Friday, 30 September 2016

Visitors from Timbuktu

When I was in Red Indigo the other night with my mum, we saw two chaps in turbans and African clothing leaving the restaurant after their meal, along with a chap in a suit who may have been an interpreter or some sort of minder.
According to the Hereford Times, they were Mahamane Bilal, a teacher, and Elmehdi Ag Wakina, a director at a Timbuktu charity AMSS, on an official visit to Hay as guests of Hay2Timbuktu.
Hay has been twinned with Timbuktu since 2007, and it's good to see contact is continuing, despite the unrest in Mali over the last few years. Hay Medical Centre is very much involved in helping with neonatal care in Timbuktu, and there is an education project between three schools in Timbuktu and Hay School and Gwernyfed High School.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Local School Building Programme

So Clyro School is about to be completely rebuilt, as it is now overcrowded with all the children who used to go to Rhosgoch and Fynnon Gynydd schools (now closed down). In the B&R, the headmistress says she is thrilled by the decision, which is part of a larger school building programme. Hay, Talgarth, Llangorse and Llyswen are also supposed to be rebuilt at the same time.
The one problem with this is - where are the children from Clyro going to go to school while their present school is demolished and the new one is being built on top? Apparently there is no space on school property for portacabins for the year of re-building as well as the construction work. On James Gibson-Watt's Facebook page, someone has suggested that the school relocates to Llanigon, which was also closed, for the duration - but Llanigon is apparently unfit for use. Apparently it was just left to deteriorate when it closed down. Rhosgoch school building was sold, and Fynnon Gynydd school building reverted to the original owner, so neither of those are available to house the children either.
The contractors building the five schools are Willmott Dixon, who have a lot of experience in school building, according to someone on James Gibson-Watt's Facebook page who says he has worked with them before. He also says they have a good track record of working with local businesses as sub-contractors.

Meanwhile, the BBNP has recommended that an archaeological excavation should take place in advance of the building of the new Hay School. Gareth Ratcliffe seems to think that excavation could take place very quickly, on his Facebook page.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lost Little Wheelie Bin

Last week I came home to find a wheelie bin on my doorstep. It wasn't even bin day. It's not a brand new bin, but there is no mark on it to show where it's come from, and I have no idea who left it there. None of the houses down this end of Broad Street use wheelie bins - we have the blue and red and "aqua" tubs and purple rubbish bags instead.
My neighbour has put a little note on it to ask whoever left it here to remove it.
So if anyone's lost a wheelie bin....

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Drama in the Car Park

Best wishes to Tim the Gardener for a speedy recovery after he collapsed in the car park this morning! Mac Eager was on the scene and provided essential first aid, and probably saved Tim's life!
The hospital will only give out information about a patient to family members, so there's no further news of how Tim is at the moment. I don't think he has any family locally.

Update, Wednesday 28th: I've just seen Brian with the Staffy, and he tells me that Tim has been moved to Cardiff for a stent, and that several people have already visited him, including Athene English and the lady from Tinto House (where he does some of his gardening and has his book shelves).

Monday, 26 September 2016

Normal Service.... now being resumed!

This morning I caught the early bus into Hereford with my mum and left her at the train station, on the first leg of her journey back to Cyprus. This time she's got tickets to Birmingham International station, rather than getting off the train at Birmingham New Street and getting a taxi to the airport! This morning we were crossing our fingers that Monarch Airlines would have at least one more day's trading so they could get home!

Even though mum was here for two weeks, we didn't get to sample all the eateries in Hay, although she and Kevin went into Eve's so often they gave her a loyalty card! Kevin liked the espresso, and mum liked the blueberry muffins.

We treated ourselves to a meal in Red Indigo twice, though perhaps the first Saturday evening after they re-opened was not the best time to go! They were very busy indeed - the staff must have been exhausted by the end of the night - and they were doing take aways as well. Mum really wanted an onion bhaji - not easy to find in Cyprus - and she wasn't disappointed. The rogan josh was also very nice. Eklim, the manager, saw us as we went out, and said that he would be able to give the "lovely lady" his undivided attention next time we visited - and gave us each a miniature bottle of Prosecco because of the long wait we'd had. Neither of us minded - it was nice to see the support for Red Indigo after the unfortunate incident where their window was broken.
The following Friday was not so busy, and this time we had onion bhaji and chicken boona, also very tasty.

We ate in the Blue Boar twice, as well (lovely chili). Kevin had been waiting to taste English beer again, and he really liked the Timothy Taylor Landlord there. He complains that it's all fizzy lager in Cyprus.

We also went off to Hereford for a day, shopping for things that mum can't get in Cyprus (including a pressure cooker!), and spent another day in Brecon, where I treated them to lunch at the Brecon Tap (lovely steak pie, with black pudding mashed potatoes) and topped up my supply of bottled beers, including the Discworld range. This time, I took my own beer carrier.

On the last night, I took mum down to the Three Tuns, where we had enormous pizzas!

I have to give a huge thank you to Mrs Gwynne of Belmont House. She put mum and Kevin in the cottage to the side of the house, which was originally the stables, but has been converted into bedrooms with a kitchen and lounge downstairs, and a conservatory at the back overlooking the garden.
There weren't many other guests staying there, and the ones that did were only there for a night or two, so mum and Kevin had free use of the kitchen if they wanted to cook for themselves, and use of the dining table and lounge. Mrs Gwynne even lent them some pans to cook with, and it was much better for me to go up and sit with them in the lounge - my living room is a bit cramped!
There was a TV, too - I don't have a TV, so I discovered the delights of such daytime programmes as Tipping Point, Eggheads, Flog It and a really quite interesting programme about restaurant tricks of the trade (was your cocktail mixed in a factory and delivered in a carton, or was it made by a skilled bar person in front of you?).
Mrs Gwynne also lent them a CD player so Kevin could play the CDs he got from Haystacks in Backfold - lots of Sounds of the Sixties.
Belmont House is currently up for sale - Mrs Gwynne has been running the B&B for forty years (most of that with her husband who died not long ago) and she thinks she's done it long enough!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pottering around the Cafes

My mum and her partner are visiting - and they are not in the first flush of youth, so we are taking things really easily, with lots of stops at cafes. This means that I've been into some of the cafes in Hay that I haven't set foot in for years!
Kevin is very impressed with the espresso coffee at Isis, which they did at double strength for him.
At the Secret Garden mum and I had a pot of tea and toasted teacakes, which they can't get in Cyprus. Kevin had strong coffee again, with a glass of water, as it's often served in Cyprus - and then asked for ice cubes to go in the water, which they brought for him in a little dish.
This morning we were in Oscars for more coffee (the mocha was very nice).
And last night, we went to the chip shop for three fish and one large portion of chips - which was quite enough between three of us! And they really enjoyed the mushy peas - something else that they can't get in Cyprus.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Good News!

Firstly, the Hay Ho Sunday bus has been confirmed for another year between Hay and Hereford.
Secondly, Red Indigo has re-opened for business after criminal damage meant that their bow window had to be replaced - by a flat window, sadly, as the original bow was probably made to fit that unique window.
and thirdly, two and a half cheers for Powys County Council, who have rejected plans to close Gwernyfed and Brecon High schools. There's still another step to go through when the cabinet make the final decision on Tuesday September 27th.
What the cabinet is now being asked to do is to submit a revised Outline Business Case to the Welsh government's 21st century schools programme for capital investment in both campuses, including a new build school in Brecon and improvements to Gwernyfed campus.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Traditions, Myths and Legends at Theatr Brycheiniog

I went over to Brecon with Jane, for the second time in a day, to Theatr Brycheiniog. The hall at the side of the theatre was hosting a free talk and exhibition to start Brecknock History Week.
The place was packed out!
Around the sides were the displays, which we had time to look at before the talks, in the interval, and for a short time before everyone had to pack up and leave.
Just by the door were Alan Nichols and Mari Fforde, with a display about Hay Castle and Alan's new book Lords of Hay. I had to get a copy - he's done such a lot of work with the original documents to piece it all together.
The Regimental Museum had a stand, and there was another about World War One Battlefields, and one about Welsh soldiers of the First World War - they are collecting stories about Welsh soldiers who were involved.
Robert Macdonald was showing some of his paintings depicting Welsh legends - one of them is on the front of the History Week brochure, showing the legend of the birds of Llangorse Lake crying out for a true King.
Brecknock Museum had leaflets about volunteering - the work on the building is going ahead now, as the Curator said later in his talk.
There was a model of a graveyard, with all the different types of graves in the 19th century, made by the pupils of Llyswen School, including the lovely local tradition of lining a grave with moss and flowers for people who had been well-loved.
There were others, too, for Llanwrtyd Wells and there was a map of the Llangorse Lake area.

John Gibbs, of the Brecknock History Forum, introduced the speakers, who had all been given six minutes to tell their story or legend.
In the first half, we got the story of St Eluned, Daughter of Brychan, where Mike Williams contrasted St Winefred's Well in Holywell, North Wales (a magnificent building and tourist destination) with the field and patch of nettles that marks St Eluned's well.
Richard Davies, of the Regimental Museum, dispelled a few myths about Rorke's Drift, as seen in the film Zulu (144 mistakes and inaccuracies in a film that was only 90 minutes long!). He encouraged people to come to the museum to see the new display about one of the soldiers at Rorke's Drift, who had been portrayed in the film as a drunken Cockney but was in fact a teetotaller from Gloucestershire!
Alison Noble was trying as hard as she could to dissuade people from visiting Cwm Llwch! It's a bottomless lake near Pen y Fan, and there are many ways of ending up "dead within the week" depending on what you do there!
Finally, Nigel Blackamore, the curator of Brecknock Museum, told the sad story of Tommy Jones, aged five when he disappeared on the Brecon Beacons in 1900, and the couple who found his body just over a month later - legend has it that a dream led the lady to the exact spot.

After the break - refreshments, wine and soft drinks were available at the back of the hall for a donation - we got the story of Boughrood Dead House, the church that was built on a very early roundabout (and rebuilt by the de Winton family as a memorial to the de Winton vicar there, when his son became vicar in his place). After the cholera epidemic of 1848, dead houses were built to keep the corpses of the deceased until burial, rather than leave them in the family home, and the people of Boughrood are trying to renovate their Dead House and turn it into a small museum. Elizabeth Bingham also warned against looking up the term "bier house" on Google if you wanted to find a place where biers (used for moving coffins) were stored - she had found a great many German lager selling establishments!
Continuing the renovation theme, Mari Fforde spoke about Matilda de Braose and her association with Hay Castle - and her terrible death. Such was the outrage when she and her son were starved to death by King John, that it was one of the contributing factors towards the writing of Magna Carta.
Felicity Kilpatrick from Christ College talked about a legendary master at the school, around the First World War and later, and followed it up with the Legend of Bishop Lucy, whose handless ghost walks the chapel (allegedly)!
Finally, Hugh Thomas told us a spine chilling story, written down in the late 19th century, of the Llangynidr ghost.

It was a very entertaining evening, and I learned a lot about different projects happening throughout the county.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Going to the Vet at Kington

We were on the way back to Hay after climbing Brecon Cathedral tower (and here's a picture of the very top turret):

Before we climbed the tower, we had walked down into the woods surrounding the cathedral so that Denzel the Staffie could stretch his legs before he was shut in the car. Somewhere down there, he had got something in his eye, and Brian thought it best to phone the vet in Kington and take him over there to have it seen to.
A lot of people in Hay use the Kington vets. I'd never been before - I used to go to the Hay vets in Lamb House, before they moved to their new, purpose-built surgery on Forest Road, and I always found them helpful and friendly.
On the way, we passed the doctor's surgery - apparently they are finding it very difficult to attract new doctors to work there, even though Kington is a very nice place to live. This isn't just a problem in Kington - there's a more general shortage of GPs across the country.
The vets surgery is down a little lane just off one of the roundabouts on the edge of Kington - I don't know the names of the roads, but the nearest pub on the way into Kington from that roundabout is the Olde Tavern. We were going to the outside of the ring road.
Denzel, by this time, had managed to get the thing out of his eye - it was a piece of leaf that had been smeared across his eyeball. But Brian had been meaning to take him for some routine check ups anyway.
While they were in the consultation room, we started to notice how the building had been converted from something else. There was a broad stripe across the tiled floor, and near the end of the stripe was a brass fitting in the floor. Jane suggested that it had been the place where a sliding door/wall had been secured, so we went looking behind the reception desk for the other end of it - as you go in, there's a reception area with a little shop for dog leads and toys and chews and so on. One of the staff said that the building used to be a trouser factory. All the staff there seemed to be young women with their hair scraped up into a bun, and they were all very friendly and cheerful, even when we were asking them to move boxes so we could see if there was another brass fitting on the floor!
So, Denzel was fine, and we went back to Hay "the pretty way" - by the back roads, which made me laugh, because the main road is very pretty as well!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Brecon Cathedral Tower

"Feel the fear and do it anyway."
I'm mildly afraid of heights, enough that looking down on a steep drop is a fairly traumatic experience - but this was a chance to see parts of Brecon Cathedral that are not normally open to the public.
When we got up there, we could understand why!
There's quite an extensive warning in the Brecknock History Week brochure about the dangers. The taller of us were given hard hats, which we needed! The passages are narrow, the roof is low, and there are low door frames as well. The spiral staircases are also very narrow.
But we were climbing up inside the walls of the cathedral, and there are points along the passage ways with magnificent views down into the body of the cathedral from really quite high up. Originally, a lot of the climb would have been in darkness, but modern technology means there is an LED strip all the way along, which was most useful.
The cathedral bell ringers are obviously made of stern stuff, because this is the only route to the ringing chamber. Two of the guides were also bell ringers - one of them has been a ringer for 50 years - and the woman bell ringer said that they have two girls on the team now from the Guides.
There are ten bells in the tower, three from the original peal of five bells, which were cast in Gloucester in 1745, and seven which were cast in Holland about twenty years ago, when the original bells were upgraded. There were six bells at one time, but one of them disappeared when building work was being done in the tower many years ago. The other two bells which were not re-used in the present peal are in the cathedral museum.
They have a little monitor in the corner of the ringing chamber where they can see the bells above them, which is quite fun. And then we were given earmuffs and taken up to the bell chamber to see the bells at close hand, and hear them ringing!
Finally we got up onto the roof - and the views were worth the climb!
It took us about an hour, and it was fascinating, and well worth the £5 charge. We were surprised that there weren't more people on the tours, but we three from Hay practically had a private viewing. There was another chap at the beginning, who bypassed the bells because he was short of time, but they only had three people booked for each of the three tours. As we came out, the next three people were waiting, festooned with camera equipment.

This afternoon, St Mary's Church in Brecon had the tower open as well, so those who felt inclined could inspect both peals of bells in Brecon - and that tour was free!

After the tour, we went over to the cafe for a coffee - and if you hand in your car park ticket, you get £1 back.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

40th Anniversary of Hay's Independence

It's not until next April 1st, but the planning is starting next week, with a meeting organised by the Chamber of Commerce.
On April 1st, 1977, Richard Booth declared himself King of an Independent Kingdom of Hay, with its own navy (a rowing boat on the Wye) and I think its own airforce, too (a fly past by a local light aircraft). Passports, and peerages, are still available from The King of Hay shop on Castle Street.
So the Chamber of Commerce are holding an open meeting on Thursday 15th September at the Bean Box cafe on the banks of the River Wye, at 6pm. (but only if it's a fine evening - the venue may change!).
The purpose of the meeting is not for the Chamber of Commerce to organise everything - it's so they can co-ordinate all the ideas for the celebration, so ideas are not duplicated.
The King is being kept informed.

The next Chamber of Commerce meeting will be on Wednesday 7th September at Tomatitos, at 6pm.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Smashed Windows

Red Indigo is closed until further notice due to criminal damage - their bay window has been smashed in!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Brecknock History Week

It's coming up soon, from the 9th September to the 18th.
The theme this year is Traditions, Myths and Legends.
The Hay History Group are involved, offering free Hay Tours (a Heritage Walk) on Saturday 17th September (donations welcome). Numbers are limited, so they ask that people who want to go on the tours book online at
The Hay Model Railway will also be open at Salem Chapel, for £1 entry.
And in the evening there's a talk at Cusop Village Hall from 7pm, entitled The Landscape History around Hay, from the Earliest Times to the Norman Conquest. The speaker is Bill Britnell, from the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (I used to work for them, in the dim and distant past!) The talk costs £4, including tea or coffee, and again, they ask people who want to go to book online.

There will be more Hay Tours on Sunday 18th September, including an Armstrong the Poisoner Walk - again, they are free, but need to be booked online.

At the same time, there will be several archaeological digs going on in several gardens round town and at Hay Castle, overseen by Peter Dorling, the archaeolgist at Hay Castle.
The Castle will also be the site of a pop-up museum which will include a display by Eric and Tim Pugh, information about local archaeology, the Hay Wells Project and the Richard Booth Exhibition. That's free from 12noon to 4pm. From 3pm Mari Fforde will be giving a talk (also free) on the Hay Castle Project.

Hay also has a Railway Tour, following a three mile long flat route which includes a portion on the Warren, and the Eliza Trail, which is a self-guided walk aimed at children and families, starting and finishing at Hay Cheesemarket. While chasing her lost dog around town, Eliza follows a trail that reveals some interesting facts about Hay's history - the Tourist Information Bureau has details of the walk.

Meanwhile, in Brecon, the cathedral tower will be open to the public on Friday 9th September. I've been invited to join friends on this tour, as someone dropped out and there was a spare ticket. There are three tours throughout the day, at 9.45am, 10.45am and 11.45am, with dire warnings that the tower was not built for tourists and photographers, and anyone over five feet tall must wear a hard hat! And sensible shoes. And don't do it if you have heart or lung problems! The tickets cost £5, and can be booked through the Cathedral Office on 01874 623857 or

Elsewhere around Brecknock, there are presentations and display stands at Studio at Theatr Brycheiniog on the 9th September, from 7.30pm, admission free, and a week long display at Brecon Library put on by Breconshire Local and Family History Society. There are walks around Llangynidr, Llywel and Llanddew. Powys Archives will be open for researchers on Thursday and Friday, Robin Williams will be giving a talk about the Tramroads of Brynmawr for the Crickhowell and District History Society, Llanhamlach Church will be open, and Llanwrtyd Heritage and Arts Centre will have a display on local Eistddfodau in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Brecknock History Forum, who are organising the week of events, can be reached on for more information.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Local Art Classes

Thomasin Toohie is a woman of many talents! I first met her at Baskerville Hall, where she was playing a variety of whistles and flutes, mainly for Irish folk music. She plays in the Border Reivers, (one of three bands she belongs to!) and also goes to the Globe Open Mic nights on Tuesdays.
She also makes artistic ceramics, and her other talent is in painting and drawing.
She has been teaching classes at the Old Electric Shop. Now she's moved the venue to the chapel hall opposite the Drill Hall in Hay (it being quieter and better suited to concentration!) and is starting classes again on 7th September from 10.30am to 12.30am, for £6.50 a lesson.
The advert in the WyeLocal has the old details, of the Old Electric Shop, but the contact number is right, 07955 344958.
She's also doing a special day course at Baskerville Hall on Saturday 17th September from 10am to 3pm, on landscape painting techniques - there's plenty of scope for painting beautiful landscapes from the grounds! This course costs £40.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Good News for Gwernyfed School

I've just seen this, shared by Gareth Ratcliffe on Facebook.

It seems that Powys County Council may be about to scrap their plans to close Gwernyfed School and merge it with Brecon High!
Here's the relevant part of the report prepared for the full council meeting of 8th September, with the recommendations:

"2.Gwernyfed High School and Brecon High School Consultation proposal.
a)To close Brecon High School and Gwernyfed High School on the 31stAugust2017, and to establish a new English-medium 11 – 16 secondary school that will operate across the current sites of the two schools from 1stSeptember 2017 (“the New School”);
b)From the 1stSeptember 2017, Post-16 provision (academic and vocational) to be delivered by NPTC Group of Colleges in Brecon;
c)From the 1stSeptember 2017, Welsh-medium secondary education to be delivered at the Builth Wells site of the proposed new school in Mid Powys (provided that the Proposal is approved by Cabinet following consultation);
andd)To close the school sites at Gwernyfed and Brecon upon the opening of a new school in Brecon, in 2019/20 (“the New School Building”).Portfolio holder draft recommendation.

1.To consider the Consultation Report and Responses Report
2.To abandon elements a,band d of the Proposal and to bring a new reportback to Cabinet with draft recommendationsfor Brecon and Gwernyfed High Schools, in accordance with the Schools Reorganisation Policy 2015, by no later than February 2017;
3.To re-consult immediately on element c) of the Proposal, i.e. the closure ofthe Welsh-stream at Brecon High School from September 2017;
4.To immediately submit a revised Outline Business Case to Welsh Government’s 21stC Schools Programme for capital investment in both campuses. This will include a new build 11 – 18 campus in Brecon and improvements to the Gwernyfed campus."

So the first paragraph is what they were thinking of doing, and the second paragraph says that they are throwing out a), b) and d) and consulting again on moving Welsh language provision to Builth Wells.
Instead they are now proposing to invest in both Gwernyfed and Brecon High, with a new school at Brecon and improvements at Gwernyfed!

Meanwhile, the recommendation is that Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells High Schools will be closing and re-opened as one school across two sites, as in the original County Council plans.

The consultation documents are now available on the Powys County Council website (and the consultation analysis is 292 pages long!)