Friday, 31 October 2014

Night After Night/ The Darkest Hour

I've just come back from a very pleasant evening at Booth Books, where Phil Rickman and Barbara Erskine were telling ghost stories and talking about their books.
I wore my Thorogood Pagan Bookshop tshirt, of course (as featured in Magus of Hay) - in fact, the night was so mild that I didn't really need a coat, and the windows were open upstairs in Booths.
Fictional Hallowe'ens are never so mild.
Night After Night is Phil's new book, a ghost story wrapped in a crime story, set in a haunted house in the Cotswolds which has been set up as a sort of haunted Big Brother house by a TV company. The people in the house tell ghost stories to each other, and the extract Phil chose was a Welsh ghost story where the character heard sawing sounds in the night from the workshop across the farmyard, that heralded sudden deaths.
Barbara's book is The Darkest Hour, based on her father's exploits as a World War Two fighter pilot, and is the first time she has ever really accepted the mantle of "romantic novelist" - though the next book is going to be gory, so the label doesn't stick! Most of Barbara Erskine's books feature some sort of time-slip, so there is a present day story alongside the World War Two one, and her extract concerned a teenage girl looking for a ghostly presence in the attic of her home - and when the rest of the family come home, she is nowhere to be found....
When questions were invited from the audience, the conversation ranged from ghosts to Stephen King to being labelled as Young Adult by Amazon ("but my book includes some necrophilia and they're saying it's suitable for twelve year olds!") with a discussion of the atmospheric qualities of Enid Blyton's Rub-a-Dub Mystery and her own ghost story in Five Go Off to Camp - the spook train (which was always one of my favourites). But Enid Blyton always had a rational reason behind the mystery, "usually men, with a gun and Eastern European accents," said Phil. "Some things never change."
At the end of the evening there was a special guest - Alan Watson, who wrote the songs which, in the books, were written by Lol Robinson, Merrily Watkins' boyfriend. He sang Tamworth-in-Arden, which is about a visit to Nick Drake's grave (Nick Drake was a major influence on the songs, and is mentioned often in the Merrily Watkins books), and he and Phil sang the Trackway Man, a song dedicated to Alfred Watkins the inventor (or discoverer) of ley lines. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, a flautist from Tennessee, a violinist in Germany and a drummer who happened to be in South Africa that week were all able to contribute to the second album (and mine was one of the lonely hands which went up when they asked who had any Lol Robinson CDs).

(with accompaniment throughout the evening by Fergus the dog and his uncanny whining!)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


This looks as if it's going to be a lot of fun!
There will be a screening of the classic 1922 silent movie Nosferatu on the 7th November, at 7pm - at St Mary's Church.
Even better, Father Richard will be at the organ, providing live musical accompaniment! The chap who was bringing the posters round town said that he's heard Father Richard rehearsing - and the music is spine-chilling!
Cost of entrance is £5, and proceeds are going to the organ fund.
Jo Eliot, of the Film Society, has organised this, supported by Film Hub Wales and Film Audience Network. She'll be giving a short introduction to the film.
The poster adds an important reminder - bring your own cushion! The audience will be sitting on the church pews.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Red Kite over the Wye

After the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo, we've had some mild, sunny spells around Hay, so I went down by the Wye on the Offa's Dyke Path the other day. When I came out of the trees and into the meadow, I stood for a while on the river bank. I thought at first that a buzzard was wheeling over the tree tops - they're common enough around here, but then I saw that distinctive forked tail, and knew it was a red kite, putting on a show just for me.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The First World War, Week By Week

I was chatting to one of the members of the History Society, in the gateway to the Cheesemarket, the other day. I hadn't realised it, but he's been putting an A4 poster on the noticeboard once a week showing the history of Hay in the First World War exactly one hundred years ago. I didn't get a chance to look at this week's poster at the time, because there was a market stall in the way, but I'll be back to read it as soon as I can. "We're just getting to the first deaths," he said. "There are some interesting obituaries."
The History Society are also running a pub crawl during the Hay Winter Festival at the end of November (more details nearer the time) and this year's Smith-Soldat Lecture will be on Waterloo, as it's almost the 200th anniversary of that battle.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

Another recent addition to the stalls by the Clock Tower is Grandma Bees skin balm.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cider Bread and other Bargains

I've been into Hereford to do a few essential bits and pieces I can't do in Hay. Friday is market day in High Town, and since I nearly always miss Alex Gooch's bread in Hay I had a look at the bread stall there. The lady must have had twenty different sorts of loaf on display, one of which was cider bread, which sounded intriguing, so I've bought a loaf to try along with a more conventional wholemeal.
I think the charity shops in the centre of Hereford are going a bit up-market! I found some lovely bronze coloured spoons in Hay at a stall under the Cheesemarket a while ago, and I've been looking for knives and forks to go with them - but the only charity shops that had any cutlery at all were the Martha Trust shop near the old cinema, and a set of six forks in Oxfam. So I'll just have to keep searching.
Back in Hay, I treated myself to some cookbooks from Backfold Books Retirement Sale, including a Culpeper's Herbal which is much nicer than the paperback Wordsworth Classics version I used to have. Culpeper has the best line in any herbal I know, under the entry for Nettles: "Nettles are so well known that they need no description; they may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night."

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Up-Coming Events

There are a few interesting events happening around Hallowe'en, starting on Thursday with the next meeting of the University of Cusop Dingle. They'll be at the Swan at 7.30pm, with Mollie Lord talking about the contrast between Ayervedic and Western Medicine.
On Hallowe'en itself Phil Rickman and Barbara Erskine will be at Booth Books at 6pm, talking about ghosts, and Phil will be launching his new book, Night After Night. This is a free but ticketted event, and I already have my ticket.
The day after that, November 1st, is the Big Skill at the Globe, with lots of different local crafts on show. This again is free to get in, but of course there will be lots of beautiful and useful things to buy - in nice time for Christmas!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Grand Retirement Sale

Backfold Books is closing down, because Alen and Jenny want to retire. They've been selling books in Hay for around fifteen years, first at Broad Street Book Centre, and later at the little shop opposite the craft centre which they took over from a photography specialist. The sale runs from 22nd October to 22nd November, and the Tourist Information Office is due to move in at the beginning of December, leaving a large space free in the craft centre.
They've always had a nice selection of books and knick-nacks, so there are plenty of bargains to be had!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Framespotting Book Launch

There was a good turnout for the launch of Alison and Laurence's book - it was difficult to get to the bar for the glass of free wine! Alison and Laurence, perched on library ladders so they could be seen, make a good double act, and they gave a short presentation about the ideas behind the book and how they came to start thinking about the subject. This was when they were working with climate change groups, and they found that politicians and activists alike had very set ways of looking at the problems. So this is a book to help people move beyond that, to "see the frames", and to realise when they are being manipulated by the language used to set out a problem. The example given in the presentation was "tax burden", which suggests that tax is a bad thing, and paying it is a "burden", so "tax relief" must be a good thing, rather than framing tax as a "membership subscription", for instance, for which you get public services.

And once you know about framing, you start to see it happening around you.
Today I was looking at a blog post by Kameron Hurley, who won two Hugo awards at this year's World SF Convention (the Oscars of the SF world). She was talking about epic fantasy, and how it is conventionally framed (she actually uses that word) as a pseudo-Medieval, European world, usually with a quest, or a peasant boy who becomes a hero. Anything outside that frame, that doesn't fit the box, gets dismissed by the authors who write to the formula and by the reviewers and publishers who want "more of the same, only just slightly different". So fantasies that are set in Ancient China, or have romance in them, are squeezed into different boxes, even though they might be just as epic as the Tolkeinesque or George RR Martin fantasies.
The blog post can be found at

I'm looking forward to reading my copy of the book properly, but it's already making me think!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

This clothes stall is a fairly recent addition to the market, down by the Clock Tower.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Walking around Almeley

It was a golden afternoon. Brian had finished early in his shop, and I was outside doing a bit of weeding when he passed.
"Fancy a walk round the brickworks?" he asked.
So off we went to Almeley with the dogs.
On the edge of the village there's a railway line, with a tiny station that's no longer used, though the little house is lived in, and beside the railway line there was once a brickworks - the railway presumably being convenient to move the bricks to where they were needed. A little narrow valley runs below the railway line, with woods and a pretty stream, and cottages strung out along a narrow track. The dogs love it. It's almost like stepping back in time - none of the cottages can have been built in the twentieth century - they're all timber framed and brick infill (perhaps from the brickworks - we kept finding old bricks in the stream and embedded in the path). The path itself is part of Vaughan's Way, which is 17 miles long, between Kington and Bredwardine.
We emerged onto a tarmac road where a big timber framed farmhouse is being renovated. When we looked it up in Pevsner later, I think this must be Summer House.
The village is all spread out randomly, and a little further on we passed the Friends Meeting House, a charming little timber framed cottage which was built, according to Pevsner, in about 1672, as a meeting house. Just as we walked by, some Friends were coming out of a meeting, among them someone I know as Qlib from the discussion forum Ship of Fools! So that was an added bonus to the walk.
We ended up at the Bells pub, where I had a very nice half of Three Tuns XXX from Bishop's Castle brewery.
The pub has changed quite a bit since I first saw it, when I went in with some friends who were members of CAMRA, and found a surly landlord who hated CAMRA and blamed them because he was going to be forced to buy lined pint glasses.
The next time I went, he had gone, and a temporary landlady was there - she was lovely, and served giant Yorkshire puddings with all the meal inside them, which filled us up nicely.
And now it's a couple with children, and where one bar used to be they now have the village shop. The other bar was being treated as the family living room, where the children were watching TV, and the dogs were welcome inside. As we headed back to the car, the landlord was taking the kids out for a climb up the Twt, the castle mound in the middle of the village.
We walked back to the car, completing a full circle, past the late Medieval manor house, which is timber framed with brick infill, which gave it a nice warm glow in the evening light.
On the way back to Hay we passed through Eardisley, so we stopped at the New Strand for another half (for me) and diet Coke (for Brian). It's a warren of a place, with the cafe and bookshop and bar - where there was the most adorable Alsatian pup, who was being brought out to get her used to people. Brian always carries dog biscuits in his pocket - he gets them from the stall on Hay market - and the pup enjoyed them so much that her owner asked where he could buy them from.

That bar at Eardisley used to be the favourite drinking spot of Mr Penny, who lived at one of the sadder landmarks in Herefordshire until his death in a car accident a couple of years ago - a tumbledown old cottage at nearby Willersley. The house has just been sold, at an auction held at the New Strand, and the new owner hopes to renovate it. It'll be quite a job - it's been falling apart for years. A little while ago one of the national tabloids (the Mail, possibly) did a full page spread of photos someone had taken when they managed to get inside - the rooms are full of vintage furniture and all sorts of personal belongings and toys from Mr Penny and his brothers' childhood, coronation mugs and china, that looked untouched for years. I think Mr Penny actually lived in a caravan parked out the back. Before it was a private house, it was a pub and cider house called the Old Crow. I hope the new owner can bring it back to life.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Cuts to Hay Library

There was a consultation plan going round a little while ago about what members of the public wanted from their library service. The County Council set out two proposals - they could either close up to 11 branch libraries altogether, or keep all 17 open but at reduced hours. There was no option, of course, for keeping the libraries as they are now.
So, they have decided to go for the option of keeping all the libraries, but with opening hours reduced by 20%, and to reduced the mobile library service from once a fortnight to once a month where it visits. This will begin from April 1st next year if the cabinet of the County Council approves it.
Several councillors have pointed out that libraries are not only important for borrowing books, but for people who have no other way of accessing computers - and this is especially important for the unemployed as so many jobs can only be applied for online now. The mobile library is also an important life line for people who are isolated in rural areas. Gareth Ratcliffe has also spoken out against the cuts, pointing out how well used Hay Library is and praising the excellent staff who run it.

Meanwhile, the B&R reports low turn-outs for the meetings which the County Council organised to discuss how to cut their budget by £70 million overall by 2020. Next year the County Council will be receiving £7.7 million less than this year from the Welsh Assembly but they will have to find savings of around £16 million because of inflation and other "cost pressures".
There is an organisation which is opposing the cuts - called Powys Uncut - and they have been having a public meeting in Brecon this evening (Thursday). They plan to lobby the Welsh Assembly before they formally pass the budget in December.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bronllys Park

This is a plan to keep Bronllys Community NHS Hospital, on the present site, and to enhance it with a Health and Well-being Park. Over the years there have been all sorts of rumours about the downgrading or closure of Bronllys Hospital, not helped recently by the re-location of one of the specialist wards to Brecon. The Friends of Bronllys are working to keep the hospital open, and to make it the best it can possibly be, and so they have devised an Action Plan. This is a document entitled Bronllys Park: A Vision for the Next Hundred Years, and includes a care home, Maggie's Centre for the Terminally Ill (there are already Maggie's Centres elsewhere in the country), a TeleHealth service (which I think is medical advice on the phone), affordable housing including homes for the elderly, visitor accomodation for families from a distance away who are visiting patients, a community pub/club/cafe, library, pharmacy and concert hall, a solar energy farm based on the Green Valleys model locally, adaption of the chapel for wider use, and the opening up of allotments, a market garden, orchards and greenhouses (there are already mature apple trees on the site), better sports facilities, a helicopter landing pad for the Air Ambulance, a car pool of electric cars powered by the solar farm, and child care facilities (there is already a nursery there). All of which sounds far better than handing the site over to a commercial property developer, and all of which seems to have the costings carefully worked out so that it is achievable. The organisers seem to think that the Welsh Assembly will be sympathetic to the plan, and they need to be on board because of funding arrangements.

There will be a meeting on Thursday 23rd October at Hay School, starting at 7.30pm, to discuss the plans and to talk about taking the proposals forward. It's going to be an important meeting for the future of health care in this area.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Best Sourdough Bread in Britain

There's a good article at Walesonline about local baker Alex Gooch, who has a stall on the Thursday market - and they're often sold out by the time I go by for my lunch, so if they do still have bread or focaccia left, I always try to get some.
Alex won the Tiptree World Bread Awards in London this year with his sourdough, and came runner up in the flatbread category. He also made laverbread rolls which were eaten at the recent NATO summit, by dignitaries including President Obama!
His bread is also available at the Wholefood shop.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

March House Books Visits Hay

I found this blog by chance - and found that, on the 15th August, she writes about visiting Hay, with some good pictures.
The address is

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

The music and DVD stall at the Thursday market.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hay Handbook

Last night was the launch of the new Hay Handbook by Hay Together, a directory of local services and organisations and groups in and around Hay. It's an impressive achievement, since some of the information has been quite difficult to find out. I arrived in the middle of the presentation, given by Ellie Spencer, in the hall of the Castle. She said that they were greatly helped on their way by the Community Directory put together by Hay and District Community Support, which sadly had to close last year. There was a bouquet for the lady who did most of the work checking that all the phone numbers and addresses were right, and acknowledgements to Alison Matthews, who did a lot of work on it, and Jacquie Kennett, who did the design work.
I think it's going to be very useful - it's got all the contact details for local doctors, taxi firms, sports clubs, even down to things like the Stitch and Bitch group that I belong to.
The booklet will be available from the office on the Cobbles, the library and places like the doctors' surgery around Hay. They also have leaflets advertising their volunteering service. The office is open from 9am to 3pm on Thursdays and Fridays.
Hay Together has taken over the work with volunteers that used to be run by Community Support, so work closely with PAVO, who cover the local area. They've found places for something like 32 volunteers so far, and can also offer training and other support. At the moment, they're looking for a volunteer to work with the under-seven's football team.

On my way up through the Cobbles area of the Castle, where the Hay Together office is, I saw The Thoughtful Gardener moving his plants from the stables where he had his shop to his new premises in the building that used to be The Old Curiosity Shop. It's a bigger space - I spoke to Jacquie (the Thoughtful Gardener's partner) over a glass of wine later and she said that they were considering sharing the space with another business, maybe one that sold craft beers. They also want to start selling cider, and she mentioned Dunkertons, which is a good local brand. They're going to see the farm soon. I understand that the stables will be taken over as an art gallery.

Alison and her husband Laurence are the authors of Framespotting, a book about the way people think about problems and how to see the larger picture. They're launching their book (already endorsed by Jonathon Porritt, Rowan Williams and Michael Mansfield QC) next week at Booths Bookshop, on Friday 17th, from 6pm to 7pm.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Last Bits of the Council Meeting - the Gliss and the lack of New Councillors

There have been a few problems caused down on the Gliss by the canoe carriers being parked there. They go down to launch the canoes at the canoe landing stage, but then remain there, which causes a bit of conflict with other vehicles parking down there. Some of the signs that were put up about parking have been vandalised, and they should have been in both Welsh and English, so they will have to be replaced at some point.
One suggestion was that the Gliss could be donated to the Warren Trust, when it becomes a registered charity, so that they can charge for parking and canoe use down there without being liable for VAT.
Apparently, water sports bring £480million into Wales every year!

A new councillor is still needed - there are only ten on the council at the moment and there should be eleven. They even asked me, as I go to the main meeting most months, but I really couldn't devote the amount of time to the job that it deserves. The next elections for local councils will be in 2016, and it's to be hoped that people will come forward then to contest the elections.

Meanwhile, Fiona Howard put the Mayor's Allowance to good use by donating £50 to the Hay Ho Sunday bus service, though she didn't go down to meet the first bus this Sunday for the photo opportunity (John Evans from the Chamber of Commerce was there, amongst others, beaming from the picture in the B&R).

There was also a quick report about the Youth Club, saying how well behaved they are, and that they are no trouble as they are now using the bungalow by Hay School.

The next Council meeting will be on Monday 3rd November, at 7pm.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Council Meeting - Recycling and Development Plans

Getting onto the main meeting, after the presentations, there was a discussion of the Recycling Fund. The Fund is getting less money that it used to, because bottles and glass are now being collected from people's front doors around Hay, so they don't have to take them up to the car park to recycle. Convenient for householders, but a bit of a problem for the Council, as they were making money from it to give out in grants to local projects. However, people are bringing a lot of heavy cardboard to be recycled at the car park, so there was a suggestion that an extra container for cardboard should be asked for, and one for bottles discontinued.
There had also been a request from the Affordable Housing Group for a grant to pay someone to sort out a website and do various administrative tasks. This was refused by the sub-committee on the grounds that local councillors had to do it for nothing so why shouldn't the Affordable Housing Group? A vote of the full council still came down on the side of refusal of the grant.
After looking at the prices of notice boards, Alan Powell has generously offered to make one and donate it to the Council, as he is a carpenter.
The Swan will be booked for the old people's Christmas Party again, though there was a bit of quibbling over the cost of the wine last year.
There is still concern about the transfer of assets from the County Council to the Town Council, with all the expense that this would entail - when the Cemetery Lodge was sold, the money from the sale was supposed to go towards buying the extra land needed at the top of the cemetery - and nobody on the Town Council knows what happened to that money.
They also need to talk to the representatives of the various sports clubs around Hay.

And then we came to the Persimmon Homes plan to build 80 houses on the edge of town.
The Town Council is concerned about drainage problems, and want to know how local amenities like the doctors' surgery and the school will cope with the influx of 80 new families to the area. It was pointed out that it's not Persimmon Homes that are at fault here - it's the Local Development Plan. There are two Local Development Plans - one for the National Parks and one for the County Council, and neither seem to have taken the local infrastructure into account when deciding where new houses can be built. Members of the Council felt that their views had not been taken into account properly, and that they hadn't been told everything they needed to know when they put their views forward for the making of the Plans.
There was also the issue of affordable housing as part of the development. The Millbank development was supposed to include affordable homes, but none have been built, and the developers there have paid a certain amount to the County Council to off-set their lack of promised provision. Which is fine for the County Council, but not so good for local people who need affordable homes.
During all this discussion, one of the councillors was not allowed to speak, or vote, because of a conflict of interests. She is also the leader of the protest group against the LDP and against this development. This is standard practice, and legally required. However, two of the members of the public who were still there were horrified that this was the case, and the councillor herself left the meeting just after the vote, saying she felt unwell.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Council Meeting - the Police Commissioner and the Warren

Lots of observers turned up last night, as well as several people involved in giving presentations to the Council. First to speak was the new Police Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, who had been in Hay all day meeting with various groups including the Chamber of Commerce. I have to say, I only went along to vote for the Police Commissioner in order to spoil my ballot paper, because I didn't agree with the creation of the post, but now that he's here, he seems to be making a good job of it. He's also a good speaker - as I crept in late he was saying "We don't have a crime problem, but we do have a geography problem," and then pointed out that the Dyfed-Powys police area is the same size as the Lebanon, but with a lot less crime! He was quite pleased that they had been able to trim £3.7million from the police budget, mostly by trimming senior management, while adding over thirty officers on the front line.
In Hay, a new PCSO, Emma Jackson, will be joining Helen Scott shortly, and there will be a new PC in charge. Fiona Howard said that she appreciated PC Eckley coming into Hay School once a term to talk about bullying and other matters with the children.
To emphasise how safe this area is to live in, the policemen pointed out that there had only been one house burglary in the Hay Section in this entire fiscal year - and the Hay Section reaches as far as Erwood (which is where the burglary took place).

The second speaker of the evening was Tim Pugh, on behalf of the Warren Club. He had slides, including Victorian views of the Warren, and a pamphlet to give out. He gave a brief run down on the history of the Warren Club, which was set up in 1972 after a rumour that the Warren was about to be turned into a caravan park, and he talked about some of the projects the Warren Club had been involved in over the years, like the renovation of the Buttermarket and the putting up of blue historical plaques around town. The plaques were made of cast iron, when they were put up in 1994, and are now starting to rust badly, so one of the projects that the Warren Club hopes to do in the future is to replace them with resin plaques, which will last longer. I hope they also take the opportunity to change the wording on the one by the Castle, to acknowledge Matilda de Breos!
Back when the local magazine was called The Wye? I had a bit of an argument through their pages with Geoffrey Fairs, the author of The History of Hay, about how she had been left out. He responded by suggesting that I got my history from the pages of Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine, and saying that I had spelt de Breos wrong (in fact I spelt it right, and whoever typed my letter into the magazine spelt it wrong).
The main reason Tim Pugh was there, though, was to talk about the future. An opportunity has come up that he believes will only happen once in a generation - the chance for the Warren Club to buy the fishing rights and the parcels of land associated with them along the stretch around the bend of the Wye that encloses the Warren. The land and fishing rights were sold in the 1950s to a Mr Brody-Smith, and it is his family who now want to sell. The Warren Club need to raise £50,000 for the purchase, and already have around £30,000 in the kitty. They raise money through the 300 Club subscriptions - the Club was started to raise money to maintain the Warren - by renting out the grass to a local farmer, and through letting out the Buttermarket.
They lease the Buttermarket from the County Council, but do all the maintenance (so the County Council get a really good deal). One of the smaller projects they want to do, along with the blue plaques, is to provide disabled access into the Buttermarket, which has a step at the entrance. They'd like to get the County Council to pay for this. They have already installed a gate for wheelchair users at the car park to the Warren, and hope to improve the access so that wheelchair users can get down onto the beach. They also want to replace the fencing around the car park there.
They also want to provide storage for the market tables that used to be stored under the Cheesemarket before it was renovated. When renting out the Buttermarket space, they always give preference to charities over businesses, also charging charities a lower rate. They also pay for their public liability insurance for the Buttermarket and the Warren from the money they receive.
In all they think that they need £70,000 to do everything, and they expect to earn money back by selling fishing rights. They've already had several people contacting them who are interested in life memberships. They also want to encourage youngsters to use the Warren and the fishing, by allowing Junior Rod licence holders and a child accompanying an adult licence holder free of charge. Tim Pugh said that a Forest School has been running on the Warren from Hay School for several years now, doing outdoor lessons in the woods, and the result has been a noticable reduction in vandalism, because the children feel that the Warren belongs to them - which tied in nicely with the earlier comments by the Police Commissioner and his uniformed associates.
Tim was asked about the conflict between canoes using the Warren and paddling or swimming children - there have been a couple of incidents where children have been knocked over in the water - but there seems no easy way to resolve this. He was also asked about the possibility of cutting back the Himalayan Balsam which infests the river bank - though it can never be removed completely unless the entire River Wye is treated at the same time for a couple of seasons.
Tim Pugh was quite passionate about preserving the Warren for future generations, and made a good case for the purchase of the land and fishing rights being the right way to go about it. He's hoping for donations, and to get some money in grant aid. When the Warren Club was originally set up, it had charitable aims, but was not officially a charity. Now they are working towards becoming a Registered Charity, which will make things easier for them financially.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Small Business Monday

(because there have been so many other things to blog about)

We're fortunate to have a widely varied market on Thursdays, so I'm going to be starting at the clock tower and working my way up to the square over the next few weeks.
Here's the Falafel stall.

Latest Roadworks News

It seems that the work on the bridge will take longer than anticipated, as they have to do work to a faulty drain as well as the sink hole. At the moment they are saying it will take three days to do, and because of that, the work from the Swan along Broad Street will be postponed until next January.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

More Book Launches

It's been a problem for years that there are all sorts of groups and organisations locally, but there isn't a central place to find out about all of them - it's all fairly randomly done though adverts in the Wye Local and posters round town and so on. So Hay Together have been putting together a directory of local groups and organisations, and on Thursday 9th October, they will be launching the new Hay Handbook at the Castle. The launch starts at 5.30pm.

I was chatting this afternoon with a lady from Marcher Apple Network, who told me about another recent book launch. The book is Herefordshire Pomona, and it is illustrated with over 400 paintings of different varieties of apples "so real you could almost take them off the page and eat them!" This was a very select gathering, at a hall that is also used for expensive weddings. Most of the main cider producing families of Herefordshire were there - the Bulmers, and Dunkertons, and so on, and the lady from the Marcher Apple Network. She happened to know Mr Bulmer, because she takes part in a Green Fair he hosts in his gardens every year, so he introduced her to some of the other people there.
The books are £400 each. The lady laughed because several copies were laid out for people to peruse, at exactly the same time as canapes in the form of tiny greasy sausages, which were meant to be dipped into mashed potato, were being passed around - so nobody wanted to touch the beautiful books in case they marked them!
One copy has been donated to the Woolhope Club, so it will be in the Woolhope Room at Hereford Library - as long as there's a library there. I said that I'd be joining her on the barricades if there was any rumour of it closing!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Major Roadworks Ahead!

There's going to be a lot of road-mending and resurfacing going on, starting on Monday, when the Bridge will be closed. There's a sink hole in the middle of the road that needs to be sorted out, and they will have to close the entire bridge. After that, they'll be moving up to the Swan (the road has been up so often on that stretch of road over the years that they might as well put a zip in it!). They'll be moving along from there down Belmont Road, which is so narrow anyway that they can't close off one side at a time to resurface - there's just no room.
Gareth Ratcliffe has the latest information on his Facebook page:

"Road Works Update.

Dear all
Here is the first update for you on works next week. On Monday they will start by looking at the sink hole on the bridge so it will be closed in the morning (all other routes through town will be open). If there is no major problem they will move up to by the swan and work their way up church street, Belmont Rd, Broad Street then bridge. You will be able to pass in Church Street then diversions will be in place when they get to Belmont road. HGV will have access to town via diversions via Glasbury or Clyro depending on if they are working on Bridge or Belmont road. The officer said he will let me know when he has more information on Monday re how long they will be on bridge."

It hasn't helped over the last couple of weeks that there has been work going on around the new houses at Millbank and the end of Heol-y-dwr, at the other end of Broad Street, and the workmen there were just putting up Road Closed signs whenever they felt like (or so it seemed). Lorries trying to get to the Co-op were unable to get through by any route - Nantyglasdwr Lane is far too narrow for anything big to get along it, and Brian had to help one lorry reverse up Heol-y-dwr because it couldn't get through.

Friday, 3 October 2014

A Day Packed with History in Shrewsbury

A couple of years ago, when I went up to my step-dad's funeral, it occurred to me that it would be quite easy to have a day out along that railway line up the Welsh border.
Today, I finally managed to get to Shrewsbury.
It was a bit dearer than the trip to Cardiff - £21.70 for the day return from Hereford - but the first bus from Hay got me to the station in nice time to catch the 08.27am train to Holyhead.
My intention was to finally get to see Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden - I'd looked it up online. My mother-in-law was a great Cadfael fan, and we'd always intended to take her, but never got round to it.
First, though, I needed coffee and a snack, which I found at Philpott's, where they do coffee and a Cumberland sausage bap for £2.50. It was such a nice morning, I sat outside.

There are lots of signs throughout the town centre pointing to places of interest, so it was easy to find my way down the hill to the Abbey. After looking round, and visiting St Winifred's shrine (or what remains of it), I asked about the herb garden. "Oh, that's not there any more," the volunteer at the abbey shop said, but helpfully pointed me across the road to the headquarters of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and gave me a good map of the town centre.
Over at the Wildlife trust, you can see where the herb garden once was - now the plants have been chosen to demonstrate how to attract beneficial insects to your garden, and so on - but the Abbey buildings are now used as offices and a conference room - and the most impressive doorway to a gift shop in all England! It's a very fine Norman archway. They said they'd been there about fourteen years, so the website is seriously out of date!
They also pointed me in the direction of the museum, if I wanted something Cadfael-related, so back up the hill I went. It's £4.00 to get into the museum, but well worth it. The Roman Gallery has a lot of impressive finds from Wroxeter - and they have a marvellous silver mirror, which must be about a foot across, and beautifully decorated on the back with flowers. It was probably held by a slave girl, being very heavy. It was also interesting to hear the theories about the layout of a prehistoric round house - I forget the name of the Professor of Archaeology, but he thinks that different activities took place in different parts of the hut to mimic a daily cycle (going round from sunrise through the door, cooking and crafts, to the bed platform) and possibly also a birth to death cycle.
Upstairs is the Medieval gallery, in the medieval hall of Vaughan's Mansion, and there is a very impressive four poster bed in the Tudor area. It's also fully accessible - they have a lift to the upper floors. There's also some costume, and Natural History, and a Bronze Age canoe. The cafe has an outdoor courtyard, one wall of which is the Mansion, with lots of interesting blocked up windows and other details.
There was an open air market in the square next to the old Market Hall, where I found the Witch Photographer, who takes photos of local sites of interest, and plays with them. I bought a picture which has a red dragon and a white dragon meeting in the middle over a view of the last winter camp of Hastain the Viking (896AD) at Bridgnorth. He's included an impressive amount of information with the picture, about the Vikings, their battles with the Saxons under Ethelflaeda, Lady of the Mercians, and the founding of Bridgnorth. He had a stall on the Brecon Road, on the way to Hay Festival, a couple of years ago - I remembered being impressed by some of his pictures of castles and dragons then.
It isn't a proper day out unless I sample some local beer, and I found the King's Head near the Welsh Bridge. Not only were they serving Moorhouse's Pride of Pendle (which is not local to Shrewsbury, but I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to have a Lancashire beer when I can), but they are the proud possessors of a 13thC wall painting, which was uncovered when they did renovation work in 1987. Apparently, the original King's Head was further up the hill, and in the 13thC the present site was a chapel. The picture of the Last Supper as a medieval feast is quite clear, and there's a top bit that might be St Mark with his lion, and a bottom bit that might be the Annunciation (there's a very clear dove, anyway). All this in a lovely black and white timber framed building.
Later on, I had a half of Three Tuns stout from Bishop's Castle (I have been to the brewery/pub there, years ago), at the Three Fishes pub, which had lots of CAMRA stickers in the window. Beer in Shrewsbury is noticeably cheaper than it is in Hay....
The Three Fishes is opposite St Alkmund's church, which isn't very interesting internally now, but was founded by Ethelflaeda in around 910AD. There were people picnicking in the churchyard, it was such a lovely sunny day.
Nearby is all that remains of St Chad's after the tower fell down catastrophically - only the Lady Chapel survived - and that hilltop may have been the site of the court of the Princes of Powys, Pengwern, before the Saxons took over the town. There is a newer St Chad's which I didn't get to see (on another visit, perhaps) - that one is a circular Georgian church which is used for a lot of concerts as it's one of the largest halls in Shrewsbury. If I'd known in time, I could have gone to a free lunchtime concert there today.
Then it was a gentle amble back to the railway station.
I could have stayed longer - I had plenty of time in Hereford to do a bit of shopping while I waited for the 4pm bus - and all the transport links worked perfectly.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Day out in Cardiff and Singing in the Evening

I'm having a few days off work this week, so I thought I'd go down to Cardiff for the day. It means getting up at the crack of dawn for the first bus to Brecon, and then catching the T4 from there. This is where the Explorer ticket comes into its own, because I can do the whole round trip for £7.50.
Of course, I'd chosen a time when all the roads in the middle of Merthyr Tydfil are being re-surfaces (they're using some very nice grey setts around the centre) so, not only did I get to see bits of Merthyr I'd never seen before as the bus went round the detour, but I also found that the bus times had changed from the timetable I'd printed out to take account of the roadworks.
Getting to Cardiff was easy, though, and I did what I always do to start with - I get off at Cardiff Castle, find the loos in Queen's Arcade, and have a coffee and pastry at the Rendez-vous cafe there. Normally, I sit out in the entrance way, but the kiosk there is now closed, so I went in the main cafe to the side. I like the way they have light fittings in the shape of tea and coffee pots, and china cups and saucers. They also do very good coffee, with lots of cream on top.
Then it was off to Forbidden Planet to treat myself to some comics.
I had thought of going down to the Bay to see the new Doctor Who exhibition, but I didn't want to miss the bus home at the new, revised time - and I also wanted to track down the Brewdog pub that opened recently, so I wandered the arcades and did a bit of gentle shopping therapy.
When I went looking for Brewdog, I couldn't find it, but I did find the new Tiny Rebel pub, just across from the Millennium Stadium, and enjoyed a half of their delicious oak smoked stout while reading my Captain Marvel comic.
I had enough time to go into the art gallery too - though I found that the historical gallery has been closed. They're moving some of it to St Fagan's, which is a shame, because there's no way I can get down to Cardiff and out to St Fagan's by bus in a day trip. Still, the art collection is impressive, and I did like the marble sculptures by William Gibson.
On the way home, the bus to Merthyr was earlier than my timetable, as the notice on the bus had said, and I had about half an hour at Merthyr to discover the delights of the shopping precinct. When I got back to the bus station, there was a group of people at the stand comparing three different time tables to guess when the bus would come in. In the end, it came at the un-revised time, and got to Brecon just right for me to step off and step onto the 39 back to Hay.

In the evening, I went over to the Baskerville for singing, and it was another good night. One chap did a marvellous unaccompanied version of And The Band Played Walzing Matilda, and there were two versions of The Diggers' Song. I sang one, and then the chap who sang Walzing Matilda did the second, with guitar accompaniment, and at about twice the speed!
And because Bob asked for them, here are the lyrics:

In 1649, at St George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

"We come in peace," they said, "to dig and sow.
We come to work the land in common and to make the waste ground grow.
What is divided
We will make whole
So it can be a common treasury for all."

"The sin of property
We do distain
No man has any right to buy or sell the Earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command."

"They make the laws
That chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with Heaven or they damn us into Hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed which feeds the rich while poor men starve."

"We work, we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the lords
We are free people
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now."

From men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed but still the vision lingers on.

You poor take courage
You rich take care
The Earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common
All people one.
"We come in peace." The orders came to cut them down.

As sung by Chumbawumba and Billy Bragg - I was told the name of the chap who wrote the song back in the 1970s, but I didn't write it down....