Friday, 31 January 2014


Last night, the cinema in Hay was linked up to a live feed from the Donmar warehouse in London for a performance of Coriolanus. I treated myself to a ticket, because the star is Tom Hiddleston, who has appeared as Loki in the Thor and Avenger films. He also played Henry V in the recent BBC Hollow Crown series, so he's no stranger to Shakespeare.
It's a play I didn't know at all, other than it's one that is set in Rome, and I deliberately didn't read the play beforehand so I would come to it fresh.
The nice thing about the National Theatre special performances is that you get some short interviews before the play starts, which gives a bit of background to the characters and the venue (an old banana ripening warehouse). Coriolanus is described as a good soldier and a terrible politician (which leads to his downfall). They had deliberately stripped the play down to the bare minimum in the way of sets - a bare stage with a few painted lines, and a ladder. The costumes were also very basic, so you really had to concentrate on the words.
I was concentrating so much I couldn't take my eyes off the screen to pour the last of my beer from the bottle into the glass for the entire first half, and at the interval I had no idea what was going to happen next. Then events led to what was really an inevitable, terrible, conclusion - I'd kind of guessed that it wasn't going to end well for Coriolanus.
One bonus for me was that the part of Coriolanus' friend was played by Mark Gatiss, most recently seen as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. He also writes for Doctor Who.
Apart from those two, the real stand out performance for me was Coriolanus' mother. What a scary woman, glorying in her son's martial prowess and clearly being the most important woman in his life! Deborah Findlay was brilliant in the role.
The other thing I noticed was how many members of the cast got to snog Tom Hiddleston - even his arch enemy at one point! It was nice to see so many black members of the cast, too, and parts like one of the people's tribunes being played by a woman - and the male people's tribune did a good job of appearing extremely untrustworthy.
I wouldn't say that Coriolanus has become a favourite Shakespeare play - there's far too much blood in it for that - but I'd certainly go and see it again, and now I'm going to read the play to get the full flavour of the lines.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Star Man of Hardwick

Astronomers can set up just about anywhere - or at least, they could before the days of street lighting and the lighting of car parks and supermarkets and so on. William Herschel set up his telescope in his back garden in Bath, and was visited there by crowned heads of Europe. He was the first person on Earth to see the planet Uranus.
More locally, Rev. Thomas William Webb set up his observatory in the garden of the rectory at Hardwick, just a mile or so outside Hay. In 1859, he wrote a guide for astronomers called Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, which became the standard reference for amateur astronomers right up to 1917. A revised version of the book was published in 1962, and it is still widely used, though the earlier editions are now collectors' items.
In fact, Herefordshire was a veritable hotbed of astronomical interest in the 19th Century. While Rev. Webb was writing his book, Rev. Key at Stretton Sugwas was a telescope pioneer and inventor, and the head teacher of the Blue Coat School in Hereford, George Henry With, made over 200 mirrors for telescopes. Rev Webb and his wife Henrietta were also keen on the new technology of photography.

(Thanks to Brian for telling me about this)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Llandewi Fach

Saturday morning was sunny, so we went off on another little excursion. This time it was just up near Painscastle for St David's church, Llandewi Fach. It can't be reached by road - you have to cross at least two fields to get to it.
Thanks to a map reading error on my part, we had a slightly longer walk than that, when the road we were on degenerated into a deeply rutted track which the car would not have been able to handle. We parked by the side of the track, under the Roundabout, and followed the track across a ford, and then down a hill. We could see the church across the valley, but the track led through a gate and a farmyard, so we called out to a chap who was working down there, and he said it was all right to come through.
As we crossed the field to the church, a blackbird exploded out of the hedge, with a sparrowhawk in hot pursuit! How they managed to fly through such a tangled hedge I don't know, but the blackbird doubled back over the hedge, and we think he got away.
The yews in the churchyard are ancient, but the church itself was almost completely rebuilt in the 1860s, complete with a little fireplace in the north wall. In the 1960s it was renovated again, and electricity was put in - the plugs are still the original bakelite ones. I'd been convinced that the church had no electricity - even though we'd walked up the field right next to the poles carrying the power lines!
Back in the churchyard, I did notice my first snowdrops of the year.
The church is no. 9 on the Kilvert trail.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Pie at Kilverts, Soup at the Pandy

I was taken out to lunch at Kilverts on Friday by some old friends. There's a new chef there, and he seems to be specialising in pies. The Steak and Ale pie was delicious, and so was the apple pie for afters (with a little bit of vanilla ice cream), and the fish pie looked very nice, too. The guest beer we chose was Snowy Beacons, from Buster Grant's Brecon brewery.
And on Saturday I was taken out again, this time to the Pandy in Dorstone. The last time I went there, the landlord was a South African chap - I think it's changed hands twice since then! However, it's still as cosy and pleasant as I remember it, and the British Rail sign pointing to the Gents is still there! We were welcomed by an elderly red setter (the entrance is round the back of the building). The French onion soup was lovely - just the thing on a day when the morning sun had disappeared behind thick grey clouds. Fortunately, we managed to see the castle before the rain started.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Burns Night at Hay Castle

I wore my tartan, of course. In my youth, I went on holiday to Dunoon, which had a big tartan centre, where you could get tartans unavailable elsewhere. My gran and I had kilts made for us in the Graham tartan (she went for Ancient; I went for Modern). I was a bit slimmer then, so I eventually had to part with my kilt, and the frilly blouse, and the green velvet waistcoat. All that's left is a length of tartan I wear on special occasions over one shoulder, with a big plaid pin to hold it in place.

The Castle was packed for the evening, and the price of the ticket was extremely good value. On arrival, you got a tot of whisky, and there was a bowl of stew (beef, pork or vegetarian) with bread, and fruity flapjacks later.
And the haggis. It's not Burns Night without the Address to the Haggis.
I was delighted to meet Angus Graham, in his Graham tartan kilt. It's not often I meet another member of the clan I just about belong to. He gave the Address to the Haggis canapes (it must have seemed the easiest way to serve haggis to a hundred people, and they were very nice), in glorious Scottish accent, wielding a large knife:

"His knife see rustic labour dight
And cut you up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like ony ditch;
And then, oh, what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!"

There was a real ceilidh band, with accordion and bagpipes, and instruction was given on five different Scottish dances, in order of increasing difficulty, including a version of Strip the Willow and The Dashing White Sergeant. There were some real young Scotsmen, in kilts, on hand, to show how it was done, and Derek from the Wholefood Shop also looked resplendent in his kilt - he even had a sgian dubh tucked down his sock. (That's a little dagger, literally the 'black knife').

It was a really fun evening, and I hope they made a lot of money for Clyro School.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Chinese Takeaway on Lion Street.
The youngest daughter of the family, Bic, used to come round to walk Islay when I was working in Backfold, when she was around ten years old. The first time she volunteered, I was a bit uncertain about letting her take the dog, and she was gone so long I thought she was never coming back! When she did finally turn up, Islay was exhausted, but very, very happy, so I never worried about trusting her with the dog again. The last time I saw her, she was studying at Reading University.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Jean Miller

I was sad to hear of the death of Jean Miller this week. She became an artist in her retirement (after a colourful life), and I first remember seeing her colourful landscapes at an exhibition in Addyman's books. Her pictures became quite popular with Hay Festival goers, and some are available as postcards. There's also a book about her work, by Cecily Sash.
She was also involved with the local Buddhists.
She had been ill for some time, and was at Bronllys Hospital.
Here's one of her pictures, taken from

Monday, 20 January 2014

Dark Skies Festival

I came across a bookmark the other day advertising the first Hay-on-Wye Dark Skies Festival. The Brecon Beacons is a Dark Skies Reserve area, meaning that it is a good place for astronomy because of the lack of street lighting and so on. So on the weekend of 21st to 23rd March there are going to be a series of events, including watching the Equinox sunrise, lectures and talks, exhibition of equipment, a planetarium and something called Spaceguard.
There is a website at, but it tells you even less than the bookmark, and there is a mention of it at, again saying much the same. So I don't know who the experts are who are going to give the lectures, or where the lectures will be held, or how much, or how to book. Which is a pity, because I'd quite like to know more and go along to something.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


The other day, I went into Bartrums to buy a ticket for the Burns Night party at the Castle, and while I was there I had a good look round. I remember the shop when it was Antique Annie's; in fact I was the Saturday girl there for a while. After that it was a bookshop for some time, and now it sells all sorts of pens and stationery.
It's over a year ago that I discovered, online, how to write in Circular Gallifreyan, those patterns of circles and dots and lines which decorate the present interior of the Doctor's Tardis and is the language of the Time Lords. I searched for a pair of compasses so I could use my Rotring pens to write the symbols - in vain. Modern school compasses only just fit a standard sized pencil, or have their own drawing point and don't use a pencil or pen at all. I ended up buying a plastic sheet with lots of different sized circles cut out of it, which works well, but means I cannot draw anything above the maximum size on the sheet.
In Bartrums, I found a compass which will fit a Rotring pen! I'm looking forward to producing Circular Gallifreyan artwork shortly.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Small Business Saturday

Carlisles on Lion Street.

Friday, 17 January 2014


There have been articles in the local papers recently - even getting as far afield as the Ledbury Reporter! - that dogs in Hay are at risk from a disease which is spread by rats. It's called leptospirosis - and it can also be spread through the water supply, and it attacks the liver and kidneys.
Rats, of course, spread other diseases as well, which are dangerous to humans as well as dogs.
Which is why it seems incredibly short sighted of the County Council to propose closing the pest control department to save money. Getting rid of rats (and wasps and other unpleasant creatures) is a local government responsibility because it is a public health problem. Like so many other cuts, it will save money in the short term, but cost much more in the long term - but the money will probably come out of some other pot, which the county councillors aren't responsible for, like the NHS.
Just at the moment, I'm glad I don't have a dog any more.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Cheesemarket Revealed

The scaffolding has been coming down around the Cheesemarket over the last couple of days, revealing all the new pointing and the new woodwork around the edge of the roof (I'm sure this has technical terms like soffits or something). It's all looking very fine!
I happened to be passing the Chemist's, opposite, as one of the ladies was locking up, and she said it has made a big difference to them - the shop is much lighter now.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Burns Night

It's a fine Scottish tradition, even though we're in Wales, so Mari Fforde and friends are organising an evening at Hay Castle on 24th January, with a band and food, and a wee dram of whisky included in the ticket price (£12.50, available from Clyro School and Bartrums).
I happened to be in the Wholefood Shop today when the food was being discussed - they're planning haggis canapes, whisky flapjacks, and lamb or beef (or vegetarian option) stew. Derek at the Wholefood shop suggested stovies, which is a meat and potato stew made from leftovers of the Sunday roast, and cranachan, which is made with whisky, cream, raspberries and oatmeal. So raspberries might make their way into the flapjacks.
I'm not really Scottish, though I do claim the right to wear the Graham tartan - and this would be a good opportunity to do it.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Hay Together at the Globe

Hay Together are holding monthly management meetings, to which all are welcome, at the Globe. The first one will be on Thursday 16th from 6pm to 7.30pm and the Globe will be putting a film on downstairs for anyone who wants to bring children along. They'll be talking about current projects and are inviting comment, suggestions and guidance on ideas for the future.
It seems like a good chance to find out what Hay Together is all about, for those who are unsure.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Huntington Castle

It was a lovely sunny day on Saturday, and I got the chance to go out and about again.
This time it was to Huntington Castle, which I'd wanted to visit for years. I had been to Huntington before, many years ago, but we only got as far as the pub, the Swan. I seem to remember a conversation where the landlady told us about the eleven cats they had - and how she thought there must be a beacon visible only to cats that guided them all there!
On the way to Huntington, we stopped off at Brilley Church, a pretty little place, heavily restored by the Victorians.
Huntington is spread out a bit as a village, and at one point we found ourselves driving very slowly behind two men in ambulance uniform who were walking along the lane. Then they turned into a farmyard - and the farmyard and open barn were full of people and small kit cars. There seemed to be some sort of rally going on.
We went first to the church, through another farmyard. The church is about the same age as the castle, and is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, which is an unusual dedication. I've only ever been to one other church named for that turbulent priest, and that was in Oxford.
It was so dark inside that we left the door open so we could see. The original windows are tiny, and the later, bigger windows are very dark stained glass. On one side, the pews are enormously solid wood, with more conventional and more modern pews on the other side. There's also a chimney visible on the outside, but no sign of a fireplace inside (but I bet that the local squire had his pew there once, and his own little fire keeping the family warm during the service).
The nice chap in the farmyard we went through told us that the castle was right next to the village hall. We parked at the Swan (and two cats slunk away as we got out of the car - the beacon is obviously still working!)
A little way down the road and round the bend we came to the village hall, a quite modern building, and there was the castle, rearing up above the road, covered in trees. There's a public footpath running through it - and in its time it must have been very impressive. It was too spread out for me to get a good photo, but there are a couple of lengths of exposed masonry, and some large mounds. One is described as a motte in some of the literature I've seen, but I'd guess that it's actually the remains of a large tower, grassed over (and liberally sprinkled with blackberry bushes and thorn bushes). Paul Remfry, who has done a lot of work on the more obscure Marches castles, has a good article about the history of the castle and the remains at Though this would not have been an obscure castle when it was built. I think it's probably bigger than Grosmont, and was owned at various times by the de Braose family (who also held Hay Castle), the Bohuns and the Mortimers, all of them important Marcher families.
There's a good sized dry moat, and on one side, a very steep drop to a stream - it would have been a difficult castle to besiege.
After that, we headed up to Kington again for a substantial lunch at the "greasy spoon" cafe - egg, chips, bacon, beans, and mug of tea were just what we needed after a morning's castle and church spotting. There was a party of bikers in the cafe, and we overheard them discussing the problems of a long journey through Wales, and how they wished there could be some way of "in flight re-fuelling" for the bikes. We were imagining Wallace and Gromit coming by with the motorcycle and sidecar, and carefully matching speeds as Gromit poured a jerrycan of petrol into the tank of the other bike!
We had a wander round the back alleys of Kington, too, and found the Arrow Brewery on the main road (with a picture of the Tardis on the front of the pub), and the Arrow Mills which has a really big mill leat round the back of the Co-op. Kington has all sorts of interesting little corners to explore.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Small Business Saturday

Booth Books, set up by the King of Hay, Richard Booth, but now owned by Elizabeth Haycox, who has transformed it with comfortable seating, a successful cafe where the periodicals and SF used to be, and (round the side) the cinema. Concerts are held regularly upstairs, as well.
The building was originally a showroom for agricultural machinery, and in 1918 it was the venue for a dance to celebrate the end of the Great War, as it was the largest space in Hay.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Red Boots

I'm putting a costume together for a Comic Convention later this year, and I needed some red boots.
Captain Marvel looks like this:

I will not look quite like that, but I'll be doing my best! It would have been nice to be able to go to the Marvel Comics website and buy a top with the gold star and stripe on it, but despite the character having the same name as the comics, they don't sell any. In fact, they only sell three designs of women's t-shirts, one of which is pink with the words "Girl Power" on it.
So I have made my own. The star is a bit wobbly, but it's recognisable as the same costume. I found red gloves at the Antique Market, and I have dark blue leggings, so all I needed were the boots.

A little while ago, I bought some lovely green boots from Adela's, for another costume I'll be doing this year - Green Arrow (well, I already had the longbow, so it was a simple one to get together). There were red boots in the same design, but Adela's didn't have my size in stock. I said I'd wait, and they said they'd get some more in.
Just after New Year, I went up to Adela's with some cash in my pocket to see if they'd managed to get any more boots in. They hadn't, and that was fine, until the assistant suggested that I could buy boots of another colour and spray them red myself.
"Why would I want to do that, when I know that the boots I want exist?" I asked her. And dyeing things yourself always looks rubbish. Besides, I wanted to wear the boots for work as well as costume - I'm not made of money!
So I went straight up the hill to Number Two. They had red boots of a slightly different design in the window, and there they were on the sale shelf. I picked them up, and they were my size. I tried them on, and they were comfortable. They were also £30 off in the sale, and I had the cash in my pocket.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Council Meeting - Communication and Affordable Housing

Hay Council is considering the idea of getting in touch with local residents via email, and would like anyone who is interested in getting email updates of what they're up to to contact them.
An email list would have been useful recently, when Ellie Spencer got an email from Kirsty Williams and wanted to share it as widely as possible. This was on the subject of the public toilets. She wanted to get the message out via the Hay Together email list, but this was felt to be inappropriate by other councillors - which led to another bad tempered exchange. Ellie couldn't attend the meeting on Monday, so was unable to answer any of the criticism.

But let's end on a positive note! At the beginning of the council meeting a group from the Affordable Housing group, led by Ros Garratt, came to give a presentation, showing where they have got to in their plans.
They had a chap called David Palmer with them, from the Wales Co-operative Centre, too. The Co-operative Centre was set up originally by the TUC, and their ambition is to support the building of affordable homes across Wales. They prefer to do this in partnership with Councils, because a Council is a properly constituted body, and they have some experience in running things. One suggestion was to get together with Clyro and Llanigon for a project, to take advantage of economies of scale. Felindre also wants to have some affordable housing, and at the moment there is no provision in the LDP (Local Development Plan) for any new housing there.
They think that the best way to go forward is to set up a CIC, a Community Interest Company, like the one that is organising the renovation of the Cheesemarket at the moment. This would mean that any involvement that the Council itself has in the project would be protected legally, so the Council would not have to bear costs if the CIC got into difficulties. As well as building some new houses, or supporting people who wish to self-build, there would be scope for them to branch out later to cover car parks, and playgrounds and woodland walks - and even toilets (and they would be able to put a turnstile in!). CICs can access funds that the Council doesn't have access to (there seem to be pots of money out there for all sorts of things, if you know where to look, and how to apply). They could also act as a Registered Social Landlord, or co-mortgage properties with the tenants. They were thinking of inviting two councillors to be on the board.
This ties in with the school - young families are needed to stay in the area to help the local economy, and as smaller schools are closing in the more remote villages, there needs to be housing in Hay for families to move where the school is.
The Estates Sub-committee of the Council will be working with the Affordable Housing group to take things forward.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Council Meeting - Bronllys Hospital

There's always a space in the Council meeting for questions from the public - and these can be anything at all.
On Monday night, it was something else that added to the general atmosphere of doom.
A lady stood up and asked if the council had heard the latest news about Bronllys Hospital. She had brought along a glossy document, and explained that there had been a meeting on 16th December launching an initiative to turn the hospital site into "Bronllys Health Park". The document talked about forest walks, and outdoor classrooms, and it all sounded lovely, until the lady noticed that there was no mention of the hospital itself in all these plans.

So, there are going to be "drop-in sessions", at very short notice, and on weekdays so anyone with a full time job can't get to them.
They are: 14th Jan, Parish Hall, Hay, 3pm to 5pm
17th Jan, Bronllys Mansion House (on the hosptital site) 9.30am to 11.30am
20th Jan, Llyswen Village Hall, 10am to noon
20th Jan, Town Hall, Talgarth, 2.30pm to 4.30pm
followed by a public meeting at Talgarth Town Hall on 29th Jan from 6pm to 8pm.

The council hadn't been informed about any of this, and Bronllys Council had no idea about it either. Thanks to this lady, posters are going to be distributed so residents are at least aware of the meetings.

There is also going to be a meeting of the Powys Health and Well Being Group at Tomatitos on 7.30pm at Tomatitos. This is a group for local people who are concerned about health issues.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Council Meeting - Cuts

I really haven't been looking forward to writing this - last night's Council meeting was just about the most bad tempered I've been to, and the most doom laden.
Gareth Ratcliffe has been warning for months that big cuts are coming - and now it seems they are almost upon us. The County Council has to find £20 million in cuts this year, and another £20 million over the following two years. So far they've been able to identify £17.5 million in cuts across Powys.

There are several big issues facing Hay. The first is the toilets, of course. They have been allowed to stay open until the end of the financial year, but when April comes around they will close unless someone can come up with a bright idea to fund them. Gareth has been looking into turnstiles at the doors - only to find there's a 1960s Act of Parliament that forbids Councils from installing turnstiles.

Then there's the school. Despite Councillors at previous meetings expressing grave doubts about the suitability of the plans for the new school, they don't seem to have been listened to, and we are still in the situation where the library will be moving into the school building, which will also be shared with the community centre, and the councillors will be competing with everyone else who wants to hire the space to hold their council meetings.
The County Council says they have to find around 30% of the money to build the school (the rest coming from the Welsh Assembly) and this means selling off the other public buildings in Hay. Hay Council have asked for a five year lease of the Council Chambers, but they haven't been told yet whether they can have it.
(What a pity the County Council invested in Icelandic banks....).
This led to quite a bit of hostility expressed towards Plan B, who stopped the original plan for a new school because the present school site would have been used for a new supermarket, and Hay Together, which they seem to think is just another name for Plan B. However, it seems that Steve Like has been asking Hay Together for minutes of their meetings and a list of their committee, without getting any information, which hasn't helped matters. At least, this is what I gathered last night.
It also led to hostility expressed towards the County Council. Fiona Howard went so far as to say she thought Richard Booth had been right when he declared Hay independent - if we had the money from the car park, we could probably fund everything we want ourselves. The assessment of the situation was that the County Council are trying to devolve everything that costs them money to the local communities, which are already struggling, but they're not passing any local assets back to the local communities (like the car park) even if they were bought by the local communities back in the mists of time.
Instead, it all gets syphoned off and Hay is left with inadequate replacements, in much the same way as the County Council offices where I used to pay my council tax and go when I needed to make enquiries (instead of trekking all the way to Brecon) were replaced with "LibraryPlus". I think I'm the only person in Hay who pays their council tax at the library, but I'm determined to keep doing it so that the County Council won't be able to say there is no demand for what they have provided. The saying "use it or lose it" comes to mind - but these days even if a service is well used it seems likely to be taken away anyway.
Fiona made it clear she was blaming the system, though Gareth was obviously feeling defensive, as the local county councillor. And the problem with the system is that, if the people of Hay are unhappy with the County Council, the only way they can show it is in their votes for or against Gareth - we in Hay have no power to affect any of the other county councillors who are making the decisions that affect the town. Gareth predicted that the whole County Council set up would have to change, maybe with a return to the old Borough Councils.
There's a ticking clock here, too, as Hay Council have to set the next year's precept (which is their share of the council tax) before the end of January, but they have to know where they stand with the toilets first, because they will need to budget for keeping them open, especially after Rob Golesworthy's pledge at the public meeting before Christmas. They agreed that they couldn't offer any financial assistance to local groups this year until they knew where they stood - which was why they turned down Hay Together's request for funding (as the successor to Community Support, which always used to get a grant).

There was more bad feeling over a letter Ros Garratt sent to the Town Council, about the money that was set aside for a new community centre back around the Millennium. This prodded at some very complicated past history involving the council and HADSCA (the Sports and Community Association). I felt quite sorry for Dawn Lewis, the new councillor here, because she was coming in to this without knowing anything about the past history, and the animosity the subject brought to the surface. Once again Plan B was blamed for the lack of action in providing a new community centre, because this had been part of the whole package of building by the doctors' surgery which Plan B opposed.
Running the sports pitches is another of those costs to the County Council which they are seeking to devolve to the various sports associations.
The money is, apparently, still sitting there, but the Town Council will be making enquiries about future plans concerning it. The matters Ros Garratt raised about HADSCA, they decided, were something the council could do nothing about, and she'd have to write to HADSCA to get an answer.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Battlefield of Pilleth

One of the things I used to enjoy when I was with my ex-husband was going out to look at ancient sites and churches in the area. It's quite difficult to do that when you're constrained by the bus routes and times. So I was delighted to get the chance to go out with a friend to walk the battlefield at Pilleth.
I've wanted to go to Pilleth ever since I discovered that it was the other famous longbow battle - the really famous one is Agincourt, of course. At Pilleth in 1402 Owain Glyndwr drew up his men at the top of the hill, and his longbowmen shot down into the ranks of Edmund Mortimer. The arrows of Mortimer's men fell short, because they were shooting uphill - and then Glyndwr's reserve forces attacked Mortimer's flank from their hiding place in a side valley.
Mortimer, who was captured during the battle, ended up marrying Glyndwr's daughter, because Henry IV wouldn't pay his ransom.
The battle field is not far from Presteigne and Knighton, and is well signposted with brown signs. We parked by the church (which was set on fire during the battle), and walked through the churchyard to a gate that led us out onto the hill.
It was very easy to visualise the battle. The English forces are thought to have spent the night at a village just a mile or two along the valley, at Whitton, and they would have been in full view from the hillside as they advanced. The side valley where Glyndwr's reserves hid is still wooded, and it's easy to imagine how Edmund Mortimer failed to notice them until it was too late.
In the centre of the hillside there is a small fenced off area of tall trees. These were planted over the remains of men killed in the battle when they were discovered in the Victorian era. One of the legends surrounding the battle is that the Welsh women mutilated the corpses of the English dead - though this could just be propaganda to make the Welsh seem more savage.
While we were up on the hillside, I looked down towards the River Lugg and noticed a bank running across a field. Then I realised that there was a tree covered mound behind it, and another, lower bank, running around the edge of the hillock that the earthworks were on. It's an absolutely classic example of a motte and bailey castle, which would have had a tower on the mound. The first bank I had seen was the fortification of the inner bailey, and the lower bank ran round the edge of the outer bailey. A little bit of Googling when I got home revealed that the castle is called Castel Foel Alt, and that it was in use from the 11thC to the 14thC (so disused by the time of the battle).
The church is also worth a visit. It was restored about ten years ago, with a new roof, and around the West side there is a holy well - the presence of the well would have determined the site of the church.

We had lunch in the Border Bean in Kington - very nice coffee and home made soup and chocolate cake. I was pleased to see there is a traditional clog maker in the high street. We went up to Kington Church to visit the tomb of Ellen Gethin and her husband The Black Vaughan, too - Kington Church is much bigger than Pilleth, but also quite dimly lit.
And on the way back to the car, we were able to make use of the public toilets in Kington!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Flower Shop on Lion Street.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Restaurant

A new year, and a new restaurant has opened in Hay without me noticing!
Just before Christmas I was walking through town when I saw a letter on the pavement - probably a Christmas card, I thought, so I was going to pop it into the Post Office letterbox on my way past. Then I noticed that the address was Pemberton Cottage, which was closer than the Post Office, so I popped it round.
On the way, I happened to look through the back window of St John's. "They've got a shiny new kitchen," I thought. So on the way back, I had a nosy through the front windows and saw all the tables and chairs set out, and the new sign that said "St. Johnn's Place Open For Food".
I understand that the chef used to work at Tomatitos, just across the road, so the food will be good!

St John's is the chapel belonging with St Mary's church, and that side of the building is untouched. The room where the kitchen now is used to be a Christian bookshop run by church volunteers, and the restaurant was a hall that was hired out for meetings. The room above was also hired out for meetings - I used to go to Fellowship on a Monday evening in the days of the previous vicar to Father Richard, but has now been hired out as book storage. When Chris Arden retired from running his Natural History bookshop, his son-in-law took the business over, but moved it all on-line, so he isn't open as a shop.
Change is nothing new here - in its time, the building has been a bank and a butcher's shop among other things.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Here's to a year where we keep our public toilets, and see building start on our new school!