Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Halls of the Dead

Exciting news on the Today programme this morning! (If you're an archaeologist, that is!)
A team digging on Dorstone Hill, near Peterchurch, at the site of two Neolithic long barrows, has found something immensely interesting underneath them. Two long timber halls, with wattle and daub walls, were built on the site before the barrows - and then they were deliberately burned down. The archaeologist talking on the Today programme this morning said that this was believed to be a display of conspicuous consumption - "look at all the effort we've put into building these halls - and now we're going to destroy them!" He went on to say that this may have been a way of fixing the halls in the collective memory of the people who witnessed the destruction. Rather than allowing them to slowly decay over a long period, they would be remembered at their best and most magnificent.
The long barrows were then built on the remains of the halls, and they remained a landmark for thousands of years. The bigger of the two is 70m long, and the smaller one is 30m long. They were used for communal burials for a community. A thousand years after they were built, a flint axe and a flint knife, probably from Yorkshire, were deposited in one of the barrows, and there was also a cremation burial in the mound.
The dig is a joint effort between Herefordshire Council and the University of Manchester, and shows what a wealth of information about the distant past remains to be uncovered in Herefordshire.
So it's rather ironic that the County Council want to cut the post of Chief Archaeologist of the county altogether.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Weaving Workshop

Over on Hayfield Gardens on 3rd August, there's going to be a basket weaving workshop. It starts at 10.30am and goes on until 2pm and includes a light lunch in the price of £5 (children go free). Which seems very reasonable for learning a new skill. Anyone who wants to go along can ring Ros on 01497 821520, or just turn up on the day. One of the things they'll be making there will be 'tidies' for the Bailey Walk, as well as bins and garden supports for plants.
I know how to weave cloth, but I've never tried baskets, so I might get along there if I can.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Congratulations to Charlotte Allport, who won the Gold Medal at the Royal Welsh Show for this cake - this is in the novice section!
The cake is currently on display at the Sandwich Cellar in Backfold.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Small Business Saturday

Backfold Books and Bygones, at the top of Backfold. Alen and Jenny started off as one of the founder members of the units at Broad Street Books, and later expanded to have their own shop.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Lazing in the Sunshine...

... which is what I've mostly been doing this week.
There have been a few things going on around Hay - yesterday Gabbs the Solicitors held a tea party in aid of St Michael's Hospice, and raised £600!
The big bookshop at the top of the Pavement has been divided up into units on the ground floor and basement, and living accommodation above. They had some temporary shops in there over the Festival - and the new units look very smart - and a week or so ago Love Vintage moved in to one of the units. Another vintage shop is moving in today, and having an opening party, while building work still seems to be going on in the basement.
Harris's bread shop on Castle Street, meanwhile, is still mostly remaining closed after the sad death of Brian Harris.
And Belle Books, behind Rose's near the clock tower, is opening erratically at the moment, as the proprietor has just come out of hospital after a serious operation (and he'll show you the scar, given half a chance!).

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Books about Hay


The new Hay History Group have put together a list of books that mention Hay which are available from Powys Libraries - it runs to three pages, and of course includes Geoffrey Fairs, who put together the definitive History of the Hay, as well as Kate Clarke's Book of Hay, the Millennium Project's Nobody Had Heard of Hay, Huw Parson's Planet Hay, Eric Pugh's book of old photographs, Sixpence House (a memoir about living in Hay and working in a bookshop), Richard Booth's My Kingdom of Books and Paul Remfry's guide to Hay Castle - and there's lots more, too.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Bingo at the Baskerville

Every month there's a bingo night at the Baskerville Arms, just across the river in Clyro, and this month they're raising money for the local Dial-a-Ride service. Dial-a-Ride are looking for donations of prizes for the bingo and a raffle, if anyone would like to leave something at their office in the Council Chambers. They're open Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm.
The bingo evening is on Thursday the 25th July.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Auction of Cae Mawr Field

Hay TV, on the sidebar, has a video up of the auction of Cae Mawr field the other evening. The land was sold for £292,000 eventually, after some lively bidding. There's been a lot of local interest in this sale, as it's a field that the Offa's Dyke path crosses, as well as another local footpath, and lots of people use it for dog walking. It's also the first green space next to the car park on that edge of town.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Small Business Saturday

Country Supplies, for kitchen goods, pet food, toys and all sorts of other things. I used to take my dog Islay in there for her favourite pig's ears. The building was originally a chapel.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Hot Day in Hereford

I had a few errands to run in Hereford, and there was a garden festival going on in the main square when I wandered through.

There were plant stalls, and Friends of the Earth and the local wildlife trust, and it was all very pleasant.

While I was there I popped into the Old House - while I still can. It's under threat of closure by the County Council, along with all the other museums run by the Council in Herefordshire. Apparently, though, they may have a problem if they want to close the Old House down. The last time the building was used for a commercial purpose, it was owned by Lloyds Bank, and when Lloyds moved to other premises, they gave the building to the Council in trust, to be used as a museum. This means the Council can't sell it, and can't use it for any other purpose....
The chap I was chatting to also told me that it was the City Council that organises things like the garden festival and the History Day that I was involved in the other weekend. "Not a lot of people realise we've got a City Council as well," he said.
Meanwhile the fourteen lime trees by the roundabout, where the new shopping centre is being built, are still there - the Highways Agency wants to cut them down, though doing so wouldn't improve traffic flow or have any other benefits I can see, and removing them takes away even more greenery from a town centre that is fairly treeless already. Last night about 50 people turned up to hug the trees and protest about it, and the BBC were there to film a report about it.
I would have gone into the Library to see the exhibition on River Life they have on at the moment, but I ran out of time.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

More Thoughts on the Health Service Proposals

I was sent a copy of this letter a few days ago, by a lady who was sending it to the B&R, to voice her concerns about the proposals for hospital changes in South Powys and across South Wales. The B&R haven't printed it in this week's edition, so I thought I'd put it here:

Are we living in a Soap?
Dear Editor,
We are all sitting comfortably watching our favourite soap. "Casualty" is mine, lives are at risk in the City and the services will save them if they can. What we don't realise is that we have a different reality to face in Country areas like Powys.
Kirsty Williams AM and our ambulance crews have highlighted the lack of cover we already suffer from in Powys.(BandR 20/6/13).
Now we hear that Neville Hall A & E Casualty is to go. Hereford is already overstretched, possibly going bankrupt, and ambulances can get sent away.
Our ambulance paramedics are going to be put under even more pressure and we will be left waiting and waiting for that emergency medical help, which could save us or a loved one. The longer we wait, the further we have to go, the greater the risk to our lives and continuing health.
Again it seems, by the backdoor, life changing and frightening decisions are being made about our health services. The Authorities are to drastically cut our access to A &E services in Powys. The notice of the consultation meetings was very short, a week to ten days, and the title South Wales Programme is not very striking. I could not get to any of the meetings but a neighbour did and returned with an expensive looking, questionaire containing a brochure. They were told at the last meeting that only 150 people had attended meetings in total. So only 150 people are aware of the gamble our Health Board is proposing to take with our lives.
Looking at what the South Wales Programme is not offering us, a brochure should have been sent to every household in Powys. The brochure has "have your say on it" but it is confusing and tricky in the way it is written. It probably makes sense for us to travel further afield for certain specialities but for A and E (which is at the heart of this proposal), I think not! It even asks you to opt for a hospital that is not built yet, (the SCCC in Cwmbran), that needs a quarter of a billion pounds to complete. Where is that kind of money to come from in these times?
Can this be a valid consultation with a non existent option in it? Some say our best bet would be the Prince Charles in Merthyr but that is still too far for us in South East Powys and the A470 gets closed regularly for accidents and the inclement weather.

I am wondering where all the people we voted for to protect us in Powys are in this? Why are they not looking out for our families and communities over this issue? Life is hard and busy, for many of us in these days, and our communities are older, vulnerable and far too trusting. We look to our representatives to fight for us. They should be up in arms, knocking on doors, organising petitions and public meetings.
What are they doing about this and those who want to replace them at the next elections?
Well, I have had a wake-up call and I will be phoning the number on that glossy brochure 0300 0830020, and getting my own copy. I will be ticking the "strongly disagree" box on page 1 and the "another option" on page 2. I will be filling up the "further comments" box on page 3, with that other option (the upgrade of Neville Hall). On page 4, fair play to them they ask about positive and negative effects of the South Wales Programme with regards to equalities. In this section I will explain that all of us, living in this rural area of Wales are being disadvantaged, and our health and well-being threatened, whatever our equality needs maybe. Could this also be a human rights issue?
They asked what can be done about this and I will tell them that the only remedy is for Neville Hall Casualty to remain and for it to be improved with the newest technology.
So I have decided that it will not be good enough for me to just watch my soaps and hope for the best.
If you agree, please phone for your own brochure and do anything else you can think of to keep us all as well and safe as we can be, in this part of the world.
Yours Sincerely
Mrs P Outwaite,
The Old Chapel,

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hay Book Club

I see that there is now a book club meeting at the Globe - the next meeting is on 1st August at 8pm, and the book they will be discussing is Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Empty Shelves at the Co-op

A break down left this lorry stuck at the junction by the Blue Boar for hours today - in fact, the poor driver may still be there now.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Small Business Sunday

Old Forest Arts, for art supplies and picture framing. They have recently moved their framing department into one of the other shops in the craft centre.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Hereford History Day

They say it was probably the hottest day of the year.
The people I felt sorry for were the Victorians and the Tudors, in all their layers - and anyone attempting to fight. I had abandoned any attempt at Medieval respectability and was wearing a linen under tunic, linen dress and a broad brimmed straw hat - which meant that my hair was flowing freely, unlike respectable ladies who would be wearing a head dress or veil.
Still, there was lots to see, from medieval up to the Second World War. There were wandering seventeenth century minstrels by the cathedral, and several Sealed Knot members. Devil Stick Peat the jester was towing his infant child around in a medieval cart, crying "Medieval children for sale - guaranteed free of leprosy and ringworm (sort of). Only one left!" Captain Jack Sparrow and some of his scurvy crew were collecting for Macmillan Nurses (in a bucket and a treasure chest) - Drudion's youngest member of the day, Dom, was entranced, and warned Captain Jack that there was a Naval officer looking for him (looking quite resplendent in his blue and white uniform, trimmed with gold).
I was so hot I took my boots off, and went barefoot around the stalls - which was fine until I tried to walk on the tarmac which had been in the sun....Ouch! There were children's activities - I saw several children running along with kites they'd just made, and little crowns. There was a display of penny farthings around the statue of Elgar, and one of those travelling organs further along around the cathedral green. There were Georgians looking very elegant and World War Two jeeps. Every now and then a cannon went off from the arena, frightening one of the Drudion dogs. The other three were stretched out in the shade, oblivious.
The Travelling Tearoom was there, run by the people who do the Vintage Fair in Hay. The falconry display, sadly, had to be called off. I chatted to one of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade and he said that his only patient that day had been one of the hawks. When the hawks started to fly, a mob of seagulls came over and beat them up!
I taught several children, and one lady, to do five stick weaving, and another lady had a go at spinning, and it was a lovely day out.
I had to leave early, because of the buses, and when I got back to Hay the first thing I did was to go down to Kilverts and have a pint. The Dorothy Goodbody Wheat Beer has just gone on and it's just the thing on a hot sunny day.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The South Wales Programme - Health Consultation

Ellie Spencer was going door to door with the booklets for the health consultation last night. It's huge - 47 pages - and even then it provides links to websites where there is even more information to look at. The consultation finishes on the 19th July, and it covers consultant-led maternity services and neonatal services (loosely pregnancies with problems and premature babies), inpatient children's services and emergency medicine, which covers A&E services. Five local health boards are coming together for this, across South Wales and South Powys.
I think that's possibly one of the problems. South Powys doesn't really fit with South Wales, and it doesn't really fit with anywhere else either - and it's a huge area with a small population. A lot of people who need hospital treatment around here go to Hereford rather than Nevill Hall in Abergavenny, and the English health boards have plans of their own that may not mesh well with the plans for South Wales.
Anyway, on the plus side the brochure is written in plain English, and there are addresses and websites and emails to contact for people who have views about the proposed changes.
Early on in the brochure, they say this about their plans: "We acknowledge that in the future some of our patients may have to travel a bit further to access a small percentage of our services."
Hmm - "may have to travel a bit further" is a bit of a problem in an area where ambulances can't always get to patients in their target times now - and even without the changes ambulances that are supposed to be providing cover for South Powys have been called as far afield as Cardiff or Montgomeryshire. If there are changes that affect lengths of journeys for treatment, then the size of the ambulance fleet needs to be increased to provide adequate cover for everyone.
But they have thought of this: "The Welsh Ambulance Service will play a key role in taking patients to the right place for the right services." Here they give an example of what they mean. Terry has fallen off a ladder, and his partner Clare calls 999 for an emergency ambulance - but it doesn't say anything in this example about how long Terry will have to lie at the bottom of the ladder waiting for that ambulance, nor how far the ambulance will then have to travel to get him to the right hospital. Poor Terry.
So that's a concern.
While we're on the subject of travelling to and from hospitals, the brochure also mentions families visiting their loved ones in hospital, and the availability of public transport.
A few years ago, I got what I think was food poisoning - I was up all night throwing up, anyway - and eventually, in desperation, I called an ambulance. It arrived - that wasn't a problem at all. The problem was getting home from Abergavenny after I'd been treated. It's difficult to get to Abergavenny from Hay by public transport, so I hadn't visited for years. I didn't have a clue where the bus station was, and the people in the office didn't have a clue about buses either. Their suggestions included "Can't you get a taxi?" (which would have cost far more than I could afford) and "Can't one of your friends pick you up?" (my friends were all at work, and I didn't have their phone numbers with me anyway). Eventually, one of them dug out a bus timetable from the back of a file somewhere and suggested that I should go to Monmouth. I'm not sure what I would have done in Monmouth - I have no idea about how to get from there to Hay either. I just wanted to get to Brecon, and then I knew I could get home (bearing in mind that I was tanked up to the gills with morphine and clutching a little bag of pills to take later). They did, bless them, call a taxi to take me to the bus station, or I'd have been wandering round Abergavenny all day, but it took me around three hours to get home.
So if some patients may have to travel a bit further in future, it's going to be even more difficult to get home after treatment.

Another major problem mentioned in the brochure is the difficulty of attracting new doctors to the area, especially consultants in a speciality. They point out that, with the seven hospitals across South Wales presently providing specialist care of one sort or another, some consultants don't see enough patients to keep up their expertise in that speciality, so the idea is to centralise the patients in fewer hospitals, with the hope that the health boards will then be able to attract the staff they need to the area. (I'm now wondering why we can't have roving teams of specialists, honing their skills by covering several hospitals.... Maybe it's a silly idea - I don't know.)
This points up a problem further along the system than the health boards, because they say this: "If we were to continue providing these services in all existing hospitals in South Wales, to meet these standards we would need to recruit very many more doctors, considerably more than we would need to recruit if we concentrate these services in fewer hospitals. We know these doctors simply aren't there." So there seems to be a problem with the training of doctors, especially in emergency medicine, which has existed for some time, so there aren't enough of them.
The quotation above also touches on another problem - that of cost. Fewer doctors in fewer centres means a lower cost overall - the option for change that seems to be preferred by the writers of the brochure would cost 14 million pounds - not the cheapest, but balancing the advantages against the disadvantages such as travel times.
"Finance is an important consideration in the South Wales Programme but it is not the main reason for change," they say.

Another financial consideration is the proposal to build an entirely new hospital at Cwmbran as one of the new specialist centres for the area. Work hasn't started on building it yet, and it won't be ready until 2018 or 2019. It seems worrying to pin one's hopes for the success of a plan on a major element that hasn't actually been built yet.

Finally, they say that most health care in the region will not change - it will still be provided locally - and therefore the primary health care and GP services are important to the success of the health service overall.
"The contribution of primary care, especially GPs and their teams, will be critical in providing the integrated care patients need. We fully accept that in some areas we will need to strengthen our GP services, particularly in the out-of-hours period."
There are concerns locally about the Haygarth practice, and how long it takes to get an appointment with a doctor there.

So that's what I've got out of reading the South Wales Programme, and now I'm going to send my thoughts to the email address they give - swpresponse@wales.nhs.uk
They also give more information at www.wales.nhs.uk/swp

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

"Didn't we have a lovely time...?"

The Travellers' Club were going to Bath, rather than Bangor (for those that remember the song), and the weather was glorious.
I've been to Bath once before, on a coach holiday about 25 years ago. We stayed at Pratt's Hotel, which had specially widened staircases up to the first floor so that sedan chairs could be carried up to a resident's room. I went to find the hotel again yesterday, and I have to say I hadn't realised that it was so posh!

It was originally five town houses, one of which was lived in for a while by Sir Walter Scott.

When I last visited, I went to the Roman Baths, but had missed out on the Fashion Museum, so this time I climbed the hill to the Assembly Rooms first. It was worth the £7.75 entrance fee - there are some fascinating dresses there (and a few items of male attire). The oldest dress there was the Silver Tissue dress, a Court dress from 1660, and the most recent was from last year. I also now know what a mantua is - I'd always vaguely imagined it was a sort of veil, but it is actually an eighteenth century Court dress which is fairly flat front and back, but sticks out about three feet on each side! If a lady turned round too quickly, she could knock people over!

At lunch time, I found the most wonderful tea room, underneath this shop:

They had a menu of different teas and coffees, and the most glorious cakes. I had the Russian Caravan Tea, originally carried on camel-back from China to Russia, and picking up a slightly smoky taste from the nightly campfires on the way, with the lemon drizzle cake. I got four cups of tea from the pot, which came with a timer. When the tea was ready to drink, it made a beeping noise so you could take out the infuser (and put it in a little bowl) for perfect tasting tea. I bought a bag of tea to take away with me, too.

In the afternoon, I went off the beaten track a bit to the William Herschel Museum of Astronomy. This is in the house where William and his sister Caroline lived - and I have now stood in the little back garden where the planet Uranus was discovered with a telescope Herschel had built himself, including hand polishing the mirrors.

Later I found the market hall, and picked up some beers from the local Bath Brewery from a wonderful wine, cheese and beer stall run by a Frenchman. Their symbol is a leaping hare, so I got Golden Hare, Wild Hare and Dark Side.

And to round it all off, I found a Hobgoblin pub near the coach park, (Hobgoblin beer is made by the Wychwood Brewery) where they had more Bath ales on hand pump, so I was able to try Barnsey and Gem, both of which were very nice.

Another lady on the coach was looking forward to visiting the American Museum, and she came back with a lovely little posy of flowers from them.

On the coach on the way home Sandra Havard, who runs the Community Support office, had some serious news. Funding has been cut over the last few years, while the need for the work they do has increased, and at the moment they are struggling to keep going month by month. It can't go on for much longer. There's a lot of bureaucracy behind the scenes that has to be done, with seemingly arbitrary targets that they have to meet (which wastes time when they could be doing what they were set up to do). So it may be that, at the end of September, the whole thing will have to close down. No more Travellers' Club, or Luncheon Club, or the One to One service they provide, or any of the other things that they have been doing to help the community over the past twenty years.

For the moment, they are still fund-raising. They are holding a Midsummer Concert with the Monday Choir at 7pm on Friday 19th July, at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Bettws, Clyro. The price of tickets is £7, including a drink and nibbles. And, of course, there was the raffle on the bus.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Open Evening at the Castle

Hay Together are holding an Open Evening on Friday, from 5 - 7pm, in the cobbled courtyard at the top of the driveway to the Castle. This is to show off their new offices, exhibition space and meeting room.

(I had thought to go to the Council Meeting tonight, but I'm still full of a cold, and I have to get up unusually early tomorrow.... so on the whole, I'd rather stay at home).

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Tourists Talk about Hay

I came across a lovely review of an American lady's holiday in Hay, in the Brecon Beacons Tourism Blog dated 30th June.
She wasn't the only one having a good time in Hay: this morning I chatted to an Italian chap from Genoa. He's been coming to England for years, and knows London quite well, but he'd never been to Hay before. Partly it was the difficulty of travel for a person without a car, but mostly it was because he felt he didn't deserve it! "Hay-on-Wye is like a chocolate cake for a diabetic," he said, as he described his book filled home. But this year, he'd been to the gym, and exercised, and lost a lot of weight, and this year, he felt he deserved it.
He was taken aback at how friendly it was - he's used to big cities, not small towns - but people said hello to him as he walked down the street. The other night, he was even persuaded to take part in a pub quiz - and was delighted to have won the grand total of ten pounds!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Small Business Saturday

Eirian Glass, in the craft centre (on a much wetter day than today!)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Beer on the Wye 9

Last year, everyone who made it to the Beer Festival was watching the river, nervously, as it lapped just under the edge of the bank, and the interior of the beer tent was off limits to everyone except the heroic barstaff because of the thick mud.
This year - sunshine! and possibly the nicest day of the year.
I started off with something I knew was going to be good - Sara Hughes Ruby Mild - and while I sipped that I looked at the brochure to decide what I would have next. This year, I decided to take a little stool with me, which was slightly more civilised than sitting cross legged on the grass.
While I was perusing the beer list, I saw someone I knew - who just happens to be part of Jones the Brewers, a fairly new local brewery based in Whitney on Wye. After chatting to her, I had to try a half of Abigail's Party - and it was exceedingly good. A good summer beer, with a lot of hoppiness, and not overly strong at 3.8%.
After that, my eye was drawn to Donningtons BB from Upper Swell in Gloucestershire. When my ex-husband started drinking (quite a bit underage!) he remembered a hot summer's day in the Cotswolds somewhere, where he paid 2/- for a pint (that's 10p in today's money!). The brewery is housed in a 13thC watermill which is still in use today, and it was a little taste of summers gone by.
I was intending to gradually move to the stronger beers, but I ran out of time so I never did reach Jaipur from Thornbridge (which would have been a seriously hoppy end to the session), but I did try some of Orkney's Dark Island. The lady behind the bar said she didn't think it was quite up to it's usual standard, but it still went down pretty well.
Another beer I didn't get round to trying was the winner of the Festival this year, Caledonian from Edinburgh's Flying Scotsman (the runners up were both from local breweries). According to the tasting notes, it's a 4% malty brown beer with caramel and hints of roast, fruity sweetness - so there's one to look out for when the nights are drawing in!
I treat Beer on the Wye as a sort of trial run for the Great British Beer Festival in August (as well as a very pleasant day out in its own right), so I shall probably be looking for the Caledonian brewery there.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

It's Nice to be Consulted....

...and there seem to have been an awful lot of consultations going on.
The latest one is quite interesting, though - from 28th June to 6th September the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority is having a consultation on the appearance of Hay within the conservation area.
The draft consultation document is on their website - and can be found after a bit of digging (a search for Hay-on-Wye Consultation should get there). I tried the link on the letter that came through my door, and got asked for a password, but when I did a search, I got to it without the need for a password I didn't have.
The Draft Consultation document is 48 pages long, but it's interesting, with a potted history of the town, and is written in plain English with some good photos, including archive photos (of Broad Street in 1905, for instance).
The main problem they can see is the gradual changing of the character of buildings by replacing window frames, or drainpipes, or things like that, or painting houses and shops 'inappropriate colours' (the pictures to go with that were of Rose's Bookshop in shocking pink and the yellow house near the bridge).
There will be an exhibition day on Saturday 6th July at the Parish Hall from 10am to 3pm, with maps of the conservation area and so on. They are also asking for any comments - the person to contact is Rosie Burton, the Building Conservation Officer, who has an email at: rosie.burton@breconbeacons.org

Monday, 1 July 2013

Town of Temptation

As the Food Fair left, the Vintage traders arrived, taking over the marquee and the Parish Hall, and St Johns with around sixty different traders.
I missed it all, as I was working, but I did wear my vintage 1920s white dress to work (bought from The Old Curiosity Shop at the Castle), so I was with them in spirit.