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.