Saturday, 30 September 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, 29 September 2017

Building Work Starting

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

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

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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Trip to Tretower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hay History Weekend

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

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Music at Hay Tap

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

Saturday, 23 September 2017

As I Walked Out One September Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.