Thursday, 31 July 2014

Bike Theft

Drover Holidays have had a break in, and about thirty of their bikes have been taken. So if anyone saw a white van in Forest Road between about 9.30pm and 11.30pm last night, they'd be grateful if the police could be informed.
Edited to add that Alex Gooch's bakery in the same set of industrial units was also broken into - which may be why I didn't see them on the market today.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Report from the Royal Scribe

Here's the latest information, hot off the presses from Prince Derek and the Hay Independence Movement:

Hay Independence Day

King Richard Booth declared Hay independent on April 1st 1977. Since that moment the town has been in the public eye ever after. This small vibrant kingdom squeezed between England and Wales has become a Very Important Place to visit for book lovers the world over.

On September 18th 2014, in support of our Celtic Cousins in Scotland, Hay will be voting to stay independent.

Prince Derek Fitz Booth Addyman fully supports the Divine Right of Kings. In order to ensure the succession of the monarchy (there is evidence to suggest that he is in fact the bastard son of the King) and as The Natural Born Bookseller of Hay, spurred on by a dream to become the Great Pretender he feels it is his duty to offer his allegiance to the King and the Kingdom of Hay.

The Campaign

The formal announcement was made on 1st April 2014. The run-up campaign commences in August leading up to the Vote for Independence on September 18th 2014. For all updates and information on the campaign, go to the Royal Scribe, Lesley Arrowsmith's blog: Life in Hay.

Independence Day

A Ballot Box will be strategically placed in town with a supply of envelopes, where the townsfolk will be encouraged to exercise their right to vote for the continuation of independence.


We want:

1. Formal recognition of the change in Postcode from HR3 to HOW1. The boundaries of the kingdom will be formally beaten into place with a dragon.
2. Fat Cat representation at Brussels for H.I.K.U.P. (Hay, Independent Kingdom United Party).
3. Right of Veto at the United Nations. (Just say NO!)
4. World Heritage Site Status.
Hay is already an SSSI - A Site of Special Shopping Interest - and it surely warrants World Heritage Status as the world's first Book Town and home of the true masterpiece of human creative genius - The Second Hand Book.

Monday, 28 July 2014

International Music at Baskerville Hall

"It's in the key of ... arrr."
"Is it a pirate song?"

It was another good evening at Baskerville Hall last Wednesday. Two German girls came along, one of them with a harp - she played some Scottish folk songs while her friend played guitar and sang a song in Russian. The couple who I had thought were German were there again - it seems they are actually Israeli. The lady would have liked to have played piano, but the nearest piano in the building is half way up the grand staircase.
One little girl sang Manic Monday while her dad played guitar, and there was another young family - one of the boys played guitar and his sister played flute. After a while, the youngest sister was persuaded to get her violin, and they played a jig together. So there was a lot of variety - and it's great to see all age groups joining in together.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

"We will Remember Them"

Sixty six men from Hay and Cusop marched off to the First and Second World Wars, and never came back. All their names were read out during the short remembrance service to mark the beginning of the First World War this evening, and sixty six long stemmed red roses were laid at the foot of the cenotaph. A trumpeter played the Last Post and Reveille, and three pipers from the Swansea Pipe Band played while the roses were being laid down. Father Richard said prayers, and a gentleman from the British Legion gave a short address, and then the pipers and colour bearers (Gareth Ratcliffe and a lady whose name I don't know) led the gathered crowd, including several veterans wearing their medals, to refreshments at the British Legion club.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Small Business Saturday

Londis, also known as Pughs' after the ladies who run it, and previously known as Havards.
I'm eating a very nice pain au chocolat from there at the moment, with my cup of tea. They also do a range of ready meals I've never seen anywhere else - local ingredients and vacuum packed, with lots of game recipes (which are delicious).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Death of a Thousand Cuts?

First it's the toilets under threat - and the closure has only been postponed until April 2015, unless the Town Council can pull a very rich rabbit out of the hat to fund them.
Then it's the Sunday buses which won't be running after September.
And the playing fields which are being passed over to the sports clubs which use them to maintain, along with the club house.
And now the police and crime commissioner has had the bright idea of closing Hay Police Station and having the police work out of the Library!
I've said from the moment the post was created that these commissioners are a bad idea, and here's further proof of it, if proof were needed.
We've already lost PC Fion, who's been moved back to Brecon, leaving Hay with only a PCSO - a lovely lady, but still.... I remember when we had a police sergeant in town.
I can't see how this could possibly work.
It's bad enough having the phone to the County Council in the Library as part of Library Plus, since there isn't a space in the library where you can have a private conversation. Anyone can listen in.
People go to the police station for all sorts of reasons, and they need to be certain of confidentiality. There isn't a private space in the library, unless they move into the little stock room. Is the police officer going to share the front desk with the librarian - check your books out to the left and report a burglary to the right? Will she have her own phone to use, or will people ringing for the police find themselves talking to the librarian? Or will people have to go to Brecon for all that sort of thing, or do it online?
And, of course, the library might not be there for much longer - if the new school ever gets built, it's supposed to be moving into that building. Will the police move with it, or will the poor PCSO have to set up under the bus shelter at the top of the car park?
It's just as well that this is an area with a low crime rate.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Treasure of Mouse Castle

I saw a friend in town the other day, who lives close to Mouse Castle, right on a public footpath. It's not normally a footpath that gets much use, but in the last week or so her family has been watching as hordes of eager treasure seekers head up to the woods in search of gold topped glass jars full of cash. And that's only one entrance to the woods, which are owned by the Woodland Trust, and so open to the public.
Three young men who followed the clues to the treasure were interviewed in the Hereford Times this week - they came from the Rhondda and Cardiff to search for the £1,000 prize.
Apparently, the jars were left in the wood by an American millionaire, as part of a Twitter treasure hunt called Hidden Cash. They have all now been found.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Timbuktu Silversmith Visits Hay

The visiting silversmith from Timbuktu having his lunch. He's set up his stall and blanket just outside Haymakers, which sells the silver and leatherwork from Timbuktu as a regular feature. He said he was only going to be here today and tomorrow - I presume he'll be visiting other places, as it's a heck of a long way to come for just a couple of days!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Commemorating the Great War

The Royal British Legion are marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War with a service of remembrance at the cenotaph on Sunday 27th July, at 6.30pm.
There are quite a lot of names on the cenotaph, of young men who marched away from Hay and never came back.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Powys Libraries Under Threat

There's a consultation going on at the moment about choosing between the different options to cut Powys Library services. Despite the county council saying that the libraries are being used now more than ever, the only choices on the table are between various cuts to the services. The survey form can be filled in at, and the main options seem to be cutting opening hours by 20% across the board, closing 5 libraries across the county and closing 11 libraries across the county, with options for the mobile libraries which either reduce their frequency from fortnightly to monthly, or increase their range to fill the gaps left by closing bricks and mortar libraries.
Here in Hay, of course, we're still waiting for the building to start on the new school, which is supposed to be where our library is moving to, at which point the separate library building would be closed down and sold off. I'm not entirely clear on what this means for the Library Plus service, by which council services can be accessed through the library rather than the dedicated council office that Hay used to have.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Small Business Saturday

St David's Hospice shop, by the Buttermarket. This used to be Mark Westwood's bookshop, and when he moved away it continued to be a bookshop, on several floors. I used to carry my dog up the stairs when she couldn't walk far any more, to the comic department - the SF and Fantasy books were arranged all the way up the stairs.
The shop was also used in the film Dandelion Dead as one of the solicitors' offices - the side of the Red Cross shop was supposed to be the other office, with Armstrong and his rival peering through the windows at each other. The actual offices are still on Broad Street, but there's a phone box there now which would have been right in the shot - not quite right for the 1920s! For the scene where they drove cattle down Broad Street, the phone box was disguised as a market kiosk with lots of sacking.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Presteigne and Pembridge

I've had a lovely morning!
Brian was going up to Presteigne to buy some stock for his shop from Tony Bird, the bookseller there, and offered to take me along for the run out. It's years since I went to Presteigne - though Tony seems much the same (maybe slightly greyer, and that's probably a different dog in his shop).
So, while Brian delved into the piles of books out in the shed round the side of the shop, I went for a walk up the high street. It's a pleasant place, with a library that was open when I passed, and the Judge's Lodging museum down a side road, and lots of black and white timber framed houses. There are a couple of restaurants - the Hat Shop and the Fig Tree. I bought a loaf that was still warm from the oven at the local deli; there's a greengrocer too, and a butcher - everything you could want in a street of little, local shops.
I went into the St Michael's Hospice shop, and came out with a sparkly silver and black scarf and a round black hat that only cost me £1, as well as a selection of picture frames that I'm going to use to frame some of my embroideries.
When Brian had finished stacking up the books, we didn't want to go straight home, so we headed off to a cafe he knows in Pembridge.
Pembridge is another lovely village that I hadn't been to for years. We stopped in a free public car park round the back of one of the pubs (and there were public toilets there, too - with facilities for the disabled).
Ye Olde Steppes is close to The New Inn, and backs onto the churchyard. It has its own website at It's a lovely black and white timber framed building, with a local shop selling everything from newspapers to local cider and vegetables and even ice cream, and a beautiful tea room, like something out of a Miss Marple mystery. We sat in the bay window, looking out onto the main road over the heads of the teddy bears' picnic that was arranged on the window ledge. They have a long garden behind the shop where customers can sit out as well. They serve a variety of teas and coffees, and I was delighted to see Russian Caravan tea on the menu, which came in beautiful crockery. Brian highly recommends the sandwich made with Hereford Hop cheese, and we both had slices of home made Victoria sponge, oozing with cream and jam, afterwards.
It was fascinating to look round at the ancient timbers and work out how the building had changed over the years - behind us was a blocked medieval doorway which had once led to a long hall, long since demolished. Where it once stood is now the garden of the chapel next door, which was built in 1888 and is now an art gallery with metal sculptures filling the front lawn.
I look at old buildings from an archaeological point of view, while Brian approaches the subject from his engineering background, so between us we can deduce the history of a building pretty well, and the conversations are fascinating (if you're interested in architecture and engineering, that is!).
After our snack, we ambled round the village, taking in the medieval market hall behind the New Inn, Bishop Doppa's almshouses across from Ye Olde Steppes, and the church itself. It's got a detached bell tower, which was open today, so we went in to marvel at the great wooden frame that holds the bells (built in the seventeenth century and last restored in 1956) - after putting 10p in the slot to turn on the lights!
Inside the church, we spotted the remnants of the Norman pillar embedded in the wall near the altar, and looked at the display showing the men of the village who had died in the First World War, decorated with knitted poppies. One lad had been a midshipman on HMS Indefatigable, which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 - out of a crew of a thousand, only two men survived.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Singing, Poetry and Dancing at Baskerville Hall

To start with, there was no beer!
There had been a big party over the weekend, and they were down to their last dregs of the Butty Bach, no Guinness, and no Theakstons - and I'm not really a drinker of cider or lager. Fortunately it didn't take Cally long to change the barrel.
I got to sing twice. The first time I'd rehearsed for - a Pentangle song called Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, but later Huw Parsons performed a couple of his poems.
The first was about the last execution in England to take place at the scene of the crime - three men in the 1830s had burnt the hay ricks of a farmer in protest against low agricultural wages, and were hanged for it. This was part of the "Captain Swing" protests. He's been recording it, along with a couple of musicians, for a CD.
Then, Huw had a poem based on the Sound of Music song My Favourite Things - and he asked me to sing the original before he read out his poem! Fortunately, he had the words with him!
Over in the corner was a family which included Charlie, a lad of about ten or eleven who had brought his guitar - he played pretty well, though he wasn't entirely sure how to end a song, and one was a song he'd composed himself. He apologised in advance for it being a "made-up song", and got thoroughly deserved applause at the end of it. His little brother lay down on the floor for a while with a coat over his head, but then he got his second wind, borrowed some egg shaped shakers from the Much Ado trio, and shook them about enthusiastically.
With them was a French girl called Juliette, who didn't speak much English, but had memorised the English lyrics to some songs. Another lad, Ethan, played the melody to one song, and at the end of it young Charlie came up to ask him to play it again because Juliette knew all the words. They went off into the hall to practice, and came back to perform to great applause.
In the other corner was a German couple. The lady asked if there was a piano - there isn't, so she spent the evening playing the spoons along with other performers. And the milk jug, and the tambourine Bob lent her. When Much Ado (guitar, flute/whistle and accordion) were playing, she got up to dance, and got young Charlie up to join her.
Brian, who took me over there, said there'd never been dancing before.
So it was a multinational, multi-talented evening, and all great fun!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dowsing Equipment

...or - you can get anything in Hay if you look for it!

I want to go back to Mouse Castle to try some dowsing, just to see what happens. Years ago, I had a book by TC Lethbridge on the use of a pendulum in dowsing - he had approached the subject scientifically, and experimented until he found that different lengths of string for the pendulum gave results for different materials. Water, for instance, can be found at a frequency/string length of twenty six and a half inches (he died in 1971, so this was all worked out before metric measurements were used). The longest length that gave a result was 40 inches, which denoted death, and also north.

When I was an archaeologist, I tried dowsing with a pendulum on one of the sites I worked on, and found underground water which was later confirmed by the resistivity survey of the field, so I know I have some aptitude for it.
My thought was to start at 40 inches in the area where my Young Man felt all tingly, and see what the pendulum picked up, shortening it as I went.
The pendulum I used as an archaeologist was a fairly weighty ear-ring in the shape of a globe, on a piece of cotton - that's long gone, so I thought I'd have a look on line.

There's a lot of magical paraphanalia out there!
A lot of modern pendulums seem to be made of various crystals - or even seven different crystals put together to represent the chakras. I didn't want anything like that. Chakras are all very well, but they're not something I'm really familiar with.
Other pendulums were made of various woods, and they were quite nice, but I did feel that I'd like to handle them before buying.

So I went to Satori on the Craft Centre.
They sell quite a lot of crystals, and as I'd suspected, they also had a range of pendulums, including a rather dinky silver coloured one that looks like a plumb-bob, for about the same price as the ones I'd been looking at on line, but minus the postage. It comes on a short chain, so all I have to do is add a longer string. I've also printed out TC Lethbridge's table of string lengths, and a basic introduction to dowsing from the British Society of Dowsers.
So now I'm all set to get back up there.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Beer on the Wye X

There were two events on in Hereford on Saturday, and because I was there as a member of the public rather than as part of a re-enactment group, I could go to both.

It's the tenth year of Beer on the Wye, and it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, as I started with a third of a pint of Uley Bitter. I could taste more different beers if I stuck to thirds - and I also had a time limit because I had to get the four o'clock bus back to Hay.
Many years ago, I went on a CAMRA trip to Uley Brewery, in the Cotswolds - the beer doesn't usually travel very far from the brewery. I think the only exception to this is the Fleece at Bretforton, near Evesham, which is owned by the National Trust, and is every tourist's dream of what a traditional English pub should be like. I used to visit it reasonably regularly on trips to the Midlands.
I remember part of the Uley brewery was in low arched tunnels which Chas the brewer said had been part of the local hunt kennels at one time. He must have liked the Hereford CAMRA crowd, because he brought out his piano accordian and we sat down there having a sing song, and drinking his beer, before the coach took us home.
Then I went for a glass of Donningtons, also from the Cotswolds, on the grounds that my ex-husband once told me that he remembered drinking it when it was 2/- (that's two shillings, or ten pence) a pint - he was about fourteen at the time!

I was trying to drink one beer from each category, so those were the bitter and best bitter.
The speciality brew I went for was a local one - Wye Valley's Flower Power, brewed with elderflowers. That was lovely, well-rounded and sweet - but still not a patch on Wild Beacons, which was a one off brew by Buster Grant at the Breconshire Brewery a few years ago in aid of the Brecknock Wildlife Trust. That beer had elderflowers, nettle tops and honey, and was summer in a bottle! I've never tasted anything like it since.
Back up memory lane with Pendle Witches Brew from Moorhouses, a strong bitter from Lancashire which was just as good as I remembered it.
The porter was new to me - Beowulf's Finn's Hall Porter, and I finished off the session with Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, which is an excellent beer.

The winning beer of the Festival this year was Dark Star APA, a best bitter, with the strong bitter Millstone True Grit coming second and Jones the Brewer's Jean Paul Citra coming third overall and first in the local beer section - that was another strong bitter.
The Festival also stocks a lot of cider - which I don't drink very often, partly because it's usually a lot stronger than beer - but the winner there was Springherne, from Walford in Herefordshire.
It was all very enjoyable, and I had time to wander back to Castle Green for a last look round before the bus home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Hereford History Day

As it's the centenary of the start of the First World War, the History Day this year was heavily weighted in that direction, though the Sealed Knot were also there, and the medieval jester, and an array of vintage vehicles. There was also a brass band from Tenbury and some archaeologists washing finds from a Roman dig in Reddich - they had some rather nice decorated Samian ware with them.
Next to them was the falconer Ben Long, with the most adorable American kestrel chick, only three weeks old and still half fluff. He was also demonstrating with a couple of adult birds.
I passed by the microphone outside the band tent just in time to see a Winston Churchill look-alike deliver the Battle of Britain speech, to enthusiastic applause.
It was also nice to bump into a friend and have a cup of tea with her at the cafe. It was just a pity that they'd arranged their tables around the bike rack, so she had to park her bike further off along the hedge - fortunately it had it's own stand.
Usually I go along as part of Drudion, a bunch of unsavoury Welsh mercenaries, but this year I went as a member of the public. Still, I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to dress up, so I decided to throw something vaguely Edwardian together and go along to cheer our brave boys as they marched away to the Front in the Great War.
I've wanted a solar topee for years, too, and this seemed like a good excuse to wear it - I was asked whether I'd just come back from Egypt by one lady, resplendent in black and purple period dress.

Further into town there were wandering Stuart era minstrels, and a group of women campaigning for Votes for Women, with their purple, green and white sashes. By the Cathedral there was a group of medieval musicians - they were encouraging members of the public to dance when I passed.

The centre of Hereford was packed, with the usual Saturday market stalls. As I was in a holiday mood, I went along to Waterstones to see what they had in the way of graphic novels, and picked up something quite appropriate - Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, by Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot. I've been looking out for a copy for some time, and I've already learned quite a bit about Manchester's history from the story so far (though now she's moved to London, where the movement had its headquarters).

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Small Business Saturday

Adela's dress shop, which used to be on the corner where Bartrum's Stationers is now.

Friday, 11 July 2014

"A Site of European Significance"

When I was an archaeologist, that was the phrase that we used to use, almost as a joke - along with "artefacts of ritual significance" if we had no idea what they were for!
Up on Dorstone Hill, though, not far from Arthur's Stone, is an archaeological dig that really is of European significance. It may not look like much, but the students from Manchester University are uncovering a Neolithic monument that is unique in England - though some examples have been found on mainland Europe.
I was lucky enough to be taken up there this morning, with Brian from Belle Books - two of the archaeology students had been in his shop on Saturday (their only day off) and told him all about it. We were shown around by a young lady called Jade, who was very enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable. The previous day, she'd been talking to a group of children from Michaelchurch school.
This is the third year that the University has run a dig in that field. To start with, they were attracted by the almost ploughed out remains of a barrow, which was where they dug their first trench - and found that there was more to the site than they had thought.
The second year they opened up a second trench - and found something very special indeed. In fact, further study could show that the area around Dorstone could have been as significant a Neolithic landscape as Wiltshire - it's just that the monuments in the area have never been properly studied. Arthur's Stone isn't the only chambered tomb in the area - there are masses of them, and barrows - and who knows what else might be discovered with proper investigation.

Jade took us through the stages of the monument they had uncovered. It started with a timber hall, with daub walls. Then this hall was deliberately burned down - they can tell it was deliberately, because they can see where the major timbers were removed before the fire started. The fire must have been visible right across Herefordshire and over to the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons - the views from the top of the hill are spectacular.
When we looked into the trench we could quite clearly see the layer of burned clay that was the remains of the daub walls, which had been used to build the barrow. This was a long barrow, slightly wider at one end than the other - it's a common pattern for the period.
They also found the remains of two enormous post holes, which had contained posts made from enormous trees (think of the biggest tree you've ever seen - this one was bigger, and they cut it down with stone axes and moved it by muscle power). The posts would have supported a wooden trough, where the bodies were laid for burning. There's nothing left of the bodies now, of course - five or six thousand years of acid soil will do that to a skeleton.
There have been other finds, though - two stone axes, and some arrow heads, for instance. It's possible to analyze the rock to find out where it comes from, and some of the finds came from Yorkshire, while another came from mainland Europe - giving a glimpse into a wide spread trading network that the people in Herefordshire were part of. The axes are among the most perfect that the diggers are aware of - usually, thousands of years of being in the ground have taken their toll, as well as wear and tear from actual use. These axes were not used - they were placed in the graves pretty much brand new, and as the axes took around 300 man hours to produce, that's quite a generous offering for someone who must have been pretty special.
One of the axes was not quite perfect - it had been chipped while being manufactured, and normally when this happened the craftsman would start again with another stone. In this case, though, they smoothed out the chip as best they could, because the stone had a fossil embedded in it, and this obviously had some significance for the people of the time.
All of this was happening some time before the building of Stonehenge.

Digging down to natural - the undisturbed earth that the barrow was built on

Looking along the length of the barrow, showing the burned clay layer

When the barrows had been standing for several hundred years, they were obviously still a major landmark for the area, and of some importance to the people who lived there, because they were re-modelled. The three barrows were joined together with ordinary earth, and then were covered with stones to make one enormous cairn. This was a style of funerary monument that was becoming popular in the Black Mountains at the time.

The stone layer that once covered the barrows

It was wonderful to be back at a proper dig, even if it was only for a morning. It all looked so familiar (and I've still got my trowel!). We were particularly impressed with the barrow run - to get the wheelbarrows to the top of the spoil heap to dump the soil that is being removed from around the monument.

There's a short news item from last year on the BBC website at which has a short interview with the site director, Julian Thomas. Julian Thomas also gave a talk at Hay Festival this year - sadly, it was on a Sunday, so I couldn't go.
The site welcomes visitors, and they are having an open day on Sunday 27th July from 10.30am to 4.30pm, to show what they have found this year.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Council Meeting - Festival Traffic, Painting the Bridge and De-fibrillators

Gareth Ratcliffe reported back on a meeting he'd been to with the police, the organisers of Hay Festival and the people from the Globe. He implied that everyone was helpful except one party there....
To assist with parking problems, the Hay Festival people said that next year they would be selling tickets for events along with parking tickets, so there would be a space for the visitors when they arrived.
The Globe claimed that they had provided 80 parking places in a field just over the border in Cusop, and that they had had no parking issues over the Festival. Gareth, who works for the Co-op now, pointed out that Festival goers had been using the Co-op car park.
The problem seems to be a loophole in the licensing system - as the Globe didn't have a traffic management plan in place, it couldn't be judged as part of the license to hold the event, whereas the Festival does have a traffic management plan, so it is part of their license. The Festival are understandably reluctant to take on the parking problems caused by the Globe - the main problem apart from lack of parking provision was the blockages caused on Heol-y-dwr corner by delivery trucks and so on, with a lack of supervision by members of staff from the Globe. The police were called several times to sort out the traffic snarl-ups. This had caused problems for the shuttle bus - the route goes along Broad Street, up Heol-y-dwr and round to the top of the car park before going back to the Festival site. The Festival said that they would rather re-route the shuttle buses away from Heol-y-dwr next year, if nothing could be worked out. The Globe said that next year they would use the layby in front of the bungalow just behind the Globe for deliveries, but it's not very big.
The councillors are going to invite the management of the Globe to a Council meeting so they can talk to them in person.

The bridge desperately needs re-painting - it gives quite a bad first impression of Hay if a car is approaching from that direction. The best bit of it is the section which was demolished in an accident a while ago, and re-painted. Contractors for the County Council have quoted £40 - £50,000 for the painting job, which apparently would involve taking the metal work apart, painting it and re-attaching it to the bridge. Which seems rather a lot. Powys has an approved list of contractors it can use, who work across Wales, so they don't use local traders for jobs like this. It was almost tempting the councillors to get out there with their paint brushes themselves! In fact, I'd be tempted to get out there with a paintbrush, too - I've got some odd half tins of paint, and between the local residents we could have a rainbow bridge! A chap on Black Lion Green has painted the little bridge down there, and it looks quite nice.

Meanwhile there is a movement nationally to provide de-fibrillators in public places so that people who have heart attacks can be treated more quickly, while they are waiting for the ambulance or first responders to arrive. Apparently the equipment is practically fool proof, and if it is used incorrectly it won't work. Talgarth and Brecon are both getting one, and Gareth was keen to use the traditional walk to Clyro near Christmas time as a fund raising fancy dress sponsored walk. £1500 is needed to get one, and the Lions Club are interested in doing something towards it. It could be kept at the Clock Tower or the Market Square - somewhere central - and I think they said that BT would give a grant if it was placed in one of the phone boxes.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Council Meeting - Planning and Devolving Services

The Town Plan committee had their meeting yesterday, and will be putting their conclusions out for consultation in September - it's been front page news in the B&R this week. The press release was also sent to the Hereford Times, so there might be a story in there as well tomorrow. The Wye Local, because they are monthly, said they wouldn't run the piece, presumably because it would be old news by the time the next issue comes out - they said they'd wait until there had been some reaction to the plans. The Council are encouraging all the local community groups they can find to get involved.

Meanwhile, there has been more research about the tangled web of ownership of land around the Gliss. Councillors have been up to Llandrindod Wells to consult the records, and have gone back as far as 1902, when the railway ran through there - but they didn't just own the track. There was an extra bit of ground that they still owned when they sold the trackway - and on another occasion Welsh Water managed to sell a piece of land that they didn't actually own! It doesn't help that, on old photos, the Gliss looks quite a bit smaller than it is now. The old Hay Urban District Council maintained ownership by the use of the land, and the Glanusk Estate, which was supposed to have ownership at one time, can't provide any proof of ownership either (though I think I remember discussions at the History Group that mentioned that some of the Glanusk Estate records were destroyed in an air raid in the Second World War, when the Estate's solicitors' building in London got blown up). They also know that some land between the railway line and the river was purchased in 1970, but they have no idea which bit exactly.
When it comes to the ownership of the Council Chambers, the records go back to 1829, and the Community Centre goes back to 1939. There's a Welsh Office circular (back when the Welsh Office was the highest authority) saying that assets should go to the local councils rather than the borough (this was back in 1974 when everything was re-organised), but the only occasion locally where this seems to have happened is the Guildhall in Brecon, which was retained by the Town Council. The transfer of Hay car park to the County Council seems to have been automatic - they can't find any paperwork relating to it at all, though there's lots for the public toilets!

And then the little matter of Hay's £200,000 came up - and what could we spend it on? Originally it was earmarked for the extension to the car park, but when that didn't happen it was supposed to have been transferred to a fund for a new community centre, which almost happened around the millennium, at Forest Road. But now the community centre is going to be part of the school, so what's going to happen to this money? No-one knows, though there does seem to be a stipulation that it can only be released if Powys County Council own the land that will be used.
As Hay is being expected to take on more and more services from Powys, there was a lot of dis-satisfaction about the idea that the school building would be an adequate place to run all the Council services from, which is supposed to be the plan. They seem to be going back to the days when Hay Council had all the responsibilities of the old Urban District Council, but without the funding to run those services. Some of the new responsibilities will involve taking over staff and owning grass cutting machinery and so forth, which will have implications for the town's insurance policies.
There was a suggestion that a business plan should be drawn up to show that the present Council Chambers would be essential to providing those services, to make a case for Powys transferring ownership back to Hay, rather than the present lease that only takes them up to two months after the new school is built. Then they're supposed to move everything to the new school, which they really don't want to do. They didn't see any other option than to sign the lease offered, though they want to keep negotiations open with Powys.
This is one of the things that is being discussed as part of the Town Plan, and they also want to go to the electorate of Hay to see what the residents want the town council to take on.
There is a training day for councillors to help them grapple with these problems, and Fiona Howard seemed to think that they wouldn't be taken seriously in negotiations until they had that knowledge - so they're going to spend £400 on it. It's a day set up for 20 people, so all the councillors will attend, plus whoever else they can find who is interested locally.

There is still an empty place on the council - no-one has come forward to say they are interested, so the councillors will be looking for people they can persuade to take up the position.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Council Meeting - Sunday Buses and the Bowling Club Pavilion

At the beginning of the Council meetings there is time for questions from the public, and yesterday there was a chap there from Rail for Herefordshire, which also campaigns for bus services, who was there to bring the councillors up to speed on the Sunday bus situation. The service will be stopped at the end of August between Brecon and Hereford.
However, in an attempt to show the support for the service along the route, Rail for Herefordshire are trying to get local councils and businesses to pledge a total of £4,000 and invite Herefordshire County Council to match fund the amount - £8,000 would be enough to run a service between Hay and Hereford for three round trips. It may be possible to do it with a 16 seater coach. They are starting off the pledges with £200, so need 19 other bodies to chip in the same to get their total (or more, of course!). The fare would be the same as it is now, and they would be looking at starting the service at 9am in Hay to get to the railway station in Hereford for about 10am, rather than around 1pm as it is now.
It would be more difficult to try to keep the whole route through to Brecon, partly because all the Beacons Buses are being cut as well, apart from the T4 to Cardiff, so there is less reason to go into Brecon on a Sunday. It would also mean dealing with Powys County Council as well as Herefordshire County Council.
Rail for Herefordshire have also been conducting surveys to see who actually uses the service - last week, for instance, 7 people with all their luggage took the journey to Hereford railway station from Hay on the first bus of the day.
Nigel the Town Clerk said that he had been trying to get in touch with the chap whose responsible for the public transport in Herefordshire County Council - and when he finally got hold of him, he was told he was too late and the decision had been made the week before! A grudging apology was finally given, but it means that Hay Council have been kept out of the decision making process. There was also a suggestion that the route might be viable in the summer months but not over the winter - and a year's trial run, as suggested by Rail for Herefordshire, would test this. There was a rumour going round that Herefordshire County Council had met Hay Together on the subject rather than the Council, but this does not seem to be true!
When the Rail for Herefordshire chap had gone there was some further discussion, and the councillors decided that they would ask them to apply to the recycling fund for the £200 they were asking for, as it would be for the benefit of Hay. Fiona Howard is also going to meet with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the pledges, as lack of the bus service will impact on the local businesses in Hay as well.

Another visitor to the Council Chambers was Stephen Butcher from Powys County Council, who is responsible for the handover of sporting assets from the County Council to the local councils or sports clubs of Powys. He's actually working his way out of a job, which led Nigel Birch to say that the County Council soon wouldn't need that big building of theirs, because they will have got rid of so many employees!
The County Council want to pass over responsibility for the sports facilities in Hay either to Hay Council, in which case it would be a transfer of assets, or to the sports clubs that use the facilities, in which case it would be on a 25 year lease. There were several sour comments about the responsibilities being devolved down, but the County Council would still be collecting the same amount of Council Tax from everyone, and the local councils would have to increase their precept - meaning that every tax payer will have to pay more - to cover the new responsibilities they're landed with. It was noted by Steve Like that the people of Hay had bought the sports grounds originally, and the County Council had agreed to maintain them, and now they were going back on that historic agreement.
"They won't give up the car park, though, will they?" said Nigel Birch. "They want us to take on all the rubbish and they keep the good stuff."
The Cricket Club seem to have been going through a few difficulties lately, though rumours that they are about to fold are not true. They are just taking a year out of the league, and will just be playing friendly matches for a while. The bowls club are keen to take on their part of the pavilion, which is also used by the cricket, football and tennis clubs. There is a £5,000 one-off grant available to help with the costs, or the equivalent in mowing machinery. Further grants might be available to the sports clubs from various sources later. If neither the clubs nor Hay Council are willing to take it on, the building would have to close down. The asset transfer includes the children's play ground. Steve Like wanted a complete breakdown of what the County Council spends on the maintenance, in detail, because previous figures that have been given are far too vague. Stephen Butcher said that the County Council had spent £2,469.97 on cutting the grass, picking up litter, trimming hedges and sweeping leaves off the tennis courts - the cricket club maintains the square between the wickets, and the bowling club maintains the bowling green already.
There has been a hold up in the whole transfer business while the issue of the extension of the cemetery (which is next door) is sorted out. The councillors believe that the field above the cemetery has already been bought, some years ago, for use as an extension, but there is some confusion about this, and about whether the ground is suitable for graves.
And in an added twist, the sculpture group want to rent the garage on the little car park attached to the Pavilion, though there's nothing formally agreed yet.
The Council has until January to think about whether they want to take on the responsibilities, though the actual asset transfer could take eighteen months.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Return of the Car Boot Sales

Due to popular demand, the Wye Local and Hay School have started running car boot sales again on the first Saturday of the month over the summer. The Lions club have stepped forward to run one on the third Saturday of the month, and two ladies from the Lions were there yesterday morning to see how everything was organised.
I don't have a car, but I decided to try a bit of de-cluttering anyway by piling everything I wanted to sell into the shopping trolley I used to wheel Islay the dog around in, with another box balanced on top. As long as I went slowly up the hill and was very careful going up and down kerbs I was okay.
I didn't sell much, but it was a very pleasant way to spend a morning, eating grapes in the sunshine and chatting to people I knew.
There were seventeen (and a half!) boots there, and a steady stream of people passing through.

As I pushed the trolley up the car park at the end of the morning, I noticed a big carousel set up in the castle grounds.
It seems there was a wedding being held there, and the carousel was for the use of the guests. They also had the City of Swansea Pipe Band! Later in the afternoon I was up in town again chatting to friends (two people passed by as we were talking and commented "You haven't moved far!") when we heard the sound of the bagpipes and headed for the Honesty Bookshop, where the Pipe Band were giving a short concert to the town from the terrace around the castle! Wonderful stuff. I'm told they marched through town later.
Men in kilts (and women!), and me without my camera!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Small Business Saturday

I wondered about including the charity shops as local businesses, but then I decided that I get so many bargains from them that I may as well include them. This is the Red Cross Shop, once Paris House - and once the site of an antique shop that was a front for a money laundering operation!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Beer and History

I've just realised that next weekend will be something close to perfection for me!
It's Hereford History Day on Saturday - I've been along to that for several years now, with Drudion, the re-enactment group I belong to. I usually go in full costume on the bus, carrying a big basket with all my spinning and weaving equipment.
This year the focus is much more on the First World War, so 13thC Welsh mercenaries don't quite fit in! However, I thought I'd still like to go as a member of the public, so I'll be wearing an Edwardian outfit for the day, complete with a solar topee - just back from the Raj, you see!
At the other end of town, the tenth Beer on the Wye will be in full swing down by the Rowing Club - so this year I can do both on the same day! Normally, I wouldn't be drinking while re-enacting. If I keep in character, I should be looking out for interesting IPAs (that's India Pale Ales, which were originally brewed for the British in India).

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Baskerville Hall - Lean on Me

Over the river to Clyro again on Wednesday night for the music night, and there were some good singers and players there again, including a lad with a flute. The musical styles ranged all over the place, from Irish jigs to sea shanties to Sixties protest songs (we all belted out The Times They Are A'Changing). Also there was a rude song about rhubarb!
In the next room there was a group of young football players - a strictly non-alcoholic meal, though some of them did come into the bar later for soft drinks. As they were getting up from their meal and drifting through to the front hall, past the open door of the bar, we were singing Lean on Me, and one of the footballers, a good looking black lad, stopped to join in the chorus. We tried to get him back to sing some more, but he came over all shy!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Food and Vintage Fairs

This weekend, the marquees went up in the market square again.

Saturday was the Food Fair. I always go up to see what goodies are on offer, and usually come away with some Jacobi beer. This time they have a four-pack beer carrier, and a new beer to try, made with honey. I had a trial sip of their porter as well, which sparkles in the mouth, and finished the selection off with Red Squirrel IPA and Original. I treated myself to some focaccia from Caroline's Bakery too.
Outside, a male voice choir was singing (from Talgarth?) and there were stalls selling herbs and snacks and vegetables, with crafts in the Buttermarket, and Marie Curie Cancer Care teas in the Cheesemarket.

On Sunday was the Vintage Fair - which actually started with cocktails down at the Old Electric Shop on the Friday evening. I always miss this one, as it's on a Sunday, so I just saw them setting up and taking it down at the end. From all accounts it was a successful event again, though.
The Old Electric Shop has popped up and stayed. Sally Matthews is now exhibiting some of her animal paintings and sculptures there, and they're going to start doing craft workshops soon - fabric flower brooches for children, and shopping bags for grown-ups to start with.