Monday, 30 November 2015

Turning on the Christmas Lights

Most of the pictorial lights that used to go up around town, reindeer and so on, have gone now, the victims of poor storage - and this year the display that usually goes on the clock tower fell over in a gust of wind while the workmen were putting the lights up, and that was the end of that one too.
And the blue lights that went in the trees on Broad Street went kaput, as well, though Broad Street Books/Rest for the Tired have put up their own coloured lights, which gives a festive air to that part of the street.
But we still have the festoons of LED lights along the eaves of Castle Street and the centre of town, and strings of lights down the Pavement, and it all looks very pretty when it's turned on.
The marquee was up for the Food Fair on Saturday and Hay Does Vintage on Sunday, and for Friday evening it was taken over by Hay School and various community groups. A new one was collecting for Syrian refugees under the banner Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees. They feel this area is best suited to offer "respite sanctuary" - short term help for refugees who probably won't want to settle in the area permanently, but who will need somewhere peaceful to get themselves together and be helped with their immediate needs. They were also handing out leaflets with information to combat common myths about refugees (they don't get huge handouts from the State and they don't jump the queue for Council housing, for instance). And it's a sobering thought that there are 4 million refugees from Syria, and only 143 of them have been resettled in the UK so far.
Also in the marquee was Dial-a-Ride, and the Globemakers, a craft group that meets monthly at the Globe - they were making candle lanterns out of jam jars in a corner, which they were encouraging children to decorate. Pughs from Londis were there selling the new Hay Vouchers and displaying one of their Christmas hampers. Outside, Stuart the Greengrocer had a stall.
In another corner were Drover Cycles with a tinsel decorated bike. They are having an open day on Saturday 5th December. They're having a sale of outdoor clothing, and are also selling off ex demo and hire bikes, with competitions and a Turbo Training Demonstration. That's up at their headquarters on Forest Road, near the Doctors' surgery.
The Community Choir sang carols in the Cheese Market, followed by the children of Hay School, and at 7pm the lights were turned on. Despite the foul weather, there was a good turnout, and several shops stayed open for the evening, including Shepherds and Timeless Treasures down the Pavement. (I'm afraid I'd chickened out and gone home by then!)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Small Business Saturday

So I'm back to where I started, back at the beginning of 2012 (!) and things have changed. Gone are River Strokes Kayak School, Llangwathan Marquees and the Welsh Sandwich Company, and Andrew O'Donaghue has expanded.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Community Rallies Round for Old People's Christmas Party

It started with a comment on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, asking when the Christmas Party for the older residents of Hay would be, because the commenter hadn't recieved an invitation yet.
I missed last month's Council meeting - they always organise it - but at the meeting before that, they had decided not to hold the party at the Swan again, because of cost, and were looking at other options.
Pretty soon all sorts of local people were commenting on Gareth's Facebook page, all with the aim of making sure that a party went ahead. Pughs/Londis offered prizes for the raffle, various people offered to be waiters and waitresses, and Gareth organised a meeting for everybody who wanted to help to get together.
So the party is going to happen on 12th January, and the invitations should be going out now.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thin Ice

With the Climate Change Summit coming up in Paris, here's a topical film at Talgarth Town Hall on Sunday evening. There'll be a discussion afterwards, with Grenville Ham of Green Valleys - who is also standing as the local Green Party candidate for the Welsh Assembly next year.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Another Book Launch

Hanging around Booth's Bookshop with a glass of wine in my hand is getting to be a habit!
The occasion this time was the launch of Mollie Lord's novel Paradise Lost, which involves painters in Provence and someone who works for the NHS. I saw Mollie in the Wholefood Shop earlier in the day, and she invited me to come along.
Mollie read three extracts from her book, perched on the bookshop stepladders (as is traditional at these events). Lyn Webster Wilde was there, too, and she said that Mollie had started writing the book when on a writing course Lyn was running in the Dordogne. So Lyn has seen it taking shape right from the beginning.
One of the characters in the book is an alcoholic, and Mollie made an impassioned speech about the NHS cutting funding to addiction clinics, making the point that it's not just the alcoholic who is affected, but the entire family around them, who need help as well.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Opportunities for a Low Carbon Economy

I've been following Richard Priestley's blog for a while - he lives in Herefordshire and writes about environmental issues, and is always interesting and well informed. So when I heard that there was a chance to hear him speak in Hay, I was interested in going along. His blog can be found here: and I've added it to the sidebar.
He was giving, in fact, the same talk twice, at 2pm and 3pm on Friday, at the Old Electric Shop. The intention was to have a "dry run", as he's been invited to speak at the House of Commons on 25th November. He's also done his talk in Leominster, and was going on to do it again in Birmingham.
The idea was to look at the solutions to the problems that climate change is causing around the world, and how we can use renewable energy efficiently now.
So he talked about floating wind turbines in Japan which also have a marine turbine underneath. The oceans around Japan also have the greatest differential between surface and deep temperatures, and there is technology to extract energy by pumping the sea water (there was a diagram, which made sense while I was looking at it!). Still with the oceans, he talked about desalination plants which run on solar power. The extracted salt can be used to store heat energy from the solar panels so that they can provide energy day and night, all year round - but only in hot countries. Morocco is very keen on this technology, and they already have a cement factory which is partially powered by solar energy.
Meanwhile in Australia they are using desalination to provide water for crop growing in the desert, also powered by the sun - and are growing bumper crops of tomatoes right now.
He talked about Fintry in Scotland. When a company wanted to put 14 wind turbines next to the village, they expected opposition - but were surprised to find the villagers in favour, as long as they made it 15 wind turbines, and the 15th was to be the property of the community. The profits from that wind turbine have transformed the village - all the houses got extra insulation, to start with, and they have been doing all sorts of other community projects.
Also in Scotland, he said that the Orkneys have such abundant electricity now that a company making electric cars in Leicester opened their second branch in the Orkneys.
He also mentioned a company making refrigerated lorries which run on liquid nitrogen. So instead of using diesel to run the engine and more diesel to run the refridgeration unit, they can combine the two into one engine which uses the liquid nitrogen to cool the refridgeration unit and run the lorry. They're looking at exporting the lorries to China, and maybe India, where there's a great need to keep food from going off on the way to market.
So all sorts of things can be done now - if there is the political will (he wasn't very complimentary about certain members of the present government - and laughed, and said he'd have to tone that down when he was in the House of Commons committee room).
And when he threw the session open to questions from the audience, there was a lady there who knows people who live close to Fintry - and her grandfather was a wind power pioneer in Scotland right back into the 1930s.
She made the point that MPs and other people in government have all sorts of information they need to cram into their minds, and to be most effective, Richard Priestley's talk has to get straight to the point and give them the most pertinent information - he obviously has a huge amount of knowledge at his fingertips, but he needs to edit it down precisely to what they need to know to take the ideas further.
She also discussed wave power with him - the scientists from Edinburgh University who were working on that in the 1970s (and I remember a programme on Radio 4 at the time that sounded as if they were getting somewhere with the scheme) had their funding cut - and some of them moved to Portugal, which is where they developed a commercially viable wave power scheme.
And then he said that, when he had first been contacted, he had understood that he would have an audience of MPs, most of whom would have no background in science, but now he has been told that there's a debate on the Budget that day and the whips want all the MPs in the Chamber - so he's been drumming up another audience to fill the committee room, which will include several venture capitalists who might be interested in investing in some of the schemes that are happening in this country now.
When I left, he was just starting his slide show again for the second audience of the day.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Small Business Saturday

This regular feature is back!
I've had a brief break by going round all the places of worship locally, but now it's time to have a look at all the new businesses that have arrived in Hay while I was going round last time, as well as some which have moved premises.
Hay never stays the same for long.

So here we are on the outskirts of town, at the premises which used to be FJ Williams, which sold all sorts of building supplies and tools and so on. They sold the business to Huws Gray, which is more a medium sized business, as it has several outlets nationwide. The staff are still as friendly and helpful as ever, though. They've also now got a kitchen, stove and bathroom showroom.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Mrs Illingworth

I hope this works - there's a lovely little film on Vimeo about Mrs Illingworth, who has just died aged 92, where she talks about her Christian faith.
She was one of Hay's characters.
So here's the link, as I'm too technically challenged to share the video here:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Bovey Belle Visits Hay Again

Bovey Belle is the author of the blog Codlins and Cream 2. She lives somewhere deep in the Welsh countryside, and sometimes she visits Hay. When she does, she always takes interesting photos - which can be seen on her blog posts for the 8th October and 23rd October.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


On Saturday, the Buttermarket was being used for a craft fair called Fabazaar.
Among the stalls was a fascinating one with goods from the Ukraine. The young lady had nettle and hemp fabric - which isn't made any more in these days of mass production - and embroidered blouses, and decorated eggs. She explained the process for decorating the eggs, which was very time consuming, for some very intricate decorations in four colours. There were blankets, too, and wooden spoons, and everything is made by local families in the Carpathian mountains.
They also run holidays in the Carpathian mountains, and can be contacted at

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Opportunities for a Low Carbon Economy

Richard Priestley is coming to Hay on Friday to give a talk at the Old Electric Shop at 3pm. [Edited to add: He's actually doing his talk at 2pm and again at 3pm]
He's going to be giving a presentation in a committee room of the House of Commons on the 25th November, so he's having a trial run here, and also (last week) in Leominster and (shortly) in Birmingham.
There will be tea and cakes afterwards!

I've been following Richard Priestley's blog for a while now, and it always makes interesting reading. He can be found at and the blog is called Global Problems, Global Solutions.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Pick and Mix

On Saturday evening, I was invited to the Hay Writers' Circle book launch at Booth Books.
On sale was their new collection, Pick and Mix, and they were celebrating with wine and an impressive selection of nibbles.
Some years ago, I thought about joining the Writers' Circle - but when I write, fantasy and science fiction comes out, and the ladies (and it was nearly all ladies) in the group back then didn't really know what to make of dragons or space ships.
Having chatted to a few of the present members, though, I may just give it another go.
Several of the people there were also musical, belonging to the choir that meets in the Catholic church, and sings at some of their services though they are not all Catholics. The lady I was talking to said it seemed like a fair exchange for the use of the building.
Lyn Webster Wilde was there, too, so I asked her how her film The Dancing Floor is progressing. She said they're at the stage of looking for investment, which is something she's never done before - she's having to become a Jack of all trades!
Another lady there has just turned her manuscript in to her publisher - she's written a crime novel, so I'll be looking out for that when it's finally ready.
It was a very pleasant evening, and I hope the book sells well!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sunday Worship

Here's a vintage picture of Cusop Church, including the schoolhouse next door - it was a lot more open then than it is now!
This is halfway up Cusop Dingle, on the English side of the Dulas Brook.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


A very clever idea, and Crickhowell is only a few miles down the road from Hay.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Voucher Scheme in Hay

I was sceptical at first, when I saw the email sent out by Andrew at the Chamber of Commerce to all the local businesses.
Then I had a chat to Derek at the Wholefood shop, who showed me some of the vouchers, too, and it seems to be quite a reasonable idea.
The idea is that gift vouchers for £5 and £10 will be available from Pughs, and can be used at any shop in Hay with a door sticker that says they're in the scheme. Then the shopkeeper can redeem the money from a central point (presumably, Pughs will be administering it).
I can see it would be quite a good idea when work colleagues have birthdays - it can be hard to think of suitable presents, but a voucher would always be useful if it could be used along with the normal shopping.
There are similar schemes elsewhere in the country - the Totnes Pound, for instance, and there's another scheme in Bristol. The idea is to keep money circulating within the local economy, instead of it being spent in chain stores and disappearing who knows where.
The scheme will be launched at the turning on of the Christmas lights on 27th November.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Down At Baskerville Hall

I was at Baskerville Hall last night - another fun night, in the more intimate surroundings of the bar this time, rather than the ballroom.  Susan is branching out from Noel Coward and Hillaire Belloc to archy and mehitabel (archy is a cockroach poet who can't use the shift key on the typewriter).  My mum had such a good time when she came over to visit that she sent me a poem to read out so she could join in by proxy (she didn't write it - she clipped it out of a newspaper).  And there was Bob and George and Justin and Thomasin, Huw the poet and John the Banjo, Paul with his giant bass guitar and Sara with her drum, and a couple of others.
Last week, George sang his version of what happens at Baskerville Hall to the tune My Love's in Germany ("send him home" became "Baskerville"), and now Dave has put his song about Baskerville Hall on Youtube!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day

I missed the Remembrance parade on Sunday. I usually see them march past, on the way to the church from the cenotaph, but this time I must have been doing something else when they passed by.
They didn't have very good weather for it.
But, the wreaths were laid, and the names of the war dead of Hay were read out (51 from the First World War and 17 from the Second World War). According to the B&R Father Richard preached a good sermon, reminding the congregation to think of present day refugees, and also praying for peace in Afghanistan and around the world.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Winter Festival

Not long now until the Hay Winter Festival.
Which is also the weekend of the turning on of the Christmas Lights (on the Friday).
And the Food Festival (on the Saturday).
And Hay Does Vintage (on the Sunday).

And Santa will be in Booths Bookshop on the Saturday.
So there's lots going on that weekend.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Refurbishing the Swan

When I arrived at the Swan on Thursday for the monthly Stitch and Bitch meet up, I found one of the new managers of the Swan talking to one of the other ladies. The hotel was recently sold to the Llangoed Hall group - they have three hotels - and the new management is keen to renovate the Swan to a high standard. The young man was very enthusiastic about the plans they have.
They are also keen to chat to all the groups that meet in the hotel, including Stitch and Bitch, though the overall manager has to divide his time between all three of the hotels, one of which is in Oxfordshire, so it could be difficult to find a convenient time to meet.
At any rate, the hotel will be closing for three months in the new year, apart from events which are already booked - in which case the renovation work will go on in different parts of the hotel while the event is happening.
So Stitch and Bitch will be looking for somewhere else to meet for a while, with good lighting so we can see to sew and knit. I have vivid memories of when the group moved out of Wool and Willow in Backfold, some years ago, and was looking for a new home - the hall at the back of the British Legion was so freezing cold we couldn't take our coats off, and the radiators were stone cold, despite the staff saying the heating had been on all day. Kilverts was too gloomy to see properly, and so was the Blue Boar, so we were very happy to find the good lighting and comfortable seats at the Swan.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sunday Worship

Llanigon Church, a little way out of Hay. The belfry is over the porch.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Singing and Fireworks at Baskerville Hall

I was up at Baskerville Hall with Brian for the usual Wednesday evening session - in the ballroom that night, as it's bigger. It was fairly quiet for the first half, but after the break for chips at 9pm a group of ladies on a course came to join us (something to do with play?) and it all got a lot more participatory! George had them standing on chairs and waving their arms around!
Brian was up there the following night as well, for the big fireworks display. The Lions put it on, and raise money for Dial-a-Ride. He had volunteered to help with the car parking, and ended up marshalling all the 4x4s onto the field, where it was better for them - if it was wet, they had more chance of making it back out again through the mud!
There was a good crowd:

This picture was taken by Mari Fforde.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Celebrating Hallowe'en

I carved a pumpkin, of course.
And putting it in the window attracted about half a dozen giggly young witches to the door. I never have sweets for them, but I do have a collection of cheap bangles and bits and pieces that I keep to give away, so they went away quite happy.
Then it was up to Red Indigo with the Young Man for a delicious meal. There was a waiter I haven't seen before, who was very jovial. He was chatting about sports cars at another table, and told the Young Man that his choice of main course (the salmon and tiger prawn fusion) was very healthy, and would build his strength up!
When we walked home there were still groups of kids in costume wandering about - the following day I saw a trail of flour that had been left, little heaps at intervals up the pavement, but it seemed to end with an arrow pointing at the Blue Boar, so I don't think that can have been left by little kids!
I'd bought tickets for the Hallowe'en Party at the Globe, and we dressed up for the occasion. The Young Man even put his fangs in, and looked very smart in a pseudo-Victorian way. I wore my Goth dress and opera cloak.
Sadly, this turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. There were very few people there, though just before we left a group of half a dozen came in who had made a real effort with their costumes. I particularly liked the Bride, and the skeleton with the top hat. The DJ didn't seem to have made much of an effort either - the playlist could have been for any time of year, with no Hallowe'en themed music at all.
So we went home and watched Doctor Who on iPlayer. Zygons! UNIT! Lots of fun!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Fairtrade Hay Find out about Shared Interest

Last night, I went to Tomatitos, as Fairtrade Hay were meeting there to listen to a speaker about Shared Interest, which gives loans to Fairtrade organisations. Fairtrade Hay have been investing in Shared Interest for some time now, and it was fascinating to find out more about the organisation and the sort of loans they give.
The full report is on the Fairtrade Hay blog, which has a link on the sidebar.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Housing Development - the Town Council's Position

Here's the post from Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page earlier today, setting out the position of the council about the Gypsy Castle housing development:

Dear Officers

In partnership with my community council I wish to submit the following below as local member.

I also wish as local member to CALL-IN the application for committee decision as the application is the largest build of houses in almost 30 years for the residents of Hay-on-Wye and the community wish to see an open process and I feel it is best to hold that in public meeting where people can address the committee.

Re: Planning Application 15/12443/FUL – land opposite The Meadows, Gypsy Castle Lane, Hay on Wye

With reference to the above planning application I write to advise that the Town Council wishes to lodge its objection to this application.

The specific objections and concerns are outlined below, but the Town Council would firstly like to clarify their general position in relation to this application.

The council recognizes the need for affordable homes within Hay and in principle will support developments that meet this need. However, there are aspects of this development that give rise to significant concerns amongst councilors and the residents of Hay.

We would like to suggest that a way forward would be to work collaboratively with both Persimmon Homes and the BBNPA to address areas of concern and bring the development application to a point where we feel able to support it.

The main issues with this application are:

1. Traffic/ Highway Safety

The existing highways infrastructure is not able to cope with additional traffic and site access will utilize a road that is not only predominantly single lane but already viewed as having “dangerous junctions”.

To avoid the use of the ‘lane’ the application suggests that access to/from the site to the main Brecon road would be via an existing housing development (not good industry practice). Access to the town centre would be along a road already viewed as a trouble spot due to its limited width in some areas, lack of passing places and very narrow pavements.

The traffic management assessment does not address the practical problems faced by motorists within Hay and instead makes a judgement based on traffic counts. The top end of the road leading to the town centre has houses where residents step straight onto the road, there is no pavement and no scope to provide one, without significant change to traffic flows and investment in infrastructure.
The Town Council firmly believe that a new access road is essential for this development.

2. Flooding concerns

There are a number of issues to highlight here. The planning application declares that it is not within 25m of a watercourse when in fact there is a brook running through the western end of the field. This has been described in one of the surveys as a ‘dry ditch’, which it may well have been through the summer but does normally contain a flow of water and is a contributing factor to the flooding that occurs in this general area.

The Floodwater strategy put forward by Persimmon does not address the most common cause of flooding in this area, that of flash floods which in this case without the appropriate management system in place would affect house on the site.

The ‘pond’ suggested by Persimmon as containment for surface water runoff also causes some concern. This is shown as being fenced off and located very close to the proposed play area. It is felt that this will be a draw to children and poses an unacceptable health and safety risk.

3. Environmental issues

There is some concern about part of the land to be used for development as this was previously the town rubbish tip, the old railway line is also close by and historically these sites are often found to have contaminated ground.

There do not appear to be have been any tests carried out on this land as yet to determine if there is any contamination and its extent. Residents have also expressed concerns with regards to the potential risk of contaminating the nearby River Wye (which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest) if such ground were to be disturbed.

We would also raise the issue of sustainability; garden sizes at this development are very small leaving no scope for encouraging the growing of fruit and vegetables to encourage self -sufficiency. We equally would hope that the choice of materials and energy for the properties would be energy efficient and cause minimal environmental impact.

4. LDP proposals

The original LDP housing allocation for this site was for 62 dwellings, this appears to have been increased and agreed as 80 by the BBNPA without any consultation or notification.

5. Affordable Housing

We are pleased to see that Persimmon are proposing to meet their obligation for 30% affordable housing on the development and that there is a mix of provision. What is more concerning is our past experience of developers being allowed to opt out of this obligation and pay a penalty which is passed to the local authority. Our feeling is that these houses must be delivered and should be included in the early stages of the development.

6. Impact of other LDPs

This is not specifically a point for the BBNPA but it should be borne in mind that Hay on Wye is impacted by three LDPs (BBNPA, Powys Deposit Local Development Plan and Herefordshire LDP).

Persimmon make reference to the Powys plan which proposes 45 dwellings just a few yards up the road from their proposed development and do not foresee any detriment to the other development or infrastructure required to deliver it.

We have recently been informed that this other LDP has been delayed and without being able to assess the impact on the necessary infrastructure works for both sites we cannot agree to this development.

The impact on the infrastructure of Hay on Wye if all developments proposed in the 3 plans come to fruition is immense and because plans are assessed and approved in isolation is not fully taken into account.

In conclusion although there are significant concerns in relation to this development we would again reiterate that we would be happy to work with the applicant and BBNPA to address the issues and bring the application to a position where we could support it.

Yours faithfully

Best Wishes

Gareth Ratcliffe

Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe
Councillor for Hay-on-Wye

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sunday Worship

St Mary's Church.
Father Richard Williams is the priest of the parish, which also covers Llanigon and Capel-y-ffin. It's a Church in Wales church, and Father Richard enthusiastically embraces incense, candles and icons in the church.
He's also an accomplished musician, so many musical events are held in the church, including Father Richard accompanying silent films on the organ.
Dogs are welcome in the church - Father Richard has a black standard poodle called Jimmy the Curate, and a younger, white standard poodle called Daisy.