certain times until 2.30am. Events in the tents would finish at midnight, with only the main building going on until 2.30am, but then there would be people leaving and making some noise as they went. They also want to be able to serve drinks up to 2am.
Gareth Ratcliffe has had some letters of complaint, and also some letters of support, and he wanted to have any further information sent on to him (other councillors have also been approached) so that he has as much evidence as possible when he speaks to the licencing body. The police, licencing and environmental health people have all met with Gareth to discuss this already.
It was pointed out that the type of event hosted by the Globe has changed since it first opened - there are fewer DJ nights now,and more talking and acoustic events. There's also a new management team. Even the opponents of the granting of the new licence said that the events that go on at the Globe during the day are fine, and an asset to the town - it's just the noise at night.
The Noise Abatement Officer, Dan Thomas, will be monitoring the situation - and it was mentioned that the Wheatsheaf finally lost its licence because of continuing late night noise.
When it was time for the public to ask questions, one person asked if there would be someone at the Globe in the evenings for a neighbour to go to when it was too noisy. Someone else asked if the Globe might need a bouncer (though I think they're called something else these days).
As a new PCSO for Hay had been discussed earlier in the evening, it was suggested that this is just the sort of occasion that such a person should be patrolling the nearby streets.
What surprised me about the people commenting was the level of fear they have. I was chatting with several of the people who had come to talk to the council after we went out (leaving the councillors to plough on with the routine business until the wee small hours!). Some of them are convinced that, if they give their names when they complain, there will be vandalism done to their property, or even "heavies" coming round to visit them! It didn't help that, on a previous occasion, names and addresses of people who had complained about the Globe were passed on to the Globe from the Council, quite wrongly - and Fiona Howard gave her assurance that this would never happen again.
So now all that can be done is to wait for the licencing body to make its decision.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Miss Havisham's Christmas Attic

There's yet another event happening next weekend, this time in the Parish Hall on Saturday, the same time as the Food Fair in the Square.
Miss Havisham's Christmas Attic will be selling clothing from designer to vintage, textiles, quilts, fabrics, antiques, prints and watercolours, period china, jewellery, scent and pharmacy bottles, and much more.
Teas, cakes and tasty treats will be provided by Pomme Pomme Foods, and the entry fee is £1 in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Cafe Royal Fish and Chip Shop - where Gareth Ratcliffe, our county councillor can be found (when he's not busy representing Hay!)
I have heard that, sometime in the distant past, it was an army recruitment office!

Friday, 16 November 2012

MP's Surgery

Roger Williams, MP, will be at the Community Centre between 12 noon and 1pm on Monday 19th November, to meet with anyone who has issues to raise, or problems that they need him to sort out for them. It's an important part of an MP's job and brings him face to face with the people he's representing.
Pete Limbrick of the Stop the Hay Mast group has made an appointment to see Roger Williams at 12.30pm, and he would be delighted to see as many people as possible turn up outside to show solidarity with him. Banners would be good, and small children in buggies (the future pupils of Hay School). Photos will be taken for press releases.

I started this blog to chat casually about interesting and quirky things that happen in Hay - but over the last year or so there seem to have been so many important things happening to the infrastructure of the area that it's being overwhelmed by local politics! There are campaigns to save Bronllys Hospital, and stop a supermarket taking over the site of the school (while wanting a new school), while small village schools are scheduled for closure, and now the O2 mast. Hay used to be a little bit remote from all the problems of central government and budgets and cuts - but not any more. So I'll be trying to talk about some of the good and fun things that are still happening in Hay, while paying full attention to all these more serious matters.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mast Meeting

Wednesday was the evening of the meeting quickly organised by a new group in town - Stop the Hay Mast! The Parish Hall was almost full, and the meeting started with an announcement that the meeting would be filmed for Hay TV, to give anyone who didn't want to be on film a chance to say so. Everybody was quite happy to continue. There are a couple of films about the mobile phone mast on Hay TV at the moment, and the meeting should be up there shortly.

The mast was also discussed at Monday's Council meeting, with the town councillors being quite unhappy about the way the issue had been handled. This is becoming something of a regular feature of town council meetings - they ask for information, or object to something, or remind the County Council that something is supposed to happen, and there's a deathly silence from the County Council. In this case it was the planning application for the O2 phone mast, which the town council objected to "in the strongest possible terms". This meant that it had to go to the planning committee for discussion - where only Gareth Ratcliffe opposed the application, and the concerns of the town council were ignored.

Several of the town councillors had health concerns about the positioning of the mast - it's going to be behind the industrial units on Forest Road, only about 300 metres from the school, and even closer to the medical centre. If the school is moved to a new site by the medical centre, and a new community centre built there, and the care home that is planned, they will all be much closer to the mobile phone mast.
I really didn't know whether there were health problems connected to mobile phone masts, but several people at the meeting on Wednesday had done some research, and the first part of the meeting was taken up with a short film (at least, the first part of a longer film) in which a Professor from Canada, Dr Magda Havas, was speaking at a meeting to oppose a mobile phone mast on top of a fire station somewhere in Canada. She's been doing research into the effects of the electromagnetic radiation from the masts for years, and talked about real, demonstrable health effects from prolonged exposure to the radiation from the masts. She also pointed out that we surround ourselves with electrical equipment all the time, in our homes and work, and all the places that provide wifi, and all of this has a cumulative effect on the human body.

On Saturday, Ellie Spencer and Fiona Howard (and I think someone else) were interviewed by BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, and the way that the interviews were cut to go on air made it seem as if the people of Hay were Luddites who didn't want to be part of the 21st century. They were very annoyed with the way the reporters twisted the quotes to make it seem as if the people interviewed were against the Hay Festival. Apparently, Peter Florence was also interviewed, and he'd heard nothing about it, though there's been some Twittering going on about the need for a better signal locally.
I had no idea about this, not having a mobile phone myself, but Hay Festival erect a temporary phone mast over the two weeks of the Festival for the Festival goers.
At the moment, Orange and Vodaphone share space on the Clyro mast, which is a lot higher up a hill, and away from local residents. One of the options for an O2 mast was to share the Clyro mast, but this was rejected as being too far away. They also looked at land further up the hill behind Forest Road, but the farmers up there refused permission to build. They also looked at various industrial units nearby, which were on ground that was deemed to be too low. So they settled on the ground behind the industrial units on Forest Road, which is a bit elevated (the mast will be twelve and a half metres tall).
One lady at the Wednesday meeting said that she lived right by the site chosen, and had heard nothing about the mast until the other week - planning permission was given in March, and there was a notice in the B&R on two weeks in the middle of December. She said she had seen the little notice pinned to a post beside the site, but it had been very confusing and she hadn't realised what it meant. She was worried about the health of her children, and several parents at Hay School are also worried enough to be talking about moving their children to another school according to the man who went to talk to parents at the school gate the other day to gather opinions.

There are several problems here. One is that planning permission has already been granted, and would be extremely difficult to overturn. Another relates to the health concerns - the National Parks committee did not consider the health concerns put forward by the Town Council because O2 had signed a declaration that the electromagnetic radiation was within safe limits. The problem here is that the ICNIRP guidelines for safe limits were laid out in 1999, well before the present generation of mobile phones, and related only to the heat put out by the radiation, and nothing about other possible health risks. Since 1999, there has been a lot more research done, and WHO has classified the radiation from mobile phone masts as a "possible carcinogen" - in other words, it is possibly linked to an increased cancer risk. Hay already has high radon levels naturally, which can lead to cancer, and there is a cluster of cases of brain tumours in the area. Rob Golesworthy, the Deputy Mayor, said that two members of his family have suffered from brain tumours and this is why he is opposed to the mast.
And if that weren't enough, mobile phone radiation can threaten bee populations by messing up their navigational abilities and lowering their immune systems - and the loss of bees, which are essential to the pollination of crops, is a growing problem in itself.

So what can be done? One man at the meeting on Wednesday suggested that legal challenges were not going to succeed - international companies like O2 have already considered all the angles there, and it would also be extremely expensive. He said that what companies like O2 really don't like is bad publicity, and that one of the most effective means of embarrassing them would be to go onto their Facebook page and leave a comment (nothing abusive, obviously - that would only result in the commenter being blocked).
Apart from that, Roger Williams, MP was at most of the meeting - he had to leave early - and he is on the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons, with a special interest in the perception of risk. There was applause when he said "there must be a better place" to put the mast. He suggested that contacting an ombudsman would be better than a judicial review of the planning application.

Other people who would be worth writing to with comments about the mast would be Kirsty Williams, AM, Jill Evans the MEP, Stephen Rogers the Head of School Services at Powys County Council, Tamsin Law the Chief Planning Officer at the County Council, Dr Sumina Azam, the Interim Director of Public Health at Bronllys Hospital, Rosi Edwards of the Health and Safety Executive for Wales, and Keith Towler the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Lights, Food, Vintage stuff, and Cellos

The last weekend in November is going to be a busy one in the centre of Hay.
On Friday 23rd, at 7.30pm, Josie Pearson (Hay's newest celebrity) will be turning on the Christmas lights, with carols from the Hay Community Choir and Clifford, Clyro, Hay, Llanigon and Rhosgoch schools. There will also be stalls and mulled wine, mince pies and soft drinks - and there's a possibility that Father Christmas will visit! If he can't make it there will be a post box for letters to Santa.
The next day is the Food Fair in the square, so there should be lots of goodies on offer to stock up on Christmas treats. I usually get some good presents there.
On the Sunday, Hay Goes Vintage, with antiques and clothing on sale. I'll be at work, but I was thinking of dressing up in something pseudo-Victorian, possibly with a bustle!
And on Sunday evening there is a marathon musical session at Booth's, starting with a film about the Russian cellist Rostropovich at 5pm, followed by a question and answer session, a light supper, and then a recital at 8pm by Moray Welsh, who was one of Rostropovich's students.

Monday, 12 November 2012

History Society

I've been otherwise engaged this weekend (the Young Man came and we had a Bond-themed birthday party for him, which was fun).
Before he arrived, though, I spent a pleasant evening in the Blue Boar with members of the Cheese Market research team, discussing the possibility of setting up a more general History Society for Hay.
There used to be quite an active history society, with visiting speakers, and dinners, and so on, and on paper they still exist - they even have a bank account. It would be possible to transfer that over to a new group, with the assent of the members who are still in Hay. However, the Cheese Market research team are not sure they want to take on the amount of work it would take to run a society like the original one, with the speakers and dinners and so on. So it was proposed to hold an open meeting for the Cheese Market people to meet with the original History Society people, and anyone else in Hay who is interested in local history, so that everyone with an interest in the subject can get together and decide how to go forward. This will be in January, and there will be posters up around town nearer the date.
By the time of this meeting, the lottery funding for the Cheese Market will have been decided on, as well, and they will know how they can proceed with the renovations that are needed.
Meanwhile, Eric Pugh has something interesting on his website (see the sidebar under Old Hay) - he now has some old 8mm films up on his site, of the last days of the railway, and the last Hay Fair, and a 1960s Boxing Day meet at the clock tower, with more to come.
And with Remembrance Sunday coming up, there were a couple of military stories. A man from Whitney won a VC in the First World War, for instance - and just after the First World War, two guns were presented to the Council. It's assumed that these were fairly large field guns rather than small arms - but where are they now?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mast Meeting

If it's not one thing, it's another....
Now that we know that a mobile phone mast is planned for Forest Road, there is going to be a meeting to discuss it next Wednesday, the 14th, at the Parish Hall at 7pm.
It would have been nice if the Planning Department could have followed their own rules and consulted the people of Hay before they granted permission, rather than letting the news come out afterwards....

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


There's a student from Newport who is doing a photographic project - he wants to take a photo of everyone in Hay and make a giant collage of us all! The deal is that he will give a free copy of each picture to the sitter (or stander, in this case - you stand in front of a black backdrop). He's setting up in the basement of the Globe each Saturday for the next few weeks between noon and 6pm.
I went along in my re-enactment chainmail - and the picture he took of me looks magnificent!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Organic Hero

Paul Benham of Primrose Organic Centre has been declared one of the Soil Association's Organic Heroes this year, and he was also a finalist in the Environment section of the Inspire Wales Awards! They have also been invited to have an entry in the Parliamentary Year Book, as an example of best practice in the agricultural industry.
Not bad for one and a half acres in the foothills of the Black Mountains!
You can read more about them at their website, on the sidebar, under Primrose Organic Centre.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's Broad Street Book Centre, with Rest For The Tired B&B above it, and the Black Swan holiday cottage next door. The building is one of the oldest in Hay, along with the Three Tuns and Old House on the other side of the road junction.
The Black Swan was a pub until just after the Second World War - and was popular because it had a piano.
When I first came to Hay, the shop was Colin's Restaurant, and had a grand piano in there. After that, it was a bookshop (Keith, the book seller, had a lovely old black labrador, and was an expert on Arnold Bennett's works), and then it became a mixture of antique and book units, with the books gradually taking over.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Hands Off Bronllys Hospital Again!

So says the flyer that has appeared around Hay in the past few days. It has a comprehensive breakdown of why the Bronllys Stroke Unit must not be closed or moved, why Brecon Hospital is unsuitable for a stroke unit and why the Health Board consultation is invalid.
Boiled down to the essentials, the arguments are basically these:
The present stroke unit works very well where it is, and the new unit would not have the same number of beds - also the parking at Brecon is inadequate. The Health Board have failed to consult the public in good time, instead presenting a fait accompli.
They suggest sending personal letters in support of Bronllys Hospital to:
South East Powys Consultation, Planning Dept., PTHB, Mansion House, Bronllys Hospital, LD3 0LS
There is also a petition - No to Asset Stripping - at, which will be running until the 28th November.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

More on the Police Commissioner

The B&R this week has a big article on the forthcoming elections for police commissioner for Dyfed Powys, and it seems there are two candidates - one put forward by the Welsh Conservatives, and one by Labour. Christine Gwyer is the Labour candidate - she lives in Pembroke Dock and works for the Co-op, but she's also been a Welsh Assembly Member, and was the first agricultural minister down in Cardiff in 1999. So both candidates have been put forward by political parties.
It seems that the existing police authorities are being disbanded to make way for the new commissioners.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


On Monday, I went round town looking for a pumpkin to carve. I'd already bought two or three to turn into soup and pasta sauce, but by the time I got round to thinking about carving faces to keep me safe from the spirits of the night, there wasn't an orange pumpkin to be had in the whole of Hay. There were some pale green ones at Stuart's the greengrocer, but that's not quite the same. When I was growing up, we used to carve turnips and swedes - but they're quite hard work, and I couldn't see one of a decent size anyway.
So this year I'm falling back on a couple of candle lanterns, a glove puppet bat (she's called Echo) and a garland of flying crows. The crows came from a lady in Glastonbury, via Etsy (the website for selling crafts), Sharyn Archer at Jack-in-the-Green, and they are quite lovely, and very detailed.

Tomorrow, starting at 11am, Phil Rickman will be in Kilvert's, signing his new book about Doctor Dee. I may be forced to take a liquid lunch!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Police Commissioner

Maybe I'm showing my age here, but the first thing that comes into my mind when I hear the phrase "Police Commissioner" is Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City saying: "Send up the Bat Signal!"

The Bat Signal

Not really the same in Powys, is it?
However, we have an election coming up on 15th November, for a Police Commissioner, and the first candidate for the new post has just put his leaflet through my door.
His name is Christopher Salmon, and he says that "for the very first time you will be able to hold someone to account for policing in Dyfed Powys." He says that the commissioner will be the person to complain to if people are not happy with the way the local police are doing things.
I'm sure that's not right - isn't there something called a Police Authority, being a committee on which members of the public can sit, which is supposed to hold police authorities to account? Or have they been done away with quietly? I have to say, I was never very clear on how members of the committee were appointed, but they did exist.
Christopher Salmon has been chosen by the Welsh Conservatives to be a candidate - which makes me wonder if he would want to be a candidate if the Welsh Conservatives weren't putting him forward. He's local - he grew up on a farm in Radnorshire - and he's studied history and economics at Oxford, followed by Russian and Security Studies for an MA, and he's been an officer in the Army. He says he's not a career politician (oh, good!). I don't think that it's a good idea to have any political involvement in policing at all - the police should be, ideally, non-political, and there for everyone in order to uphold the law impartially. (I say this from a background where my stepfather was a police officer, and I worked for the Metropolitan Police myself for four years).
It will be interesting to see if the other major parties put candidates forward, or if anyone independent wants to stand for election.

Monday, 29 October 2012

More News on the Phone Mast

Posters have appeared around town, with more details about the proposed O2 phone mast on Forest Road - though I don't know who's put them up.
They state that planning law procedure has been breached by the BBNP, and add details of the possible effects of being close to the microwave radiation put out by these masts. In the case of the school, of course, the children will have no choice but to be close to the mast for long periods of time. It isn't proved that the effects will be bad for the children (and adults! Let's not forget the teachers) but a report in 2000 recommended caution in siting the masts, and submissions to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs committee stated that the pulsed microwave technologies have not been pre-tested for safety.
Another problem with the phone mast radiation is that it might be linked to the drastic fall in the bee population, which could affect the entire food chain, as it relies on bees for pollination.

Personally, I'm undecided about the dangers to health, not having looked at the research yet, but here is another case of the National Parks ignoring their own rules and making decisions that affect everyone living in the area without consultation.

If anyone is concerned about the phone mast, it is recommended that people should contact the Hay Town councillors, and there is an address to write to:

Ms Tamsin Law
Chief Planning Officer
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
Plas y Ffynnon
Cambrian Way

There are also internet addresses to look up for further information, and these are:

Sunday, 28 October 2012


I always enjoy harp music, especially folk harp, so of course I went round to the Globe when I saw Tornish were playing there the other night.
One half of the pair of performers is Gwen, Scottish, but with Welsh roots too, so she was singing in Welsh as well as performing traditional Scottish music. Tim is the other half of the pair, and he's from Yorkshire, living near Cardiff, and plays flute and whistles and drums.
In the interval, I got talking to a lovely couple who were visiting the area. The chap said that what he loved about Hay was that everyone was friendly - people smiled at you - and there were all the little independent shops. "It must be a real community," he said.
They had only come along to the Globe at the last minute - they said they'd had a choice of Des O'Connor in Brecon and African drumming in Builth - but they weren't disappointed by harp and flute in Hay!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Small Business Saturday

Off among the trees there is the Start B&B, just on the other side of the bridge. They have ornamental ducks that swim on the river, and the raft race down to Chepstow used to set off from the field there. That's also where the very first Hay on Fire procession ended up, with a fire labyrinth that anyone could walk round (even I did it, and I was wearing a crinoline skirt that year, that was rather wider than the path between the flames!).

Friday, 26 October 2012

Talgarth Hospital News

While attention is focussed on what's going to happen to Bronllys Hospital, a planning application has been before the planning committee for Talgarth Hospital, that sad shell of a place which used to be the mental hospital.
After years of deterioration and neglect, there was a plan to knock down several of the original buildings, and build 103 houses and a care home (yes, another care home). There was a campaign against this plan in Talgarth, and this week the B&R reported that the plan had been refused permission. One of the reasons was that only 6 of the houses would be "affordable". There are also problems with access on very narrow roads.

So it seems that nothing is going to happen on the site until someone comes up with another plan - and in the meantime that fine Victorian building is rotting away.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Stroke Unit at Bronllys Hospital

There's a good article in this week's B&R about a doctor at Bronllys Hospital who has challenged the health board at one of the public meetings.
It seems that moving it to Brecon will result in there being fewer beds available for patients.
However, if the unit was moved to Brecon it would mean that patients could get an X-ray without an ambulance ride, as the two things would be on the same site.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Proving my Identity

In Hay, everybody knows who I am, or at least, it sometimes seems that way. I'm greeted by name in the bank and the post office and the newsagents, and most of the other shops, not to mention certain drinking establishments.
However, outside Hay it is occasionally necessary to prove my identity - and I haven't been able to do that for a while.
The main documents that are accepted for proof of identity are driving licence (I can't drive) and passport (my passport ran out at the beginning of the year) as well as a few tax documents that I don't have, or proof that I'm claiming benefits (which I'm not). So legally, it's hard to prove that I exist.
Last week, therefore, I checked the exorbitant amount it now costs to get a new passport, and looked around for someone to take my passport photo. When I got the last one, I went into Hereford and got the photos at a booth in Woolworths. Since Woolworths doesn't exist any more (and goodness knows where the photo booth went), I needed another option.
Fortunately, I didn't have to look far. Steve Like at the Post Office now takes passport photos, on a very impressive looking camera, against the regulation pale grey background (and no smiling!) huddled under the stairs to the side of the counters.
And today, voila! My new passport arrived and I can prove that I exist again (and go on a foreign holiday, of course).

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Bad Situation in Mali

According to the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, rebels in Mali who have control of Timbuktu can buy a child soldier for $600 and a wife for less than $1,000. They are paying the families, many of whom are extremely poor, to take the children and women away. The full story is on Yahoo News.
They have also imposed an extreme version of sharia law, which affects women disproportionately badly, and the food situation is bad as the infrastructure is disrupted.
The northern part of the country, including Timbuktu, has been re-named Azawad by the rebels, while the smaller, southern part of the country, which includes the capital Bamako, is still known as Mali.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Mobile Phone Mast

Mobile phone reception in Hay is notoriously bad, and has been for years. I like to tell visitors that it's because Hay is just a little bit skewed from reality, so it's hard for the signals to get through!
Now, though, there are plans by O2 to erect a mobile phone mast somewhere on Forest Road - I'm not sure of the exact site.
The Town Council get all the planning applications, so that they can comment on them, though they don't get to make the final decision. In this case, the Council voted unanimously against the proposal for a mobile phone mast.
Gareth Ratcliffe then went off to the National Parks Planning Committee, of which he is a member, and he was the only person there to vote against the plans. Everyone else voted in favour. Gareth has a Facebook page called Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe's News Updates with more details of the plans and the meetings he attended.
There are lots of health concerns - the mast would be near the school (both the present site and the proposed new site) and the doctor's surgery. People are concerned that there is a cluster of brain tumours in this area, and they don't know what is causing it - could it be radiation from mobile phones?
The National Health Executive says there is no evidence of harm, but this is not convincing the people who are worried.
There are three videos on Hay TV on the issue, interviewing members of the public, and Gareth Ratcliffe and Fiona Howard, which set out what's going on at the moment.
One thing that came out of the videos is that the planning department are supposed to notify neighbours of planning matters such as this - but it seems that the neighbours in Cae Pound knew nothing about it. Gareth is checking up on this, so he can hold the planning committee to account on behalf of the people of Hay.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Small Business Sunday

Here's the Bridge B&B, which was once the home of the last station master of Hay Railway Station - I knew him as a delightful old gentleman of about 90.
Just along the row of houses, No 5 is also a B&B, as well as being the home of Shelley's silk scarves, and Richard's design and art direction.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

More Plans for Bronllys Hospital

The B&R this week reported on the meetings in Hay and Talgarth about the stroke unit at Bronllys Hospital. The health board wants to move the stroke unit to Brecon Hospital, and part of the plans for the proposed care home in Hay (on the site of the junior football pitch) include moving one of the wards from Bronllys into the care home, where the doctors at Hay surgery can care for the patients.
Now it seems that they want to transfer the Bronllys site into the hands of a housing association.
They stressed that this did not mean Bronllys hospital was closing down, and that housing associations build health premises as well as housing, but that didn't stop members of the public at the meeting accusing them of asset stripping the hospital.
They also said that they were increasing the chemotherapy on offer at Bronllys, and could re-locate other services in Powys to the site.
So it all seems rather confusing.

There will be more meetings open to the public over the next couple of months, to discuss specialist hospital services across South Wales and how they will affect Powys. The first is at Knighton's Offa's Dyke Centre on Wednesday 24th October at 6pm, followed by one at Bishop Bevan Hall, Brecon on Wednesday 31st October at 2pm.
Then there will be other meetings in Rhyader, Builth Wells, Ystradgynlais, Llandrindod Wells, Crickhowell and Hay through November and December.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Do You Love Your Library?

There's a national survey going on about library services. It started on 8th October, so there's not much time to get in there and fill in the form to say what you think about your local library. Gareth Ratcliffe only mentioned it the other day on Facebook.
The last national survey (that's national in Wales, of course) happened in 2009, and over 4,000 Powys residents took part, according to the Post free magazine.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

April Jones

I've just been up to the Wholefood Shop with some magazines.
There are still people out searching for April Jones around Machynlleth, and Hay Wholefood is collecting a box of snacks, cakes, fruit, high energy drinks - and books and magazines - to send up for the searchers.
There's also a collection going on at the Co-op, organised by the lady from The Start.

(this is the little girl who went missing a few weeks ago - a man has been charged with her murder, but no body has been found yet).

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hay Montessori

With all the drama surrounding the rebuilding of Hay School, it's easy to miss other developments in the world of education.
One of these is the idea of "free schools". This seems to be one of Michael Gove's bright ideas (I suppose he's got to have a good one occasionally). This is a school which is free for the children to attend, but which is not part of a Local Education Authority, and which does not have to follow the National Curriculum.
Montessori Schools have been around for years, very successfully - there's one in Monmouth, and there's a group of parents who are hoping that there will soon be one in the Hay area.
They're holding coffee mornings all across Powys to get other interested parents together to discuss the idea. For the Hay area, they are meeting from 9.30 - 11am at Whitney Church Barn Farm Shop cafe on Wednesdays. The first one was today, but they're doing it again next Wednesday, the 24th, and on the 31st.
For the Kington and Hereford area, they are meeting at Kinnersley Castle from 10.30 - 12 noon, on Monday 22nd and 29th. (One of the organisers, Diahann Hughes Hawkins, organised a play group at Kinnersley Castle for two years).
For Presteigne, they will be meeting from 2 - 3.30pm at Bamford's Cafe on Thursday 25th, and November 1st.
They have a blog at with lots of information about the sort of education that can be expected from a Montessori school.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chef on the Run News

Best wishes to Chef on the Run, as he goes into hospital for a serious operation on his leg.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Small Business Saturday

The Three Tuns pub, once known as Lucy's, now opened up and extended and serving food after the fire a few years ago. Lucy is still around, and seems to be enjoying her retirement.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Several people were talking about this on Facebook last night - and the whole story is on page 3 of the Hereford Times.
A huntsman spider, from Australia, was found in the Granary cafe on Tuesday morning - crawling up a customer's back! Huntsman spiders are huge! (Well, 10cm or 4 inches across is pretty huge for a spider). This one was apparently the size of a tennis ball. They called it Cyril, and took it to the local vet for identification - and now it's going to a new home at the West Midland Safari Park.
The customer it was crawling on had recently returned from Australia, and thought it might have stowed away in his luggage.
Oh, and Cyril is probably a girl.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


There were a couple of chaps standing by an almost empty market stall when I passed by at lunch time, looking extremely unhappy in the persistent drizzle.
They came from a firm called Hyder Consulting, from Cardiff, and they have been hired to provide a variety of options for what to do with the Castle, so that Hay Castle Trust can work out the best uses for the building and grounds. As part of this process, they were consulting the people of Hay for their opinions - and getting quite wet doing it.
I took a little questionnaire, and I will be sending my ideas to them shortly. There are only three questions:
What is Hay missing?
What could the Castle Building and Castle Grounds be used for?
Do you have any other comments on the project or view on the Castle?
So that leaves it wide open, really.
Comments can be sent to
or Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd., HCL House,
St Mellon's Business Park,
Cardiff, CF3 0EY
and the closing date is the 18th October.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


While my Young Man was here, I promised to treat him to a meal at Tomatitos, the new tapas bar where the Wheatsheaf used to be. He's very fond of tapas.
They're still doing work on the area where the snooker table used to be, so it's just the front bar area that is open, with a big board on the wall showing the menu. I let the Young Man order, and we had Spanish beer to go with the food.
The lady who served us was very friendly, and the food was delicious - the calamari rings were just right (I've had them in other places where they may as well have been made out of rubber), and four little dishes, including the patatas bravas (brave potatoes!) was just about right. It was nice to see how much food had been brought in from local sources, too.
We'll certainly be going back again.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hereford Library

I was browsing through a few blogs today, and I came across a post about Hereford library and museum over on English Buildings. There are some rather nice pictures of the carvings on the front of the building (including a cat stalking a bird) on his post of 29th August.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Football Pitch

Back to the serious stuff....
... and to the proposed care home next to the doctors' surgery - which would be on top of the junior football pitch. The existence of a 90 bed care home would also influence the future of Bronllys Hospital.
123 children use the football pitch - but it's not just the local kids who benefit from it; Hay is the only place with enough football pitches to host local tournaments at the moment. Around 400 children came to the last one, in June. HDCSA, who own the pitches and have signed an option agreement allowing them to sell to developers within the next twelve months, say that the football pitch would be replaced - but it couldn't be next to the existing pitches and sports facilities.
Last weekend there was a protest march through Hay, attended by around 100 people, including members of the junior and senior football clubs.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Weekend

There's been so much serious stuff to talk about that I haven't got round to mentioning my holidays yet. Hay Traveller's Club is brilliant, and so well organised! We had a long weekend in Northumberland. The hotel was clean and comfortable, and the food was very good (and lots of it!). On the way up, we stopped in York, which is a wonderful city, and I finally got to visit Jorvik Viking Centre (and drink some local beer). The following day, we visited Bamburgh Castle, which is now one of my favourite castles of all time, and Lindisfarne, which was surprisingly full of booze! (The priory ruins are impressive, as well). Beamish open air museum was great fun, and they have a Blackpool tram that I might once have travelled on as a child! We were there all day, and didn't manage to see everything. On the way back, it started to rain, heavily, but that didn't matter too much as we stopped at Chatsworth House, which is mainly under cover. They also have amazing gardens, but we contented ourselves with looking at them from the comfort of the house!
I'm writing more about the holiday over on my other blog, Gateway to Ytir, if anyone wants to find out What I Did On My Holidays.
I'll be joining the Traveller's Club again next year (sadly I can't manage to go on any of the day trips planned for the rest of this year).

Meanwhile, in Hay, the Film Society had their first film of the season, in the Booth's Bookshop Cinema, and had to turn people away. The film was The Lady, about Aung San Suu Kyi, the Lady of Burma, who was under house arrest for many years and is the leader of the political opposition to the regime there.
On Saturday, the town was full of opportunities for bargain hunters, with the Car Boot Sale at the school. I found a pack of I Ching cards - I've never seen it done in card form before, and the air was full of the scent of lavender from one stall. I bought a bunch and now my entire house is scented.
In the Buttermarket, the North Weir Trust were having their table sale, but I got there a bit late.
Round the back of the Cinema Bookshop, the people who have moved into one of the two houses there were having a yard sale, to try to dispose of all the bits and pieces they hadn't managed to sort out before they moved.
The afternoon was so nice that I took a book up to Kilvert's, to sit in the sun with a drink for a while. They had Trekker's Ale on from Wye Valley, to celebrate the Walking Festival which will be taking place around Hay all next week.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Small Business Saturday

I haven't done this for a little while - but last time I did, I was at the end of Broad Street, working up towards the clock tower. So here's the Hourglass Gallery, full of interesting rocks and fossils and artefacts from around the world.
Once this was Rogue's Gallery, a craft shop that also did workshops, where I learned to make rag rugs.

Health Meeting

On Monday there will be the first of a series of meeting around the county about health provision - and in particular moving the Stroke Unit from Bronllys Hospital to Brecon. It's at 6.30pm at Hay School if anyone wants to go along, and there will be another one in Talgarth on Thursday.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Roger Hammond

At the beginning of the Council meeting on Monday, there was a minute's silence for Roger Hammond, who died recently after a short illness.
He was very active in support of Hay's twinning with Timbuktu, and was one of the local people who went to Mali to visit Timbuktu. He was also a supporter of Two Towns, One World, which is the organisation set up to promote twinning projects.
In his own work, he set up Living Earth Foundation - and the tributes to him have come in from all over the world on their website. Living Earth was set up in 1987 to work with a wide variety of people on social and environmental problems, trying to find solutions which would work locally. They have projects running all over the world, because some of the problems communities face are now global problems. Just looking down the list of the things they are involved in, I saw projects as varied as Great Ape Conservation in Cameroon, to a scheme pairing schools in Alaska and Aberdeenshire, and he seems to have been personally known to people all over the world.
One lady from Venezuela commented: "Now he is building a better world somewhere."
The Living Earth website is at www/ and they are about to set up a trust fund in Roger Hammond's memory.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Parking and Litter and Police Helicopters

Our local councillors are getting the distinct impression that the County Council is dragging its feet when it comes to sorting out local parking problems (amongst other things).
At the moment there is a moratorium on parking orders, which basically means that nothing is going to change. However, the County Council says that new parking orders can be made - as soon as funding is available. A figure of £40,000 was mentioned to fund new parking regulations. However, Hay car park generates income of £140,000 a year, which would seem to be more than ample for the task.
There was a pilot scheme, which was supposed to be followed by a review - which has never happened. When the Council sent a letter asking what was happening, they got a reply which did not answer the points they had made - so they are inviting a chap from the County Council down to Hay to walk round with them and look at the problems on the ground. They want a full review (as promised) of the parking orders, with a possible re-lining of the car park to fit more cars in, and a look at whether the double yellow lines are in the right places. They also want a resident's parking scheme to be considered.
On the plus side (with Gareth looking, it has to be said, rather smug!) the £47,000 that the County Council is saving because the members of the Cabinet did not take their pay rise is being spent on providing free car parking in the run up to Christmas to give a boost to local shops. Gareth said that the present Cabinet want to give back to the community, unlike the previous Cabinet which was more interested in lining their own pockets!

Meanwhile, there are plans for a Grand Tidy-Up along the railway line, with a letter to go to all the houses whose gardens back onto the line. They're hoping for lots of volunteers to help out, and want to involve the school and the cubs and so on. They are looking at the possibility of funding from the Keep Wales Tidy scheme so they can provide protective gloves to volunteers.
There's also a scheme called Tidy Towns, which is concerned with recycling facilities, and it was agreed that Hay ought to give the impression that it is the sort of place that supports re-cycling rubbish. It would also generate more income for the Council. Someone has complained that the present litter bins are not very visible, being black, and there are some quite smart colour coded litter bins available. The County Council has been contacted about this, but hasn't replied yet (which seems to be a recurring theme with the County Council). Apparently there was a document about recycling in Hay which went up to the County Council six years ago, which was ignored - and maybe it's time they got reminded about that. At the moment 47% of rubbish is being recycled locally, and to avoid fines from central government, it needs to be 53%. There is, however, a new cardboard bank on the car park.

There has been more graffiti under the Bridge, which the County Council should clean off. In the cemetery, the empty house which is for sale there has been attacked with spray cans.
At the same time, Hay is about to see the number of police assigned to the town cut to one PC and a PCSO! (according to "impeccable sources", said one councillor). Inspector Reed, who had previously spoken to the Council, is being asked to return to explain what is going on. Something else he could tell them about is what's happening with the Dyfyd-Powys police helicopter - the arrangements are changing to a national system, and local councillors want to know what that means for our local helicopter, as they haven't been informed by the relevant police bodies.