Monday, 31 March 2014

Seeing Mid Wales by Bike

It was raining hard when this particular customer was ready to leave the shop, so he lingered to see if it would ease off. He'd just bought a couple of guide books to Mid Wales, and said he'd been cycling around the area on an electric mountain bike on behalf of Drover Holidays, for whom he was about to write a travel article.
He'd certainly covered some ground - up to Builth Wells, and across to the Elan Valley. "There was a tea shop there," he said. "No wifi, no mobile signal - alien to me, but nice alien! And the Welsh have all been so friendly!"
He'd also managed to get to the area around Strata Florida Abbey (in its day, one of the most important abbeys in Wales). He'd had glorious weather, too, right until he got in the car to come to Hay!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Vets on the Move

There were removal vans outside Lamb House when I passed by yesterday, as the Hay Veterinary Group made the final move to their brand new premises at Greenfields on Forest Road. Lamb House is a wonderfully higgledy-piggledy place (and was once a pub!) but the new building is purpose built, and much bigger.
The vets at Lamb House looked after our two cats when we first came to Hay, and were very good to my dog more recently, and I wish them every success in their new home.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Small Business Saturday

Harris's the newsagents - they also sell stationery, toys, sweets, postcards and fireworks near Bonfire Night.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Making the Castle More Beautiful

I missed seeing any of the archaeology around the castle in the last couple of weeks. Last Friday morning I was far too full of a cold to think about helping with the backfilling of the trenches. The purpose of the dig was to investigate the area that a new fence was about to be built on, and when I walked up through town this morning I saw that it is already up. They've gone for chestnut palings, which will weather to a silvery grey - but hopefully by then more work will have been done on the fabric of the building itself to consolidate the walls.
The dig didn't seem to find much in the way of medieval remains, according to the stories in the B&R and Hereford Times, but they did find evidence of a lot of re-modelling in Victorian and Georgian times - which in itself is interesting, showing the changing uses of the site over the whole of its history.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Anybody Want to buy a Pub?

They're advertising for staff at the moment, but quietly, without any For Sale signs going up, one of Hay's historic pubs is on the market.
The Three Tuns is in a good position on Broad Street, and was only fairly recently renovated, after the terrible fire that ended the legendary Lucy's time there. From one small bar area where Lucy used to cook her tea in a little pan over the coal fire while engaging her customers in conversation - as well as hosting the occasional belly dancing evening and Santa Lucia celebrations - it has become a bar/restaurant with upstairs dining room reached by the original 16th century staircase, and with a patio at the back with umbrellas over the tables.
I hope that whoever does buy the business doesn't change it too much!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Dark Skies Exhibition

The leaflet said there would be a free astronomy exhibition all weekend in the Ballroom at the Swan - but there had been a bit of a problem. The organisers of the event had chosen the same weekend for Dark Skies as a big Science Fair, and all the people selling telescopes and other instruments had gone there instead.
They're hoping to get a better date next year.
So they'd done their best in the room just by the front door, with a few displays and wall hangings, and slide shows, including a little bit about our local Victorian astronomer, the Star Man of Hardwick (mentioned on this blog on 29th January).
And now I want to find a supplier of the fabric that was used for some of the wall hangings, with star fields and the Moon surface and so on printed onto the cotton.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Small Business Saturday

Rawhide - a shop with an animal theme. The stag's antlers outside are real, but they also sell some made of a sort of decorated plywood, as well as lampshades, items made of horn and leather - and some rather cute Moomin mugs!

What I did on my Holidays

For anyone interested in what I was doing in London over the last weekend, I've been writing about it in my other blog, Morwenna's Tower, which can be reached through the side bar. Comic Con! Sights of London! Cake! and coming soon, Vikings!

This is the Punch and Judy Tavern at Covent Garden.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Spaceguard Centre

It's the first day of the Dark Skies Festival today. They started off by observing the sunrise on the Equinox Line at Tredustan Court, not far from Hay, and in an hour or so, some hardy souls are going to go up to the car park on Hay Bluff to observe the night sky, and there has been a planetarium set up at Hay School.
This afternoon there was a trip out in a minibus to the Spaceguard Centre near Knighton. I've been wanting to go there for a few years now, but it's fairly remote, needing to be well away from the glare of street lights, so not accessible without a car.
It's a fascinating place. What they do is a fairly new area of astronomy, which is to search for Near Earth Objects - the sort of thing that could smack into the Earth with devastating results. As we travel through space, we pass through all sorts of debris like the dust from the tails of comets (which make shooting stars), and asteroids and comets have orbits around the sun that pass through our orbit. It's a good idea to find out where they all are, so that we have some warning when one is likely to hit us, especially the big ones that could cause tsunamis or mass extinctions.
It's all done without any funding at all, apart from the visitors to the site, though they did win a prize recently that meant they could replace all their old computers. Jay Tate set the whole project up, with his wife - because it needed doing. He comes from a military background, which made sense to me when he told us, because everything seemed so well organised, and his talk was very clear.
They don't allow unaccompanied access to the site, because it's a working observatory, but they do guided tours from Wednesday to Sunday every week, and it really is fascinating. I have now been up close to a rock which had white flecks in it that were older than our sun, a piece of the moon and a piece of Mars, all of which fell to earth as meteorites. When I next look out at the constellation Orion, I will know where the nearest star nursery to Earth is, in the nebula that forms Orion's sword (only about 1300 light years away). He showed us the telescopes they use, and pointed out the half built new dome outside. This is Project Drax. Other people, he said dismissively, use acronyms to make themselves look clever. Spaceguard uses the names of Bond villains!
The University of Cambridge have given them a telescope/camera which is much bigger than the ones they are using at the moment. They haven't been able to use it properly for twenty five years because of light pollution as Cambridge has grown around them. It was built, solidly, in 1950, and is still fit for purpose today - except they will be linking it up with a modern computer camera system. It was designed to be used with glass plates! At present it's in storage, and the local Astronomy Society and other volunteers have been building the dome. That's what volunteering ought to be all about - people coming together on a project because they have a passion for it, rather than to plug inadequate provision by the State.
So of course I bought a few goodies in the shop to help them towards their goal. After all, their aim is to save the Earth! (with no help from the government, by the way - Mr Tate said that there is not a single civil servant with responsibility for astronomy or finding out about the threat from asteroids - which also means he's not answerable to anyone in government, which he seemed rather pleased about).
It's a fascinating tour, and a worthwhile project, and they have a website at

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Transition Towns, Spring Fair and Bike Fest

April will soon be here, and at first I thought I would just mention the first thing to happen - but then I realised that it links in with a couple of other events that are also happening next month.

So, the next Transition Towns meeting will be at the Swan at 6pm on April 1st. They will be discussing the Local Development Plan from Powys County Council, and the latest developments from the Affordable Housing Group. Also they will be talking about the riverside woodland group, the new school and tree planting, as well as a project from the School of Architecture at Cardiff University, who want to study the townscape and development possibilities in Hay. Hay Together are assisting with that project as well.

They are also taking two tables at the Spring Fair at Hay Castle on 12th April. This will be on all the Saturday, and sounds like a really good day out - with chances to learn a new craft or skill, music, a beer tent with local ales, ideas for money saving, alternative energy suppliers, electric cars, wild food foraging, inspirational speakers, games and more! There's a website at
Hay Together are taking part, with a Mending Shed outside their office on the cobbles, with people there to help with mending any broken things - like clothes, bikes and household items, and IT advice. They will also have information about bulk purchasing from power companies - other communities have found that they can get a much better deal collectively than an individual or family can get.

Anna, who is the secretary of Transition Towns, is also half of Drover Holidays with her partner, and they are organising another BikeFest later in April, over the weekend of the 25th to 27th April. Their website is This is the second time they've run the event, and it seemed to be very successful last year.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Archaeology at the Castle

There's a dig going on at the Castle this week, just a trial trench or two as far as I can make out, but they have found some medieval pottery. Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust are doing the dig - which is who I worked for back when I was an archaeologist in Wales many years ago. They're hoping to find a cobbled medieval surface around the castle gate. On Friday, they're looking for people to help them back fill the trenches, so they can keep excavating right through to Thursday evening - I'm tempted to go along for a while, though I'll have to be clean in the afternoon to visit the Spaceguard Observatory with the Dark Skies weekend.
I'm doing a lot of fun things at the moment!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Back from the Big City

I have been away at London Super Comic Con and the British Museum Viking exhibition for my birthday, and it has been fantastic. Normal service will now be resumed, and I'll write about what I saw when I've had more time to think about it. For now, here's a photo of me being silly as Captain Marvel!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Green Valleys

I've mentioned Llangattock Green Valleys here before - they do all sorts of environmentally friendly stuff, including the generation of electricity from the streams that are so abundant round here.
On the evening of the 25th March, from 7pm, they're coming to Hay Parish Hall to talk about their latest venture - they're setting up their second renewable energy co-op, with a £690,000 share offer to build four community micro hydro schemes in the Brecon Beacons National Park. They've already raised £192,000, but there's a long way to go.
Last autumn, they launched their first share sale, to build two micro hydro schemes, and raised £270,000 from 100 people, mostly local. Together, all six will generate enough electricity to power around 90 homes.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Tea Room

When I was mooching round the Antiques Centre over the weekend, I overheard someone measuring up in the unit which has been empty for a little while. She was talking about a counter, and tables - and a little sign on the window said that a Tea Room would be opening there soon.
It's going to be quite small, and they'll need an urn, because there isn't a kitchen as such, but I think they may be going for a vintage feel to the place.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Good News for Powys CAB

Well, at least they're not closing down altogether, which had been the original idea. Instead, Powys County Council are reducing their budget by 15%, which means they can carry on providing an essential service to the people of Powys.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

All sorts of Interesting Bargains

I was in my back garden when I heard the accordian playing. Thinking that it might be the Morris dancers back in the square, I went up to have a look, but it was only one of Hay's regular buskers outside the bank.
While I was up there, though, I decided to go up to the Old Curiosity Shoppe in the castle, to see if they had any gold brooches I could use for my Captain Marvel costume - I'd drawn a blank round all the charity shops, but I had come away with a rather pretty silver Celtic brooch from one of them.
On the way through the Honesty Bookshop I noticed a box full of maps on the floor, and stopped to have a look, and while I was down on my knees, Liz the Egg Lady, who used to work at the Jigsaw Shop, came by. And sold me half a dozen duck eggs from her basket instantly - I've not had a regular supply since the Jigsaw Shop closed. I also arranged to get a bag full of egg boxes to her - I've been collecting them for a while, and hadn't been sure who I could pass them on to.
Up at the Curiosity Shoppe, I found the perfect brooch as soon as I stepped through the door - actually a scarf clasp, which is even better to hold Captain Marvel's sash together.
On the way down through town, I stopped to look in Oxfam's window - they're doing a display of kitchen equipment at the moment. They had a lovely old fashioned scales with all the weights, from 2lbs to a quarter of an ounce. It was £20. I used to have something similar years ago, though not as strikingly black and copper as this one, and at the moment I've got a modern cheap plastic one, which is okay, but unlovely. The modern plastic one has just been retired, and the old fashioned one now has pride of place on my kitchen window sill.
I'd almost forgotten that I'd bought something incredibly useful from Fleur de Lys, the antique shop across the road from Oxfam. I think too many other things must have been going on at the time. But Sally called me in the other day to ask if it had worked out. I picked up a semi-circular two tier wire shelf from her a little while ago. It was intended to go round a bathroom sink, but I wanted it for a cupboard in the kitchen. The main shelf in the cupboard had fallen off its supports, and I didn't want to trust it with a load of crockery on it again, so I took it out completely - but that meant I had a lot less storage space than before. This shelf just squeezed in through the cupboard door, and has given me all the storage space I needed for those smaller things that can't be piled up on the cupboard floor.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Small Business Saturday

Murder and Mayhem, the specialist crime bookshop - and quite by chance, Derek Addyman, the owner, was coming out of the door just as I was taking the picture!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Forthcoming Events

If I wanted to, I could be out all weekend at different events.
Here's a taste of what's going on over the coming month:

This afternoon, there's a peg loom weaving demonstration at the Harp Inn in Glasbury, by the Harp Crafters, from 1pm to 4pm. The Harp also has a folk/acoustic night - the next one is on Saturday 15th.
It's also the International Women's Day of Prayer - every year a different church in the area hosts the event, and this year it's the turn of St Michael's in Clyro. The service is written by a different women's group around the world every year, and this year it's the turn of Egypt.
Or I could go to the Globe for an evening of local live music under the banner The Company of Fools.

Tomorrow morning, Transition Hereford are walking from the Swimming Pool to the statue of the bull in High Town, where they will be holding a demonstration to draw attention to climate change, with songs, placards and possibly speakers.
There's something on at the Bishop Bevan Hall in Brecon too, but I've lost the piece of paper I wrote it down on - some sort of craft fair, I think. It's also the day of the Brecon Farmers' Market.

Next week, the Castle will be opening its doors to encourage people to volunteer to help run it. They're offering tea and cakes at 3.30pm on the 12th March, and the chance to join in organising Easter egg hunts, tours of the castle during Hay Festival, and re-stocking the Honesty Book shelves (which was the first job I had when I came to Hay!).

Athene English, who has a shop on Castle Street and is an expert on Welsh blankets, is giving a talk to the Brilley Monday Club on Monday 17th March. They meet every third Monday of the month at the Village Hall.

At Booths Bookshop, the Fitzwilliam Quartet will be playing on 17th March, and they have an exhibition on at the moment of work by a local artist, Hannah Firmin, who designed the covers for the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

We're also in the middle of the Borderlines Film Festival - it started on 28th February and runs until 16th March. The film at the Bookshop Cinema this week is The Book Thief, and on the 13th they're doing a live feed from the National Theatre to show War Horse on stage.

21st to 23rd March is the Dark Skies Festival, with lots of astronomy related events.

And at the end of the month, it's Mother's Day - The Old Railway Line Garden Centre are putting on a special meal at their restaurant, and offering free local flower delivery, and the Baker's Table in Talgarth are offering afternoon tea with live music.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Building works around Town

The railings around the Cheesemarket have come down now, as the work is finished apart from the finishing touches. They have painted the exterior woodwork a deep maroon, which is the colour it was painted in 1840, and looks very smart. They are having an opening ceremony on Easter Saturday, 19th April, by which time there will be interpretative boards up showing the history of the Cheesemarket, but they are taking bookings for the open hall and the flat now.
And as one lot of railings comes down, another lot goes up around the Council Chambers, where they are replacing the electricity sub-station around the back of the toilets. That work is expected to last around ten days.
And when I was going up Heol-y-dwr the other day, I noticed that the police station was encased in a scaffolding cage. I assume they were doing something to the flat roof.
And the roofs are going on the new Millbank houses now - which are making the road past the Globe seem a lot narrower now. This was where the garage forecourt used to be.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Double Booked!

I'm afraid I missed the council meeting last night because I'd double booked it with a Fairtrade event. One of the Fairtrade group had been invited to a wine tasting in Hereford, and didn't want to go on her own because she didn't like driving back in the dark. When I realised which Monday night it was, I had to make that hard decision - Council, or Argentinian wine?
I went for the wine.
The full story of the evening is at the Fairtrade Hay blog, in the list on the side bar.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Small Business Sunday

Hay's newest restaurant, at St John's Place. It used to be used as Parish Rooms - I've been to Christian Fellowship upstairs, back in the days when the vicar was evangelical (just about the polar opposite of Father Richard), and there have been jumble sales and craft fairs and choir practice and a Christian bookshop where the restaurant is now.
In the even more distant past, the building was a bank.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Hapus Dydd Gwyl Dewi!

Happy St David's Day!