Sunday, 30 June 2013

Food Fair and School Fete

It's a sad thing to walk round a Food Fair when you have no appetite - all those tempting things that don't tempt you at all.
I was just getting over a stinky cold, so apart from trying not to breathe on the cakes, I really had very little interest in eating.
However, I did manage to treat myself to some of Trealy Farm's cured meats - I haven't tried the venison one before, but I often treat myself to the ham and beef from the butcher's on Broad Street. I also got three bottles of Jacobi beer - light golden, original brown bitter and dark roasted. I usually get some of their beer at the Food Fairs because I don't think I've ever seen it anywhere else.
There was music, too - I passed by twice, and heard the Builth Wells Ladies Choir and the Brecon Town Concert Band.

I missed the parade of children in storybook costumes for the school fete, but when I went down to the school there were a few girls in 'uniform' with St Trinian's badges. I'm glad to see that the young people of today still remember the fine old traditions of British girls' boarding schools!

I held an owl. (Happy, smiley face!)
There was a chap with some birds of prey over on the grass, and he was allowing people to put on a gauntlet and hold his owl. Strangely, although I've been to re-enactments and country shows over the years and chatted to falconers, I've never done that before.

There was also a climbing wall that came on the back of a trailer, and a display of miniature gardens that the children had made. One little boy seemed to think that an essential part of a miniature garden was a volcano (with paper flames coming out of it!) and dinosaurs!
The plans for the new school were also on display. It's going to be quite big, and on two levels, but I didn't really know what to look for to say whether it was a good plan or a bad plan.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Small Business Saturday

Satori - a fascinating cavern of jewellery, wind-chimes, semi-precious stones, candles and interesting Pagan stuff!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Health Plan Meeting

It's short notice - I've only just heard - but there will be a Focus Group Meeting at Talgarth Town Hall tomorrow, Friday, at 1.15pm, followed by a drop in session from 3pm to 5pm, to talk about A&E services, neonatal and inpatient children's services, and hospital transport in Powys and throughout South Wales.
One concern is that nothing should happen to Nevill Hall hospital until the proposed new one at Cwmbran is actually up and running - they haven't started building it yet. Another concern is that, because Powys is being lumped in with South Wales, the services are moving closer to the population centres of South Wales, and thus further away from Powys - so journey times will be longer and people (especially children) in hospital will be further away from their families and friends who want to visit them. Our ambulance services are stretched to the limit now....

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

English Historical Fiction Authors: A Book-Lovers Paradise

English Historical Fiction Authors: A Book-Lovers Paradise: by Anne O'Brien Any tourist visiting the lovely historic city of Hereford in the Welsh marches will have on the 'to see' lis...

I can't do better than this blog post, with some wonderful pictures of the chained library in Hereford.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Visiting Bronllys Hospital

Normally, when I mention Bronllys Hospital here, it's because there is some kind of problem, such as the Stroke Unit being re-located to Brecon recently.
A few days ago, I went up there to visit a friend.
I hadn't been up there for several years - and I had forgotten just how beautiful it is.
My friend had the most amazing view of the mountains from his window, and not far away there was a place to sit outside with benches surrounded by gorgeous flowers (it was one of the few days of sunshine that we've had, so everything looked better!).
On the way back to the car, we passed a young rabbit hopping around in the grass, quite unconcerned by people, and further down the slope there was a fledgling crow sitting on a stump.
And on the way back to Hay, a red kite flew over the road!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Inspire Wales Awards

Primrose Earth Awareness Trust, on the back road between Hay and Talgarth, may be small in size, but it's influential. In Hay, we mostly see the stall on the Thursday Markets, selling organic produce - and it's impressive just how much organic produce can be grown on such a small space. Over the years (around 30 years since it started as Primrose Organic Farm), something like 7 - 800 people have passed through to help keep the place running, some of them on the WWOOF scheme (kind of a holiday with added agricultural work).
In this year's Inspire Wales Awards, given at a ceremonial dinner at Cardiff City Hall, Paul Benham was the winner of the award for the person who has made the most important contribution to the Welsh environment and climate change.
I'd like to show a picture of Paul receiving his award - but I can't get it to download. You'll just have to imagine him looking very pleased in an orange shirt!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Fudge Shop on the Craft Centre, full of delicious delights!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Pop-Up Shops that have Stayed

During the Festival, several empty shops got filled - with all sorts of interesting things. There were art exhibitions, and someone selling equipment to make giant bubbles, and clothes and antiques/junk and food, even a pop-up cafe.

As soon as the Festival was over, some of those shops emptied again, but a few have stayed. On Broad Street there's a new art gallery called Window - the one with the tree trunk carved into the shape of an open book outside it, which has previously been a bookshop (of course) and the offices of the bwa design people until they moved round to the back of the British Legion.
On the end of Castle Street, the Old Electric Shop is continuing to sell interesting antiques/junk, and they also have space for "mad lampshades" and Llynfi Fabrics. There was a plan to turn it into a pizzeria, but I understand it wasn't granted planning permission.

The shop on the corner opposite Booths Books will shortly become Bartrum's Stationers, and the Welsh food people who filled it with straw bales for the Festival have moved out of the shop, but have retained a presence in Hay. Gwirioneddol Gymreig/Authentically Welsh source local food and deliver it to holiday cottages, where they'll make sure the fridge is stocked up before the visitors arrive, for a 25 mile radius round Brecon. One of the problems with people in holiday cottages is that they tend to stock up on food at their own local shops before they come, so the shops in the holiday area don't get that trade. This seems to be a good way of getting round that, and introducing holidaymakers to local produce that they might not otherwise discover. Gwirioneddol Gymreig also sell hampers "to give as gifts or for your own indulgence!" They have a website at and can also be reached through Broad Street Books, where they have a hamper in the window.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Something Quirky

When my Young Man was last here, he finally got round to bringing a book of Jim FitzPatrick art which needed to be re-bound. It's one of those glossy, A4 books, with lots of gorgeous Celtic artwork and it's quite hard to get hold of a copy now.
We went into the Black Mountain Bindery, by the Launderette, and Chris said it would be fairly easy to mend. Sure enough, he fixed the cover back on in a couple of days, and the price was very reasonable, too.
Chris also sells notebooks that he has bound himself, and a few other things - such as a new poetry journal called Quirk. There are quite a few local poets featured in it, including Chris Bradshaw himself, and Simon Pettifar who sometimes reads poems at Open Mic nights. He's worked on translating poems by the Czech poet Jan Skacel, some of which he's recited at Open Mic nights, together with Martina Jirankova-Limbrick, a Czech artist and illustrator who also lives locally. There are some poems by Brian Caton, late Poet Laureate of Hay, and Tahereh Zoghi, whose book Storms of the Heart was launched at Booth's Bookshop a little while ago, as well as others.
Sarah Putt and Kate Freeman have contributed artwork, among others, and it's all very nicely produced by Quirk, from nearby Snodhill in Herefordshire.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Open Garden

It's the time of year when people with beautiful gardens open them to public view, and little yellow signposts go up pointing the way to them.
One of the gardens on show this year is the one belonging to Noel Kingsbury and Jo Eliot, very much off the beaten track in Brilley, across the river from Hay. Noel designs gardens, and Jo (among her many other activities) chairs Fairtrade Hay. They opened the garden last year for the first time, with great success (despite the weather!) and are hoping to repeat that success this year. The garden is open on 23rd June, and there will be tea and cakes.
Noel Kingsbury also has a book out, Natural Garden Style. He has a non-dogmatic approach to the use of chemicals in a garden, using them where he feels it necessary, and the book is full of gorgeous sweeping vistas of meadows and driftwood furniture and naturalistic planting schemes. I got a copy for my sister when she last came to Hay, and she was delighted - she has an extremely long and narrow garden, but it includes a small orchard and a vegetable patch, and she had the sort of glint in her eye when she left that meant that she was already having thoughts about how to use ideas from the book.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Big Skill

Over on Hayfield Gardens last weekend there was a craft fair called The Big Skill. The weather was dismal, but the people huddling together in the shelter of the geodesic tents seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Mushroom man, who was making wooden mushrooms as we watched, was enthralling one little boy as he explained what he was doing:

In the biggest tent, there was a very enthusiastic lady, Rachel Palmer, from the Long Forest community hedgerow project. Hedgerows are very important for wildlife, sheltering all sorts of plant species, nesting birds, insects and so on. Many of them have been grubbed up since the Second World War to make larger fields for bigger tractors, or have been replaced by fences of various kinds. Maintaining a good hedge is a skilled profession, and one of the things the Long Forest project does is to pass on those skills to a new generation. Rachel Palmer also led the walk along the Hay Riverside walk last week, which would also benefit from the skills and guidance they have to offer. For anyone interested in learning more, or wanting guidance about their own hedges, the email is - and there is also a blog that can be found through the Keep Wales Tidy website.
In the next tent over, Adele Nozedar was selling copies of her book The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals. Over the Festival, she was leading foraging walks along hedgerows around Hay.
Further up the hill, people were getting creative with clay:

They were hoping to be cooking pizzas in this oven by the end of the day!
(I've seen this done before, at a re-enactment fair - and they were baking bread in their oven by the end of the weekend.)
The Tools For Self Reliance people were there as well, but it wasn't only outdoor crafts on show. There were lots of felted items, and wooden bowls, cake stands made from slate, a sculptor working on a piece in the middle of the tent, a peg loom, papercraft wreaths and knitting wool. At Ffolky Ffelt, I couldn't resist a needle felted handlebar moustache, which I intend to wear to the Steampunk Asylum this September! (It's a brooch!)
And as I was chatting by the clay oven, a red kite flew just over the tops of the tents!
On the following day, Alan Cooper the fiddle player went over to add a little music to the proceedings, which he said he enjoyed very much.

The Big Skill will be at the Brecon Fringe Festival on August 9th - 11th, and have a website at

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Cae Mawr

...which is pronounced locally as something like "Kum o'er". It's the field at the bottom of the main car park, and the name means 'big enclosure', more or less. It's a popular place for dog walking, and the start of a public footpath that leads up Cusop Dingle.
It's also for sale.
There's going to be a public auction on the 18th July, at the Swan, starting at 6.30pm.
In the flyer from the estate agents, the field is described as having "long term potential hope value", which means that it might be possible to get planning permission to build on the field in the future.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Small Business Saturday

Just a reminder that Hay is in the middle of an agricultural area.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Goodbye to Llanigon School

It looks like the end of the line for Llanigon School. It's going to be closing at the end of the summer term in 2014, and the children will be transferred to Hay School - even though building work has not yet started on the new school.
The piece on the front page of the B&R says that there are only 14 pupils at the school now - when I was helping out with Followers for Llanigon Church in the hall (it was a Sunday School which met on Tuesdays, after school) there were far more children there. Myfanwy Alexander, the County Council cabinet member for schools, said that it is far more expensive to educate children at Llanigon than it is at Hay - £8,252 per pupil as opposed to £3,087 at Hay.
There's a strange comment in the B&R report, though - it seems there are no plans for a permanent head teacher at Hay School. The last headmaster has been ill, I believe, and Fiona Howard, the previous headmistress, has returned as acting head - but it seems strange that a school the size of Hay, with all the building work that's about to start, shouldn't have a permanent head teacher in charge.

I wonder what the plans are for Llanigon school building and the village hall that goes with it?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Council Meeting - Car Parking and CRAP

Nick, the man from CRAP,* was at the Council meeting on Monday.
After a lot of hard work, the County Council have decided to trial a residents' parking scheme in Hay. If it works here, it would be rolled out over the rest of the county.
You'd think Nick would be happy about this - but it's not as simple as that.
The County Council scheme looks to be insanely complicated compared to the CRAP scheme, with built in unfairness, like allowing people with their own private parking a vote on the public parking. It's divided into zones, and if you can't find a parking spot on your own zone/street, you can't park elsewhere in town, even though you will have paid £65 for the year for your resident's permit. A year's permit for the main car park costs an additional £150, though that does cover all the other car parks in Powys as well.
The CRAP scheme treats the whole town centre as one zone, and allows all the residents a parking spot, including people who are excluded by the Council scheme.
There was a consultation in the Library last week, though it wasn't hugely well publicised.

*doesn't quite have the same ring to it as the man from UNCLE, does it?

Later in the meeting, the subject of dog fouling came up - and there's going to be a basketry workshop at the Community Gardens on 3rd August to weave bio-degradable dog poo baskets.

Though the police haven't turned up to give a report for a while, the latest crime news is that fuel was stolen from the Dial a Ride van in the Co-op car park over the Festival - the advice was to park with the fuel cap facing the CCTV cameras in future. And in Glasbury, over a weekend, 8 catalytic converters were cut off cars.

There was a discussion of the Festival this year, too. Noise from the Globe was better managed this year, and so was the traffic around the corner of Heol-y-dwr - but there were complaints about the sludge vehicle coming to empty the toilets at the Globe at silly o'clock in the morning. The Park and Ride scheme went well, though the school coaches on the schools day of the Festival were a problem, and overall there seemed to be a lack of police presence around town. Someone was also overheard complaining that they hadn't seen any signs around town advertising that we were twinned with Timbuktu. I suppose the new ones for the Timbuktu Trail are quite discreet and small.

St Mary's Church are fund raising to put in new toilets, which will enable them to put on more concerts without the expense of hiring temporary toilets to sit in the churchyard, and they also want to make a meeting room at the back of the church, under the organ. Over the years, there has been a lot of renovation at St Mary's - the main roof has been repaired, and the tower and the apse looks fantastic now. The Council decided that they could only give financial support if the toilets were accessible for the disabled.

Among the letters sent to the Council was one concerning the privatisation of the Royal Mail, for which Steve Like excused himself, as he runs the post office. It's supposed to be sold off at the end of this year. It was agreed that this would be a bad thing, but the Council is not supposed to be overtly party political. They could, however, write to our MP with their concerns about the impact the privatisation would have on a rural community.

And those are this month's highlights!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Council Meeting Part 2 - Housing

At the beginning of the Council meetings, there is always a guest speaker, and this time it was Tim Organ, the architect who was very much involved with drawing up plans for a new school for the Plan B campaign, who had asked to come and speak.
Of course, events have somewhat overtaken his work on the school, as Powys now have their own architects working on it, but Tim Organ is involved in the new Affordable Housing plans too, and as a member of Towns in Transition, he is interested in making Hay more sustainable as a place to live. One of the projects they are involved in is tree planting. He also commended Hay Together to the Council, as a way of harnessing all the skills and enthusiasm shown during the Plan B campaign for the good of the town. Individual councillors are getting involved, but it was felt that the Council as a body should show support, but not be directly involved. Hay Together might be as successful as the Tourist Office, which started in the 1970s when the Powys office closed down, but it is early days yet.
Fiona Howard asked to talk to Tim after the meeting, as she was interested in tree planting for a proposed Forest School area for the new school building.
On Thursday evening, Tim Organ will be at a meeting about the ideas for affordable housing in Warren Close. The patch of land which is being looked at seems to have various problems to be solved before it can be developed for housing.
And meanwhile, the National Park has just announced a change to their plans for housing in the area, designating a field opposite the Meadows as suitable for 78 new houses, rather than the 20 houses originally planned for. If these were built, something like 30% of them would have to be affordable, and there was some discussion as to whether it would be better for the council to take on that 30% as their affordable housing scheme rather than develop their own plans from scratch. It was also pointed out that the field was the site of an old ash tip for the town - and would that cause problems with contamination of the soil or subsidence?
The meeting to decide all this was on Tuesday evening - giving the councillors no time to comment on the changed plans, so several of them were going to go down to the meeting in person. They wouldn't be allowed to speak at the meeting, either - but they looked as if they were going to challenge that ruling - loudly!
There was concern about the employment prospects for 78 new families locally, and also about the strain that would be placed on the surgery and school of all those extra people - not to mention the sewage system. The fresh water system has apparently been upgraded recently and would be able to cope.
When the Council gets a planning application for a single dwelling, they are given 21 days to comment on it - so they felt it was wrong that they should be given so little time to consider 78. Also, the National Parks in previous years have given a presentation to the Council about their ten year plans - but not this time.
The details of the plans are on the Brecon Beacons website, but I didn't get the web address down correctly (it was a bit complicated).

Ellie Spencer talked about the new Community Cupboard for Hay - a local food bank. There will be a meeting at the Swan at 7pm on the 28th June to discuss it, and it will launch on Friday 19th July, just in time for the school holidays when families with school age children will need extra help as the children are not being fed at school. The Community Cupboard is asking for donations of food, but they must be non-perishable items that can be stored - they can't cope with fresh produce easily. People will be referred to the food bank by the social services - it's not something that anyone can just turn up for.

They also discussed the recent Royal visit, which was the first ever Official Royal visit to Hay, though Prince Charles and the Princess Royal have been here before unofficially. Prince Charles sent a letter and a book to the school to thank them for turning out to wave their little flags.

Tomorrow - car parking!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

This Month's Council Meeting - Health Matters

The Council meeting this month was a week later than usual, to allow councillors to "turn up mob handed" at the Health Board meeting last Monday. Five councillors managed to attend, more than any other local council managed to muster. Health Care for the area was one of the main subjects of the early part of the meeting - the South Wales Programme affects Hay and the rest of Southern Powys, and there are consultations going on now about maternity and neonatal care, and inpatient children's and emergency services.
The consultation is open until 19th July, and can be accessed via There's also a phone number, 0300 083 0020, an email address: and for proper letters, there's an address: South Wales Programme Feedback, PO Box 4368, Cardiff, CF14 8JN - or they suggest that letters be sent to local community health councils, which have contact details on the website. And the questionnaire is also available in Welsh.
There has already been a consultation meeting in Hay, though it was poorly publicised. Apparently all the services in this area rely on the building of a new hospital at Cwmbran, and if that doesn't happen, the whole plan falls apart. If they started building now, that hospital would be ready in 2019. They claim that 80% of Accident and Emergency users will see no difference in services, but at the same time they are considering downgrading the A&E department at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny.
All the councillors were concerned about the ambulance service in this area, which is stretched to the limit now. There's also a problem at Brecon, for example, of ambulances being unable to off-load patients quickly, and having to queue, because of the cramped nature of the site. If they're in a queue, they can't be responding to another call.
In Hay, a lot of people end up going to Hereford hospital, and as it's over the border in England, the people of Hay have no influence whatsoever on the hospital's future. There are rumblings that it might close, in which case the nearest hospital in that direction would be Worcester. It seems crazy that a place the size of Hereford should have no hospital of its own, when once it had four!
The most positive thing the councillors could do, they decided, was to write a letter pushing for increased ambulance and hospital car cover for the area. They would have liked more facilities to be built on the Bronllys Hospital site, but apparently it's in the wrong place in relation to population centres. They also wanted to express their concern about the possible downgrading of A&E departments, and how the plan all seems to hinge on the building of the Cwmbran hospital. They want another, better publicised, consultation meeting for Hay, too.
The Welsh Assembly has no Cabinet member for Rural Affairs (though the last person to fill that position was described as neither use nor ornament!), and therefore there is no-one to speak on behalf of rural communities on a variety of issues. The cities are well served, but the huge areas of rural Wales are forgotten about.
South Wales needs to attract more consultants, and to do this they have to be able to offer consultants something attractive - and a large enough population base for the consultants to be able to practice their specialities. Which means long journey times in rural areas.
They're also talking about tele-conferencing between health professionals, though, so that consultants can talk to paramedics somewhere else in the area.

Meanwhile, there are continued concerns about Hay Surgery, and the councillors are arranging a meeting between a representative of the surgery and themselves and Llanigon and Clyro Community Councils.

Monday, 10 June 2013

What the F!

I'm not being rude - it's the name of the Hay Feminist's event at the Globe on Friday! It starts at 8pm with a confidence building workshop that involves walking on broken glass! Later there will be a DJ and music.
Tickets cost £5 each and proceeds will go towards Brecknock Women's Aid.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Food and Drink around Hay

The first thing my Young Man said, when he told me he had some time off to come up to Hay, was: "Can we go to the Yakmobile again?"
So on Tuesday evening we went down to the layby on the edge of town with two friends who hadn't yet tried the Nepali curries. This time we had the Kathmandu curry with rice and vegetables. I think I preferred the Mountain Lamb curry I had last time, but it was a close thing.
"We could go down to Crickhowell tomorrow," Tudor suggested, taking note of where the van would be on Wednesdays, "and - where's Much Birch? We could go there on Friday."
I'd also promised to take the Young Man back to Tomatitos. We decided five dishes between us would fill us up, especially if one of them was the Potatos Bravos - the calamari rings, and chicken in garlic sauce and meatballs (I'm not sure now what the final dish was) fitted the bill nicely. By the time we'd noticed the Dolces (Sweets) board on the wall near the bar, we were too full to take advantage of it, so had to make do with coffee.
Snacks at Shepherds were on the agenda when my sister and her family came to stay. Little James liked the strawberry milkshake, which I think was somewhat experimental in the absence of strawberry ice cream to make it with. Later in the week we were back there for ice creams and green tea with another friend while we discussed esoteric literature (and discovered that Phil Rickman's next Merrily Watkins book will be about Hay!) (Mmmm, peach and champagne ice cream!).
Lunch with my sister and her family on another day took us to the Lichfield Vaults in Hereford, and their mini mezze and Greek platter washed down with Adnams Broadside (and juice for James).
We were also topping up with snacks - the black pudding sausage rolls from the Wholefood shop went down very well, and my sister declared the focaccia from Alex Gooch's market stall to be "heavenly"! Usually, on a Thursday, I pass by about 9am before things are properly set up, and come back through town around half past one for lunch, when everything is winding down, so I very rarely see the stall piled high with bread, and brioche and chocolate buns and things.
There was beer, of course, as well. The fifteen hand pumps in Kilvert's have gone back down to five for the moment, but they are still going round the Welsh breweries - this week it's been Waen, and very fine pints of Wicker Man (fairly strong, but tasty, at 5%) and TWA (Traditional Welsh Ale) which is a refreshing 3.7%.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Small Business Saturday

Woodleigh Cottage B&B near the Castle.

After a break for the Festival and a visit from my Young Man, I'll be paying more attention to the blog again now.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A New Idea for Shopping Bags

Every shop in Wales now has to charge customers for their plastic bags by law. We've had quite a lot of comments about it, but I think my favourite exchange has to be this one from just before the Festival:
"I don't know!" he said. "Coming to these foreign countries with their weird laws! You should start making biodegradable bags out of leeks!"

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Festival Saturday

The Artisans of Hay were in the Buttermarket today, including the chap who carves things out of old bricks. I got a brick heart to put on my dog's grave, though now I've spent some time handling it, I may keep it in the house and get another one for the grave.
I also passed Alan Cooper and his friend busking, (fiddle and guitar), and got the second of their CDs, A Day in the Studio, with lots of traditional music. While they were playing, giant bubbles were floating up the street from the bubble making shop. It was all very festive.
Up at the Castle, a wood carver was chatting to passers by about his tools, and there was some gorgeous walnut furniture in the old stable. Craftspeople from Herefordshire were dotted about the grounds - I did like the baskets on the terrace overlooking the food stalls.
In the afternoon I joined my neighbours in a table sale outside our houses - I sold enough bric a brac to keep me happy, but it was the clothes that were really going well, and it was very pleasant to sit out there and chat.