Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Open Evening at Hay School

Anyone who is interested in the progress of the work down at the new school building can go along and see for themselves tomorrow evening. That's Thursday 30th November, from 6pm to 8pm. The entrance is from the main car park, and sensible shoes are recommended!

Monday, 27 November 2017

HOWLS Latest News on Hay Library

I've been keeping pretty quiet about the efforts to save Hay library at it's existing location, because there were talks going on behind the scenes, and while they were happening I thought it was better to let the process happen. Now, it seems that HOWLS has come to the end of what they can do, as Powys County Council have made up their minds on the matter.

There's no point in me paraphrasing this - here is the latest entry on the HOWLS Facebook page:


For over a year Powys County Council has blocked every attempt by Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters (HOWLS) to meet with Councillors and provide accurate financial information in order to find a way to keep Hay on Wye library/Llyfrgell Y Gelli Gandryll operating from its current, purpose-built site in the centre of town.

As the deadline of December 2017 draws closer for submission of a business plan it is clear that Powys CC has no intention of honouring their previous decision to consider proposals. Likewise, Powys CC is completely ignoring the views of the local community, who want Hay Library to remain where it is and to develop the service.

Powys CC intend to push ahead with their plans to move Hay Library into a smaller space in the new Hay primary school and sell off the current Library building and green space. Once again Powys CC has run roughshod over the wishes of local people and will deprive Hay of yet another well-loved community facility.

Hay Town Council partnership proposals

HOWLS asked Hay Town Council to consider taking over the running of the Library building, particularly as they already have responsibility for the car park, public toilets, and the Town Council building – all of which generate an income. After discussions with senior Powys CC officers, Hay Town Council decided not to pursue this option.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, HOWLS produced a Library Development Plan to present to Powys CC that would have made the building a self-financing community hub with cafe, offices and meeting space. Hay Town Council was asked if they would form a partnership agreement with HOWLS to help realise this vision. They declined.

By the time HOWLS officers finally got to meet Councillor Rachel Powell, the new Portfolio holder for Libraries and Cllr Phil Davis, Portfolio holder for Properties on 15th November (five months after first requesting a meeting), it was clear that decisions about the future of Hay Library had already been taken.

Had a partnership between HOWLS and Hay Town Council been in place, there might have had a sympathetic hearing from Powys CC, particularly as Cllr Davies explained how Llanidloes Town Council in his home town had financially saved their Library by transferring it into the Town Hall.

Powys CC to strip assets and cut service

The plans to move Hay Library into a smaller space in the new primary school - built with Welsh Government funding - are well advanced. No amount of media razzamatazz about opening a new school, with a library area, will disguise the fact that this is a cut to the library service in Hay-on-Wye. The proposed Hay Library space in the school is smaller, and intended for other uses by the school. Powys CC also plans to half the library opening hours to 12 hours per week.

Selling off the current library site is nothing more than Powys CC asset stripping, with complete disregard for a community they serve, in a desperate attempt to sort out its own financial mess.

Anita Wright, Chair of Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters (HOWLS)
T: 01497 821 672
M: 07570 792 264
Twitter: @hayHOWLS
Facebook: /haylibrarysupporters

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Lots to do Around Hay on Winter Festival Weekend

I didn't get it together to buy any tickets for the talks at the Winter Festival this year, but there's been plenty around town to keep me occupied.
A little bit out from the town centre, opposite the Drill Hall on Lion Street in the Mission Hall, Billie Charity and her friend Jemima Stilwell have been holding an exhibition. Half of it is photo portraits, many of them taken at Barry Island, and half paintings.
In the centre of town, the Food Fair was in the marquee on Saturday, and Hay Does Vintage on Sunday. I got a few bits and pieces for Christmas presents there. The weather was appalling, though, and some of the stall holders looked quite cold and damp and miserable. As well as the food, Dawn Lewis was there with the display about her great uncle who won the VC.
Outside, though undercover, there was entertainment from a women's choir, the Brecon Town Band and Talgarth Male Voice Choir - there may have been others. Those were just the ones I heard as I was going round.
And in the Buttermarket there was the Craft Market, while in the Honesty Gardens there was a Flea Market - I bought a lovely silk scarf from one stall, as we searched the skies for a spot of blue among the clouds!
In Booths Bookshop, Santa was settled in an armchair in the Children's department, with two elves assisting, and upstairs Jackie Morris was sitting at her painting table. I got there just in time to hear her read out the poem Starling from The Lost Words to a family.
In the evening I was back at Booths to see the latest plans for the Castle Renovations. Some people had come expecting a formal sit down talk, but it was actually quite informal, with the plans stuck up on the glass cabinets near the front counter, and various trustees available to talk about the plans. A bonus was mulled wine and mince pies! Quite a few locals were there, and there was general approval for the idea of the viewing platform at the top of the tower. It was also quite surprising to find just how many tons of clay/earth had been brought to the site to build up the mound after the medieval castle fell out of use - so the medieval archaeology is actually about six feet under (or possibly more), and the present building is on top of that for the most part - around the main gate is still more or less the medieval level. And the main gate will be opened up for direct access to the car park below fairly soon. Mari Fforde said there would also be a lift for disabled access, and the drive on the other side of the castle would be improved, too.
While we were chatting in the shop, members of the Hay History Group managed to get together to plan Wednesday's trip out to the Thomas Shop and Abbeycwmhir Hall - lifts arranged, times to set off and so on.
I did think of going over to the Old Electric Shop later - the Fordsons were performing Appalachian music there - but it was nice and warm at home, and after a glass of Smoky Famous Grouse and Fever Tree Ginger Ale, I didn't want to move....

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Turning on The Christmas Lights

It was a lovely festive atmosphere around the centre of town last night.
I walked up from the Clock Tower with a lady who's just moved to Hay - she comes from Darjeeling, so this was her first experience of a Hay Winter Festival, and her daughter was singing in the choir.
In the marquee, there were the usual local groups and businesses, selling things and running tombola stalls and so on. I bought some mini calendars from Botany and Other Stories, and then I headed up Castle Street to Gibbons the Butchers, where they were handing out mulled wine (delicious and just the thing to keep the cold out), and had their mobile food van set up on the road.
Then I found myself a corner behind the Cheese Market where I could hear the choir (and look up at Matt Lucas's ankles!) without getting stuck in the middle of the crowd. Rev Charlesworth came to join me to listen to the choir - they'll be singing in his church in a week or so, and this was the first time he'd had a chance to listen to them.
And then, the big moment - Matt Lucas bounded up onto the stage and said a few words (including "You do realise I'm Jewish, don't you?", but he also said how honoured he was to have been asked). George the Town Crier led the countdown, Matt pressed the plunger, and the lights came on all over town.
Then the Hay School choir came up to sing carols, and Matt Lucas was whisked away to the Festival marquee - a car was waiting outside Beer Revolution for him.

Friday, 24 November 2017

A Calendar from Botany And Other Stories

Everyone's very excited about Matt Lucas being the special guest who turns on the Christmas Lights, but there's more happening this evening as well. Every year now, local groups take over the marquee in the market square, and this year the Hay School stall will be selling a neat little calendar produced by Botany and Other Stories, with help from the children of Hay-on-Wye and Beyond. I think the youngest child taking part was only a year old, and the oldest was twelve, and many of them go to Hay School, or the pre-school group.
A little while ago, I was invited to the art studio, on Bear Street, of Francoise, a French lady who has come to live in Hay with her husband Pierre. She was in the planning stages of designing the calendar at the time and showed me some of the original artwork that she'd been working with the children on. She was very keen to do something creative with children, and to give something to the local community.
Last night, she slipped the finished article through my letter box, with a note. Each month has a picture which can be used as a postcard, with a bookmark at the bottom showing the dates of the month (and the month is written in English, Welsh and French), and the question "Which flower have you spotted this month?" with a space for the answers.
The calendar will also be available, in the run up to the New Year, in Londis, Golesworthy's, Rawhide, Llewelyn and Company and Country Supplies.
The money raised from sales of the calendar will go to Hay School and the Warren Trust.
It's a perfect stocking filler for Christmas....

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Winter Festival

So the first talks of the Winter Festival were today - there's a big marquee on the beast market by the Swan Hotel, which is a new departure for the Festival this year. In previous years they've used existing public rooms around Hay (of course, we no longer have a community centre - thanks, Powys County Council....).
In the square, the marquee is going up for the Food Fair on Saturday and Hay Does Vintage on Sunday. It will also be used by local groups tomorrow night for the Turning On of the Christmas Lights, by Matt Lucas. (Last weekend, Joanna Lumley turned on the Christmas Lights in Brecon, because of her association with the Gurkhas, and huge crowds attended).
All the shops have put up special displays in their windows, like this one from Mostly Maps:

And later this evening I'm heading for the Old Electric Shop for music and cocktails.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, 20 November 2017

Eating Out Around Hay

or What I Did On My Holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Small Business Sunday

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

Friday, 10 November 2017

Another Last Post - and Castle Plans

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

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

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

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Hay History Group - Cistercians and Graveyards

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

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

Monday, 6 November 2017

Council Meeting

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

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Walking the Canal Path from Talybont to Brecon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Small Business Saturday

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

Friday, 3 November 2017

How do you find out what's going on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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