Friday, 20 October 2017

Job at Bronllys Well Being Park

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

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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

h.Energy Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 October 2017

House Fire in Castle Street

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

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Botany and Other Stories

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

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Another Meeting in Clyro About the Chicken Shed Application

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

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

Clyro Council then tweeted this apology:

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

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

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

Friday, 13 October 2017

Mice in a Matchbox, and other Music

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

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

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

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ceremony at the Cenotaph

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

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Poetry Bookshop Launch

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 7 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 6 October 2017

Council Meeting - Kingdom Project, Police Report, and Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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