Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hay in the News Again

This time, it's the Observer. Here's the link, and Hay is about half way down the article.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Water, water everywhere....

Bowies, the pottery/art gallery by the Buttermarket has been closed up for a few days. My informant told me that there had been water damage from a leak.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Primose Story Part 1

Organic Paul, at Primrose Organic Centre just outside Hay, has just put this video up on youtube. (This is exciting - it's the first video I've tried to put on the blog!)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

If you want to know something - ask a Librarian

There was some talk, last week at the Plan B social, about standing for the local elections, and I started to wonder how easy it is to apply.
Most of the present town council have been there for years, so I asked the newest councillor, Johnny Kramer, how he had become a councillor. He turned out to have been co-opted, so there was never an election - so he didn't know how to apply to be a councillor himself.
Someone at the Plan B social had said that there should be a notice up at the Council Offices, telling anyone who was interested what to do. So I went along on Friday - but I couldn't see any notices that were relevant, and the Town Clerk is only in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that didn't get me any further on.
The next idea I had was Library Plus - as the official County Council presence in Hay, surely they would have some information. So I spoke to Jayne the Librarian, and she did something clever on her computer, and there was all the information!
So, for anyone who wants to stand as a local councillor, the websites to visit are, and There's also one called Be A Councillor, but that seems not to be up and running yet. Apparently, you need to live and/or work in the area, and have been resident for at least a year. Then you must get the nomination form to the local Returning Officer by 4th April - I think it's possible to download the nomination forms (I didn't look) or get them from the County Council.
I don't think I want to stand myself - I'm quite busy already! - but one thing I can do is to start showing up at Council meetings and reporting on what goes on, because this stuff may be boring, but it's also important.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Swan Hotel, a beautifully proportioned Georgian building with a lovely garden. This is where we go for Stitch and Bitch and some Fairtrade meetings.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Latest Plan B News

It's been a busy week for Plan B, and I've only just got round to checking it all out.
After the Times and the Telegraph, Hay has been featured in a story in the Guardian. It was about Mary Portas's plans for rejuvenating High Streets, and the present situation in Hay was used as an example.
Hay was front page news in the B&R this week, under the headline "Supermarket Plans Shelved". A delegation from Plan B met with members of the County Council to present two options to them for a new school building. Both options are for a 240 pupil building, with community facilities including a 300 seat hall. It can be built either on the present school site, or on the Forest Road site, and both options have been costed so that no supermarket needs to get involved. The County Council have put their original plans to one side until after the elections on May 3rd, when they will come back to the problem afresh.

One of the local problems that has come up in the debate over supermarkets is the matter of affordable food. It's widely agreed that the Co-op is more expensive than other Co-ops in the area, and there has been some discussion about how to deal with this. If anyone has any bright ideas, Plan B would like to know!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Emergency in Mali

Bad things are happening in Mali. As far as I can make out, Tuareg rebels have risen up against the Malian government, and there has been fighting which has displaced many thousands of people. Some of the Tuareg people who live near to Timbuktu have fled, and the ones that are left may not be safe - there have been riots in Bamako where Tuareg businesses were targeted. Also, the price of food has risen drastically, and very little food is being brought into the area.
Jump4Timbuktu have therefore started an emergency appeal to send help out to the people who make the jewellery that is sold through Haymakers - they reckon they can help 2,500 people through the networks that they already have with the local people there. If anyone would like to help, they can go into Haymakers, or visit the Jump4Timbuktu website.

Meanwhile, the other local group, Hay2Timbuktu, are holding a sponsored cycle ride, trying to tot up enough miles cycled locally to equal the distance between Hay and Timbuktu. They are offering a choice of bike rides, of eight, twenty four or forty four miles, the sponsorship money to go towards health projects in Timbuktu.
Sponsorship forms are available from Drover Holidays, Hay Medical Centre, or the Drover Holiday website and the rides will be taking place on March 31st, starting from outside the Co-op.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Blokes - Playing Guitars

(and a banjo). That was how Toby described last night's Open Mic session at Kilvert's, and he was one of the blokes with guitars.
I'd gone in early for a Transition Town meeting, and stayed on for the music later.
And to save my typing fingers, the following is cut-and-pasted from the Transition Town newsletter:

Might you be free on Sunday 25th March to join a work party for the ‘Garden in Transition’?
Some of you may remember that a Transition-themed demonstration garden was installed next the entrance of the Hay Festival site a couple of years ago. The idea behind this project is to create a space with the participation of the local community; using reclaimed, recycled and donated materials and plants; which looks amazing; and will be seen by over 100,000 people. Hopefully it will inspire other similar projects based on sharing skills and creatively using recycled and reclaimed materials.
This year, Brecknock Wildlife Trust will be designing the garden. They are looking for volunteers to help out for some or all of the day (between 10am and 3pm). If you are handy with a saw and hammers, your skills would be useful. If you would like to pick up a few practical skills, that would be great as well. Also, it will hopefully be a good social occasion. There will be cake!
This message is to find out if in principle you might be interested in coming along to help out. You don’t need to commit firmly at this stage, we would just like to get an idea of numbers. If you are interested in coming along, or would like more information, please let me know or contact Dave Prescott on or call 01497 831 194.
If you don’t have time to be there in person on the day but would still like to be involved, here are some other ways to help out:
- if you have a pond that you’re thinning out and could donate marginal plants in pots, these would be welcome
- if you would like to raise wildflowers, seeds and pots can be provided
- you could loan a rotavator
- you could donate tall plants such as bamboo, miscanthus, reed, canary grass, bulrush or reeds
- you could donate hazel hurdles or wattle fencing
- you could donate recycled planks for the steps

Also, Hayfield Garden is coming back into full swing shortly - contact Phoebe Boulanger on for further details.
Looking much further into the future, there will be another Walking Festival in October, and the Transition themed walk last year went down so well that they want to repeat it - so if anyone would like to show off their garden, or insulation, or bike, or anything else around the transition theme (how to live when the oil runs out), please let Anna know at Drover Holidays.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Back to Normal

Haven't they done a lovely job?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Plan B Social Evening

The people who have joined the various committees of Plan B for Hay gathered at the Globe last night for a social evening - just a quiet drink and get together to chat instead of being focussed on the purposes of the group.
It was a fascinating evening.
I talked to John Stark, who organises the classical music concerts at Booths Books - both the latest two concerts have sold out. The next one coming up features Catherine Hughes, from the Bridge B&B, who has a golden voice, and she will also be organising three concerts over the summer. John also told me about a concert they're planning in September which will be held in Dorstone, at a house with a seven acre garden and a grand piano! That one is going to be a classical quintet.
One of the performers who will be playing piano later in the year is also an actor, who appeared in a short film which finished with him playing a piece on the piano. He wants to run the film, and as the music in the film ends and the screen fades to black, he wants to continue playing the same music live on stage.
One lady runs a B&B near St Mary's Church, where she enjoys meeting the walkers doing the Offa's Dyke Path - there's always such a variety of people passing through. She told me that the well in the garden right next to the churchyard (which was once part of the church) has dried up, which is rather sad. I suspect it was the reason the church was built in that position originally - a lot of old Welsh churches have sacred wells.
Another young lady used to live in the largest log cabin in the country, at a therapeutic community in Scotland.
I got chatting to another lady about musicians I'd seen at the Globe, and mentioned a wonderful show dedicated to Nick Drake - and she said that she had once lived at a flat that Nick Drake used to visit to see one of her friends, though she was never there when he came round. Another flat she shared was visited by John Martin, another musician, and she never got to meet him either!
A Dutch chap who lives in Hardwicke said that the best thing about joining the campaign (having seen the impact of supermarkets in North Holland), was that he'd met a lot of new people locally.
I also got the latest gossip about the Wheatsheaf - which has apparently been bought by an English (or Welsh) lady who has lived in Spain for many years. She wants to run it as a B&B with a tapas bar! Which could be interesting, if true.

There was a mood of cautious optimism in the room, as we had just heard that the County Council have decided to postpone any decision about the school until after the May 3rd elections. There was a meeting with members of Plan B recently where they put forward alternative proposals, including alternative methods of funding a new school building, and this seemed to be listened to positively.
"It is essential that full consideration is given to the new proposals and it is impossible to conclude that work before the council elections," said Council leader Michael Jones.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here we have Henderson's Precision Engineers, a long established business just down from the industrial units on Forest Road.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Playing Nicely

Can I make a request that comments relating to Plan B remain polite, and factual? I don't want to act as a censor, but I will if I have to.
There have been a couple of comments that have gone beyond what is reasonable, and I don't want anyone else to be upset.
Both Leon Morelli and Gareth Ratcliffe have spoken to me privately about this.

I started this blog to be fairly cheerful and light hearted about what's happening in Hay - I don't want it spoiled by a few people posting anonymous comments.


There's a lot about education in the B&R this week - or at least, about the provision of school buildings. The County Councillors seem to be fixated on numbers and £ signs, without any consideration for the real children and their families who will be affected by all the disruption that the plans for school closures will cause. There have been protests in Ystrydgynlais, and at Bronllys parents have managed to keep their local school open at least until a new one is built in Talgarth. The original plan was to shunt the children to Talgarth, and then move them again when the new school was built there.
Glasbury, too, seems to have got a stay of execution, to accommodate the children who will eventually go to a new Hay school. One of the parents, Andrew Jones, who is now chairman of the pressure group Primary Education in Glasbury and Gwernyfed, is quoted as saying: "What we're doing now is scrabbling about and leaving a generation of children and parents uncertain where provision will be in the next three to five years. It's a woeful legacy."
Meanwhile, various other local schools will be "remodelled" to cope with extra children - which led Councillor Claire Powell (for Bronllys) to ask what exactly "remodelling" meant.
Gareth Ratcliffe asked, in Council, whether the County Council has any other ways of funding a new Hay school if the private funding falls through. The answer he got wasn't exactly illuminating. To quote from the article: 'The report states: "The prospects of selling the existing Hay school site remain uncertain however in any event will be dependent on the developer obtaining planning permission from the national park for various building projects in Hay."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"Social Capital"

So that's what it's called!
There's a letter in the B&R today, from a chap in Cusop Dingle, saying that 'social capital' is the reason he likes Hay. That's the sort of thing where the lady at the newsagents will notice when someone doesn't come in for their daily paper, and go and check up on them, or the ladies in Londis will let you pay next time you go in if you've forgotten your purse - because they know you (something that's happened to me more than once when I've changed coats without changing the contents of the pockets!).
It's the lady from Spar who made ginger cakes for someone who'd done her a favour, and was distributing the ones she had left over to other friends. She was also behind the St Valentine's Day idea of having a bucket outside Spar with chocolates for passers-by to help themselves, with a poem written on a big red heart. Over the road, a customer dropped a rather pretty ear-ring, and if no-one comes back for it, the staff in the shop are saving it for me to use in costume making.
And if people know each other, and trust each other, and look out for each other, the crime rate goes down, and it makes a better atmosphere for small businesses to operate in. There are even studies to suggest that people are healthier - and happier.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Famous in Bedfordshire

They're very pleased at Kilvert's - Bedfordshire CAMRA have just sent their latest magazine, and they've given Kilvert's a full page report! No, Hay hasn't suddenly moved counties - some of the Bedfordshire group came here on their holidays, and really enjoyed themselves.
Meanwhile, Sheila was less pleased when she found that the page of the Telegraph with the story about Hay on it had been carefully abstracted and removed. It's quite a good piece, too, and is now online on the Telegraph's website.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Small Business Saturday

Quite a variety this week, from the edge of town on Forest Road. There's River Strokes Kayak School, Llangwathan Marquees, the Welsh Sandwich Company, G&A Autocenter, O'Donahue Books, and the Alex Gooch Bakery. It's not the most scenic view in Hay, but it does provide useful storage and business space.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Another Night Out!

I've hardly been at home this week!
Last night it was the Blue Boar for a Plan B meeting - in fact, there were two Plan B meetings going on at the same time, one getting a bit technical about designing a website to tell the world what's happening in Hay, and one sorting out over 3,000 survey forms to deliver around town and the outlying areas shortly.
The real excitement, though, was earlier in the day, when a man from the Telegraph came to town with a photographer (and his glamorous assistant), and spent most of the day talking to people like Jason on the market, and Stuart the greengrocer, and Alex Valentine at the Wholefood shop. Gareth from Plan B took him round and showed him the school sites, and he had already talked to Gareth Ratcliffe and Leon Morelli the night before. They said that the article would probably be in the paper on Saturday.

Just as a little tangent at the end of the meeting at the Blue Boar, Rhona mentioned the scheme to build a statue to Richard Booth, which was discussed at the last Town Council meeting. Apparently, Richard didn't keep the little triangle of land just outside the Castle for himself - it was all sold together, but Elizabeth is happy to provide space for a statue outside the Castle. The plan is to have Richard enthroned on a pile of books, and a competition is planned, to choose 100 book titles to be engraved on the books Richard will be sitting on.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


"Are you going to make jam?" one of my friends asked when I said I was going to a WI meeting.
"Not in the middle of Kilverts," I said.
Hay-on-WI were meeting in the room to one side of the bar. They're just starting a group in Hay, and there were a couple of ladies from more established local groups there to advise. The lady who seems to have started it all is Ellie, who also runs the local cubs' group.
There seems to be an awful lot going on in the Powys Brecknock Federation. There's a quiz for the Wye Group at Talgarth Town Hall on Friday 24th February, and a Gardener's Question Time Evening on Tuesday 28th February at the Guildhall in Brecon, bingo at Bishop's Meadow and Cor Meibion Llanelli (the Male Voice Choir) on March 21st in Brecon, amongst other things. A full member of the WI pays £31.50 a year, and for this she gets magazines, a regular local newsletter, access to a college with lots of practical courses - and, of course, the money goes towards hiring rooms and speakers for the local groups. The Hay group will be providing cakes and encouragement for a Sports Relief race which will be starting from outside Kilverts in a few weeks' time, and they're already thinking about doing something during Festival week. Last year the cubs made £80 selling bookmarks to Festival goers, that they'd made themselves - and they even managed to sell them to Kindle users!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Poetry at the Globe

It's a while since I last went to the Globe, but I got invited to the Poetry evening by a friend who was running it, so I thought I'd give the Kilvert's Open Mic a miss for a change.
It was a tiny audience - which was a shame, because David, Annette and someone with a white coat that said "Doctor Tits" on the back (Chris from Canada?) had worked really hard to put a show together for the first half. I was expecting a mic on the stage - but there was a bank of electronics, bass guitar, round drum, light show and DVD of shamanic images projected on the wall. They're calling themselves iBardic. The theme was based around readings from Technicians of the Sacred, which is a book of poems first collected by Jerome Rothenburg in the 1960s from a lot of traditional sources. David read poems and chants from the Navajo, China, New Guinea, ancient Sumer, Polynesia, and more.
There was a break for tea (it was a very non-alcoholic night) and then the open mic part of the evening, which David filmed to go onto Youtube. I did a medieval Welsh poem (translated into English!), a lady who often turns up to Kilvert's open mic did three or four, and then Chris, Annette and David performed some of their own poems. I loved the one David finished up with, describing a new Poetic language and followed by the first ever poem written in that language - which sounded a bit like Klingon!
There'll be another Poetry night in March (date to be confirmed) when the theme will be Poetry of the City. In April, they'll be doing Beat Poetry, leading up to a competition in May - I think the prize will be a slot in the Globe tents over the Festival.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Photography Competition

Lisa Marie is running it again - the annual photograph competition to become part of next year's Wye Local calendar!
There's a lot to live up to - the standard is very high.
The theme is "Local Landscapes", and the pictures must be landscape, not portrait.
The first prize is £50, with £25 for the second prize and £10 for the third prize. Closing date is 26th March, and all entries are to be sent to Lisa Marie at
For further details call 01544 327716

Monday, 6 February 2012

Modern Technology

Lovely when it works - a real pain when it doesn't!
The Cinema has been in darkness for a day and a half, with no lights, no computers, no till or credit card machine, or heating. Something vital had melted in the fuse box - which could have been quite serious! We were wandering round with emergency torches, which led the boss to ruminate that the lighting effects were so attractive in the antiquarian section that we could hire it out as a Chapel of Rest!
All is back to normal now, but it does make you think how dependent we all are on elec-trickery.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Parson and the Publican

I've just come into possession of a copy of the Christmas edition of Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life, which a kind neighbour passes on to me. They run a regular column called The Parson and the Publican, in which the two men visit various villages in Herefordshire and the Wye Valley, and write amusingly about them. The visits usually involve beer. In this edition, they were Christmas shopping in Hay, and recovering afterwards in the Blue Boar.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged," says the Parson, "that all things necessary for Christmas present solutions are to be found in Hay-on-Wye." They wander the Thursday market, have coffee in a local cafe, and stock up in the grocer's and butcher's shops, saving for last the "Aladdin's cave of wonderment" that is Jones Hardware shop.
In the coming year, they will be touring the region in search of interesting people and places.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Small Business Saturday

This is one of the many B&Bs in the area - St Mary's is near to the church.

It's also National Libraries Day today - so it was nice to see Hay Library being so well used when I went in to pay my council tax (they do it over the counter now, so you don't have to use the beastly phone).

And we have snow!

Friday, 3 February 2012

New Faces in the Group

Stitch and Bitch is expanding! If everybody came on the same night, I think we'd have trouble fitting into the comfortable little room on the end of the Swan's bar. Last month, a lady called Marva turned up, very enthusiastic - though she couldn't get a lift into town this time.
Instead, Kitty arrived with her knitting. She's only been living in Hay for a few weeks, and already she's getting involved (though she said she's been coming for holidays here for fifteen years). She wanted to know where to go to get her hair done, so there was a lot of comparing notes on the merits of the various hairdressers in town.
Jenni came to chat, without any project to work on, because she was going on to ballroom dancing later.
Ros said she was going to check out the new craft group at the Globe, which had decided to meet on the same night as us, so we didn't see her either.
A few other people didn't come because they had bad colds, or didn't want to come out in the cold weather - and the room was almost full, even so.
Kitty got help with her button hole, and someone else said that they wanted to learn to crochet, and another lady brought in the gorgeous lacy shawl she's been knitting for months (it started with nine stitches and goes up to six hundred and something in one row!). She complained it was smaller than the pattern had said - but it was still beautiful, and wearable.
We'll be meeting again in two weeks time, on Thursday from 6 - 8pm, (and we don't really do any Bitching!)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Open Mic Night Again

It was a lively night down at Kilvert's - quite a difference from the evening before!
And it was busy - I couldn't find a seat straight away.
Tim the Gardener announced that the fund to buy a bench in memory of Brian the Poet only needs about another £20, so he encouraged anyone who wanted to contribute to go along to the Sandwich Cellar. The little books of poetry sold out!
Briar sang, and also said that she was organising a charity gig at the Globe on Friday 13th April, in aid of Brecon Loft (for mental health). She did name the headline band, who I've forgotten (well, I was enjoying a glass or two of Dorothy Goodbody's wholesome stout at the time), but added that Anna Fry would be playing the piano as well. Anna played last night as well, to great applause. The Globe are also hosting a Poetry evening next Tuesday, and an open mic night in the middle of the month.
Chris brought some copies of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis with him - in paperback! They are available from him or from Addyman Annexe at only £15!
Malcolm, Toby, and Jerry all sang, played guitars and mouthorgan, Fudge sang a lullaby for his daughter, and Mel read some of her poems (and fortunately wasn't put off by Toby fiddling with the mic!)
I was also lucky enough to see Alan Cooper, who is a very, very good fiddler. I knew that he'd been down to Kilvert's before, but it was always on weeks that I didn't manage to go for one reason or another. I'll make more of an effort next time!