Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Hereford's Chained Library, and a Possible Job for Merrily Watkins!

So on Monday I was being a tourist in Hereford - it's always nice to see a familiar place through new eyes, as I went round with my Young Man.
First we went to De Koffie Pot for croissants and coffee. I took him down the alleyway round the side of the Bishop's Palace, and he was very interested in the architecture of the building which was created to house the Chained Library - he said it reminds him of modern additions to Southwark Cathedral.
So after our snack, we went in to have a look. The entrance fee is £6 each, and the cloister leading to the library is currently housing an exhibition of chests which were used to carry books. There are also electronic displays about the books in the library, information about the Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, and a tactile version of the Mappa Mundi.
The Mappa Mundi itself is in the antechamber to the library, together with the wooden frame that it used to be displayed in.
The Chained Library itself also includes the chained library from All Saints Church.
We had a very interesting conversation with the chap on duty in the library, who came from Manchester originally (his name is George Pendlebury, and Pendlebury is a district of Greater Manchester), so we were comparing our impressions of the John Rylands Library and Chethams Library there, both magnificent examples of historic libraries, from the days when libraries were considered to be so important that beautiful buildings were created to house the books. Chethams is also a music school, by Manchester Cathedral, and was originally a monastery.

And then something strange happened (shades of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels here). We were at the far end of the library, where the tombstone of Gilbert Swinfield, once Chancellor of the Cathedral, was displayed - and we both picked up a very strange feeling just in one spot, under the window. Move away, perfectly normal - back to the spot, weird sensation. It wasn't scary or anything, just odd, and so pronounced that we went outside when we had finished going round the exhibition to see if there was also a strange feeling outside the wall - which there was, a bit, but nothing like as strong as inside.
Something that the exhibition didn't mention, by the way, was that the new building was constructed after an archaeological dig that uncovered a large plague pit filled with hundreds of skeletons. I remember going to see it - back then I still had my archaeologist's card from Norwich, and knew the chap in charge of the dig (who never wanted to see a skelly ever again after he finished it!) But that was over the whole area, and this feeling was concentrated in just one spot.

Funnily enough, over the next couple of days two light bulbs in my house stopped working....

Monday, 20 November 2017

Eating Out Around Hay

or What I Did On My Holidays.

When my Young Man comes to visit, we always like to eat out as much as we can (this is not a comment on my cooking skills, or his!) and as usual we managed quite a variety of meals.

We started out with the now traditional dash across the road to the chip shop on the evening he arrived, which we ate while watching one of the DVDs he'd brought with him to share with me.

On Monday, we were in Hereford, of which more later, and on Tuesday we met up with the Ladies Who Lunch at the Old Electric Shop. As an honorary Lady Who Lunches, the Young Man wore his kilt!


Vegetarian delights were consumed, including the Old Electric Shop's Buddha Bowl, soups and salads, with tea for some and apple juice for others.
We had thought to go on to Booth's Café for scones, but they close on a Tuesday.

On Thursday, we were going to pick something up from the Market, but ended up in Beer Revolution, which is now doing a variety of Tex Mex style food, and pizzas. The pizzas are on sale only on Fridays and Saturdays, so I went for the spicy soup and the Young Man went for the Quesadilla (I think that's the spelling - it was made with blue corn), which he liked very much. He also managed to find some beer there that he hadn't seen in London.
In the evening, we went to Kilvert's to try out the Hay Tap's pie and pint. Previously we have gone all the way to Brecon on the bus for this, but now it's on our doorstep. We both had the game pie, which was awesome, though the vegetables were perhaps a little underdone.

And we finished the week off in Red Indigo, feasting on Indian food. He had the Pathia (which is actually Persian), and I had the lamb Jaypuri, with Keema naan, garlic naan and vegetable rice (maybe we ordered just a little too much - we tried very hard but couldn't quite finish everything).

So we managed to eat our way around the world without leaving Hay!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Small Business Sunday


Mayalls the Jewellers has re-opened as The Drawing Room, with an exhibition of bold black and white pictures - which may not be to everyone's taste, according to some comments I've heard from passing locals.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Another Last Post - and Castle Plans

I bumped into a chap from the British Legion in town today, and he told me that there would be another commemoration at the cenotaph at 6pm - so I went along, and I've just got back now.
This one was for a sergeant in the South Wales Borderers, who died on this date in 1917. He was 32, and he came from Dulas Terrace in Hay.

And while I'm thinking about being gathered around the cenotaph, Nancy Lavin at the Castle emailed to tell me that they're putting up a notice called a "stopping up order" through the month of November. This is not to stop up Castle Lane, but to open up the way from the Castle gates down into the square and redraw the parking bays accordingly.
Details of the plans are available at the Library.

And finally, I will be off line for the next week or so, as my Young Man is coming to visit.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Hay History Group - Cistercians and Graveyards

So it was up to Cusop Village Hall for the Hay History Group meeting and talk last week - held in Cusop because they couldn't find anywhere in Hay after the Three Tuns closed! It was a small meeting, and the audience was entirely female!
The first part of the evening was taken up with the group meeting - reporting back on things that have happened recently, and events that are coming up.
Alan Nicholls talked about Hay Graveyard, which has got sadly overgrown. He's been helping a lady track down the graves of her ancestors, one of whom ran the chemists' shop at the time of the Armstrong murders! He'd also had a chat with a lady who was recording gravestones for the Powys Family History Society. There is a book, by Bryn Like, but it appears to be incomplete. Alan has had a word with the churchwardens, and he's started clearing the brambles, and unearthing some flat grave slabs which were completely invisible under moss and earth. He reckons the job will take him all winter, doing it a bit at a time. Of course, he'd welcome assistance, if anyone is interested.
Coming up soon is a trip out - on 29th November - to the Thomas Shop and Abbeycwmhir Hall, which will be all decked out for Christmas then. The Hall has 52 rooms, and each one is decorated in a different style. Abbeycwmhir Hall was partly built with the stone from Abbey Cwm-hir, a Cistercian monastery nearby. It's a Victorian house, and one of the pictures on the website, of their collection of vintage children's books with pictorial binding, made my mouth water in anticipation of seeing the real thing. Their website is at https://abbeycwmhir.com
The Thomas Shop is a museum, with tea shop, of a traditional village shop, at Penybont. I've wanted to go there for a while because of the Wool Emporium which is also attached to the museum. Their website is www.thomas-shop.com

And so on to the talk, about the spread of the Cistercian Order across Europe in the Middle Ages, with particular reference to St Bernard of Clairvaux, who was related to some of the most important families in France, and preached in favour of the Crusades. The Order was at the forefront of agricultural innovation, which they could spread quickly across Europe through the meetings of the abbots of the different Houses that were held regularly. The lady giving the talk, Gil McHattie, had gone on holiday to some of the sites in France, and had excellent pictures of abbey buildings and the granges, or farms that supported the abbeys, to show.
The Cistercians were an important order in Wales - Abbey Cwm-Hir, Strata Florida, and others were under the patronage of Welsh princes. The farm just beside Clyro petrol station was originally a grange, and the barn there (now holiday accommodation) is medieval.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Council Meeting

It's tonight, but I'm too tired to concentrate, so I won't be going.
I shall be tucked up in bed early with a mug of cocoa instead!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Walking the Canal Path from Talybont to Brecon

I've been planning this walk for a while, and last week I got round to doing it. As it turned out, it was only just inside my comfort zone!

The first step was to get the bus to Brecon, and there I had about half an hour to wait for the bus (the 43) to Talybont. So that gave me plenty of time to double check the times of the buses back to Brecon along that stretch, just in case I'd bitten off more than I could chew.
I arrived at Talybont at about quarter past eleven - a bit early to have a drink at the Star, as I'd planned - but that didn't matter, because the Star wasn't open until 5pm anyway.
Luckily, the café across the road was open, and I had a very pleasant coffee and egg on toast there (local ingredients wherever possible). This is also the local shop and post office.


As I got up to the canal towpath, I was lucky enough to see one of the drawbridges in action:


It was a slightly grey, misty day, but pleasant for walking. I saw several grey squirrels, and occasionally herons flying between the trees.
And at one point, I met a couple who were searching along the hedge. They said they were geocachers, looking for a box that was supposed to be close by - which is one way to give a walk purpose. I was just enjoying the canal.

At Pencelli, I emerged from the towpath into the village, because I wanted to get a good look at the portion of the canal which was routed through the old castle moat. There's quite a distinct wiggle in the line of the canal.
Then I walked through the village to the Royal Oak, where I had a very fine half of Black Rock stout, a Champion Beer of Wales in 2016. The pub also has a rather lovely ginger cat.
Getting back onto the canal, I discovered that, if I'd just walked a bit farther, I could have got into the pub via the garden, which backs onto the canal path!
Pencelli seems to be quite a centre for canal boats, and I also saw private moorings at intervals along the side. Some of these had a little shed for storage, or a table and chairs set out, with the name of the boat displayed.
There were also canoeists out on the water, and cyclists on the towpath, as well as other walkers, but mostly it was pretty quiet, although it was half term.
By the time I got to Brynich, I was flagging a bit. Here renovation work is being done along the canal, so there's a diversion for walkers along the towpath - clearly signposted across a field, and then down across the road bridge to link up with the canal again on the other side of the River Usk. Here's the aqueduct in the distance:


Again, I was lucky enough to see the Lock in action:


There is actually a narrowboat at the bottom of the lock!

At this point, I could have waited for a bus, but I thought I was close enough to Brecon to keep walking. I think on another occasion I'll start walking from the canal basin at Theatr Brycheiniog, so I can appreciate the industrial archaeology along that stretch better - there was a big lime works at one point, and a tram way that ran beside the canal.
It was along here that I was passed by cyclists I'd met earlier in the day coming out from Brecon, with a little white scrap of a dog still racing along with them - it must have done well over ten miles by that point!
I did about seven miles, and by the time I got into Brecon, I was really glad to stagger into the Brecon Tap and have a pint!
I just had enough time to relax with the pint before getting the bus back to Hay.



Saturday, 4 November 2017

Small Business Saturday


Liberty Stitch fabric art has just opened in the alleyway behind Rose's Bookshop. They were closed when I took this photo, but I'll be back soon to have a closer look!

Friday, 3 November 2017

How do you find out what's going on?

One of my neighbours asked me this the other day, after she'd read about the First World War event at the Parish Hall that I wrote about. It was something her husband would have loved to go to, if he'd known it was on.

So, what do you do if you're new in town and don't know what's going on?

Well, the first port of call is the WyeLocal Magazine, which is free, and gets delivered to every house in Hay every month, and is also available elsewhere. This has a mixture of advertising, articles, local news - reports from councillors, Kirsty Williams the AM and Chris Davies the MP, and local groups. Flicking through the latest issue, there are reports from the Wye Players, and the Camera Club, the Glasbury Get-Together Club, Gwernyfed High School, the Chamber of Commerce, Dial a Ride, the Medical Centre, U3A, Hay2Timbuktu, and more. There's also a pretty comprehensive list of events at the back, such as Llyswen Parent and Toddler group, singing groups, Shakespeare Play Readings at Glasbury Village Hall, Bowling, Yoga, Pilates - even the Ddraig Wern Fencing Club which operates from Gwernyfed Community Sports Hall. The list also includes the Hay History Group and the Brecknock Wildlife Trust, the WI and Rainbow Guides. So that's pretty comprehensive.

Then there's Broadsheep, also free, and available at various locations around Hay. I picked my latest one up from the greengrocers. This gives details of what's on in Herefordshire and the Marches, for quite a wide area. Here there are art exhibitions, Theatr Hafren in Newtown and Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, craft fairs, vintage markets, art and craft workshops, cinema, dance performances and workshops, food festivals, and all sorts of music. There's poetry, storytelling, comedy, talks at local groups, complementary therapies, knitting groups, medieval fayres - a whole host of interesting things to see and do.

The Globe website has a wide range of activities on it, including the new Greenpeace group in Hay, Philosphy, Science, and Death cafes, and even guitar lessons, as well as the evening events like the weekly open mic and visiting musicians and so on.

Over at Baskerville Hall, there are all sorts of conferences and festivals going on throughout the year - like the Didgeridoo Festival, and a recent Transition Towns conference - and this Saturday, the annual Fireworks Display by the local Lions.

And it's also a matter of keeping your eyes open for posters around Hay - where the ATM at the HSBC used to be is being used as a public noticeboard at the moment, for instance, and there are always posters up in Shepherds and the Granary, and the launderette window, as well as other shops and cafes around town.

In fact, there's so much going on round here that I tend to mention only the ones that I'm likely to go to - and sometimes I only manage that after I've been!

Monday, 30 October 2017

TV Fame for Local Woman

My neighbour came round the other day, waving a copy of the B&R. She was terribly excited, and she wanted to show me a story in it about her daughter.
Catrin Nye is a BBC reporter. She's worked for local radio, and has recently been a regular reporter on the daily current affairs show Victoria Derbyshire, and she's also been out to Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, reporting on the troubles there.
Now she's coming to Welsh TV with a programme called The Hour. It it, she will travel to various locations around Wales to look at some of the major issues on the Welsh and UK political agenda, hosting debates between members of the public, politicians and experts. The first programme was yesterday, October 30th, from Ebbw Vale, and she's hoping to come to Powys at some point.
I'm not sure how often the programmes will be going out - possibly monthly? - but they sound like something worth looking out for.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Decision on the Clyro Chicken Shed

So Clyro Council met again last week, to discuss the planning application for the chicken sheds at Lower House Farm. This time, the councillors voted 5:3 to oppose the plan.
However, according to the B&R, a show of hands in the hall split 40 to 35 in favour of the planning application.
The decision now goes up to Powys County Council to be considered.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Celebrating Ten Years of Hay Being Twinned with Timbuktu!

I looked back through my blog - and the first post I ever wrote about Timbuktu was on 7th January, 2007!
Back then, Ann Brichto had entered Hay in a competition to become twinned with Timbuktu - the other finalists were York and Glastonbury - and the Malians were preparing to come to the UK to visit each town and decide who they liked the best.
So that was the start of it, and things were very different in 2007. Mali was a poor country, but mostly stable, and Timbuktu was encouraging tourism for its history (it was a great centre of learning in the middle ages, with thousands of manuscripts), interesting mud architecture, and the Festival in the Desert. The idea of the twinning originally was that the people of Timbuktu had a lot to offer the outside world, and Hay could support them in that.
And then came 2012, and civil war, and everything changed. A lot of the aid agencies moved out because it was too dangerous to continue. The Islamist insurgents attempted to destroy the priceless manuscripts - some were saved by local people, who took them out to the desert to hide them.

Charlie English has written a book about this, called The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu, and he'll be talking about it at Booths Bookshop on 7th November at 7pm. There will also be a three course dinner, costing £20, with the proceeds going to Hay2Timbuktu's new project sponsoring two young women through their midwife training in Timbuktu. Tickets are available from Eighteen Rabbit.

Alongside Hay2Timbuktu, HayMedics4Timbuktu became involved early on in the twinning relationship, with some medics going to Timbuktu to discuss projects they could help with. One of those projects was for antenatal health, so there's been a long relationship with the midwives there. At one point, a group of midwives came to Hay, to look at midwifery practice in the local area - and all the time they were here, not a single baby was born!
Money was also raised for a motorbike ambulance - fortunately, when it was sent over, it was held up in customs, so when the trouble started in Timbuktu, it was safe - and was eventually delivered to the clinic about two years later.
At the same time, Jump4Timbuktu began as a group mainly concerned with the artisans of Timbuktu. The Hay Makers Gallery is still selling Tuareg silver work and leather work, in a direct relationship with the artisans in Timbuktu.

There's also been a long relationship with three schools in Timbuktu, especially focussing on the education of girls. This was disrupted by the troubles there, but in 2011 a Girls Bursary Pilot project was launched, supporting 50 girls from poor families to go to school. This scheme is drawing to a close now, and seems to have been a great success. Short videos were shown of the mayor, and some of the teachers in the schools talking about the project and how it had helped, and there was one interview with one of the girls, now married with a small child, who said she was now a "very happy wife" thanks to the project. One of the trustees of Hay2Timbuktu is in weekly contact with one of the English teachers, who was seen on one of the videos. The sound wasn't great, but they are going to do what they can with the videos, which were taken on a phone and then emailed - internet access is very difficult from Mali - and will put them up on the Hay2Timbuktu website shortly.
Someone asked how the girls were chosen for the project, and it seems there was a committee of mothers who made the choice, along with teachers who knew which girls were likely to benefit most. The girls also had to come from a family where they had lost one or both parents - and some of them belonged to families where there were 18 children - so the parents were unlikely to be able to afford to educate all of them.
Most of the girls have gone on to college or the local lycee, and some have done nursing training, so the project really has made a big difference to their lives.

There have been other projects, too - three girls from the top class in Hay School decided they wanted to raise money to provide electricity for a school in Timbuktu - and they did it! Sadly, the insurgents destroyed all that good work.
Hay2Timbuktu has also sent out equipment for schools, and laptops (with the aid of Computers4Africa) and, in the worst times when Hay was one of the few links with the outside world that Timbuktu had, food aid.

Hay's Mayor Trudi Stedman also stood up to say a few words. She wasn't in Hay at the beginning of the twinning process, but she had been reading up about it, and listening to Ann Brichto relating her memories of the beginnings of Hay2Timbuktu, and she looked forward to the Town Council supporting Hay2Timbuktu in the future.
One idea was that short videos should be sent back to Timbuktu, including one from Hay's mayor to Timbuktu's mayor.

So that's the story so far - what about the future?
Well, it's Toilets for Timbuktu!
One of the problems with keeping girls in education is the difficulty of going to the loo. The toilet blocks at the schools are ancient, and mostly girls go home to go to the toilet, which means they miss classes (the boys can always manage somehow!). Girls having periods also have difficulties and many have to stay at home while they are bleeding, which means they miss 2 to 5 days of schooling every month. Also, the girls don't want to use the same toilets as the boys. New toilets with separate areas for boys, girls and the teachers, would help enormously.
Hay2Timbuktu are already involved with three schools in Timbuktu, and the plans are to build two toilet blocks, and refurbish a third. One of the problems with this scheme is that two of the major water aid agencies no longer operate in the north of Mali because it is still very dangerous there.
Donations to Toilets4Timbuktu can be made by visiting the hay2Timbuktu website or texting TMBK02 followed by the donation sum to 70070 - local donors can pop into Eighteen Rabbit.

As part of the AGM portion of the evening, three new trustees were brought onto the committee, one of whom was Louise Davies of Eighteen Rabbit. She's been a trustee before, so she knows what it's all about.

And finally, the Co-op provided the wine and crisps. A lady called Barbara is the new liason from the Co-op, and she said that her job was to link up with local charities and groups, as the Co-op wanted to get back to their original ethos of helping local communities. They have a scheme on their members card where the member can donate to a local cause. Members get 5% back on all Co-op products they buy, and can then give 1% of that to the local cause.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Changing a House Name

Behind the Cinema Bookshop there are two houses, The Pines and The Firs. The Firs is a B&B.
I was chatting to the chap from The Pines last week when we were sorting out the recycling bins, and I noticed that one was marked "Madigans". This was the name of the family who built the cinema. The chap said they've changed the name of The Pines - partly because there aren't any pines there any more - there used to be trees near the entrance to the Cinema - and partly because they thought it was important to keep some memory of a name associated with Hay alive.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Dancing Floor at the Globe

Last year, Lyn Webster Wilde was trying to get a film project off the ground. It was about a young woman coming back to Wales and reconnecting with the Welsh myths and it was called The Dancing Floor.
Out of that project has come a dance project, and I went to see it performed at the Globe on Saturday evening.
It was not the first performance - that was up at Brechfa Pool, where Lyn lives, in the open air with the Black Mountains in the distance. It's a magical place, and she writes about it on her blog, at https://lynwebsterwilde.wordpress.com

So, this dance was based on the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion, and the story Math Son of Mathonwy - which includes the stories of Lleu and Blodeuwedd, the woman of flowers.
The Village Quire were there, singing something specially written for the piece, and some other songs in their repertoire, which was an added bonus. I was able to buy the CD of theirs that I hadn't got yet - Back to the Garden, which is based on letters from a local gardener who was sent to the Western Front in the First World War, to his old employer, who was a renowned breeder of daffodils. After the event in the Parish Hall that afternoon, my mind was full of the First World War.
The Dancing Floor swept all that away though, with magical singing and dancing with animal masks and gongs and drums - and an accordion at one point, as it almost became a Morris dance. And at the end, members of the audience were invited up to join the dancers in ducking under the arch made by the Owl and the Eagle.
During the interval, we were given a riddle to think about by Jo Eliot, who is also involved in the project. Taking the last two lines of the song, "The dancers make a way for me, The owl and eagle set me free", she asked the audience to think about what that meant for them, having seen the dance. There were three tshirts on offer as prizes for the best answer, and there were some thoughtful and interesting answers, about energies coming together, and flying.
I had a fascinating time talking about Welsh myths in general and Arianrhod and Blodeuwedd in particular, with the lady sitting next to me in the audience. I found I knew more than I thought I did!
In the second half, the Village Quire sang again, and then the dance was performed for the second time - and this time we knew what to expect so we could think about the meanings of it. All the dancers were local people, not professional dancers, and they managed to evoke the magic even indoors, in a fairly confined space.
At the end, the audience was asked which bit they liked best, and the favourite part seemed to be where the dancers were turned into pigs!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Remembering the Great War at the Parish Hall

I nearly missed this one - I'm so glad I found out about it at the last minute!
The British Legion organised the afternoon event - 2pm at the Parish Hall. It was wet and blustery weather, but even so there were two men in First World War uniform, with their Lee Enfields over their shoulders, guarding the gate in proper military style. Their kit was excellent in every detail.
Inside, there were exhibits around the hall - at the back, a cavalry officer's kit, including cavalry sabre and saddle, with a smart second lieutenant. At the front, a gramophone, helmets, shells and other memorabilia - and two dresses of the period, a black mourning dress and a white lawn dress with a higher hemline. Further along, a doctor's instruments were laid out, next to a stretcher, and at the far wall there was a display about Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis, who won the VC.

The talks were fascinating. First up was Chris Coode from the Great War Society, who started the proceedings off by playing a bit of Dolly Gray on the gramophone. He said he didn't call himself a re-enactor, because he didn't fight in battles - he felt it was disrespectful to the dead of the First World War. Instead, he did Living History - and he did it very well. He said that he often went into schools to talk about the Great War, and would do some research before he went. He tried to take the children to the local war memorial, where he could point out the names of the children's relatives to them - an important part of connecting children with their heritage and local history. The Great War Society also does film work, because they have such good kit - so they are seen as extras in the background.

He showed the different parts of his uniform, and described how much ammunition he would be carrying (about 150 rounds) as well as field dressings, a couple of Mills bombs (or grenades, if you're French), dry socks (very important in the trenches, where trench foot was a terrible problem), and a water bottle and iron rations. He was wearing a peaked cap, with the markings of the Welsh Regiment (including a red dragon on black on his arm), and showed the influence of the British Army in India as he was wearing puttees on his lower legs (Hindustani for bandages) and his uniform was khaki (Hindustani for dusty). At the beginning of the Great War, the French and Belgians were going into battle in bright red and blue uniforms, and their officers wore white gloves! Everything he wore was designed to be easy to use, and that went for the weapons too. He demonstrated how fast his rifle could be re-loaded from the rounds he was carrying in little pouches on his uniform, and how quickly he could work the bolt of the rifle to keep shooting. The Germans were using the Mauser rifle, where the bolt had to be moved in front of the soldier's face to put the round into the breech, which meant he had to take his eye off the target and slowed him down.

Later, he took off the cap and replaced it with the familiar tin hat. In 1916, this was the response to the numbers of soldiers who were dying of head injuries - and almost immediately, the number of head injuries went up dramatically. This was because the wounds were treatable, instead of killing the soldiers outright as they had before.
And the weapon which was causing all those injuries was the shell, filled with lead balls (shrapnel), which exploded in the air, showering the area with the shrapnel and also the casing, which broke into two parts. He passed some of these round the audience.
He also demonstrated the bayonet, originally devised so that an infantryman could attack someone on horseback. At the beginning of the War, the generals were expecting a fast moving war with cavalry charges and a lot of movement. They were not prepared for trench warfare.

After a short break (tea, coffee and excellent cakes provided by the Co-op), Roger Morgan took over. He started by describing his uniform as well - with a tie (tucked in so it didn't dangle on the patients) and jodhpurs with tall boots, because he was an officer and theoretically would be travelling around on a horse. He described what happened to a wounded soldier, and some of the medical techniques that were used on them - and some of the problems with the dosage of anaesthetics, a branch of medicine which was in its infancy. I was quite surprised to learn that X-ray machines were used at the Front, so soon after X-rays had been discovered.
There was the difficulty of getting a stretcher along a narrow trench with sharp corners, for instance (the German trenches were more sinuous), which led to webbing being designed with hand holds, so a strong stretcher bearer could carry a man out on his back, with the wounded man hanging on. They also carried wounded men in blankets, a technique developed during the Boer War.
He talked about the vast number of volunteers who went out to the Western Front, including women doctors who were turned down for duty by the British, but welcomed by the French and Belgians. There were nurses, some of whom came out on their own - like Elsie Knocker, who was forbidden to go by her father, but rode out there on her own motorbike, along with her friend Mairi Chisolm, and joined up with Hector Munro's Flying Ambulance service. She ended the War as a Baroness, as she married a Belgian Count who came to the hospital where she was working!

There was also a lady dressed as a FANY in the audience, who later got up and spoke about what they did. The FANYs were young women who could ride horses, because at the beginning of the War they were expecting a fast-moving, mobile war, and later became ambulance drivers (it stands for First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), set up hospitals, and ran canteens and soup kitchens.

And finally Dawn Lewis got up to speak. She is the great-niece of Lance Corporal Lewis, and was wearing his medals - the VC, and "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" the campaign medals (nicknamed for popular children's characters). She had known for some time that memorials are being planned for the men who won VCs - a memorial slab close to where they had come from, so when she was contacted she was pleased that one would be installed in Hereford - but L/Cpl Lewis was the only VC recipient to come from Herefordshire during the Great War, so she wanted something more. She wanted a bronze statue. She's had a lot of support with this idea, and now they need to raise £60,000. The statue will be of L/Cpl Lewis in uniform, but without any weapons - there's a photo of him which will be the basis for this, and it will be put up somewhere in the Old Market Shopping Centre in Hereford. The sculptor who did the statue of Elgar leaning on his bicycle, Jemma Pearson, will do the work.
I read the citation later, to find out what he did to be awarded the VC - he attacked two German machine guns which were pinning down his battalion, and took the gun crews prisoner. Three days later, he was involved in another battle, and that time he was shot dead.
Online, the appeal for the statue has a JustGiving page at AL LEWIS VC MEMORIAL FUND and cheques can also be sent to 38 The Meadows, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, HR3 5LF, made out to AL Lewish VC Memorial Fund.

It was a fascinating afternoon, and it generated a lot of interest among the audience - Mary Morgan, for instance, remembered that her grandfather had organised women locally to do knitting for the troops, and she still had a lot of memorabilia about that at home - just the sort of thing the Great War Society would be interested in.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

HARC - Archives are Fascinating

I went up to Cusop Village Hall on Friday evening for the talk on the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre, and it was entirely fascinating.
Before we started, I was told that membership of the Group was free (having paid my £3 to get in). I wasn't going to bother - I was quite happy to pay for the talk, but then I discovered that there is a members' trip in the New Year to the Ashmolean Museum, with a talk and a look behind the scenes. This was too good a chance to miss - I've wanted to go to the Ashmolean for years - so I joined up on the spot and paid my deposit for the trip!

The Archives service used to be housed in an old barracks building in Hereford - it was old, it was big, and it was empty, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, it was also damp - just about the worst thing it could be for old records. Some of the mould was, apparently, rare Herefordshire apple mould, and a form of penicillin, but even so....
So, just before recession and cuts hit local authority services, HARC moved to a brand new, purpose built facility in Rotherwas, which may be unique in the world. It's built on the passivhouse principle, with so much insulation it's a constant temperature like a cave inside, which saves them something like £100,000 on heating and air conditioning bills a year.
Rhys Griffiths, the speaker, said that he was very pleased to be in Cusop, because it demonstrated the importance of boundaries. In Hay, there is also a history group, which is very Welsh based, whereas Cusop is firmly based within Herefordshire, even though they are very close together. As well as the county records, HARC also keeps the diocesan records, which extend into South Shropshire.
There are maps, of course - one interesting thing they're doing is to take the 6inch maps of the area and match them up with aerial photographs - some of the field boundaries have stayed the same for centuries. He showed one early map of Cusop Dingle with pictures of four little water mills spaced out along the stream.
He also showed examples of form filling from 1720, with a local vicar ticking boxes (as it were) to say, yes, the church did have a fair chalice for services, and the chancel was in good repair, and there were no dissenters in the parish. An even earlier Visitation for Cusop had the vicar of the 1390s describing the adulterous relationships between members of his parish, in some detail! (So-and-so has thrown his wife out of the house and installed his mistress!).
The records are also good for people who are interested in the history of the railways, with many records and maps. A lot of these come from the Quarter Sessions, which were a sort of proto-County Council, responsible for the upkeep of roads and so on as well as local crime. The Quarter Sessions accounts also cast a light on poorer people in the area who were involved in crime - the horse dealer convicted of stealing a chestnut mare, and sentenced to transportation, for instance, and on the same page, the sad story of a girl who had tried to commit suicide, who was sentenced to a short period of imprisonment for it.
There are also wills, showing what the average household contained over the centuries, as there are often inventories of contents.
Rhys Griffiths said that, in the past, archivists had been a bit sniffy about family history researchers, preferring academics with leather elbow patches in their tweed jackets, but now they welcome people who are researching their own families - one of whom was in the audience, and chipped in to provide extra detail a couple of times.
For instance, there was a map showing the sale of part of the Moccas estate - we had been following the fortunes of Llydyadyway Farm, under its many different spellings - and the chap from the audience pointed out the small plots along the main road, where big houses like York House were built, and the field behind, where Victoria Terrace was built the following year, as a speculation - the houses were then bought by landlords who let them out to poorer families.
He talked a bit about palaeography - the study of old handwriting - and how the Mormons have helped by transcribing records for their own purposes. A lot of information is now online, but it is still possible to visit the Centre in Rotherwas for research, and there are some records that can only be consulted in their original form.
And then there's the census, started in around 1810 mainly to count how many able bodied men there were in the country who could be called up for military service in the Napoleonic Wars - and as time went on the civil servants realised they could collect all sorts of other useful information at the same time, including how people moved from place to place - the rural population was not as static as people tend to think, especially after the coming of the railways.
So, with a bit of work, and help from the archivists and their team of volunteers, all sorts of information can be extracted from the most boring-sounding documentary evidence.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dentist - NHS or Private

I got a letter from my dentist this morning. That's the one to the side of the little car park, opposite the chapel on Oxford Road, known as {my}dentist.
After careful consideration, he says, Dr Reshad Naghshbandi has decided to treat only private patients from February next year, apart from people under the age of 18 or in full time education.
There's a lot of information in the letter about the private dental plans available, from only £7.25 a month (I've been on a very tight budget, and even £7.25 a month was completely out of my reach in those days).
I have great sympathy for Dr Naghshbandi when he says that his NHS practice has meant more "meeting targets and ticking boxes" in recent years, and that he wants to concentrate his efforts on improving dental health and preventive dentistry - but I won't be going private, because I want the NHS to continue to exist, for everyone.
Fortunately, there will be provision for adult NHS patients after February, just with another dentist in the practice. When I started reading the letter I had a horrible sinking feeling that I'd have to trek all the way to Hereford for the emergency dentist in future, as I had to a couple of times before Dr Naghshbandi came to Hay 13 years ago.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Job at Bronllys Well Being Park

Here's an interesting opportunity for someone - Bronllys Well Being Park are looking for a Project Development Officer.

It's a full time post, initially for a year (but they have funding for three years), and the pay is £37,000 a year. The job entails managing projects within the Well Being Park - though there isn't a lot of detail in the advert about what this would involve, apart from enhancing the facilities that are already there.
The closing date for applications is 25th October, and they intend to hold interviews at the beginning of November.
More information, including the application form, can be found on the PAVO website at www.pavo.org.uk

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

h.Energy Festival

I had some things I wanted to do in Hereford on Saturday (well, okay - I wanted to get the DVD of Wonder Woman, mostly - which is awesome, by the way), and as the bus went over the bridge into town I saw a crowd in the courtyard outside De Koffie Pot.
So I did all my errands, and then headed down there - there's a cut through that starts by the Cathedral and goes down past the Bishop's Palace, ending up at the courtyard - where I found the h.Energy Sustainability Festival in progress.
There were several electric cars parked there, and a French van (I'm not sure what that was doing there).
There were workshops for sewing, felting, and scrap metal upcycling.
Further along, at the KLEEN energy bikes stall, you could pedal a bike to power kitchen machinery, and fry an egg. Another stall, the Marches Energy Agency, had help to reduce home energy costs. Super Nourished had gorgeous looking chocolate, and Growing Local had gorgeous looking local vegetables, grown by children at Tillington educational garden.
The Woodee was there, with their hand crafted fire pits and accessories, and the Nappy Service, with information on re-usable nappies, continence and menstrual wear. New Leaf Design was selling handmade herbal bodycare products.

The Size of Herefordshire is a project which is trying to protect rainforest in the Amazon by sponsoring an area of Herefordshire on an interactive map. Money from the project goes to the Forest Peoples Programme, which assists indigenous groups in securing legal title to their land, which helps to safeguard against loggers, miners and other groups which want to exploit the resources on tribal land, and Cool Earth, which helps communities at the edge of deforestation to develop local livelihoods for themselves. The two tribes they are helping are the Wampi and the Awajun, in Peru.

Next to them was the Hereford Community Land Trust, which is focussed on affordable housing, designed by the community which will be using it, in a sustainable manner. They aim to build low-cost, high-quality homes for sale or rent to local people, including workspaces, green spaces and allotments in the community design. At the moment they are working with Hereford City Council, which has received £503,000 to develop community-led housing, and the Trust has applied for £10,000 start up funding.

I treated myself to a coffee and chocolate fudge cake from De Koffie Pot, and it was warm enough to sit outside with a view of the river.

Other events were going on over the weekend, across Herefordshire, including a puppet show of The Selfish Giant, music and folk tales from Sproatly Smith and others, talks on solar power and climate science, a 5km fun run at Queenswood, with Art in the Park made by students from Hereford College of Arts, and guided walks for sketching and looking at different tree species. There were also films at the Courtyard in Hereford.

h.Energy is organised by New Leaf Sustainable Development in partnership with the Herefordshire Green Network.

Monday, 16 October 2017

House Fire in Castle Street

On Saturday afternoon, there was a house fire in Castle Street. The house had been up for sale, and the new family had only recently moved in. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but there's been a lot of damage inside the house.
Pughs/Londis are acting as a collection point for donations for the family, of money or goods they will need - the report on the Pughs Facebook page says that the family have lost everything. Someone is putting them up for now, but they are looking for a place to rent over the winter, and until they know whether it will be furnished or unfurnished they don't know what they will need. When Pughs have a list of things that the family need, they will let everyone know - some things have been offered already, including furniture, and at the moment they are only accepting monetary donations.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Botany and Other Stories

A couple of days ago Françoise, the lovely French lady who lives in Hay, invited me to see her new art studio in Bear Street. It used to be some sort of workshop, and possibly a store for salt. She's got the ground floor set out for art, and has plans for the upstairs as soon as the leak at the back is fixed.
She's a very talented lady - she showed me her botanic illustrations - she did a three year course for a diploma, and it seems to have been a very competitive course. She also showed me a sketch book she made during the course - she did some of the work at the botanic gardens in Lyons, where the staff allowed her to draw plants that were not normally available to the public. It looks like a wonderful place, with Victorian glass houses like Kew Gardens.
And now she wants to share her skills with children. There have already been children of her friends coming to the studio to paint, and she's been out to schools in the area - she showed me the picture of a pomegranate she painted, with spots of juice around it from the real pomegranate she took in to the kindergarten to show the children. She got them to dip their fingers into the juice and dab onto the paper, and then taste the juice. Another, older group, painted leaves, and then she made them into a forest as a collage afterwards.
Her idea is to make a calendar with the children, and several shops around Hay have already agreed to stock it. She's calling the project "Botany and other Stories".
A further idea from a young friend who has just done an art course was to make the calendar as postcards, with the days of the month set out at the bottom, so the picture could be sent as a postcard after the calendar is finished with. She thought this was an excellent idea - and then found that it had been done before, in France - she showed me some of the postcards, which she was going to show to the printer later.
It's a wonderful idea, to encourage children to look closely at nature, and make art. Françoise isn't doing this to make any money - she's spending money on the project, and she seems to be enjoying herself as much as the children are.
And she was listening to one little girl talking to herself as she painted, saying "Be kind to the berries," as she painted red berries on a branch - which may end up as a caption on one of the paintings in the calendar.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Another Meeting in Clyro About the Chicken Shed Application

I didn't hear anything about the results of the last meeting of Clyro Council until a couple of days ago, when someone told me what had happened.
First of all, he gave me clarification of what actually happened in the previous meeting, which ended in disarray:

"Clyro Community Council had a normal community council meeting on Tuesday 12 September. At 7pm when the meeting was advertised to start the chair decided that no public should be allowed to listen to their discussion in the small room of the village hall. The public were left outside wondering what was going on, when it was pointed out by a member of public who had googled the rules on his phone that the council were not within the rules to be barred and the meeting was suggested to be held in the bigger hall which could accommodate the larger number, the clerk then resigned so the meeting could not take place.

Clyro Council then tweeted this apology:

Many apologies. Tuesday's meeting fell far short of what you expected of us, and what we expected of ourselves. We can and shall do better.

The Council are looking for a new Clerk and one of the Council members is acting as a temporary clerk until the post can be filled. If anyone is interested in applying for the role, please do via clyroclerk@gmail.com"

And so we come to the special meeting which took place on the 28th September. This time, the Powys monitoring officer was there, to make sure proper procedure was followed. The public were allowed to attend this time. The councillors voted to rescind their previous decision to approve the chicken sheds, and there will be a public meeting on Tuesday 17th October, where members of the public will be able to express their views, and the council will then vote for or against the application. This will be in Clyro village hall.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Mice in a Matchbox, and other Music

I'm looking forward to tomorrow evening, Saturday 14th October, when Mice in a Matchbox will be performing trad and contemporary folk music at the Globe. It starts at 8pm, and costs £7 to get in.
This is a duo who occasionally sing at the Baskerville acoustic evenings on Wednesdays - when they're not sailing round the Caribbean! Fortunately, their little yacht was out of the path of the recent hurricanes, so escaped any harm.

I don't see anything I want to go to see at the Globe for months and then two interesting things come along at once - because the following week, at 7.30pm on Saturday 21st October, is The Dancing Floor. A little while ago, there were plans to make a film called The Dancing Floor, based on myths from the Mabinogion, and this evening seems to have come out of that work. It's billed as "original creative work exploring the otherworld and meeting the ancient gods in an extraordinary creation myth dance, constructed from clues in the Mabinogion."

Last week, at Baskerville Hall, it was music by candlelight! The power had flickered a few times earlier in the evening in Hay, but when we got to Baskerville Hall, only the emergency lighting was on. Still, you can't stop acoustic musicians that easily, and with a scatter of tea lights and tall candles on the tables, we were good to go. It's surprising how many people habitually carry a torch! The only down side was a lack of chips at 9pm, because there was no power in the kitchen - but bowls of crisps were provided. And any drinks that needed an electric pump to get to the bar were unavailable. There was a cheer when the lights came on again at around 9pm.
This was the evening that Lesley with the ukulele had decided to bring two handicapped ladies from where she works, because she thought they might enjoy it. One of the ladies was singing along and shaking one of those sticks with bells on as percussion accompaniment, and seemed to be having a great time. The other lady was more seriously disabled, and had to be strapped into her wheelchair so she didn't fall out, but I think she got something good out of the evening too. And Bob, who organises the evenings, always makes everyone feel welcome.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ceremony at the Cenotaph

The British Legion have been quietly commemorating the local fallen of the First World War, on the 100th anniversary of their deaths, and last night I happened to be passing when I saw Gareth Ratcliffe, in uniform with the British Legion flag, and a cluster of people by the war memorial. One chap did the "they shall not grow old as we grow old" poem, the Last Post was played on the bugle, and the name of the soldier was read out. This time it was the turn of a Captain in the Sherwood Foresters, who died on 11th October 1917. I couldn't quite catch his name, but he was only 21 years old.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Council Meeting - Miles Without Stiles, Nat West, Transfer of Assets

The Miles Without Stiles project is going well. The National Parks have been very positive and helpful, and grants are available to put in more accessible gates. Match funding can be done with money raised by the local Lions, and also with volunteer hours.

The Nat West Bank on Oxford Road has now closed, and the Nat West van has spent it's first Thursday parked outside the Cinema Bookshop for an hour, from 1.15pm to 2.15pm - the level of service is now one hour a week (but they say they can extend this by a whole ten minutes if it's busy!). On their first visit, they arrived quite early, and had to experiment with the best place to park to pick up the wifi signal they need. So here it is, the Bank on the Road:


The Nat West Community Banker is also using the Council Chambers as an office to meet customers - and he says he's even able to go to people's homes if they can't get to him. He won't be offering a comprehensive service - he can't arrange loans, for instance.
And at the same time, the Nat West have also closed their branch in Builth Wells, leaving only the one in Brecon.

One of the councillors recently went on a training course on Transfer of Assets with One Voice Wales - but said there was nothing in the training about what to do when things go wrong! He told the One Voice Wales people what was happening in Hay, and - well, it was outside their experience, to put it mildly!

And talking of Transfer of Assets - there was amazement that Newtown have been given 100 acres of land by Powys County Council, when they are doing nothing but take facilities away from Hay, especially as Hay is such a big contributor of money into the County Council's coffers. Just the Hay Festival raises around £20 million pounds every year.

There were worries about asbestos in ex-Council houses, with councillors wanting to know if the new owners had been properly informed of the risk. Taking asbestos out of a building costs a lot of money. However, Alan Powell said that he had helped to build some of the Council houses concerned, and there was no asbestos there! [Edited to add: There's no asbestos inside the buildings, but the builders are looking under the roof tiles and under the slate cladding on the outside of the houses.]

Alan also had a story to contribute to the Castle Memory scheme - they are collecting people's memories of things that have happened in and around Hay Castle over the years. He remembered having to rescue a drunken man who had fallen down the slot that the castle portcullis used to go into! The slot is wider at the top and narrows down, so he slipped in and got stuck, and had to be pulled out again.

There was a lot of other business discussed, but it was all quite brief - but one important thing to note is that there will be an Open Day at the new school building on November 30th, from 6pm to 8pm, so more of an Open Evening really. Sturdy footwear is recommended!

And the Fire Service is recruiting locally - they will be at the Lions Bonfire Night at Baskerville Hall on Saturday 4th November anyway, so they may do some recruiting there.

I didn't stay until the end of the meeting, because the council wanted to discuss something in private, so I was asked to leave - which I was quite glad to do by that stage!


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Poetry Bookshop Launch

Only a couple of days ago, the shop by the clock tower was full of boxes, and the shelves still seemed half built - but yesterday, the transformation was complete. The Poetry Bookshop looked as if it had always been there!


They were open for business all day, but at 2pm the first event to celebrate the opening began.
This was Strings of Song, put on with the assistance of Swansea University, which did a larger scale version of the event a few days ago. Packed into the open space at the front of the shop was an enthusiastic crowd, on the stackable stools and standing up around the doorway, with small children crawling around on the floor (being exposed to quality culture early!).
Strings of Song was an appreciation of a poet called Vernon Watkins, who died fifty years ago. I have to admit I'd never heard of him, but quite a few poets I had heard of thought very highly of him. He was a friend of Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin admired his work, and he was considered for the position of Poet Laureate. But for him, it seemed, it was the act of making poetry that was important, not gaining a reputation. He spent the Second World War at Bletchley Park, where he met his wife Gwen, and after the war he settled in Swansea, got a job in a bank - and wrote poetry.
The three poets (there were five at the original event) were asked to read some of Vernon Watkins' work and write a response to it. Rhian Edwards found this hard - she writes domestic, small scale poetry, and Vernon Watkins was all sea and sky and huge vistas - but she found a poem about a mother and child which resonated with her, and wrote her own poem about the difficulty of dressing her child for school when she was suffering from a form of arthritis ("I went into hospital to have a steroid injection last week, so I'm really healthy at the moment!"). Her second poem was made up of all her favourite lines from Vernon Watkins' poems, re-arranged to comment on what was happening in her life.
Jonathan Edwards chose a poem about Swansea, and answered it with one about Newport "which is just like Hay, but without the bookshops and with knife crime". He apologised for the length of the poem, because it had turned out that Newport was pretty mouthy when he got started. His second poem was about horses escaping from a field onto the road just on the edge of Cardiff, inspired by one about a mare in a field.
And Robert Minhinnick said that he responded to the geological aspect of Vernon Watkins, writing about limestone country along the Gower and to the east, including the promontory at Porthcawl. He had also translated the Welsh language poem inspired by Vernon Watkins, written by one of the poets who could not be there yesterday, into English.
So now I have a copy of Brood, by Rhian Edwards, to read, and I'll be looking out for work by these other poets I'd never heard of before - the event really stretched my horizons, poetically!

I was back at five o'clock (and it was quite nice to hear the Town Clock chiming outside the window of the shop) for the second event, which started with drinks, and led into Recollections of life in the book trade in Hay in the 1970s. One of the founders of the Poetry Bookshop, Anne Stevenson, sent a letter which another lady read out, talking about the beginnings of the Poetry Bookshop in the old workhouse near St Mary's Church, which Richard Booth had bought, and re-named Frank Lewis House after his friend who committed suicide. That was very damp - the floors were just earth! - so they quickly moved to 22 Broad Street, which is where I remember them when I first came to Hay.
They talked about getting stock from a bookseller in Oxford to start off - stuff he couldn't sell - and boxes of poetry from small presses which Richard Booth had bought when he took the entire stock of a shop that had gone bust in London, which they got for £20 a box. Nobody was selling secondhand poetry from small presses back then. And they talked about doing book deals late at night in local pubs - particularly the Blue Boar.
The founders quickly moved on to other things - jobs in academia, mostly, and Alan Halsey ran the shop until 1997. He's a poet himself, and read some of his work after the chat. After that, Chris and Mel took over, and moved to the Ice House - and from the Ice House to the shop by the Clock Tower.
The other guest for the chat was Glenn Storhaug, a printer and publisher who was also involved with the Poetry Bookshop in those early days, and printed books of poetry by some of the booksellers. He also read out a stanza of a poem which had been printed in the TLS, by Anne Stevenson, which mentioned him and Alan. One of the books he was responsible for was The Kilpeck Collection, which contains poems by the poets from the Poetry Bookshop and some of their friends, including Seamus Heaney! He read out his own poem from the collection.

In the evening, John Cooper Clarke was on at the Globe - a sell out event!

What a great start to what I hope will be many successful years for the Poetry Bookshop in their new venue!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Council Meeting - Transfer of Assets, Library, Town Plan, and Hay Castle's Plans

It was reported that the Annexe, behind the Council Chambers, is now empty. "We have a second building?" one of the newer councillors asked, in surprise.
The problem is, what to do with it? Should they advertise that it's for rent (they would be wanting £400 a month for it)? There are difficulties round the back, which is roped off so falling slates can't hurt anyone, and who would want to take it on when they don't know how long they will be able to stay there? It all depends on decisions about the Transfer of Assets which have not been taken yet. One flippant suggestion was to offer the Annexe to Red Van Man!
However, Powys County Council have agreed to pay for scaffolding to repair the storm damage on the roof. There's a lot more work that needs to be done up there, and councillors wondered whether they could get the contractor to do the extra work while the scaffolding was there, so they didn't have to pay twice.

I was hoping to hear something about the Library, and what happened at the school the other week - or rather, what didn't happen, as Councillor Powell the portfolio holder for libraries didn't show up for the meeting. However, Trudi just read out the email she'd got from Anita Wright, of HOWLS, saying how they felt "concern, frustration and anger" that the meeting was cancelled at the last minute, but that they still wanted to have a meeting with her to present their ideas for the future of the library, and that they also wanted to meet with the Town Council to discuss ways forward which would benefit both the Library and the Town Council.
Trudi said that she had been offered a couple of dates for a meeting - but at County Hall in Llandrindod Wells, at which she said that the councillor should come down to Hay to see the Town Council.
So that's the position at the moment....

The Chamber of Commerce has been active about the Town Plan. They are concerned about the number of empty shops in town, and are looking at ways to regenerate Hay's shopping centre. The two most important problems seem to be the high rents and the difficulty in finding the right sort of tenant for the shops, who can pass all the necessary credit checks, according to McCartney's estate agents, who seem to be handling most of the leases. So the Chamber will be working with landlords to find a way to help new tenants and businesses to start up. They will also be talking to established businesses in town, and thinking about a social media campaign to encourage people to visit Hay.

Then there was some consternation about the plans for Hay Castle! The Castle has been awarded a £76,000 grant from the Big Lottery Rural Programme - which is great news. What upset the councillors is what they intend to do with it. To quote the article in Wye Local from the Castle: "Access to arts, culture and creative learning facilities is also limited."
"In Hay?!" one councillor exclaimed, incredulously.
The article goes on: "There was an almost unanimous feeling (99% of respondents) that Hay did not have anywhere that could be called 'the centre of the community'."
Mutterings from the councillors that this was because the community centre had been knocked down by Powys County Council, who had promised to build a new one....
So, Hay Castle wants to become the community hub which is lacking in Hay, "developing a programme of activities to engage all sectors of the community, from toddlers to young farmers, families and older people." They talk about loaning art works of national importance for display, and having music, performing arts, writing workshops, bookbinding, printmaking, and other crafts that have to do with the written word.
All of which is a very laudable aim....
"I bet they won't have the Youth Club up there, though," was the general opinion of the Town Council. It was their considered opinion that some people in town wouldn't go to the Castle for community events, whereas they would go to a community centre, if we had one.
So the Town Council will be inviting representatives of Hay Castle Trust to come and discuss their plans with the council, so they can see how those plans fit in with the existing Town Plan.
One of the problems with Powys County Council that really gets the Town Council angry is the way they promised a new community centre - and have provided a room ten paces long in the new school building. That's not a new community centre, and the assurance that community groups could hire out the school hall is not what they promised to provide either. So the Town Council doesn't really want another organisation making plans in parallel to them that could spoil their chances of getting the community centre for Hay that Powys promised to provide.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Council Meeting - Kingdom Project, Police Report, and Traffic

I've been out every evening this week, so I've had no time to sit down and write my blog until now!

I was a bit late for the Council meeting. I went down to the Swan, to find the room they had been using in darkness, and the staff there weren't really sure, but they thought the Council was meeting at the school....
This is because it is, apparently, illegal for a Council to meet where alcohol is served.
Fortunately, there they were, in the school hall. I thought I'd be clever, and sit on the padded bench instead of a child's plastic chair, but it was still pretty hard by the end of the evening!

I came in about half way through a presentation two ladies were giving about the Kingdom Project. This would appear to be a festival with a difference, and the organisers were looking for support. I was told later that they have run successful festivals elsewhere before. The idea is for an event to take place over next August Bank Holiday, around the town, or possibly on the Warren, with the aim of encouraging more people to visit Hay.
It was suggested that they also approach Racquetty Farm, which has held several events on their land. They were also advised to speak to Peter Florence of Hay Festival, the Globe, Elizabeth Haycox of Booth Books and Arts Alive in Crickhowell - and to keep in touch with the Town Events Committee of Hay Council.

The Question from the Public commended the Council for the production of their second newsletter, and asked if the names of the chairs of the various sub-committees could be included next time, so that members of the public could go direct to the councillors responsible for the various areas, and not have to go through the Town Clerk, thus easing his workload.

There was no police report, because Lee was busy assisting at the site of a fatal accident at Storey Arms. However, he had sent a report on the main items of interest. The new school site has been broken into (I don't think they got away with much), and there have been scam calls recently pretending to come from the person's bank. The police advice is to break off the call, and call your bank yourself - if it's a real call, they will know all about it, and if it's a fake, the bank will be alerted to the scam.
Sadly, Lee is being re-assigned to Crickhowell, leaving Hay in the hands of PCSO Helen Scott. The Council were sad to hear this, and said he'd be a great loss to Hay.

The new bench has finally been ordered - but there was concern that there had been another accident on the same spot opposite the Cinema Bookshop recently. In that case, the car mounted the kerb, but did not demolish the replacement bench. They said that the parking spots on the same side as the Cinema Bookshop had been introduced originally as a traffic calming measure, but it might be worth shortening the space available, as it seemed to push motorists out to the other side of the road too much. It was also pointed out that larger vehicles were now using the road than when the traffic calming measures had been devised. On 26th October, county councillor Liam Fitzpatrick will be coming to Hay, to discuss the local highways with Hay councillors, and this is one of the areas they will take him to look at. The top of the hill by Walter Jones is also a problem area, with poor visibility, and people stopping to pick stuff up from the shop. More parking space will also have to be found elsewhere if the spot by the Cinema Bookshop is shortened, to allow the same amount of residents' parking. The Highways Department have had a moratorium on making any new traffic orders, but this appears to have been lifted recently, so changes could be requested.
Meanwhile the lady who destroyed the original bench has been contacted, and has agreed to pay for the replacement bench.

There has been no further action on the speed sign between Hay and Clyro, because the Clyro clerk resigned over the meeting about the chicken shed there. He's returned for an interim period, but nothing much can be done until a new clerk is found.

Down on the Gliss, some of the abandoned vehicles have been removed, but the trailer is still there, and somebody appears to be living in the red van. The police are aware of this, and say he is not a concern. Richard Greatrex said that he had been disappointed, at the previous Council meeting, that the first reaction of the council was not to attempt to help a homeless person, but they were more concerned about enforcing the local bylaws. Nobody is sure whether Red Van Man owns the van, or just started living in it because it was abandoned by someone else. It was pointed out to Richard that previous homeless people in the area had been helped by the council - there was a poor soul who was living in a hedge, and another in a tent. Red Van Man does not seem to be in the same sort of distress, but appears to be using the van as a base while he explores the local area on his bike. One of the new councillors (the Off-Grid Gourmet chef?) said that he had experience with the Travelling community and would be happy to act as a liason between the Council and Red Van Man.

Fly tipping is still an issue - in the latest case contractors doing work in someone's garden on Warren Close just dumped the waste down the back onto the railway line. They have been spoken to, and the issue has been resolved, but the need for vigilance is always there.

Down on Gypsy Castle, the person from the Highways Department who was spoken to by the Town Council seemed unaware that the previous moratorium on new traffic orders had been lifted by the County Council. There have been suggestions that the informal passing place on the narrow lane should be formalised - there have been cases of vehicles meeting in the lane, and one of them having to reverse out onto the main road, which is both dangerous and illegal. The Town Council also want to push the 30 mile an hour signs out further to the edges of town.

In Broad Street, Camper Van Man has a valid permit to park his camper van there, but it has been moved over the last few days. It was pointed out that the County Council deliberately made no restrictions on the type of vehicle that could get a resident's parking permit, because of small traders who used their work vans for private use as well.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Goodbye to Belle Books and Looking Forward to the Poetry Bookshop's Grand Opening

Today, Brian closed the doors of Belle Books for the last time. He's done most of the packing up himself, trundling a trolley back and forth between the shop and home, but he has had a little bit of help (he's not exactly in the best of health, or the first flush of youth, after all). The very last sale he made cheered him up a bit, though - it was a facsimile copy of a 1950s Welsh comic book, and the customer's grandmother had done the illustrations!

Meanwhile, Chris and Mel are working hard at getting the shelves put together for the grand opening of the new Poetry Bookshop on 7th October - they're moving to the shop by the clock tower that was Spirit of the Andes most recently. They've got a full programme of events to launch the new shop, starting at 2pm with The Strings of Song. It's the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Vernon Watkins, so local author Owen Sheers and three other poets will be reading and discussing Vernon Watkins' work and sharing their own new poems. Admission is free, and the event is supported by Swansea University and Literature Wales.
Then at 5pm there will be Recollections of the Early Days of the Poetry Bookshop. Alan Halsey will be there - he was bookselling in Hay when I first came here in the 1990s, and he remembers what it was like back in the 1970s in Hay. He will be joined by publisher Glenn Storhaug, Anne Stevenson and Michael Farley for reminiscing and reading their poetry. This will also be a free event.

The big event will be in the evening, at the Globe, starting at 7pm and going on until late, when Dr John Cooper Clarke will be taking the stage, with special guests. Tickets are £20 (the special early bird tickets at £15 are all gone, I think). He is a superstar in the world of poetry, as well as being very funny, and well known on TV and radio, so it's quite exciting to have him in Hay for the Poetry Bookshop's launch.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Building Work Starting

I walked down to the Co-op (treating myself to Ben and Jerry's chocolate ice cream!), and noticed that work seems to have started on the Bookers Edge housing development. At any rate, fences are up, site huts have arrived, and a drive has been started in the middle of the site, sloping up from the road.
I hope the problems about them agreeing to build affordable housing on part of the site have been sorted out.

Meanwhile, up Cusop Dingle, a small field by the road now looks like this:


The field seems to go with the house at the top of the picture, and there were signs up saying a security firm was watching the site. A couple of people I know were walking down the road as I was walking up, and told me that the stone wall along the footpath will be re-instated when they've finished.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Trip to Tretower

Because the talk about Gwrych Castle had to be called off on Saturday, my friend was looking for other historical things to do when I went round to see her that morning. She had a few jobs to do, so could only do something fairly local, and Tretower was taking part in the Open Doors project. We considered getting tickets for it online - but it didn't say you had to have tickets, and the event was free anyway, so we decided to just show up at the door.
This was, it turned out, a mistake. Apparently we had to have the tickets, booked online, to get in, and there was no provision at Tretower to make the booking. And neither of us carry a mobile phone to go through the booking process as we stood there. It wasn't the fault of the young man who worked there - he said he'd been getting quite a bit of feedback over the morning to improve the service for next year.
Then another lady showed a card to the young man, and got in. My friend has a card that provides access to CADW sites and I think it was English Heritage - and that was sufficient to get us both inside. (The silly thing is that I'd have been happy to pay the usual entry fee).
We had a little while to wait until the guided tour began at 1pm, so ambled round the garden.

The chap giving the tour was brilliant! Very thorough, and really knew his stuff. He took us over to the castle first, explaining that it was there in the middle of the valley to control the crossing points - there was nothing there before the Normans arrived. He showed how the shell keep developed into the central tower, and then took us back to the house.
The garden we'd been mooching around earlier was not in its original medieval position - the medieval house had two wings coming out which were possibly a bakehouse and a brewing house, or possibly wash house. The line of the roofs are quite clear on the side wall of the house:


Inside, we looked round the kitchen - now fitted out with medieval furniture and fittings. Previously, it was thought to be seventeenth century, and was presented in that way, but new information came to light, and the whole area was changed, with partitions going up for a buttery (for butts, or barrels, of wine and ale, rather than butter), and a servery area just before the great hall, where the steward would sit making sure the courses were served in the right order. Originally the kitchen would have been open all the way to the roof, but they decided to keep the seventeenth century floor so they could use the upstairs rooms.

We talked about tenterhooks, stretching the fabric covering of the walls in the great hall, in the York colours of murry (a dark red) and dark blue - the dye came from the mulberry tree in the garden. It was all designed to impress, and to sway important visitors to the York party, in an area which had owed allegiance to Lancaster only a short time before. The painted cloth behind the dais shows important events in the Vaughan family history, from Agincourt to the siege of Harlech Castle (with Jasper Tudor escaping on a boat in the background), and the Battle of Mortimer's Cross when three suns were seen in the sky, and around the edge are the badges and coats of arms of all the families who owned Tretower, which was an important place in the late medieval period.
Next door, in the solar, there is even some surviving medieval paint decorating the wooden trim at the top of the wall.

And, although we were in the medieval hall, we skipped forward a couple of centuries to talk about tea. When tea was first introduced to Britain, it was taken in the Chinese style, in a bowl - they talked about having a "dish of tea". Pretty soon, handles were added to the bowls - but where to put it down when it might make brown rings on the fine white table clothes? The guide's theory is that they used the saucers - the small plates which held different sauces to pour over the meat of the meal, which would have been empty by the end of the meal, when tea was served. Hence, cup and saucer today - which seems to make sense!

However, the reason we have Tretower today as such a fascinating example of a late medieval hall is that the Vaughans ran out of money, so couldn't change it around as richer families might have - and eventually it became a farm run by a tenant. The great hall was used to store carts, flagstones were laid over the original flooring (what might lurk under them? Medieval tiles, perhaps?) - and the three doors now used upstairs as entrances to the big hall there were found stacked against a wall.
Tretower was used as a tenant farm until 1935, and the first archaeologist to come and examine it was Ralegh Radford, a well known name in archaeological circles.
So we enjoyed Tretower very much - and then we wanted to do something else in the time we had before my friend had to go home.
Looking at the Brecknock History Month leaflet, we decided to head for Brecon. There were a couple of churches there that looked interesting, even if it wasn't the official day for them to be open.
On the way, we stopped off at Cwmdu, and walked round the outside.
We found this:


It's a fragment of Dark Age carved stone, set into the buttress of the church, with a plaque explaining what it is that is a historical item in itself. Apparently one of the Victorian vicars was a bit of an antiquarian, and he collected things like this.

And so on to Llanhamlach, a pretty little Victorian church which contained treasures. The painting of angels behind the altar are the first things to catch the eye, but down by the side of the altar is a very fine tomb:


There were ladies doing the flower arranging for the harvest festival in the church, and one of them told us that this was Lady Jane, who was reputed to haunt nearby Peterstone Court. The guide book goes into more detail. This was Jane Walbeoffe, who lived and died around 1330.
There are other, later, Walbeoffe gravestones lining the porch, with the coat of arms of three cattle (for the "beef" part of the name).
And at the back of the church, under a memorial that looks rather like a fireplace, is the Moridic Stone, from the 10th or 11th century, and probably showing St John and St Mary at the foot of the cross (if it is St Mary, she has very strange breasts!). Or she might be local saint Eiliwedd - nobody really knows.
We left while one of the ladies was practicing harvest hymns (and All Through the Night) on the organ.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hay History Weekend

I think I've just about stopped aching!
On Friday, as part of the History Weekend, members of the History Group were digging a small test pit in a back garden somewhere in Hay. I thought I'd go along and have a look. My intention was to have a look into the hole, say some variation on "Very interesting" and come away again.
When I got there, Alan and Mari had just opened up the pit, and were removing the garden soil - and I couldn't resist. I dashed home for my archaeological trowel, small shovel for removing loose soil, and some plastic bags to put finds in, and got straight down on my knees to show them how to clean off a surface, and point out the different layers in the soil.
Of course, I was still in my good trousers and my smart shoes....
Two hours later, they stopped for lunch, and I went off to do the other things I was supposed to be doing that day. I had to change - I was filthy! So I deliberately put white clothes on so I wouldn't be tempted to do any more digging.
By lunch time, we'd got some blue and white pottery, and a few bits of earlier pottery, including slipware. There were a few bits of clay pipe, too, and what archaeologists call an "Fe obj" - short for iron object, basically a rusty nail!
This was the sort of thing that I used to do in a morning before tea break, without breaking a sweat - but I was reminded just how long ago that was when my muscles stiffened up overnight. I spent a lot of Saturday saying "Ouch."
Alan will be continuing with the pit this Friday - they got to about 20 inches deep in the end, and haven't hit natural soil yet.
And this seems like a good place to mention that Alan Nicholls has a new book out, being a collection of articles from the old Haywire magazine, an idiosyncratic view of Hay in the hay day of Richard Booth. It's available for £20 from Lulu.com.
Mari also told me about the much larger pit that's been opened up in the Castle grounds, "the size of a swimming pool", she said.
It is, indeed, quite large, and deep, and most of it seems to have been filled with clay to level up the garden - about six feet deep of it! (That came out with a JCB!). Under the clay, the floor level of a building is starting to appear, probably from the original castle, and a lot deeper than the present house.
Also over the weekend were some guided walks around Hay, and a pop-up museum in the Parish Hall, with tea and cakes. About a hundred people came to the museum, and about fifty to the talk held on the same afternoon. Sadly the talk about Gwrych Castle, at Cusop Hall, had to be cancelled because the speaker was ill (I'd been looking forward to that one).

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Music at Hay Tap

There are a variety of places to hear good music in Hay and the surrounding area - classical from Hay Music at Booths Bookshop, all sorts of things at the Globe including, last week, the Talgarth Male Voice Choir - I saw them walking up there in their smart green blazers. St Mary's Church also hosts music of various sorts, most recently being the Hereford Cathedral School Choir.
And now the Hay Tap at Kilverts is starting to host musical evenings as well. On Tuesday 26th September, The Big Easy swing band is coming from Leeds to play a variety of jazz tunes. Music starts at 8pm.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

As I Walked Out One September Morning

to paraphrase Laurie Lee.
I'm usually at work on Sundays, but I took last Sunday as a holiday and decided to go out on the Hay Ho bus, which includes Madley in the route. I haven't been to Madley for years, but I remembered the church was nice, and I really wanted to get up close to the satellite dishes.
To this end, I got the 11.25am bus from Hay. I was intending to get off at Gooses Foot Farm Industrial Estate, on the edge of Kingstone, but the bus approached it from a different angle, coming out of Madley, to the usual bus route, so I overshot a bit and got off the bus at Hanley Court farm. This was so I could walk through the bits of Kingstone I never see from the bus. For instance, I knew there was a school there, but I had no idea it was such a big high school.
Then I turned down the public footpath towards the satellite dishes. At the end of the metalled road there were a few houses strung along one side of a field, and the public footpath appeared to go through the field. There's a kissing gate at one end, and at the other a small metal gate led into a field of maize. The weeds round the edge of the field were taller than I am - there was no way I was going to get through the footpath there! And it was a long walk back to go round by the road.
As I was coming through the kissing gate at the other end of the field, I noticed a grass path leading round the back of the houses. It wasn't marked in any way, so I was a bit hesitant about going down there at first, but soon I could see I was on the right path after all. It went right round the edge of the Satellite Earth Station, right by the razor wire fence.
This is how close you can get to the satellite dishes:


It was all very interesting.
The path comes out at the other end onto a Roman road, Stoney Street, so I instantly stepped through 2,000 years of history.
It was also the day of the big Madley Car Boot Sale, so the road was quite busy. Fortunately there is a grass verge, and the car boot sale is very well stewarded. They were in the road by the field, and also stopping people from parking in people's driveways or field gates along the road. After all, it's only £1 to park in the field.
At the end of the road is the Comet Inn, and that was my first stopping point:


It's a pleasant, modern looking pub inside. I got there at about half past one, and had a half of Ludlow Best, a nice light beer that was just the thing for a long walk. The day had started off a bit miserable and drizzly, but was brightening up considerably.
Then I walked into Madley. When I consulted my copy of Pevsner, to look up details about the church, I noticed that there was something else to look at in the area. "ROUND BARROWS, 1 1/2 miles WNW of the church. The group consists of a bell barrow 33 feet in diameter and a disc barrow 64 feet in diameter; nearby are three small round barrows encircled by a slight bank and ditch."
This went off the edge of my map, so I looked up the round barrows online and found their location on a website showing all the archaeology around Madley. This also said that the manor house nearby was medieval. This was Upper Chilstone Farm.
The only way to get there was along the road, but there was mostly a grass verge to step onto when cars went by, and it wasn't overly busy. I think I'd try to do more off road walking next time I go out, though.
Upper Chilstone is a working farm, and tractors were going to and fro, so I didn't linger - but I couldn't see anything medieval over the high garden wall. It was all early 19thC brick. I couldn't see the barrows at all, but worked out that they were between the house and the main road I'd just walked along. Almost exactly, in fact, where a new orchard had been laid out. I went round to look more closely from the main road - and there is a bit of pasture to one side which might be where the barrows are, in the gap between the trees in the middle of the picture:


Still, I did find the locally famous egg fridge - it's on the parish map in the village, and is an old fridge beneath a tree at a fork in the road, where someone local puts free range eggs for sale.

Then it was back to Madley for a pint of Lancaster Bomber in the Red Lion. On the way I stopped by the local garden centre, and bought a pot of sage for the garden. The Red Lion is a lovely old pub, with several small, cosy rooms, though the sun was so pleasant by now that I sat outside.


I still had time before the bus came, so I headed up to the church, where I met a lovely old gentleman who was obviously something to do with the congregation (though he said he wasn't allowed to wind the clock any more!). He showed me round, including the crypt that is used for some services. Most services are held in the side aisle now, leaving the centre of the church open. There was a labyrinth laid out with lengths of cloth there. At the back of the aisle is quite a good tomb, of Richard Willison and his wife (his legs are missing, sadly) from 1575. The church also has wall paintings above the chancel arch.
Then the old gentleman took me round to the back of the church, where thieves came a few nights ago and stripped some of the lead off the chapel roof.
He also very kindly got a copy of the parish magazine from the local shop for me - where he'd been going when he met me in the churchyard. It's called Tracking the News, with a picture of satellite dishes, and is as much a local magazine like Wye Local as the parish magazine. It covers Allensmore, Clehonger, Eaton Bishop, Kingstone, Madley, Thruxton and other neighbouring parishes. So I found out that Kingstone Church has just had a servery installed for serving snacks, and children from Kingstone School have just been on holiday to Iceland! There was a Wild West Summer Fair (prize for best dressed cowboy or Indian) and a visit to Hereford Cathedral gardens by Eaton Bishop gardening club, and a full Village Diary of all the events in the district.
I got to the bus stop with exactly 3 minutes to spare, and the bus came round the corner right on time.