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.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Chicken Shed Meeting in Disarray

Back on 9th September, I mentioned the meeting in Clyro about planning permission for a proposed chicken shed there, for intensive rearing of chickens.
I see from the Brecon & Radnor this week that things did not go well:
Clyro Community Council were holding their regular council meeting on Tuesday 12th September. There was a lot of public interest in the meeting, so a lot of people wanted to attend.
Before the meeting, according to the B&R, who interviewed James Gibson-Watt who was present as the local county councillor, there was a briefing for the councillors on making declarations of interest on the planning application. Any councillor who has a personal interest must declare it, and cannot then vote on the matter, having to leave the room during discussion of that item on the agenda.
It seems that, during this briefing, the council clerk resigned - which meant the meeting could not go ahead.
By this time, members of the public were starting to turn up, only to be told that the meeting was private (when the council meeting proper began, it would have to be public).
Then it seems that the council had been going to look at slides of the plans for the application, but the projector was in a side room and couldn't be moved. (It seems to me that they should have been aware that there was a lot of public interest in the matter and have sorted something out in the biggest room available).
So the council meeting didn't go ahead, but now the council clerk has agreed to stay on for a while so the council can continue to hold meetings.
Meanwhile, the matter of the planning application remains unresolved....

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Chatting at Black Lion Green

When I went down to Black Lion Green the other day to take a photo of the bridge there (which is narrower at one end than the other), I bumped into someone I know who lives down there. We had a good chat about the local wildlife - he said he'd seen a huge dog otter in the area recently. Other people have seen it around, too, as well as kingfishers flying down the Dulas Brook.
He's also seen a few amusing things happening on the bridge.
There's a little gate at one end of the bridge, which is very easy to open, but one day he saw a chap who was going up into the field to do a bit of metal detecting, and this chap tried to open the gate the wrong way. It stuck, of course. The chap got more and more annoyed with the gate until he started hitting it with his spade - like something out of a silent movie!

Something else I noticed while I was at Black Lion Green was the circle of logs on the grass, which look as if they are for story telling, maybe for the Forest School? And they have a willow archway leading to them:

That's going to be fun to run through when it bushes out a bit!

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Visit to Treholford House and Gardens

It's Brecknock History Festival this month, and the theme is The Houses and Estates of Brecknockshire - which is why Treholford House was open to the public on Saturday. A friend asked me if I'd like to go with her to see it.

It's a beautiful building - the part to the right is older, with the rounded middle and the rest of that wing added in 1837. The views of Llangorse Lake (which is part of the 3,000 acre estate) are gorgeous. It's also very obviously a family home, so it was very generous of them to let visitors in to wander everywhere - especially as some of the carpets are white, and they'll need a good clean now! Upstairs there are several school photos of boys of the family at Malvern College.
We also noticed that one of the Blackham family is a talented cross stitcher - there are several framed embroideries around the house, including a fine pair in the library of Nefertiti and Tutankhamun on a dark blue background with gold thread.
There was a lot of historical information laid out (on what is probably a Jacobean table) in the library, including Victorian family albums and reports of the big estate sale in 1919. At that time Treholford was part of the Buckland estate, which covered 30,000 acres! The death of the owner, JPW Gwynne Holford, meant the break up of the estate into smaller units.
We spent a lot of time looking round the house and gardens - although there are only two main phases to the building of the house, it was still quite complex to unravel, and there are supposed to be 17thC elements hidden within the older part of the house. We counted 20 chimneys when we were standing at the back of the walled garden (you could see in the walled garden from the house, but it wasn't open to walk round). It must be wonderful to wake up in that master bedroom to that amazing view of the lake (my friend said she'd move the bed to see it better), and then descend into the en suite bathroom (three or four steps down). What we presumed to be the mistress bedroom had only a wash basin, but it may have been installed in the 1920s, by the style of it, so would have been the height of comfort then. We did wonder where the original fireplaces were, though - those big rooms with big windows must have got chilly in winter, and there's no sign of them now, unless they were behind the big wardrobes.
We saw the sliding doors of the carriage house (now a garage) and tracked down the stables in the garden outbuildings just up the hill. Further up is an orchard, and there's also a walled garden, which is listed. We noticed drainage, and gullies in the garden - it must get quite wet in winter.
And there was also cake, and tea, provided by the members of the Llyn Syfaddan History Group, who are raising money to fund a volunteer dig at nearby Blaenllynfi Castle. Llyn Syfaddan is the Welsh name for Llangorse Lake.
Among the historical information were mentions of other places of interest in the area, which all seemed to have been part of the Buckland estate. If my friend had been on her own, she would probably have come home, but since we were together, we decided to go on and search out some of the other places in the area that we'd seen mentioned.
First was Cathedine Church, just at the bottom of the drive. It was interesting that two of the houses next to it were called The Towers and Tower House, though we couldn't see a tower. We managed to find a place to pull in to park - sadly for the church, there seems to be no place for cars to park to get to it. Someone is still maintaining the churchyard - the paths were mown, but the latest grave there we could see was dated 2003, and someone had chalked "Please Help Save Our Church" on the front step.
The church looks as if it is all one, Victorian, build, until you get round the far side and see the remains of an older wall sticking out from the tower. Some of the graves are older than the church building, too - this was the earliest one we saw:

Sorry it's sideways!

Then we explored the back lanes, looking for Blaenllynfi castle. Finding houses called Blaenllynfi Cottage and Castle Cottage, we stopped - and trespassed in a neighbouring garden to inspect what looked like a small motte. However, looking it up online later, I found that the main castle, which includes quite a bit of stonework, is actually in the woods - which we couldn't get to - and the boggy area we could see from the mound is probably the medieval fish ponds!

So then we decided to try to find Penkelly Castle (as it was spelled in the 18thC picture we saw earlier). This is in the village of Pencelli, near Talybont - and it's now a caravan and camping park! There was a picture of the original castle, which was quite substantial, in the reception area. The lady there was very helpful and told us where the castle ditch was - it's still very deep, and part of it was used for the canal when they were building it in the 18th century. That's when most of the remaining stonework was taken down and used elsewhere, too. And this was the chapel of the castle, St Leonard's, which was later converted into a house:

Pencelli Castle Caravan and Camping Park has a website at, and it looks to be a well-run site - they had signs up saying they'd won awards for their clean loos! The barns by the house were full of vintage farm carts and tractors, too.

So we did quite a bit of exploring in the end, and had a lot of fun.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

New School Site Tour

I was lucky enough to be included in the site tour of the new school building this week, as I've had my arm twisted to become the minutes secretary of HOWLS, the library supporters' group. (They didn't have to twist very hard. It's easy to stand up for something you believe in.)
Also with us was a group from the Town Council, including the Mayor, Trudi, and Nigel the Town Clerk. We were supposed to be meeting the county councillor who is the portfolio holder for libraries and the Chief Librarian, but at the last minute, the county councillor said she couldn't come, so we just met the Chief Librarian.
The way into the building site is down the path at the bottom of the car park that connects with Forest Road, where there's a turnstile arrangement which is electronically operated. When we got inside, there's a path to the site huts.
Building site offices have changed since I was an archaeologist! These are very comfortable and clean, and there are signs up for health and safety issues - as well as a couple of big signs saying "No Foul Language", since they're building right next to a working school, just over the fence. We went into a meeting room, where we were issued with hard hats and hi-vis jackets before we went into the new school building. We had already been told to wear sturdy shoes - alas, my steel toe cap boots I was issued for the Norwich Castle Mall dig wore out long ago, but I was wearing sensible boots.
The tall yellow part of the building that is closest to the car park is the new school hall, and the "community" rooms are attached to it on the side nearest the car park. The hall has the kitchen at one end, for school meals. We went through to stand in the room that the County Council want to move the Library into.
The chap from Willmott Dixon, the building contractors, was very helpful, and had plans of that part of the building printed off for us.
On the side nearest the car park are five tall windows, with narrow lengths of wall between. This is where the five computer terminals are planned to go. In the corner nearest to the front door will be the librarian's counter, and on the other side of the door there will be a small office tucked into the corner. At the back of the room, on the same side as the office and against the wall with the hall will be a "Tea Point" with a sink, and behind that, two toilets, which will be accessible for disabled users. The only wall space suitable for fixed shelving will be the wall with the hall, between the office and the door to the hall (which will be normally locked, and openable with an electronic fob). The wall is double thickness for sound proofing, so anyone in the library room will not be distracted by the sounds of children doing PE or having lunch.
There is no separate area for the children's library - it's all one rectangular room.
At the back of the library room, and narrower because of the Tea Point and toilets - and the toilet for the Kitchen which also slots in at the back of the room, is the community space. This will be divided from the library by a folding partition, but when not in use for community purposes, and when the library is open, it is supposed that people will be able to sit there to read the papers or whatever else they need to do.
We paced this part of the building out - it is 10 paces long and 6 or 7 across - there were some building materials in the way, so we couldn't do a complete straight line. It has its own separate entrance, and separate entrance to the Tea Point and toilets.
The chap from Willmott Dixon would have shown us the classroom block, too, but at the moment they are laying the underfloor heating, so it would have been a bit difficult. When we were standing outside, he showed us how each classroom will have a separate front door, leading to coat pegs and toilet in an anteroom and then into the main classroom. The classrooms are four in a row on each side of a wide corridor down the middle of the building.
He said that the building work had been complicated on this particular site because they first had to demolish part of the old school to make room for the new hall, and provide a new portacabin to replace the classroom they knocked down. So normally they would start with the tallest and most complex part of the build - the hall, but this time they started with the classroom block and joined the two parts together later. He said it's actually worked out quite well, as they come to the installation of the electrics and water and so on.
We were standing in the area which will become what I think he called a "mugger" - a Multi Use something or other - I think he meant a playground with a hard surface. There will be another hard surfaced play area round the other side of the classroom block, and the rest will be grassed over.
Someone asked about the Swimming Pool building, and he said that the building contractors had been asked if they could do anything to renovate the building, so they would be having a meeting with the Pool committee to see what was feasible. He said they wanted to help, but expectations would have to be realistic - there was only a limited amount of help they could give.
When it looks less like a building site and more like a building, with the plaster board up on the walls, they are planning to have an Open Day. This will be in December. He said they are well on schedule for finishing the building early next year, probably February.

After the site meeting, I went to the Library to compare the size of the present building with what I had just seen while it is fresh in my mind. It really is going to be a quart squeezed into a pint pot. It may be a very nice pint pot, but it is still inadequate to the needs of the population of Hay and the surrounding area.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Small Business Saturday

Welcome to Charlotte of Hay, right next to the Buttermarket. They're selling clothes, scarves, bags, shoes, and oddments like Tarot cards and polished stones - and the clothes are all Fairtrade (I'm not sure what else is).

Thursday, 14 September 2017

A Day out to Stokesay Castle

This is such a lovely little castle. I've been meaning to go there for a long time, and on Tuesday I finally managed it.
The journey is pretty easy - bus to Hereford, and train to Craven Arms. You can actually see the castle on the approach to Craven Arms station, so I thought it would be pretty easy to walk out and find it. The off-peak fare, by the way, was £14.10 return, which meant that the last train I could return on was the 3.38pm.
The main road through Craven Arms is parallel to the railway tracks, more or less, so it was easy to follow, and there is a pavement up one side. A lot of lorries swept past me at speed as I walked along - I wouldn't have attempted it if there was only a grass verge. Also, the pavement was on the same side as the castle, so I didn't need to cross the road.
There's a small side road leading to the castle, and by then you can see it in the distance, with the English Heritage flag flying. The road passes the old school house, now a private house, which had a lot of bird feeders for sale outside in the garden.

Next you get to the churchyard - and if you're walking, you can cut through there instead of going round to the car park, to the entrance of the castle. I didn't know this, and went the long way round.
There's a modern block facing the gatehouse, with toilets and shop, which is also where you buy the tickets. Adult entry is £7.60, or you can add on a bit for gift aid, and they give you a device to listen to with all the details of the guided tour. I didn't take mine - I already had a guide book and I hate getting distracted by a voice in my ear.
I really enjoyed exploring - the solar which has little shuttered windows to look down on the Great Hall is probably the best preserved, with wooden panelling and an impressive 17thC fireplace. Here's the view down into the Great Hall:

One room, which can only be viewed through a glass door, has medieval tiles on the floor, and a couple of rooms had notices up about the bats that roost there. They also warned visitors not to touch any bats, as there is a danger of bat rabies.
I went right up to the very top of the tallest tower:

and down to Laurence of Ludlow's strong room, with bars at the windows - and down to the cellar where you can see what look like the marks of the ends of barrels rubbed into the plaster, so probably the wine cellar.
One lady leaned into an alcove off a bedroom, wondering what was there, and I said it was probably a latrine. "Oh, they had en suite!" she said. The couple were on holiday, and asked me about other local attractions. They'd just come down from York, where they thought they'd probably stayed too long, and Chester, where they wished they'd stayed for longer.

Also trotting round the castle was a school party, looking very solemn as they filled in the worksheets on their clip boards. They were young enough to assume that any adult nearby must be there to help them, so when I was in the shop I got a little girl waving something she wanted to buy with her pocket money at me and asking how much it said on the label!

After taking my time wandering round the castle - you can even go down in the moat, where apple trees are growing now - I went over to the church, St John the Baptist. Inside, it is almost unchanged from the 17th century, with the Ten Commandments and Creed and other Biblical texts on the walls, and the box pew for the family from the castle right by the pulpit. The font is tiny, and very plain.

I also learned, from the guide book, why the town is called Craven Arms. The big public house on the main road gave it's name to the railway station, and the pub took its name from the family who owned Stokesay Castle. After the family of Laurence of Ludlow, the wool merchant who built most of what we can see now, the castle went through various hands until it reached Lord Craven in the 17th century. He had the gatehouse built - and then the Civil War started, and he probably wished he'd chosen something a bit more easily defended. The castle was taken by Parliamentarian forces on their way to Ludlow without a shot being fired, though the walls around the courtyard were later pulled down to a less defensible height, as they remain today, and all Lord Craven's estates were confiscated.

And then it was off to the tea rooms, on the other side of the car park, very nicely done in shades of white and grey with red tiles, in a red brick Victorian farmhouse. The chocolate cake was delicious, and the friendly lady behind the counter was called Zakia, and had a floral scarf over her hair.

Then it was back along the busy main road to Craven Arms, where I found a nice charity bookshop, and the Museum of Lost Content, which I didn't have time to go into. Also on the edge of town is the Discovery Centre, with a grass roof. I think it was there to publicise local attractions, and the sign outside mentioned a mammoth found locally! So there's scope for another visit.

I was also very pleased to find free public toilets on the way back to the railway station - though it was a bit of a shock to hear a disembodied voice welcoming me as I closed the door, and warning me not to linger too long!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Adam Dworski - A Potter's Centenary

It's week around Herefordshire, and over at Pottery Cottage in Clyro there's an exhibition on celebrating the life and work of Adam Dworski.
He lived there, and had his studio there for many years, until he moved to a studio just across the main road (now demolished).
Pottery Cottage is now owned by the Balch family - Oliver, who wrote Under the Tump recently, about life in the area, and Emma, who runs A Book A Day in Hay website amongst other things, and they were keen to have the exhibition in the house. Gareth Howell-Jones was there to take me round the exhibition - which was his idea originally.
The tour begins in the room which was Adam Dworski's original studio - he really didn't need a lot of room to work in. The potter's wheel is borrowed, but the stool and rug are the ones Adam used himself. In what is now the bathroom are two black and white photographs - one of Adam Dworski, and one of his daughter Marijana, aged five, holding a pot and taken in that very room. Adam and his wife Patricia had three children, Marijana, who became a bookseller in Hay-on-Wye (and now Presteigne), Adam and Mark.
The exhibits are displayed on tables and window ledges and in cabinets around the house. Barbara Erskine has lent the sculpture that Adam Dworski made for her after the success of her book Lady of Hay, of Matilda de Braose riding side saddle on a horse. There are also sculptures of Leda and the Swan and Europa and the bull, two of the seductions of Zeus from Classical mythology. Mostly, though, he made domestic pottery - beautifully elegant little milk jugs, for example - and there's a plate with the words "Run For Your Wife, Shaftesbury Avenue" which he made for the cast of the first production of the play, because one of his friends was performing in it. He also made plaques, of fish, and mounted knights, and Madonnas. He experimented with porcelain, and he also painted. I was fascinated by the book of sketches he made of a 1950s visit to Croatia, his homeland, with his wife - some very good sailing boats, and pictures of walks in the hills, and evenings sitting at outdoor tables, waving bottles in the air.
There's a booklet on sale about the exhibition, made locally, for £4, which gives some more information about Adam Dworski's life, and comments by Marijana Dworski, Gareth Howell-Jones and Emma Balch.
It's a fascinating exhibition, and only on for this week!

And these plaques are on the wall outside Pottery Cottage.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Steampunk Weekend at Hereford Waterworks Museum

The last time I wore a crinoline, I was cosplaying Billie, a Victorian badger from Bryan Talbot's Grandville series of graphic novels, which was great fun, and Bryan Talbot himself took a photo of me and my Young Man, who was portraying the hero of the novels, Inspector LeBrock, who is romantically involved with Billie.
So that was wonderful - but I hadn't mastered the art of sitting down in a crinoline, and had terrible trouble with the hoops of the underskirt going up in the air whenever I tried to sit down.

This time, I've cracked it! The trick is to pull up the hoops at the back of the skirt as you sit down, and the hoops will stay decorously down at the front.
I needed to know this before I got on the 39 bus, on the way to Hereford on Saturday. However, it would have been difficult for anyone to sit next to me on the bus, as I took up rather a lot of room sideways!

I'd never been to the Waterworks Museum before, but I knew roughly where it was - there's a brown sign next to a church, on the ring road, and if you look into town from there, you can see the cathedral.
And Broomy Hill is a fascinating area to walk through - full of big Victorian houses, with big gardens, and in-filled with more modern, smaller houses and bungalows. There was a shower of rain, but fortunately my costume included an umbrella!
The Museum leaflet says there's a path along the banks of the river - I may try that next time I go (not while wearing a crinoline, though!). They also have a website at

Here's one of the earliest forms of water power - an overshot wheel. In the buildings were many more, and most of them were working. There was that distinctive tang of oil and coal in the air.

And outside the main building there were stalls, selling Steampunk clothing, replica weapons, mirrors, candle holders, jewellery.... Up at the end of the line was a camper van, ordinary on the outside, but transformed on the inside with all sorts of gadgets made by the owner, with gauges, and bubbling red liquid, and dragons' heads in brass, and copper looked fantastic, and he was showing it off for donations to the Macmillan Fund.
Next to that was the coffee stall. They also had a few bits and pieces for sale, and I couldn't resist the door wedge marked "HODOR" (Game of Thrones fans will get the reference). Poor Hodor. I got talking to the lady at the coffee stall, who said that they were trying to think of ways to make their coffee cart look more Steampunk. I suggested they look out for the Girl Genius graphic novels. In one of them, the Girl Genius has her first cup of coffee (she has always been forbidden coffee before because of the effect it will have on her). In a fit of manic, coffee-fuelled frenzy, she transforms the coffee making machine with her Mad Science skills - and the visuals that go with that should give the coffee cart people lots of good ideas.
Food was also on offer, with a barbequed meat stall (I didn't get round to eating anything there) and music was provided by Caroline the Musical Saw Lady.

She did a brilliant version of the Doctor Who theme (she had a backing track to play with) and also Wuthering Heights!

Inside were more stalls - jewellery, vintage clothing, chocolate (I succumbed to a chocolate Dalek and Tardis - they also did a Millenium Falcon and R2D2), mead - I can highly recommend the Trolls Bottom Heather Honey mead, which is light and fragrant, and dances on the tongue. They also do things like banana rum and coffee vodka, and have a website at
I bought a lovely pair of high heeled ankle boots from one vintage stall (I almost never wear heels, but these were just perfect for costume purposes). She asked where I got the leather school satchel I was using to carry things around, and I told her about Bain and Murrin's in Hay. Most people were wearing costume - a splendid array of top hats, fancy waistcoats, ruffled skirts and, of course, goggles. Also, tricorn hats - Pirate Steampunk is also a thing.

For the Coglings (young Steampunks) there was a play park with lots of water themed things to do, and round the back of the museum is a miniature railway with a proper station platform (not open during the weekend).

In the evening they had live music. There was also an escapologist who turned up on a bicycle with a large box on the front, for storage - and it was also his stage! And I saw one chap carrying fire clubs around with him.

The Museum is open every Tuesday from 11am to 4pm, all year round, with special events throughout the year, so I'll certainly be back to see the engines again, and there will be another Steampunk Weekend next year, on 28/29th April, so I'm looking forward to that!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Council Meeting - Coming to the End of a Very Long Evening!

My notes started to peter out by this stage in the evening - and I felt sorry for Gareth, who had to wait until about 10.30pm to present his County Councillor's report! By that stage, he just wanted to make it very short, but he did make it clear that there have been meetings he should have been present at, but was not invited to, and other meetings that he took time off work to attend that had been cancelled with nobody informing him.

Other matters that came up included the impending closure of the Nat West bank. It seems that, although they want to close the bank, they still want to have an office in Hay where bank officials can meet customers, and one suggestion was that there is an office free in the Council Chambers - or there's a lovely building in Oxford Road they could use if they wanted....

Now that Hay Council is responsible for the Sports Pavilion, they have to be aware of things like the need to test for Legionella in the hot water supply - apparently they have to ensure that the water is hot enough for the legionella not to form. They will be seeking advice on the best way to do this.

The new school will have no caretaker, and there is no provision for one in the budget, so the school will have to find other ways of dealing with maintenance issues, for instance if there are problems with boilers or the electrical supply.

Several years ago now, Hay Council ended up taking over the budget for a Two Towns, One World project, funded by the EU, and although they finished the project, the EU department concerned is still not happy with the paperwork that was provided, so they are sending someone over from Brussels to look at the records.

There was some discussion over whether Steve Like should have some sort of recognition for serving on the Town Council for 40 years, now that he has retired from that. There was an objection to this proposal, on the grounds that councillors choose to serve, and eventually they decided on sending a letter of thanks. They also mentioned that Gareth Ratcliffe had served on the Council for 17 years.

The Bowls Club have asked for financial help to build their new club house, though initially the Council understood that they had the means to do it all themselves. They are being referred to the Recycling Fund.

Chris Davies, our MP, has sent an invitation to councillors to come on a tour of the House of Commons, which is very nice, but would need some organisation for transport and staying over and so forth.

There was a question about having a charging point for electric vehicles in Hay, as more are coming onto the roads. This is already part of the Town Plan.

And there was a display of disbelief that the County Council have asked all the Town Councils in Powys to provide details of the local businesses in their areas. Since they collect business rates from all the businesses, surely they already know this?

There has been some concern that it is illegal for the Town Council to meet in the Swan, because it is a place where alcohol is served. Of course, no alcohol was present during the council meeting - nobody even sent out for a cup of coffee. But as soon as the meeting was over, just before 11pm, one or two councillors were seen heading off to see if the bar was still open!

The next Council meeting will be on Monday 2nd October at 7pm - hopefully there will be less business to get through!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Council Meeting - Miles without Stiles, Flashing Signs,and the Gliss

At last, something positive to talk about! Josie Pearson, with the help of fellow councillor Jim, the canoe man, has been trying out local footpaths to see how accessible to wheelchair users they are. Her idea is to map out a five mile loop of footpaths, with smaller loops coming off it. The riverbank is an easy choice, of course, being flat and also a cycle path, but there's a kissing gate at the Warren which makes it inaccessible. The gate onto the Warren from the little car park at the end of the track is accessible for anyone with a radar key, however, and there are various options that can be pursued, with the help of Tim Pugh of the Warren Trust. One suggestion is to re-route the footpath near the Persimmon Homes development on more level ground.
Other paths are more challenging, such as the route over the fields up to Hay Common, which would benefit by rehanging some of the gates to swing the other way, which would not be expensive to do, with the agreement of land owners, and some of the paths up to Hay Common are maintained by the National Parks. Cusop Council are also working on something similar.
One problem was the bridge pictured at the top of this post - Josie could get onto it from the Black Lion Green side, but got stuck halfway across because it's narrower at the other end!
The steps opposite Lamb House are completely inaccessible, as well, though it might be possible to re-route the footpath across the field down to the gate, and it will certainly be possible to cut back all the undergrowth which has made it so narrow.
So, grants may be available to do work on the local paths, and it might be possible to get local businesses to sponsor a gate, for instance, which would involve the local community in the efforts to upgrade the paths.
If this does get off the ground, it would be a pilot project to show that it would work in Wales, and would also be good for local tourism.
National Disabilities Awareness Day is in March, so they will be looking at that to show what is available across the country.

Clyro Council have sent a request for Hay to go in with them to purchase a flashing speed sign to slow drivers down. There's already a socket for one by Hay Bridge - it was there for a while and then moved elsewhere in the county, and never came back. Anita, from the audience, and with her Speedwatch hat on, said that the problem with speeding was along Brecon Road and Newport Street, not the road between Hay and Clyro.
The councillors decided that more information was needed, and local PC Helen Scott should also be consulted, as she knows where the problems with speeding occur.
Also on the subject of road traffic problems, there was a suggestion that the 30 mile an hour sign should be moved to the main road, at the turning to Gypsy Castle Lane, because of problems with the increased volume of traffic going to the Persimmon site, and that Gypsy Castle should be made into a one way system. Powys County Council, the police, and the Town Council will be co-ordinating on this.

There are problems down at the Gliss as one of the home owners down there has gone to the Land Registry to claim a portion of the ground where they have extended their garden, over the same period as Hay Council, who are coming to the end of their long road of registering the Gliss as belonging to the Council. So an appeal has gone in to the Land Registry who will eventually make a decision....
Another problem down at the Gliss is the number of canoe companies who now use the canoe landing stage, sometimes causing chaos down there with canoe trailers all over the place. Something needs to be done to control this, as it's a free for all at present. One suggestion was to start charging canoe companies for their use of the landing stage.
People from the Globe have also been looking at the Gliss as a possible site for parking for their next How the Light Gets in Festival. The idea would be to connect the Gliss car park with the fields by the Co-op by putting a footbridge over the stream that meets the Wye there. This would also be dependent on whether the owners of the fields agree to having the Festival on their land.
And 25 residents of the Gliss and surrounding ground have signed a petition saying they want a meeting with Hay Council because of their concerns. They say that Hay Council has been "stealthily taking over" the Gliss for the past four or five years.
Having sat through the relevant Council meetings over the last few years, I think I can safely say that those concerns are not entirely accurate, and Hay Council have not been doing anything "stealthily", but I believe a meeting will be arranged.

Another happy event will be the Hay2Timbuktu 10th Anniversary Celebrations on Friday 27th October. They will be having their AGM from 6.30pm to 7pm, followed by drinks and nibbles, and a look back at the last 10 years, the toilet project in Timbuktu schools, and so on. Mayor Trudi has been asked to be the Master of Ceremonies for this.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Chicken Shed Meeting

Over the river in Clyro, the big issue is the application for planning permission for intensive rearing chicken sheds at Lower House Farm, which has been opposed by the #CluckOff campaign.
There will be a meeting in Clyro Hall on Tuesday 12th September at 7pm, in an attempt to overturn the community council's decision to allow the development to go ahead. Obviously, they want as many people to attend as possible.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Council Meeting - Meet the Council, Transfer of Assets

Next on the agenda was communicating with the public. The first Council newsletter has gone well, and it is intended to be published quarterly. Copies are available in Londis, I noticed the other day. The Council also intends to liase with Hay Markets and have a small table, manned by two councillors at a time, once a month, probably in the middle of the month so that members of the public can bring their concerns, and there will be time to put them on the agenda for the next council meeting. So far, concerns raised with the councillors include the library, the empty shops in town, the progress of renovations at the Castle, and accessibility and pavements. Some specific concerns have already been sorted out, and several people signed up to get regular newsletters.
There was also discussion of coffee mornings at the Sports Pavilion, but this was felt to be overkill.
They are still looking at alternative providers for the new Council website, and are considering one in Shropshire which has provided websites for several community councils there and are looking to expand their services. This would cost £1,500 to £2,000 to set up, and £200 a year to run. The cheapest option is, but they haven't got back to the Council yet. There is, of course, no money in the budget for these costs at the moment, so the decision was deferred to the Finance subcommittee.

The National Park will be running a training session for town councillors in dealing with planning issues next year, and as there are quite a few new councillors it was felt this would be a useful thing to attend. One Voice Wales also has training modules, particularly on the issue of Transfer of Assets - the idea here was that 3 people would go on the course and report back to the rest.

And so to the continuing problem of Transfer of Assets from the County Council to the Town Council. There are several new county councillors who had no understanding of the history of what has been going on in Hay, but there will be a meeting between the entire Cabinet and the Town Council on 12th September.
Rosemary Harris, the new leader of the County Council, has told the Town Council that her priority for Hay is to get the cemetery sorted out. The Lodge next to the cemetery gate was sold to provide money to extend the cemetery, but time is moving on and extra land has still not been purchased. There have been suggestions that, if Hay doesn't get something sorted out soon, the money will be used on other cemeteries throughout Powys.
There are still legal documents to be signed in the case of the car park, but after that the transfer should be complete.
The Council Chambers are not accessible for wheelchairs, which is why the Council was meeting in the Swan, so this is a problem to be discussed at the meeting.
As far as the Library is concerned, the Town Council are waiting to see what HOWLS decides, and will go with that, as there are varying views among the councillors.
And then there's the Community Centre that Hay should have had 20 years ago, and now the only offer from the County Council is a small room in the new school. The County Council has said that "Hay is getting too much", but there is still money in the Shire Budget Reserve earmarked for a community centre for Hay. One new councillor was annoyed that the County Council were complaining about it taking a long time to organise - but it was the County Council which was holding things up!
What the Town Council needs to do at the meeting with the Cabinet is to update them on the state of play on the transfer of assets, and tell them what Hay's priorities are (the cemetery is important, but it's not the highest priority).
At the moment, ongoing issues involve the two sets of public toilets, at the car park and the clock tower, the sports pavilion, and the car park. The Town Council still hasn't received any of the money they are supposed to get from the car park, and figures of around £25,000 to £45,000 were mentioned.
The County Council don't want Hay to have two public buildings - they say this would be seen as "favouritism" by other councils, and they are working on the assumption that the Library will be transferred to the school building. The small room in the school which is earmarked for community facilities is clearly not an acceptable replacement for the old community centre which was knocked down.
Over the past 20 years, HADSCA have been closely involved in the deliberations about a new community centre, and they have in fact put in a planning application to the National Park for one - which cost £19,000! Rob Golesworthy said that the estimated cost of actually building the community centre in those plans would be two and a half million pounds. That's just for the building, not the running costs, and HADSCA don't want to run a community centre. The bottom line is that the County Council are obliged to provide Hay with equivalent facilities to the ones they have lost - and they haven't done that.
So the priorities for Hay are:
1. To complete the asset transfers (including the land around Loggin Brook)
2. To make progress with the cemetery (using the money which is earmarked for Hay)
3. To discuss the community facilities which have not been replaced by the County Council.
4. There are questions to be asked about the statutory provision of Library services, and it might be worth looking at the Welsh Assembly guidelines for staffing levels and opening hours.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Council Meeting - Police, Benches and Signs

This was a long session - just about 4 hours, though it started well, zipping through the agenda quite briskly.

it started with questions from the public about whether the lime trees on Broad Street would be pollarded this year (they think so) and should a large camper van be allowed on a resident's parking permit? There's one in Broad Street, which appeared over the summer. It's obviously used, but it's very noticeable because it is so big. Rob Golesworthy said he'd have a quiet chat with the owner.
Anita from HOWLS said that the management group were compiling the information for the meeting they are having next week with the portfolio holder for the County Council and the Chief Librarian, on 14th September. And on 12th September the full Town Council are meeting with the full County Council Cabinet to discuss issues around the transfer of assets from the County Council to the Town Council, since discussions have been dragging on for some time now. Members of the Town Council hope to meet with HOWLS on the 13th September to compare notes.

The police report began with the news that the PC had broken his toe, and had therefore been on light duties over the summer!
They've had 144 calls in August, with a big jump in burglaries, including a break in at SPAR (again). Though they defended the front entrance after the last spate of break ins, this time the miscreants seem to have got in through the side window. There have also been problems on farms surrounding Hay, with trailers and quad bikes being taken, so the police are appealing to farmers to think about security a bit more seriously. And online, one person drawn into a scam lost something like £200,000, and another lost £30,000 after a virus infected their computer, so the advice is to keep virus protection up to date.
Good news is that anti-social behaviour is down, though there has been a problem with trespassers at Talgarth Hospital. Apparently a ghost hunter went exploring the semi-ruinous buildings there and posted a video on YouTube - he has half a million followers, so a lot of people have been coming to Talgarth to have a look round themselves. Quite apart from the state of the building (which is a scandal in itself) there is a problem with asbestos there, so it really is not a good idea to go wandering around there.
There have also been pedlars selling things like tea towels and so forth door to door in the area - without the required license, so the police advice is to alert them if any of these people are seen.
One local theft involved two people getting a cashier confused about change and making off with £60, and a fake £5 note was found at the Chemist's yesterday. The plastic window in the note was clear rather than having an image of Big Ben on it.

Nigel the Town Clerk was given the go-ahead to order a new bench to replace the one opposite the Cinema Bookshop which was destroyed. The wooden bench which is there at the moment will be moved to Hay Bridge and set to face the river rather than the road, as the present one is, and the bench at the bridge will be refurbished by the Woodland Group and set up down by the river bank.
The idea of having a container for the Woodland Group's tools has hit a snag as they haven't been given permission to set it up, and will have to pay a fee to the National Parks to get permission, so they're back to looking at alternative sites for it.

Plans to extend the cemetery are moving slowly - one of the new councillors has been to see the landowner and says he thinks there has been a bit of progress, but it's slow work.
Meanwhile the Bowls Club would like the Town Council to support their new club house they want to build financially. All the councillors could suggest was that they applied to the Recycling Fund.
The idea to put a plastic film recycling facility in the car park has been refused, so the Town Council are looking for different places to put that.
The Town Council's accounts have been audited, and the result was good, apart from the comment that the Council has too much money in its reserves. Some of this is earmarked for various projects which have not yet gone ahead....
There's a metal Gateway to Wales sign, at present erected in the Council Chambers garden temporarily, which the Town Council want to erect permanently near the toilets at the top of Oxford Road car park, where they could have local information displayed. They just need the necessary permission from the County Council.
More signs are planned at the Gliss, too - a map and two interpretation boards, and they want to paint the old sign post outside the Council Chambers black and white and add two new finger signs to it. These would show the direction and distance of both of Hay's twin towns, Le Redu in Belgium and Timbuktu.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

More Music at St Mary's

Tucked inside the programmes for the charity concert were flyers for up-coming events.
So on Sunday 10th September, Anne Collard will be playing the baby grand piano at 3pm, with pieces by Mendelssohn, Paderewski, Chopin, Liszt, Faure, Satie, Chabrier, Scriablin, Debussy, Attwood, Kreisler and Rachmaninov!
There will also be tea and scones, and a retiring collection (in other words, they ask for money at the end).

And on Friday 22nd September, at 7pm, Hereford Cathedral School Choir will be singing a collection of sacred and secular music. Tickets for this are £10, and there will be a licensed bar.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Charity Musical Concert

What a wonderful evening!
A friend gave me a ticket to this - she'd bought it because she wanted to contribute to the Keith Leighton Neurological Fund, but didn't think she would be able to go. I'd been aware of the Keith Leighton Fund locally, but didn't really know a lot about it - I learned a lot last night!
St Mary's was packed for the performance, which started off with Father Richard on the organ, playing Handel - building up to pulling all the stops out! The master of ceremonies was Roger Beetham, in a multi-coloured waistcoat, treating the evening like Sunday Night at the London Palladium! He said at one point that he had married a Madigan, and she had lots of Keylock cousins, which may have been why he was asked to organise the evening.
Next on stage was Ross Leighton, who said that, as a member of the family, he would have felt insulted if he wasn't invited to play. He had some very clever tech on stage, in the form of a little red box. When he played a phrase of music on his guitar, the box repeated it back, and he could layer one phrase above another until it sounded like there were four or five guitars playing.
He was one of the younger performers, and was followed by two of the older generation - Sue and Mal, accompanied by Val on the piano. Mal is a member of the Talgarth Male Voice Choir, which sometimes comes and sings in Hay, and they did two lovely pieces - the second was Panis Angelicus (there was a bit of an angel theme running through the choices of songs).
Back to the youngsters, with Sam Powell on the piano and Luci Prendergast singing - I was impressed by the number of talented local young men who can play the piano (and guitar), and some seriously good local young women singers.
Sam was followed at the piano by Thom, son of the MC, who had come up to play despite it being his 5th wedding anniversary. His wife Annis had planned to perform with him, but their small child was poorly, so she had stayed at home.

During the interval, there was a bar at the back, with Stuart the churchwarden asking people to stay inside the church with their drinks, because drinking outside in the churchyard wasn't covered by their licence. Stuart also mentioned, at the beginning of the concert, that it might be warm in the church now, but the heating system is on its last legs, and they would be very grateful if people leaving at the end could put some money in the jar by the door for new central heating. There were also snacks, and the inevitable raffle, with lots of prizes, one of which was won by Jack Keylock - who was the inspiration for the concert.

The second half began with Fred Hayward and George Keylock, on guitars. This may have been the first time a Lady GaGa song has been heard in St Mary's!
They were followed by Morgan Field, who had another bit of clever tech - she did something on her phone, pressed a button on one of the speakers, and had a backing track for her Welsh song.
Then Thea and Sam Harrhy came up - young Sam was playing an acoustic guitar, so needed to stand close to a low microphone while they sang so it could be heard.
Then Sheila Leighton came up and read a poem in praise of Hay-on-Wye, written by Phyllis Malone, who lived to be a hundred years old, and loved the area.
The finale was some very fine choral close harmony singing by the Black Lion Singers, a new group led by Roger Beetham (who appears to have been involved in music teaching in the area for many years - he mentioned meeting some of the younger performers when they were in infant school). One of the pieces they sang was South African - he attempted to say it was in the !Xhosa language (and the exclamation mark should be the other way up, to denote a click), and a South African lady in the front row corrected his pronunciation for him!

The choir was a wonderful end to the concert, but the best part was next, when Jack Keylock's father spoke on stage about his son being diagnosed with a brain tumour, and how much the Keith Leighton Fund had helped the family. Jack has just come back from five weeks in hospital in Birmingham, having surgery - his head is shaved, and there are several scars visible. Sheila Leighton came up on stage too (previously I'd only known her as the nice lady in the opticians) and said a few words about the Fund, which started when her husband had a brain tumour, thirty years ago, and has helped several local families since - there seem to be a lot of people who suffer from brain tumours in this area; no-one seems to know why.
Then Jack came up on stage with an enormous bunch of pink and white flowers for Sheila, to show his appreciation of all she had done for him, and he said a few words. He talked about the day that he got the diagnosis, and saw the devastation on his father's face, and.... "I can't swear in here!" he said. And then he went on to say that having the brain tumour has, he thinks, made him a better person, because he now wants to help other people.
But that wasn't the end of the concert. The end was a rousing rendition of Cwm Rhondda - The Welsh hymn, with all the congregation belting it out for all they were worth.
A great end to a great evening.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Good Neighbours and Chance Encounters

One of my neighbours, just down the road, has just got a pair of loppers to use in her garden. She helped me with the mammoth task of pruning/chopping down the tree at the end of my garden in January, so she asked me if I'd like her old pair. The tree has shot up again, but at least the branches are quite thin at the moment, so I was very grateful for the offer. I had been thinking of asking to borrow them anyway, before things get too out of hand!

On the way back from the shops, I got talking to a visitor to Hay. It turned out that she has a local connection to Hay, - her grandmother was adopted, and didn't tell anyone until shortly before she died, but she was related to Mark Havard, who used to own the Londis shop now run by the Pughs. When the lady found this out, she got in touch with Mark Havard's mother, who has now died, and came to visit her several times. Today she'd walked across from Clyro, where she's staying. She's been enjoying seeing the countryside here, and she'd love to move up to this area from the Valleys, where she lives.

And when I got back from shopping, my next door neighbour had taken in a parcel for me - my posh tea has arrived! This batch came from a wonderful shop in Lincoln, the Imperial Tea Emporium, and the actual shop in in an 11thC stone building on Steep Street, right in the heart of the medieval part of the city. Sadly, they didn't have any of my favourite, Russian Caravan Tea, this time, so I got the next best thing - Georgian Style, and one from Sri Lanka called Lovers' Leap.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Market Day and Empty Shops

I usually miss most of the market, though I usually manage to get to Alex Gooch's bread stall before they sell out, on my lunch hour. Today, though, I have a day off work, so I was able to browse the stalls at leisure.
And what a variety there is - there are several vegetable and fruit stalls, the cheese stall, the fish van, and then there's haberdashery, and vintage/junk, and the Women's Institute jams and cakes - for once I was able to get one of Lucretia's wonderful cakes (I chose the apple cake), and pastries, and fruit teas, and fancy tea towels, and prints of bird photos, and vintage clothes, and the falafel man, and a lady making up bunches of flowers for people, and someone else selling garden benches.... It really is a wonderful variety, and that's without the Greek olive man (I'm reliably informed that his Turkish Delight is wonderful, too), and the CD man.
We're really very lucky to have such a thriving market every week.

Meanwhile, I'm watching with interest some of the empty shops around town. By the Clock Tower, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill/Spirit of the Andes is having a major refit - glass shelves for clothes are not the most suitable choice for books, and the Poetry Bookshop will be moving across there soon. A lady I met in the Red Cross Shop has been giving serious thought to moving into one of the shops by the Buttermarket - the owners have divided the big Chattels shop into two halves.
I met two young men yesterday, who thought it would be a great idea to buy the newly empty shop at the top of Castle Street (the one with bags and hats outside, and rugby shirts and jewellery and Welsh souvenirs - they were also the point of contact for a cobbler who came weekly). They were thinking of living there and selling books, and maybe tea and coffee, but I think they need to do a bit more market research before they come to a firm decision. One of them was asking about getting a job in one of the existing bookshops, to get some experience of the book trade.

And down at the Three Tuns, someone might be interested in buying the pub - people have been seen being shown round, at any rate. I've also been told that several of the kitchen staff from the Three Tuns have already moved on to jobs in other kitchens in the area, so the sudden closure of the Three Tuns hasn't affected them too badly in the long run.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Harvest Time

Combine harvesters are trundling through the streets of Hay, on their way from one farm to another, and lorries and tractor trailers with bales of hay. Yesterday, I bought a jar of pear and ginger jam from the chap who sells baskets, leather pouches and rugs in the Cheesemarket on Saturdays. He had a variety of home made chutneys and jams, and said that they'd just harvested the pears from their own tree.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Perils of Bus Travel

I needed to go into Hereford for some ink for my printer, so I chose the 2.09pm service, so I could spend about an hour in town and then get the 15.55pm service back. I didn't want to hang around.
The roads between Hay and Hereford tend to be narrow, and it's a regular thing for the bus to slow to a crawl while another big vehicle (or at this time of year, tractor) inches by going the other way. One lorry today came towards the bus at some speed - there was a bang, and the bus's wing mirror knocked right off. I think that the lorry's wing mirror was knocked off, too, but he didn't stop. The car behind him did, and a lady in some sort of medical uniform - a nurse or a carer - came back up the road with a lump of wing mirror in her hand to show the bus driver. The bus driver got out and went with her behind the bus where the fragments of wing mirrors were scattered - but we weren't stopped for long. There was nothing else to do but carry on the route.

So I still had plenty of time to go up to the cartridge shop, up near Peacocks, to get my ink, and treat myself to a Doctor Who DVD from hmv (The Invasion - Patrick Troughton fights Cybermen in the 1960s).
I had less success with my other mission. I'm thinking about going to the World Science Fiction Convention in 2019, which will be held in Dublin, so I thought I'd look at local travel agents first to see what the options were for travel there. However, Tomsons seems to be more focussed on World Cruises and journeys to far-flung corners of the globe, and the little local shop near the bus station was locked up, so I'll be doing my research on the internet instead.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Charity Musical Concert

Tickets are now on sale for a Charity Musical Concert at St Mary's Church, price £6. The concert is in aid of the Keith Leighton Neurological Fund. It's on Friday 1st September, at 7pm (doors open at 6.30pm).

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Oldham Tinkers

or Isn't Modern Technology Wonderful?

I was on Twitter a few days ago, and saw a little video about the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester. It was the anniversary of Peterloo last week, and I wanted to sing a song about it at the Baskie. The group Edward II have a song about Peterloo on their CD Manchester's Improving Daily, which I was going to learn - until I heard the soundtrack to that little video on Twitter. The song there was by the Oldham Tinkers, and I thought the tune would be rather easier to learn.
So I looked around online (the person who posted the video offered to lend me a CD if I couldn't find one, which was generous of her). The Oldham Tinkers have a website, with 5 CDs for sale. The one with the Peterloo song on it is called A Fine Old English Gentleman, and it arrived this morning!
So, with luck and a following wind, I should be ready to perform tomorrow night.

The popularity of the Wednesday sessions has been growing, to such an extent that David at the Baskie can no longer offer a free drink to every performer - though he does still offer a bowl of chips at around 9pm. The last time I was there it took about an hour to get round every performer! So I'm only expecting to do 2, or at the most 3, songs, the first one being my weekly TV Theme - this week, there was only one choice. With the death of Bruce Forsyth, it has to be The Generation Game!
Nice to see you, to see you, nice....

Monday, 21 August 2017

Herefordshire Art Week

From the 9th to the 17th of September is Herefordshire Art Week, when studios and galleries will be open right across Herefordshire.
In the Hay area there are several artists taking part in the Week.
At Little Llanafon Farm, Dorstone, there are clothes and accessories recycled from donated and found textiles.
The Old Stables on Cusop Dingle is home to Tim Rawlins, who is a sculptor in bronze. He will have a small exhibition of small contemporary sculptures, and visitors will also be able to see his working studio, with work in progress and demonstrations of lost wax casting, wax working and patination.
At Pottery Cottage in Clyro, they are celebrating the centenary of Adam Dworski, some of whose work adorns the walls of the cottage. His studio used to be just across the main road from the cottage. He set up his pottery in 1956, and first worked from Pottery Cottage, where he lived. The exhibition of examples of his work will be set up in his original studio.
And there are Beautiful Botanicals at Pen y Lan Granary in Hardwicke, from local botanical artists Lea Gregory and Lizzie Harper. They are exhibiting for h.Art for the first time this year, and will have work on sale, including greetings cards, and the chance to see them at work.
Full details of all the studios and exhibitions, including information like disabled access, access for guide dogs, toilets, refreshments, and whether the exhibition space is on a bus route, are all in the h.Art booklets - I picked my copy up from Beer Revolution in Hay.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Brian Hatton, Local Artist

I was pleased to see that the Museum and Art Gallery part of the Hereford Library was open when I went past on Friday (it had been closed, even when the library re-opened) and that they had an exhibition on.
Brian Hatton was a Herefordshire artist who joined the army for the First World War, and died in Egypt in 1916, aged 28. Hereford Library holds a large collection of his work, and it was fascinating to see partly inked in sketches which had never been finished, showing how he worked. A lot of his pictures featured horses, and quite a few were of local gypsies, with the later ones mostly being of subjects related to the War. There were also portraits of members of his family, and a case filled with his brushes, palette and the stool he used when he was painting outside.
The assistant in the museum said that the museum and exhibition space are open provisionally until October, because more repairs need to be done.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Community Fair

It's still in full swing up at the Buttermarket, but I went up earlier this morning and took a few photos.
Tim Pugh told me that they managed to squeeze 7 different groups into the Buttermarket - including Bryngwyn Riding for the Disabled, the Keith Leighton Fund, the Model Railway group, Fairtrade, HOWLS, and Hayfield Garden. Some are selling jumble or plants to raise money, and there's the inevitable tombola. I got a delightful round tin with a domed lid, printed with an antique map of the world for £1 - I don't know what I'm going to put in it yet, but it was just too lovely to leave on the stall.
The chap at the Model Railway stall - they've brought along a small section of track and an engine to run on it - asked me to mention that the exhibition is only open on Saturdays at the moment, from 11am to 3pm. There is a small admission charge - and it's well worth it!

The Town Council are there too, with their new newsletter. It usefully lists all the members of the council on the back, with contact details (and the Town Clerk), and it explains what the council's responsibilities are, and mentions the Facebook page at, and the website at They're hoping to make this a regular publication, along with a regular stall at the Thursday Market so that local people can meet councillors and discuss their concerns.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Latest News on the Library

There was a meeting of HOWLS at the Library on Wednesday evening - I wasn't quite organised enough to blog that it was coming up, but some interesting information has come out of the meeting.
HOWLS have been getting in touch with Powys County Council to get some answers to various concerns they have over the future of the library, and at last they have had a response from Kay Thomas, the Chief Librarian. It's a fairly long and detailed response, so here goes:

"RE SHARED FINANCIAL/MANAGEMENT OF CO-LOCATION (co-location means moving the library into the new school building)
We will be discussing the financial and management arrangements of the new premises with the Schools Service and head teacher after term starts again, so more information should be available in the autumn. However, it is certainly my understanding that the library service will remain firmly in charge of service delivery, stock, computers, etc.
The move is being funded out of the Welsh Government capital for the new community schools as a whole, so unfortunately the cost could not be transferred into revenue budgets for the running costs of the existing library- capital and revenue budgets are entirely separate, as capital is a one-off investment, whilst revenue is year on year costs.

As you are aware, Powys County Council consulted over the future of Hay Library during 2016, with the discussions including the co-location at the new primary school. This project is seen as having considerable benefits, particularly in terms of the developing literacy and reading for pleasure amongst the pupils and their families, and would build on the recent work that HOWLS has done to encourage school children to join the library. Powys County Council's Cabinet recently visited the town, and were very impressed with the potential benefits of the co-location. The proximity of the car park, and good disabled parking, also make it a very accessible and attractive site for a public library.

Whilst the internal fit-out has yet to be finalised and agreed with the school staff and project team, I can answer your questions in general. The main library space comprises 105 square metres, with an additional 52 square metres adjoining, designated as a community space, with a folding door which could close it off from the library if there was a meeting or event needing a quieter, discrete space. With the school hall also adjacent, there could also be options for using that on occasions outside of school hours, for large scale activities and events. (The hall is 163 square metres). There is a plan at the current library which you can see, which shows all of the spaces.

I envisage that wall space will be permanently shelved, whilst any furniture to go in the middle would be portable and could be moved for author visits or other activities, to give the flexibility that we have talked about being lacking in the current library furniture. There will be 5 public computers, which may be a mix of desktop and laptops, as well as space to sit with personal devices. We also plan to introduce a proper self-service terminal and an I-pad for the children."

Kay Thomas also talks about the running costs of the present library building, without giving any firm figures, and the condition of the building (which seems to be pretty good).

So that's the position from Powys County Council at the moment.
More coming soon....

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Local History Month

September will soon be upon us, and that's the month for all sorts of interesting local history events as part of Brecknock History Month.
Hay History Group met recently, and finalised what they would be doing to contribute.
There's going to be a talk at Cusop Village Hall by Dr Mark Baker on Gwrych Castle and The Welsh Country House, on Saturday 23rd September. Gwrych is quite a bit north of here, just outside Abergele, but a fascinating place to visit. I remember it in the 1970s, when it was run as a visitor attraction, with a miniature railway through the grounds, pony rides, a potter, and jousting every afternoon. We were once there when the Sealed Knot stormed the castle, too. Since then, it fell into disrepair, but now there's a Preservation Trust trying to restore it to its former glory. The talk can be booked through the Hay History Group website, and tickets are £4 each.
There's also going to be a pop up museum showing Hay Castle's archaeology, in the Parish Hall, and a talk on Old Gwernyfed Estate since 1600 by Colin Lewis, who has just written a book on the subject. Tea and cakes are also promised on the Sunday afternoon.
The Hay Tours will also be running over the Hay History weekend - on the Railway, Major Armstrong, the bookshops, and Heritage. These are free, but should be booked online.

Meanwhile, there's concern about St Mary's Churchyard, which has become very overgrown, making it difficult to get to some of the gravestones. They are considering a working party to help clear the brambles. They are also interested in mapping all the graves in the cemetery. WET Morgan, once vicar of Llanigon, made a study in 1926 (he was very interested in local history and a member of the Woolhope Club). The book is in Brecon Museum, and the History Group hopes to be able to digitise it and put the information on their website.

And at the Castle, there have been opportunities to learn traditional building techniques as the restoration progresses. Recently there was a day on lime plastering. They've also installed a "bat cave", and two bats have already been seen in the area.

The Dark Skies Festival has had to wind up their affairs, as they no longer have the services of the astronomer who was leading it. Therefore they have decided to donate the surplus money in their account to Hay History Group, and they wish their £320 (approx.) to go to a specific history project.

The next meeting of the Group (after the History Weekend) will be on 29th September, at Cusop Village Hall at 7.30pm, when Mari Fforde will talk about Matilda de Breose.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Steam Rally

I always miss the Steam Rally, which is held just over the river at the top of the hill at Boatside Farm, because I work on Sundays. So this year I walked over on Saturday afternoon to see them setting up. A few traction engines had arrived already....

And there were caravans where people were staying overnight, and bits of the fun fair laid out ready to be assembled.

And this afternoon, there was the sound of a loud engine overhead, and a little biplane came into view, doing aerobatics! It's just a pity that the tree at the front of the Cinema Bookshop was in the way of some of it.

And this evening, a loud clanking on the road heralded a traction engine going home after the event, going down the hill.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Buster Grant in What's Brewing

Thinking about beer reminded me of an article in May's What's Brewing, the newspaper of CAMRA. On the back page, the featured brewer is our very own Buster Grant, pictured looking thoughtfully at a glass of beer. The article was written by Buster, who had just become the new chairman of SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers.
Over the years, he's been a bar manager at the GBBF (stepping down finally in 2015), and this influenced his decision to do an MSc in brewing and distilling. He goes on to talk about the importance of beer quality at the point of serving, something that the brewers have no power over, as it is done by the staff of the pub where the beer is being sold, and he goes on to discuss fair pricing for cask beer, and he looks forward to seeing a thriving, imaginative and sustainable brewing industry, with close collaboration between SIBA and CAMRA.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Great British Beer Festival

I was in the Hay Tap on Tuesday night with a few friends, when one of the bar staff walked in wearing a "Viking" horned helmet with blond plaits (in soft materials - not a real helmet such as the Norman helmet I have at home), and a large drinking horn fastened to his belt. When he turned round we could see that there was a smaller drinking horn as well.
He told us that he'd just been to the Great British Beer Festival, where he'd got the hat and drinking horns - and he'd had an awesome time!
I presume he was there because Brecon Brewery had beer there, but I can't find a list of the beers on the GBBF website, and the Brecon Brewery blog seems to have last been updated in 2015....

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Visiting Hay on Crutches or in a Wheelchair

I came across a blog at, written by Jamie McAnsh, who uses a wheelchair and crutches to get about. Recently he visited Hay, and gives quite a positive account on his blog dated 16th July, though he adds that the hills, and steps into some of the shops, make things difficult.
And on 30th July he wrote about the trip he made to Tintern, which he also enjoyed.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Pete Brown's The Apple Orchard

It's taken me a while to get round to reading this book - I went to see the talk about it at the Winter Hay Festival, and got a signed copy, and then stuff (and other books) happened.
However, now I've finally read it, and it is delightful.
I already knew I liked Pete Brown's writing - I've read all of his books on beer - and now he admits to getting obsessed with apples, which is ironic because he can't eat them. He's terribly allergic to them.
But it's the history, and the magical feeling of actually being in an orchard, that hold the interest. He even goes to prune apple trees at an orchard very close to Glastonbury Tor, the Arthurian Avalon, or Island of Apples, as part of a year he spends learning to do everything needed in the orchard. He also learns a lot about the fine balance between the healthy apple and all the predators and diseases it can be subject to.
When asked about his favourite ciders, he admits that he goes straight for ones from Herefordshire, even though Somerset is the county most identified with cider drinking, and orchards across Herefordshire feature heavily in the book, along with Herefordshire cider makers. He mentions the Marcher Apple Network, and that wonderfully illustrated book the Herefordshire Pomona.
And he also takes the story all the way back through the mythology to the very first apple, in Genesis - or was it an apple at all?
It's a wonderful book, and it made me appreciate apple orchards a lot more than I had before.

Friday, 4 August 2017

CE Vulliamy, Local Author and his Family

I sometimes look at a blog called Bear Alley, which specialises in old comics and obscure authors - and in the entry for the 22nd April, I found something of local interest.
CE Vulliamy was born in Glasbury in 1886. He wrote crime novels in the 1930s under the pen name Anthony Rolls, and books on many other subjects as well. Although he had no academic training, he worked as an archaeologist and historian, and also wrote historical biographies. He also wrote Jones: A Gentleman of Wales under the pen name Twim Teg.

Steve at Bear Alley says:
"Colwyn Edward Vulliamy was born in Glasbury, Radnorshire, Wales, on 20 June 1886, the son of Edwyn Papendick Vulliamy and his wife Edith Jane (nee Beavan), and baptized on 18 July 1886 at Llowes, Radnorshire. The surname derived from a clockmaker named Francois Justin Vulliamy (1712-1797), born in Pay de Vaud, Switzerland, who moved to Paris and then to London. Justin Vulliamy set up shop in Pall Mall in partnership with Benjamin Gray, watchmaker to King George II, and married Gray's daughter, Mary."

Edwyn became a landowner in Glasbury, and helped to build "a local church" in 1883, probably at Glasbury. The church at Llowes where Colwyn Edward was baptised is much older.
He was educated privately, studied art, and started writing. His father died in 1914, with the estate split between him and his mother.
His war record is complicated - Bear Alley goes into it in some detail (his research is always impressive), and it was while he was serving in the near East that he became interested in archaeology.
He wrote more crime novels in the 1950s under his own name, one of which, Don Among the Dead, was filmed as A Jolly Bad Fellow in 1964.
He died in Guildford in 1971, aged 85.
His son John Sebastian, an architect, married Shirley Hughes, the children's author and illustrator. He died in 2007.
Their son Ed Vulliamy is also an author and children's illustrator.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Stitch and Bitch on the Move Again

I've just come back from the first Stitch and Bitch meet up at Kilvert's, which went very well. We were given a quiet room (opposite the Ladies', with the door saying 'Residents Only'), with decent light and a big table, and we didn't have to get out on the dot of 8pm because the Point to Point group that had booked after us had decided to meet next week instead. The staff were welcoming, and of course the beer was good - I had a honey ale called The Fairy Isle, which was delicious, with a subtle flavour. And of course there was a lot of good conversation over the knitting (a majority of sock knitters this time).
It's sad, of course, that we can't meet at the Three Tuns any more, but I think we've found a congenial new home at Kilverts.
Stitch and Bitch meets on the first Thursday of every month, from 6pm to 8pm-ish, and sometimes in the middle of the month if enough people are interested in an extra meeting.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Three Tuns

So, it's an uncertain future ahead for the Three Tuns, as it closed yesterday. The signs on the windows, and on the website, say that the owners have done this with a heavy heart, as they have too much to cope with - the pub/restaurant is just one of their interests. They also have a farm.
It's bad news for the staff, who got very little notice of the closure.
I hope that something is sorted out soon, and the Three Tuns can re-open.
(and in the meantime, Stitch and Bitch will have to find somewhere else to meet!)

Saturday, 29 July 2017

New Blue Plaques

The Warren Trust have been putting up some new blue plaques around town. This one is for St John's Well, once one of the water sources for Hay, just by the bus stop under the castle. There's one at the clock tower, too.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hereford Hop

I went into the wholefood shop the other day to get some cheese - one of my favourite local varieties is Hereford Hop, a mild and mellow cheese with hops pressed into the surface of the cheese. When I first came to the area, I thought that this was a traditional variety of cheese - but it turns out it was first made in 1990, by Charles Martell, who is also the cheesemaker who came up with Stinking Bishop. He has a farm in Gloucestershire. An article in Beer, the magazine for CAMRA members, tells me that the hops are first roasted and then pressed into the surface of the cheese, and the variety of hop is usually locally grown Fuggles.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Celtic Evening at the Globe

It was a fine night, organised by Thomasin and with several musicians I didn't know, including a lady who sang in Scots Gaelic (Katie?) and three men who played Appalachian dance music on fiddles and guitar while two women, who I think must have been mother and daughter, did step dancing. The room was full, and I think everyone was enjoying themselves. I certainly was.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Post Office Vans

I was in the newsagents the other day, and a couple of Post Office vans were parked on Lion Street, which is the closest they can get to the back door of the Post Office, where the post is taken in and out. They park on the double yellow lines, and block the street while they're there.
Margaret was not happy about it. She sees it most days, and she'd had enough of it.
"It's not the boys from Hay," she said. "They park round the corner. It's the boys from Hereford."
So she had rung up one of the managers in Hereford to complain.
He was less than sympathetic. "There's nothing you can do if they're legally parked," he said, according to Margaret.
But the whole point was that they were not legally parked. Margaret told him exactly what she thought of him, and slammed the phone down.
A little while later, however, the vans were moved....

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Discussing the Future of Hay Library

The top area at the back of Tomatitos was packed out for the meeting called by HOWLS to discuss the future of the library. The new portfolio holder for Powys County Council, Rachel Powell, is due to meet with HOWLS shortly, and the committee wanted to make sure that they knew what the membership of the organisation wants before they go to that meeting.
At the moment the most important question to ask is - do the members want the Library to stay in the current building, or move to the school?
The meeting started with some background information so that the people at the meeting could make an informed choice. Deb Johnson, a local architect, has drawn up the plans showing the present library at the same scale as the proposed library in the school, for direct comparison. The room in the school is about a third smaller than the present library, and the present library also has a toilet and little kitchen and storage area. The room in the school is also the larger of the two rooms put aside in the plans for community use - there was a site meeting at the school for the Powys Cabinet recently, where they made that decision - there has been some uncertainty over whether the library would get the large room or the small room, and they decided on the large room, with the small room available for community use, when it's not being used to store the bookcases on wheels from the library. So much for Hay having a new community centre to replace the one that was knocked down.
However, the library room will have fixed furniture, such as a counter/desk for the librarian, and some shelves. So the school is disappointed that the room cannot be emptied completely so it can be used for things like yoga classes. However, the current library has computer terminals. It is unknown whether the library in the school will have any computer terminals, which are a necessary part of a modern library.
The access to the library and community room is separate from the access to the main school, so there is no possibility of library users wandering through the classrooms - as Rev. Charlesworth said, there are no safeguarding issues with this layout of the buildings, just as the swimming pool at the school is presently used by the public with no issues.
Powys County Council have said that, if the library remains in the current building, it can only open for 6 hours a week.
If the library moves to the school, it can open for 12 hours a week.
At the moment, the library is open for 23 hours a week.
It is unknown what will happen to the present library building if the library moves into the school.
If the library stays in the current building, the rooms in the school will be available for the school to use as they wish. The school would be paying for heating and lighting for those rooms if the library was there.
If HOWLS wants the library to stay in the current building, Powys County Council have said that they will have to put together a viable business plan by the 31st December. In the last few days, and with the help of Kirsty Williams the AM, HOWLS have got a breakdown of the costs involved in running the library, but they haven't had much time to study it yet, and it still seems worryingly vague. However, the minimum the community would have to raise would be £8,000 a year - and maybe as much as £15,000 a year. Since donations to the cause so far stand at around £200, this seems like a lot to find, especially as the Festival will not be donating any more money to the library after this year. The figures provided don't seem to include rates, either, though HOWLS could apply for rate relief if they did decide to go down that road.
According to the County Council, most of the other libraries at risk of closure around Powys have found solutions to the problem - but they weren't very forthcoming about what those solutions might be.
One question from the audience was about the library buying new books - would this be done by the county library service, or would the library have to raise money to do it themselves?
Jayne, the Librarian, was unable to comment on the County Council's plans, as an employee, but she did point out that lending books was only part of what a library does. She added that book lending has gone up significantly in the last 3 months. It was also mentioned that, since the school has started to take the children up to the library for visits, children have brought their parents along to the library - parents who may never have been to the library before. The school also saw benefits in walking the children through their community to visit the library, and it was also pointed out that the library is a safe place for children to go to - and there aren't many places like that around.
It was also pointed out that the plan of the new school is basically two sheds, with moveable internal walls - and who can say what the library's place will be in future years? Maybe the entire school will become a "learning environment" for adults and children alike, and it would be better for the present library to be in a flexible space, which can also be moved around for different styles of classroom teaching?

So everyone had post-it notes on the tables, where they could write their comments - yellow for positive comments and green for concerns and negative comments.

Once this was done, the comments were to be taken away to be collated, and HOWLS will be emailing members shortly with a digest of what the mind of the meeting turned out to be.
For the future, HOWLS are bearing in mind that it is not just the population of Hay that uses the library, but people from all the villages in the area, and it would be a good idea to get all those community councils on board with whatever decision is made about the library's future.
Hay Town Council will also be meeting with HOWLS shortly - Alan Powell was there representing the Town Council, and Gareth Ratcliffe was also there as county councillor.

HOWLS will next be meeting on August 15th at 7pm at the Library.