Monday, 24 September 2018

Saturday Bus

On Saturday morning I went into Hereford to see my mum to the train.
The first bus of the day was the twenty to ten bus (no early bus unless it's a school day now), but the good news was that it was free!
About half a dozen people who had been staying in Hay got on the bus with all their luggage. Then there was a family with a pushchair and a carrycot, and a group of five girls from the Cathedral School all carrying hockey sticks. My mum was fascinated by the modern hockey sticks, which are very compact - the ones she used at school were shaped much more like an open J, and were wooden.
When the second pushchair came on board, there was a big re-arrangement of the luggage to accommodate it. Mum's partner ended up looking after the suitcase of an Austrian lady who had been staying with them in Belmont House (she was seated halfway up the bus), and I had a schoolgirl's backpack on my knee.
Mum was impressed that the driver got out of his cab to sort the luggage out and carry the pushchair ("That wouldn't happen in Cyprus," she said) and, later, how polite the schoolgirls were when they reclaimed their bags.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Black and Tan

While mum was still here, we decided to go back to Kilverts to see if they had any more of those delicious steak pies.
They had just changed the menu, and the pie was now chicken and leek, which was almost as nice.
Mum's partner doesn't drink much any more, but that night he fancied a Murphy's, which they don't serve - so he asked for a Black and Tan instead.
The young man behind the bar had never heard of it, but when it was described to him he filled a pint glass, half with Guinness and half of Bass bitter.
Kevin was pleased with the taste, but headed off to the table where we were sitting muttering: "Fancy not knowing what a Black and Tan is!"
I pointed out that it's a very old fashioned drink (Kevin is nearly 70 after all). Probably he was the first person to ask for that drink in Kilverts this century!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A Herefordshire Man

I missed the ceremony yesterday, when the statue of Herefordshire's only VC winner was unveiled at the main entrance to the Old Market shopping centre, where the pedestrian crossings are.
So I came along today to see it.
Corporal Lewis is slightly larger than life size, and is standing on a flat plinth which reads "A Herefordshire Man". He's carrying a letter from his parents in his hand, and wearing the VC on his jacket.
In fact, he was never presented with the medal in life, as he died three days after performing the actions that won him the medal, in another battle.

There is also a plaque on the ground in front of the statue:

Huge congratulations to Dawn Lewis, who wanted the statue, and worked so hard to achieve it.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Castle Gateway

The wooden castle gates have been taken away for conservation, and the workmen have now covered that side of the castle with scaffolding, too.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Going out for Meals

I've been going round to Belmont House for evening meals - the landlady gets on well with my mum and her partner, and has allowed them the use of the kitchen in the cottage where they're staying, beside the main house. That's worked very well, apart from the evening when the sausages (Hay Specials from Gibbons) set off the smoke alarm!

We've also been out to eat. It's difficult to find an Indian restaurant in the part of Cyprus where mum lives, so she was keen to go to Red Indigo, as long as she stuck to the fairly mild curries. She enjoyed it very much, and I now have a loyalty card - collect four stamps for meals at the restaurant (not takeaways) and the fifth meal, for two people, is half price.
We've also eaten at the Blue Boar (though mum wasn't terribly impressed with the selection of sweets, so she didn't indulge).

The best meal so far, though, was when the Young Man came to visit, and we decided to try out the new regime at Kilverts.
When we went in, the couple from La Fosse were there, having a meal. When mum first came to Hay, about ten years ago now, that's where she stayed, so we went over to say hello. They were eating the steak pie, and it looked so lovely that we all decided to have one.
It was gorgeous! The gravy was so delicious that we asked for spoons to finish it off. It also came with a selection of vegetables, and new potatoes. I'll certainly take visitors to eat there again.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Getting Used to the New Buses

My Young Man came up on Saturday, because he'd never met my mum before, and he was able to get away for a couple of days while she was in the UK.
He had a pleasant surprise when he got on the new T14 service at Hereford - it was free! On Saturdays and Sundays the T14 and T4 services are free, thanks to a subsidy from the Welsh Assembly and Tesco.

On the way home on Sunday, he got the Hay Ho bus, which is £6.00 single and £7.50 return. I went into Hereford with him to see him off. There was time for us to dash across to Morrisons so he could get a snack for the journey, and while I was there I got a small loaf - which made the bus driver laugh when I got back on the bus. "You've come all this way and that's all the shopping you got?" he said.

While I was at Hereford Station with the Young Man, I bought an advance ticket for a weekend away I'm planning. The train will leave Hereford at about half past ten, so I'll have to catch the early bus from Hay. Then I started worrying about the new timetable - they still run the school buses in the early morning, but there doesn't seem to be a replacement early bus for school holidays any more. I had to wait until I got home to check the timetable to make sure that I would be going on a school day (phew!).

Sunday, 16 September 2018

New Hours for the Library

When the Library moved from it's original building to the school, the Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters (HOWLS) continued to work behind the scenes to improve the service. Nobody was really happy with the situation of the library only being open for 12 and a half hours a week, with no evenings.
So negotiations have been going on to improve matters.

From 1st October, the library will enter a trial period of new opening hours:

Mondays and Thursday 10am to 12.30 and 1.30-3pm; Fridays 1.30-6pm and Saturdays 10am-12.30pm

The next meeting of HOWLS will be on Wednesday 17th October, venue to be decided.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Shopping in Brecon

My mum has come to visit, with a long list of things she wants to buy to take back to Cyprus with her. So this morning we set off to Brecon on the new T14 bus.
The 39 used to change drivers at Bishops Meadow, where Stagecoach have a little office, and today the driver changed there on both the outward and the return journey.
On the way back, the new timetable I'd printed out said that the T14 back to Hay would stop at Stand 2 at the Brecon Interchange. When a TrawsCymru bus stopped at Stand 1 at the right time, I went to ask, and that turned out to be the Hay bus, even though it had no number showing. The new timetable was also in Stand 1.

I hadn't realised how long it had been since I last went shopping in Brecon - I spent half the time wandering round saying "I don't remember a coffee shop there," or "Didn't there used to be a charity shop there?"
For instance, I thought I'd take mum to lunch at Giglio's, by Bethel Square - only to find it's now The Dutchess. I have no idea when it changed, but it's very elegant in shades of pink and grey, with bone china tea cups, and it was very busy.
I'd also remembered a garden shop by the church which had seeds in the corner room - which is now a solicitors' office.
Despite my confusion, mum did find quite a bit of what she wanted as we wandered round - it was a good job I'd taken a big bag!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Hay Castle Renovations

What a lot of scaffolding! This will be what Hay Castle looks like for the next few months.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Tai Chi Classes

The summer holidays are over, and Tai Chi classes have started again at the Masonic Hall. I go to the Friday sessions, from 5.30 - 6.30pm and there is another class on Tuesdays from 6pm to 7pm.
Because there were only a few of us at the first session, Peter told us a bit about the history of the Chen style of Tai Chi that he teaches.
The main thing that Peter emphasises is to do the exercises regularly, for the best health benefits - I could feel the difference after a summer without the regular classes, even though I'd been trying to practice on my own.
What we're working up to is the form, a sequence of movements - on Fridays we practice the 19 form, which was cut down from the original Laojia form of 74 movements to make it easier to teach, and it's cut down again to individual exercises called silk reeling. You need to move around a bit to do the form, which involves quite a bit of stepping and turning, but the exercises can be done in quite a small space, and don't need any special equipment. For yoga you at least need a mat, but tai chi doesn't even need that!
And it's not just for health and to improve the posture - it's also a martial art. Even the 19 form that we do has a couple of punches thrown into the mix.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

h.Art Week

There are quite a few exhibitions on around Hay this week as part of h.Art Week. Some of them are going on for longer than the week, of course.
They include the Eugene Fisk retrospective at Brook Street Pottery, upstairs. The exhibition includes sketch books, and some of Eugene's books are on sale, including Only Connect, the book he created from his sketches of refugees at Open Days organised by Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.
On Friday, I went to the opening night of Sarah Putt's exhibition at the Old Electric Shop. There are some very good portraits there, as well as embroideries and still lives, and sculptures - her work can also be seen in various shop windows around town, for instance her Map Man at the map shop on Castle Street. It was a very good launch party, with lots of local support and some interesting nibbles coming round on trays.
Also in Hay for h.Art is the Carol Peace exhibition at The Table, with a flamboyant sculpture of a figure waving a huge scarf in the window, with drawings and paintings, and larger sculptures in the secret garden [Edited to add] The secret garden is down Brook Street, past the Bookshop Cinema. It's a gorgeous garden, and refreshments are also available.
The Drawing Room has Dry Brush, Wet Brush, with the artist's inspiration taken from Zen scrolls and poetry.
Just up Cusop Dingle, Tim Rawlings is exhibiting his bronze sculptures at the Old Stables, and demonstrating techniques such as lost wax casting and patination.
And at The River Café in Glasbury Polly James is exhibiting her charcoal and pencil drawings of wildlife.
Other studios and exhibitions are open all over Herefordshire, with groups of exhibitions in Hereford, Kington, Leominster, Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye, as well as scattered exhibitions around the countryside.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Change of Venue for Stitch and Bitch

The new management of Kilverts have said that they don't want to use their little back room for meetings any more, and they want to expand their restaurant trade, so there was no room there for Stitch and Bitch to meet any more.
So on Thursday night (SnB meets on the first Thursday of every month, from 6pm to 8pm), we were back in the Swan. The Swan is now under different management from when we were there before, and they welcomed us into the room by the front door which is used for meetings. There was a good turn out, too; eleven of us were there, with a variety of projects on the go including knitting, crochet, sewing a collage picture and embellishing a piece of batik cloth with a picture of a figure on it.
I tried the Swan Gold bitter from the bar, from the Swan brewery, which was very nice. They also serve Butty Bach. The dining tables have been taken out of the front bar, and replaced with comfy seats and sofas, and I'm sure they've put new carpets down since I was last there.
I think we'll be making that our regular venue in the future.

Another group moving to the Swan is the Science Club. They bring in a lecturer about once a month to talk about scientific topics in terms a layperson can understand, and their next meeting is on Tuesday 25th September, at 7pm. I think the topic is nuclear power.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Botany and other Stories in the Buttermarket

Here's an update on the festivities which are being organised alongside the Green exhibition at Hazy Days. The exhibition starts on 12th September, and runs until the 3rd November, but tomorrow, Saturday, things are happening in the Buttermarket from 11am to 3pm.
The weather forecast isn't brilliant, so the proposed picnic by the bridge has been cancelled. However, the Colossal Critter will be walking around the town, and at about 1pm it will lead the way to a musical and botanical promenade by the river from the Buttermarket.
The Buttermarket will have stalls, with nothing to sell, but things to win. There will be puppets, plants from Primrose Farm, flowers, a gardening display, natural dyes by Annie Frasier, artistic activities, and traditional and Welsh songs from Elspeth-miri Funnell and Catherine Hughes. All that, and Mister Mint!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Kilvert's Opening and Three Tuns Wedding

Kilvert's is now under new management, and they celebrated by having a big party in the garden. I went along early on, just for a while. There was a band setting up, which I was told later was pretty good, mainly doing covers of well known songs, and they were followed by a young band who my informant thought was really good.
Unhappily, there have been a fair few complaints about the late night noise on the Community Facebook page - especially as the opening party was followed, the next night, by someone's 21st birthday bash.

Meanwhile, over at the Three Tuns, there will be no food on Sunday 9th September, because the couple there are getting married!

Monday, 3 September 2018

Dial-a-Ride Coffee Morning

I went up to Cusop Village Hall for the Dial-a-Ride Coffee Morning and jumble sale on Saturday morning - and came away with a few good bargains - and a nice cup of tea included in the entrance price.

I also picked up a leaflet about the new "Bank Bus" which Dial-a-Ride will be running for members. This has been funded up until March next year by the Rotary Club, for all the people who need to use a bank when there is no longer one left in Hay.
It will go once a month (I believe the first one was already fully booked), and the next one is on Friday 28th September, followed by Friday 26th October, 7th December, 25th January, 22nd February and 29th March. Bookings are only being taken one month in advance.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Goodbye 39, Hello T14

And thanks to Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, without which I would never have known about this until I turned up 10 minutes late for the new bus to Hereford!

So, from tomorrow, the 39 between Brecon and Hereford is no more. It is being replaced by the T14, which will go all the way from Hereford to Cardiff, via Merthyr Tydfil. Because of this, the times of buses are changing slightly, and unfortunately the timetable on Gareth's Facebook page is a bit too blurry for me to read easily. I'm hoping to get a proper timetable in the next week.

I think it's probably a change for the better, but it would have been nice to have had a little more warning!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Hazy Daze Turns Green

The Hazy Daze shop, by the clock tower, will be hosting a new exhibition until the 4th November. It's called Green, and is being put on by Françoise Verger and Pierre Moulinier, who recently held the party in Bear Street at the garage that Françoise has had converted into an art studio. They are doing this under the title of Botany and Other Stories, which they are setting up as a charitable foundation to support learning about nature. The exhibition will be a history of the colour green, via botanical illustrations, books and other items, and it opens on Wednesday 12th September.

As part of the opening of the exhibition, on 8th September, there will be a giant puppet - The Colossal Critter - which will lead the way from the Butter Market to a picnic at the picnic area by the bridge.
They are also launching a free publication called The Cabbage Leaf - which they explain is the French nickname for low quality newspapers!
The newsletter will be put out unpredictably, with all sorts of contributors, and will be trilingual in English, Welsh and French.

[Edited to correct the opening times]

Friday, 31 August 2018


I missed this in the market yesterday - but the results of the survey are pretty clear from the picture I found on Twitter this morning:

Edited to add:

In answer to the comment below, here's a better picture, from the Hay on Wye Community Notice Board on Facebook (which has begun a rather lively discussion!):

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Criminal Damage

Setting out for work this morning, I noticed that two of the stone slabs that top the wall beside the pavement had been disturbed. They're cemented down, so they can't have been easy to move. Then I realised that only one of the slabs was there - I turned round, and saw that the back window of a white car parked in front of the houses was completely smashed in, with rubble lying in the road.
Then the lady from the house across the way shouted me over, and told me that she'd noticed the damage when she went out to walk her dog at around 7am, and she had called the police.
The slab going through the car window must have made quite a noise, but I hadn't heard anything, and nor had any of the other neighbours.
By the time I came home for lunch, the car was gone, the remaining slab had been straightened up and put back in its place, and the rubble on the road had been swept away.

This is not the sort of thing that usually happens in Hay!

Edited to add:

I've just been helping the police with their enquiries, as a young PC came to the door to ask if I'd seen or heard anything. Sadly, I couldn't be of much help. He went off to knock on other doors.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Meet the Town Council

Hay Town Council are holding a Drop In Session at the Swan Hotel on Thursday 13th September between 7pm and 9pm. So if you want to find out what they do, the issues affecting the town and how they spend the precept, this is a good chance.

What with one thing and another, I haven't been to many Council meetings this year, but I have been looking at the fifth Hay Town Council Newsletter, which is an insert in the WyeLocal magazine.
They start with good news - they applied to Natural Resources Wales back in April for funding for a project called Shared Spaces, and they have just found out they've been granted £10,000! The funding will be used in the Miles Without Stiles project to make local footpaths more accessible, and to provide portable ramps for shops, create wooden sculptures, install interpretation boards, plant native trees, wildflowers and bulbs, and install electric car charging points! They're also setting up a new Low Carbon Energy Steering Group to look at ways of reducing Hay's carbon footprint.
Anyone interested in getting involved, or who would like to know more, should contact Nick Burdekin at

Miles Without Stiles has already been improving the footpaths locally, resurfacing and extending the riverside path onto the Warren, for instance. They've also put a new bridge in the Cae Mawr field by the car park. This was funded by the Brecon Beacons National Park, who will also be replacing stiles and kissing gates around the field over the next few months.

Another new project is Hay in Bloom. In addition to the little train under Hay Bridge, the Steering Group has plans for more floral structures on the roads leading into Hay. They have also entered Hay in a national competition run by Cultivation Street. Hidden away on their website is a way to vote for your favourite project, and Hay's train is on there. My neighbour is a keen gardener, and wants to be more involved next year. This is also something people can contact the Town Clerk about.

In the absence of volunteers, a new Town Councillor has been co-opted. He's James Prothero, who recently moved to Hay all the way from Three Cocks. The mayor this year is Trudy Stedman, and the Deputy Mayor is Josie Pearson.

Monday, 27 August 2018

What I Did on my Holidays

So, I've just spent a week in London, chilling out with my Young Man and doing some exploring.
We visited the Horniman Museum (once associated with the Order of the Golden Dawn). We looked for locations mentioned in the Rivers of London series of books (about the magical division of the Met Police) in Soho, where we sat at the 'Peter Grant' table in Patisserie Valerie (where he's being seduced by Simone in Moon Over Soho), Russell Square (where the Folly, the HQ of the magical police is) and Covent Garden (where Peter Grant first takes a witness statement from a ghost).
We visited several gorgeous Victorian pubs - the fish and chips at the Salisbury was particularly good, but they have been doing it since 1860!
We went up the River Thames on a City Clipper river bus.
We visited the Mithraeum, which is free, and absolutely brilliant for anyone interested in Romans. I've wanted to visit it since I read Eagle of the Ninth as a child (Marcus Flavius Aquila was a worshipper of Mithras). For a long time it was in the Museum of London - the altar stone still is - but the rest of it has been restored to the original location where it was found in the 1950s, 7 metres beneath the present ground level, under a big office block near Cannon Street Station.
We took long bus rides through places like Greenwich, Elephant and Castle, around Paddington and Waterloo - and found a back street where part of Remembrance of the Daleks (the Sylvester McCoy story with Ace) was filmed. I have stood where Daleks were blown up!
And we had time for a pleasant Sunday lunch and afternoon in the garden with the Young Man's family.

I'll be writing more about my holidays, for anyone who's interested, over on my other blog, Morwenna's Tower (on the side bar).

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Back from Holidays

I'd only got off the bus half an hour before, and I knew I was back in the strange world that is Hay when a young woman wearing a rabbit mask rode by my house on a horse, followed by three other young women carrying bunches of flowers, and also wearing animal masks.
I think it was part of the Kingdom Project.

I had a wonderful holiday in the Great Metropolis - pictures to follow later.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Kingdom Project

I'll be away for a few days, so there won't be any updates on the blog for a little while.

Which means that I'll miss the Kingdom Project event on Saturday 25th August.
The idea is for an arts project that will help to boost the local economy, and this first event is a fund raiser to get the ball rolling.
So the afternoon sessions start at 2pm at St Mary's Church, with a film installation called Biograph I, followed by live theatre by Pickled Image called Coulrophobia. Tickets are £15.

Then at 6.30pm the Old Electric Shop opens its doors, for Max Reinhardt from Radio 3's Late Junction (they do World Music) followed by Sheema Mukherjee, the Original Sitar girl, both of whom will be joined at the end of the evening by Rita Ray to make Syncrosystem. Tickets are £18.

And at the Globe from 6pm, there will be a second film installation by Jaime Jackson, Biograph II, followed by Footdragger, Rita Ray before she heads off to the Old Electric Shop (she's from Global Beats on the BBC World Service), then Don Letts from BBC Radio 6 Music, and Tom Ravenscroft, also from Radio 6. Tickets are £20.

They have a website at, and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Art Exhibitions

This is really one exhibition on two different sites, being work by an artist called William Mills (who died in 1997).
At The Table is Life and Landscape, from the 1980s and 90s, and at The Drawing Room there's Line and Form from the 1950s to 80s.
Not really my glass of tea - a bit too abstract for me - but there were some enthusiastic art lovers admiring the way he had put the paint on the canvas while I was there.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Cusop History Group AGM

I was at Cusop Village Hall on Friday evening for the Cusop History Group AGM.
There was a tent erected to the side of the main hall, over the picnic tables, which were being used to display lots of old maps of the area.

When the meeting started, Sue Hodgetts (last seen leading a parade of suffragettes) gave an overview of what had happened last year, and suggested that there should be no membership fee for the coming year because there's quite a bit of money in the bank account. This led to a discussion about whether it would be better to continue to collect a membership fee, so the Group could save up to fund a project such as a small dig at Cusop Castle. As no project is planned at present, though, the suggestion was that the committee should discuss the issue again and come back to the membership later. Talks will continue to cost around £3 each.
There was one large expenditure, of £150, last year, to have several maps encapsulated (I presume this is a means of preserving them) by HARC.
The Group presently has 53 members, though not all of them come to meetings. There were 21 people at the AGM. One of the members comes from Utah, but has family connections that they have been researching in the area. They found the Group via social media, which was also the route by which a pretty little prayer book came back to Cusop. It turned up in a charity shop in Devon, with the name L.G. Wheeler, Cusop Rectory in it - and research found that L.G. Wheeler was the vicar's wife in the late 1930s and into the war years. It's now part of the History Group Library.

Cusop Church is hosting a mini museum for the area, and there are several displays planned for it. There are also plans to cut back the undergrowth around the lime kiln up Cusop Dingle, which should be interesting. I will have to plan a walk up there sometime soon!

Various people who have been doing local research were invited to talk about what they have discovered so far by Denise, who has been co-ordinating the efforts. She was also the lady who organised the wonderful trip to the Ashmolean Museum in January. There is a shared group for research - for things that aren't quite ready for general publication, but may be useful for other researchers to look at - on the Cusop History Group shared drive.
The chap researching Victoria Terrace was very enthusiastic about what fun it is to find out things that you'd never expected, such as how exotic some 19th century names in the census are. There are also various projects which could be sub-divided, if anyone was willing to take on parts of them, such as the project involving Cusop Church - just who were the three people in the graves beyond the chancel, for instance? It seems that the more people look into local history, the more there is to be discovered. I had no idea that the original porch to Cusop Church had also been the belfry, for instance, with two 17th century bells, that were eventually sold for scrap. The porch to Llanigon Church is still set up with the bells in it. At Cusop, they now have a "little shed" on the roof for the bell.
Another project is looking at the geology of Cusop Dingle, and also the contents of the Cusop Parish Chest, including parish magazines that go back to 1909! They're trying to get a complete run of magazines together to deposit at HARC, the Archives in Herefordshire, which already has some of them.

On Friday 14th September, at 7pm, there will be another opportunity to find out about the research projects members of the group are carrying out. Entry is free.

Friday 21st - Sunday 23rd September is Hay History Weekend, and there are several events planned at the Parish Hall, including a talk about the Mid Wales Mental Hospital at Talgarth, now sadly decayed. It once, briefly, housed Rudolf Hess!

Other events over the coming year include a talk about Artists and Writers in the Llanthony Valley from 1730 to the present (there have been quite a few!), a talk about Gwernyfed estate, and Great War and Home Front Stories and Poems at Cusop Church in December.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Party on Bear Street

I've been to a lovely party.
Françoise, the lovely French lady who lives in Hay with her husband Pierre, needed a space to do her art. She has had training as a botanic artist - she was kind enough to show me her portfolio, and it's very good. She also created a calendar last year, with the help of children from Hay School, to raise money for the school - I think it's still available in Pughs, and it doubles as a postcard and bookmark when it's no longer being used as a calendar.
So she bought a garage in Bear Street, and has been renovating it as a studio. Now it's finished, and to celebrate she invited all her neighbours on Bear Street, as well as people who have been selling the calendar (like the ladies from Pugh's) and me.
The studio was packed - and people were also going upstairs to see what she'd done with the space up there, very carefully because it's a narrow and steep staircase. There were nibbles, including some yummy little cakes, and prosecco, and cider and soft drinks - and a lot of good conversation. I ended up chatting to a chap who I first met when I arrived in Hay 27 years ago! It doesn't seem that long!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Small Business Saturday

A new shop has just opened where Tom's Records used to be. The stock is a mix of vintage items, with a strong commitment to beekeeping and anything bee related - the lady in charge is planning to extend her range of products. There isn't a sign yet, but the shop will be called Philosophie.

And down in Backfold, Haystacks is moving - a grand total of 12 yards! The record/music shop is moving out of the modern lock up shop opposite the Sandwich Cellar and antique shop, just round the corner to the lower floor of the building at the entrance to Hay Castle, which some people still remember as Five Star (from when Richard Booth had military books in there). Haystacks still has a few books, left behind by George Greenway, who closed his doors recently to head for Portugal and a well earned retirement in the sun. However, once those books are gone, the shelves will be filled with CDs.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Sunday Parades

I was working on the Sunday of the World War One Commemoration weekend, so I wasn't able to get to any of the events - but I did manage to see the aircraft that did the flypast during the ceremony at the War Memorial. There was a First World War German biplane, and a Spitfire.
I was also able to see the parade as they went round the corner at the Blue Boar. Leading the parade was the Swansea Pipe Band, with a group of soldiers dressed in red jackets and pith helmets, as in the film Zulu, followed by modern soldiers, the First World War re-enactors, including an officer on a horse and a waggon drawn by two horses, and a large group of veterans and British Legion, carrying flags, and the suffragettes near the rear.
It was very impressive.
In the square, the Surrey Police Band were there, along with the Talgarth Male Voice Choir and a couple of other choirs, and the lady who sang the solos at the Saturday concert. Wreaths and roses were laid at the War Memorial, and Kelvyn Jenkins managed to get up there too, with help, and in spite of the pain of his trapped nerve that had laid him low. Kelvyn is the reason that the whole thing happened, thanks to his hard work, and his many contacts in the musical and re-enactment worlds.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Story of Books Exhibition

I was a bit late for the start of the concert at Cartref, and on the way I noticed the door to 20, Castle Street was open. I'd been meaning to have a look at their new exhibition, so I went in there instead.
The shop is currently celebrating two war poets: Edward Thomas from the First World War, and Keith Douglas from the Second World War - they were responsible for the play Unicorns, Almost about Keith Douglas's life, which was put on during Hay Festival.
So they have a small amount of books for sale, but the real focus of the shop is the exhibition space. This is upstairs, and over the week they've been concentrating on a different aspect of how a book is made. On the Saturday, they had illustrations from The Collected Poems of Edward Thomas published by the Folio Society, showing the different choices of colours, and they're also having displays on marbling paper, and book binding through the week.

Here I am, looking round the exhibition - Emma Balch took the photo.

They also have a display of cardboard books by Hay Cartoneras. Emma and Oliver Balch spent some time in South America, and this is a South American idea which grew out of an economic crisis, a love of cardboard, a commitment to making literature accessible, and an interest in the artistic and literary potential of artisanal book-making (the handout says!). They're planning to run workshops on making the cardboard books, and will be showing films about the project.

They'll also be doing more things connected to Unicorns, Almost throughout August, including the return of the Blind Bookworms to Hay - they provided the jazz music before the performances of the play in May - the design of the set, local connections to Keith Douglas, and letterpress printing.

They've got plans for the future, too - an exhibition of wordless picture books in the autumn, and a Winter Wayzgoose.

Monday, 6 August 2018

March of the Suffragettes

The First World War period was not only notable for the terrible slaughter in the trenches (and elsewhere around the world) - it was also the period when women were campaigning for the vote. At the same time, they were stepping into the jobs that the men had formerly done at home, before they were called up.
So the First World War commemoration included suffragettes. Here they are, marching through town:

A moment later I had joined them, as I was also dressed as a suffragette (any excuse to wear a costume!), chanting "Deeds Not Words" and "No surrender till we win!"
A little later, one of the ladies shouted "We will fight them on the beaches!", to the reply; "No, I think that was later!"
As we passed below the wall at the end of the Honesty Garden, one of the leading suffragettes had an altercation with the Red Cross post re-enactor there, who told us we should join up and become Land Girls.
Further round town, the Recruiting Sergeant was trying to get a group of boy scouts to join up, and he was berated for turning innocent lads into soldiers. He told us to be on our way, as he was on the King's business. Here there was also a re-enactor dressed as a policeman (I'm pretty sure he and his wife were at the History Day at Hereford, too), who arrested the suffragette and dragged her away!
Later, they re-appeared, handcuffed together:

There was a little while before the concert at Cartref started (the Surrey Police Band were playing, with a soloist who sang old favourites like Keep the Home Fires Burning and Abide With Me), so some of the ladies went for tea at Eves and I went home for lunch.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

World War One Commemoration Weekend

A rare Maxim machine gun on display at the re-enactment camp on Cae Mawr field. I went down there a couple of times during the day and was most impressed with the attention to detail, and the knowledge of the re-enactors. When I was a Medieval re-enactor, it was easy to use a bit of creative license on the costumes, but the World War One uniforms have to be spot on. I felt sorry for them as the day got hotter, in those thick wool jackets. They did some drill in their shirt sleeves.
Also on the field was a First World War First Aid Station (with Wenches in Trenches!), with several nurses, and a modern First Aid Station next to it, showing how medical personnel work today.

There was also a tent for the doctor who came to the Parish Hall last year, who was showing the various medical instruments that were used during the First World War.

There were several horses, too - and a waggon.

Meanwhile, there was a Recruiting Sergeant in town, and in the Honesty Gardens there were a couple more tents with re-enactors, including a Land Army Girl and a Red Cross dog (here shown relaxing in the shade):

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Small Business Saturday

The Bean Box - good coffee in a garden by the river, just by the bridge.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Hay In Bloom

Alan Powell and friends have been busy, preparing Hay for the judges in the Towns in Bloom competition. They've made this lovely little train and put it by the side of the old railway line, next to the bridge.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Story of Books Exhibition

Painting is going on at 20 Castle Street, where a new exhibition is being set up by The Story of Books. I'm looking forward to going along on 4th August, when they open - which is also the day that the First World War re-enactors will be in town, to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War (doing an encampment is much easier in August than it is in November!).

Monday, 30 July 2018

Toilets for Timbuktu

Some good news from Hay2Timbuktu, as seen in this month's WyeLocal!
They have been collecting funds to build new toilet blocks at three high schools in Timbuktu, and have reached the target!
Work will be carried out over the schools' summer break, and next term the girls will be able to go to the toilet in privacy, and will not have to miss school at "that time of the month" as they had to before.
Meanwhile the Medics for Timbuktu have been supporting two girls going through midwifery training, and there is a bursary project which helps girls to stay in school as well. The present project finishes this summer but they think that they will be able to get funding for two more years to help girls at Alkaya Yehia and Fondogoumo schools, and to develop the project in Alpha Daouna school.
One of the teachers involved in the project, Ali Sidi, who teaches English at Alkaya Yehia, has secured a place on a teacher training course at Bamako University to further his English studies - and he's also just got married (his fiancée is a midwife).

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Small Business Saturday

The windows of the shop which used to be La Maison have been made opaque, and the space will now be used as the CO2 Architects' office.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Three Tuns Opens

I've just come back from a swift half at the Three Tuns (they have Wye Valley, Doombar and Butty Bach on the hand pumps). The place is pleasantly full, and I saw quite a few of my neighbours in there.
It's nice to see the place open again, and I hope the new owners do well.
They won't be doing food for a couple of weeks, but when they do, it'll be Italian. The new sign advertises Cask Ales, Fine Wine and Italian Cuisine.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Life on a Different Border

I've been away for a few days visiting friends.
They used to run the re-enactment group I belonged to, but their dream was always to have a farm in Scotland.
Last year, they made the dream a reality, and this was the first time I'd had the chance to go up and visit them.
The journey took 9 hours - I had to set off at crack of dawn on the first bus. It was the last scheduled run of the school buses, and the schools had already broken up for the summer holidays, so I practically had it to myself, and got to chat to the Gurkha bus driver. When I said I was going to Scotland, he said he had enjoyed visiting Edinburgh with the army, and liked it during Festival season - but as the weather this year was so nice, he was planning to spend time on beaches around Wales for the summer holidays, a few days at a time.
When I got off the train at Galashiels, my lift for the rest of the way (a bright orange landrover) was waiting for me, and he took me first to the local pub that they frequent (local meaning within about 10 miles of their house - they really have gone for remoteness!) The Foxy Blonde beer was much appreciated after the long journey!
Then we followed the river up the valley, and further up, and through a small flock of chickens that scattered in front of us like an old film cliché (we managed not to hit any of them), and a bit further, until we arrived at the 90 acre hill farm they share with 27 sheep, 11 horses, 7 dogs and 3 pigs.
Within five minutes of me arriving, the pigs had got into the utility room.... and the caravan they had been going to put me in was out of bounds because wasps were building a nest in the electrics box. It was that sort of a holiday.

But I had great fun. They took me to Melrose Abbey, where the mummified heart of Robert the Bruce was buried, and I enjoyed playing at being an archaeologist again. The ruins are impressive; there's a good little museum, and look out for the bagpiping pig!

Oxford Sandy and Black pig and bagpiping pig

Melrose town is lovely too, and they have a shop there which is like a mixture of Shepherds Ice Cream and the Fudge Shop in Hay. The peach melba ice cream from Orkney was lovely. The town is also close to Trimontium Roman Fort, and Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott - maybe I'll manage to see those next time!

On the second day they took me to see a neighbour of theirs, a retired potter. That's to say, he's retired from selling his pottery, but he hasn't retired from making it, so his house and garden are full of wizards, goblins, sheep, Highland cows, castles with lots of round turrets.... and his art work covers every inch of the walls inside the house. Some German visitors told him that he was very like a children's character in Swedish picture books, Pettson, who has a cat called Findus. While we were chatting, he showed us how to make pottery mice.

So I had a magical time - but the train journey back nearly wiped me out, so I'm only just getting back to normal now.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

No Fishing!

I don't normally take a lot of interest in fishing, but I couldn't miss the sign in Golesworthy's window. The fisheries along the Wye are stopping the sale of day licenses for fishing until further notice, because of the hot weather and low level of the Wye.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Three Tuns Grand Opening

This evening I picked my way across the road, where Welsh Water are digging it up (traffic lights are controlling the flow along Broad Street), to where a new signboard has gone up outside the Three Tuns.
They are having their Grand Opening on Friday 27th July, from 5pm, and are also advertising Sunday roast dinners, and Italian food from 20th August. They also mention gin cocktails!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Plastic Free Hay

New local group Plastic Free Hay will have a stall on the Market on Thursday, to give advice about reducing the use of plastic. They have quite snazzy cloth bags, too.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Commemorating the First World War

There's a weekend of events planned for the 4th and 5th of August in Hay, with First World War living history groups, exhibitions, a parade, choirs and military band -but preparations are starting now, with posters going up in shop windows around town. Each one shows a different First World War soldier from Hay, and says a little about his life, and how and where he died - like the man who had been a policeman in Hay, with a wife and three children, who joined up as a private, was promoted to Lance Corporal, and died in the trenches.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Walking to Llowes

I thought I'd take advantage of the fine day to walk along the Wye Valley Walk to Llowes.
I thought that would probably be my limit for comfort, and I was right.
It's an easy path to follow. You go out of Hay across the bridge and up the hill, and then take the path along the top edge of the field on the left hand side, just above the Community Garden. This takes you down, across somebody's orchard, and over a little wooden bridge to a track to the house opposite the Warren. The path follows the riverbank from there, and it was glorious, with crops on one side (wheat and rape and potatoes) and the overgrown riverbank on the other.
There is one area that had signs up from the farmer, warning dog walkers to keep the dogs to the path as they had put poison down on the river bank to kill moles - and it would also kill dogs.
The path got a little overgrown as I got further from Hay, but still easily passable, and in places a path had been cut through the wheat along the edge of the field.
Eventually, the path meets the main road. For a while the path is down the hill from the road, but then it goes up to a layby and the rest of the way to Llowes is along the footpath by the side of the road. There's another loop of the path that crosses the road and climbs the hillside, for views of the Wye valley, but I wasn't feeling quite that energetic.

There isn't much at Llowes. The church of St Meilog's was almost completely rebuilt in 1855 - the lower part of the tower is older, but that's about it. This was an ancient Christian site, the original small monastery being founded by St. Meilog himself in the 6th century. He was a son of Caw, a chieftain in the North of Britain who was mentioned in the early legends of King Arthur, and a brother of St. Gildas, who wrote one of the main sources for the history of the period, his Complaining Book.
The name Llowes may mean a retreat or a refuge, and it's only a shortish walk to the next Celtic monastery along the Wye, which was at Glasbury.
In the 13th century an anchorite lived there, in a cell by the church. His name was Wechelen, a contemporary of Matilda de Braose, who built Hay Castle, and a friend of Giraldus Cambrensis, who wrote about him.
The church was open, and inside there is a very simple early font, along with the 1855 font, and a rather fine Celtic cross from the 12th century, carved in low relief on a slab of stone. This used to stand outside, and was moved into the church in 1956 by the Ministry of Works. It weighs three and a half tons, apparently!

There used to be a pub restaurant called the Radnor Arms, just across the main road from the church. It is now the Serenbach camp site. It's a very pretty village, which used to have a Dairy and a Post Office, going by the names of the cottages, but there are no shops there now, and although there is a bus stop, buses are infrequent. Even the church isn't often used for services, though it's obviously well looked after. It's part of a group including Clyro, Glasbury, Cwmbach, Bronydd, Bettws, Felindre, Three Cocks Ffynnon Gynydd and Ciltwrch - quite a lot for one vicar to handle! The next service is on 5th August!

I had intended to come back to Hay by a smaller footpath, which seemed to cut across the meander of the Wye as a shortcut, but I couldn't find it where it was supposed to cross a potato field, and I couldn't see any way through the hedge where I thought it should run, so I kept to the Wye Valley Walk on the way back.
I rewarded myself by heading for Kilverts for a pint of Wadworths 6X, which went down very well!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Recording a Podcast

This is a first for me!
Huw Parsons has made several podcasts, interviewing local musicians and poets and putting them up on his website.
Every week, at the acoustic evening at Baskerville Hall, I try to sing a different TV theme song. They're getting more and more obscure as time goes on, but I haven't run out of material yet, and that's what Huw wanted to interview me about.
He took me over to Clyro Church last Friday morning, for the good acoustics, and we set up in the side chapel, under a monument to a previous owner of Clyro Court who had a Greek name (Spyridion something), and was a Captain in the British Army who died in Jerusalem in 1930. His life story must have been interesting!
Most histories of Baskerville Hall/Clyro Court skip straight from Conan Doyle visiting the Baskerville family there to the end of the Second World War, so I haven't been able to find out anything else about him yet. The monument says that his wife was called Dorothy, though.

So I was asked to choose three TV themes so that Huw could find the originals and edit them into the conversation later. I chose White Horses, which is the first TV theme I ever sang at the Baskie, The Beverley Hillbillies, and The Lightning Tree from Follyfoot. I sang a lot of cowboy related songs as well, remembered the BBC radio programmes for school music lessons with fondness, and really enjoyed the conversation. Huw has a nicely relaxed interviewing style that put me at ease.
Huw has now done all the editing, and has put it up on his website at

Monday, 9 July 2018

Beer and Pilgrimage in Hereford

On Saturday I had a day out to Hereford.

The first port of call was the Cathedral, where a new heritage route called the St Thomas Way was being launched. This is based on a real pilgrimage in 1290, from Swansea to Hereford, by a man called William Cragh and a group of pilgrims who included the man who had tried (and failed ) to hang him. When William came back to life after his execution as an outlaw, it was considered to be a miracle, so the pilgrimage was to give thanks, and William de Briouze, who sentenced him to hang, was one of the party, along with his wife.
The new trail isn't a straight route from Swansea to Hereford. It's 13 circular walks along that route, each including local historical places of interest. There is a website at You can even collect badges along the way, like a real pilgrim.
So there were various activities scattered around the cathedral, including a labyrinth at the West end, medieval re-enactors talking about pilgrim medals and telling stories (and playing the bagpipes!), lectures in the Lady Chapel and specially brewed real ale in the Chapter House garden. I bought a bottle of Hanged Man Walking, which is brewed with yarrow by Mumbles Brewery. I also overheard Tom Tell Tale enthralling his audience with the story of the King with donkey's ears (he was also the bagpipe player). Later I had a chat to him, and admired his kit - he said he was very glad to be in the cool of the cathedral in all that wool!
I measured myself to St Thomas, too, by the shrine. Medieval pilgrims would cut a candle wick to the same height as themselves to make a candle to offer at a shrine of a saint. These lengths of ribbon and wool were being tied together to make a trail round the cathedral for children to follow.

Then I headed down to the Rowing Club for Beer on the Wye. I'd brought my own stool for the occasion, but I didn't really need it - there were far more chairs this year, and posher loos!
I'd had a look at the list of beers online before I went, so as soon as I got into the marquee I headed straight for the Uley Old Spot, which was delicious.
I aim to try halves of as many different beers as possible, with the proviso that my limit for any drinking is around 3 pints. Beer at the festival is paid for with tokens that you get at the door as part of the entrance fee, along with the souvenir glass, and I got extra tokens for producing my CAMRA card, and that was enough to buy me two and a half pints, by which time I'd really had enough.
Uley Old Spot is a strong bitter; my next choice was a ruby mild, Beartown's Black Bear from Congleton in Cheshire. When I was being served, the chap behind the bar asked me if I'd tried the Underworld. I hadn't, but on his recommendation that was my third choice, a milk stout from Big Smoke Brewery in Surbiton, which was absolutely gorgeous. I drank that one while enjoying falafels from the stall at the festival - there was also a hog roast, and pizzas and other snacks.
Choice number four was from Manchester's Marble Brewery, a bitter just called Pint, which was light and refreshing and quite grapefruit-y. My final choice was also from Manchester, a best bitter called Crex from Squawk Brewery.
Being on my own, I'd taken a magazine to read - and this month's Current Archaeology has a short article about Clifford Castle, with a very good picture of the top of the tower! I also picked up Pete Brown's latest book Miracle Brew from the CAMRA stall (at a small discount because I'm a member).

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Plastic Free Hay

There's a new group in town, working to cut out non-essential plastic use.
They'll be meeting at Kilverts on Wednesday 11th July, at 7.30pm.

They also have leaflets around town with a few ideas about how people can reduce their plastic use, such as carrying a refillable water bottle, bringing your own shopping bag (preferably one made from natural materials), refusing take-away cups, cutlery and straws unless they are compostable, and avoiding heavily packaged goods in shops.
Some local shops have already signed up to this, and stickers are going up in shop windows.
They also have a Facebook page called Plastic Free Hay.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Hebron to Hebron Challenge

I met two ladies in purple in Hay the other day, with the words "hebron2hebron challenge" on their t-shirts. They told me that they had come from Hebron House in Norwich, and they were heading for Hebron in Wales. They had five days to do it, by any means possible, and with no money.
They're doing it to raise funds for Hebron House, which is an all female, 10 bed, alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre.
They started off with a tractor ride out of Norwich, and they had just got to Hay after getting a lift from Worcester. They were invited onto local radio to talk about the challenge, and someone phoned in to offer them a lift - and the Baskerville Arms in Clyro had offered them beds for the night. So they were spending the rest of the day looking around Hay.
There's a story about them in the Eastern Daily Press, the local newspaper for the Norwich area.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Latest News on Barclays Bank

This is 'hot off the press' - I've just seen the post on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page.
He and Kirsty Williams AM and Councillor James Prothero met with representatives of the bank to discuss the proposed closure in September.

It's still going to close.

However, the bank has agreed to keep the cash machine in Hay - as long as there is a local business that will agree to having it. The machine takes up 2m x 2m of space. If that can be done, they will continue to run it as a Barclays ATM which will be free to use. They have also agreed to keep the present ATM up and running until the new one is ready.
They have also agreed in principle to having a presence at the Post Office one day a week, to support customers who will be using the Post Office for their banking - but this has yet to be agreed with the Post Office.
On 19th July, the bank will be running training sessions for customers, to help them change to online and telephone banking.
Any customers who do all their banking at the Hay branch should have been contacted by now so that staff can help them to find alternative banking arrangements. Anyone who hasn't been contacted yet should contact the branch.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Busy Enjoying Myself

It's too hot to do anything serious, and the first week of the month tends to fill up with interesting things to do.
So on Monday I was round at a friend's house for a poetry evening. We each brought three or four poems on the theme of the Sea (next month's theme is Dogs), and read them in turn. Brian had just picked up a book at random, by someone called Mitchell - and it turned out to have several really good poems about the sea, including a lovely one about the Great Orme at Llandudno. I took along the book I got at one of the events at the Poetry Bookshop, about endangered marine species - they liked the one about the basking shark and the man who fell in love with it. The book is Words the Turtle Taught Me by Susan Richardson. I also found a couple of poems in the local magazine Quirk, both by people I know, one about mermaids diving for pearls of wisdom and the other about dolphin mythology.

On Wednesday I was at Baskerville Hall, commemorating the sad death of Peter Firmin (one of the creators of Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, Pogle's Wood, the Clangers and Noggin the Nog) by reciting the introduction to Noggin the Nog. There were comic songs (Earwig O, the man in the elephant's bottom), poems and a vaguely American theme to the evening since it was the 4th of July, with "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" and even the Star Spangled Banner. I sang Streets of Laredo.
We were in Moriarty's Bar, which can get a bit over warm in summer weather, but there's a festival of some sort going on at the Hall at the weekend, and they were setting something up in the ballroom. There was a bit of a party going on around the porch (where people could smoke) when we came out, and two of the younger singers and guitarists (just back from University) almost missed their turn to sing because they were out there enjoying the ambience.

And tonight we were sitting overlooking the garden at Kilverts, with the window wide open to catch the breeze, for Stitch and Bitch. We were having such a good time that one of the ladies said we should be live blogging the conversation - and then everyone looked at me!
I successfully de-cluttered a triangular weaving frame with the instruction booklet and all the necessary bits to a lady who thought she'd like to try it. I bought it at Wonderwool a couple of years ago, and didn't really get on with it.
Emanation has kefir on the go, and often has a surplus to get rid of, so she managed to pass some on to another lady in the group. Someone else has been given 6 fleeces, and wanted to know what to do with them, so Tracy and I talked her through the process of cleaning the fleece (very carefully so as not to felt it!) and Tracy gave advice on natural dyeing. She's going to start washing the fleeces this week, and will come round to borrow my carders and a hand spindle so she can try hand spinning soon.
We also talked about the Trump Baby balloon which will be flying over London next week - and some of the awful things happening in the US now; assisted dying; and a community arts project that may or may not get off the ground locally. And one lady brought an enormous ball of pink yarn along which promptly got nicknamed "the uterus".
The Wadsworth 6X went down a treat.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Red Kite over Hay

As I was walking home for lunch, a red kite was flying low over Broad Street, towards Clifford. It's always exciting to see, and they're getting more common in the area.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Open Garden

Ty Glyn is a historic house in Cusop Dingle, and they are opening their garden, and having a fete, on Saturday 7th July, from 11am to 3.30pm.
Ty Glyn is the house with the Victorian post box in the wall outside, originally built in the 1850s, with extensions in the 1880s, according to the information given to Cusop History Group by the current owners. The garden runs down to the Dulas Brook, which the house once used to power a hydro scheme which made it the second home in the area to have electric power. I think the first might have been Brynmelin, further up the Dingle, which has its own mill.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

What is that noise?

It could be heard across half of Hay.

The cause was easy to track down though, by the haze of dust in the air and the sand blasting van outside the shop and house in Castle Street that had the fire last year. Today is the day they've been dealing with some of the smoke damage.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Music License at the Three Tuns

Work is going on now to get the Three Tuns ready to re-open, and a sign has gone up in the window saying that they are applying for a music license, which would mean they could continue musical events until 1am. The Three Tuns hasn't had a music license before, as far as I know - though I do remember the belly dancing evenings in the days when Lucy was landlady.
Some residents of Broad Street are very concerned about this, and will be making formal complaints.
However, The Old Electric Shop has occasional music, just up the road, and the Globe has music regularly until late, to the great annoyance of some of their neighbours, at the other end of Broad Street. So I'm inclined to wait and see what the new owners of the Three Tuns are planning.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Historical Hereford Day

I'm just back from a pleasant day out in Hereford, dressed as a suffragette to celebrate Historical Hereford Day on Castle Green. The theme was celebrating remarkable women and Herefordshire history, and I wasn't the only suffragette there:

There was a very good display of local history information, including the history of the women's suffrage movement in Herefordshire and history of the River Wye and hop picking. One of the leaflets I picked up was for Herefordshire Life Through A Lens, about a film called Stories from the Hop Yards, inspired by the photo archive of Derek Evans, who died in 2009 after a long photographic career. There is a website at and Derek Evans' photos can be seen at
Also in the tent was a woman dressed as one of the Rotherwas factory girls from the Second World War - I didn't get a picture of her because she was busy talking to people while I was there. There is a book out about them, called Bomb Girls.

Out on the Green there were activities for children, including Have A Go Archery and a traditional Punch and Judy show, and stalls selling crafts and vintage stuff, as well as stalls for local history groups and campaign groups.
I'm now the proud owner of a badge saying "Save Mortimer Forest", for instance. A local group wants to stop the Forestry Commission from making a deal with Forest Holidays to build 68 holiday homes, with a shop, restaurant, bar and cycle hire facilities inside Mortimer Forest, near the border with Shropshire. They can be found at (with bird song!).
There was also a campaign group opposing the present plans for a Hereford Bypass. They are in favour of more cheap, reliable public transport, such as electric buses and trams, more trains and carriages, and safe cycle and pedestrian routes. Like the Mortimer Forest campaigners, they are against the destruction of the local environment, especially ancient woodland, along the route which will cross the River Wye on a high bridge. They can be found at

I also picked up the leaflet for this year's Three Choirs Festival, which is in Hereford this year ( One of the highlights of this year's performances will be Ethel Smyth's Mass in D - she was, of course, a prominent campaigner for women's suffrage. It's also the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, local composer, and of 24 year old Lili Boulanger, who wrote a setting of Psalm 130 as a response to the horrors of the First World War.

I rounded off my trip to Hereford by having a bottle of Liberty Ale from San Francisco at the Hereford Beer House - while I still can. Many of the small businesses in that area have been forced to move out because of huge rent increases, and the Hereford Beer House may have to follow. I hope they're able to find another home in Hereford.

And finally I went to St Peter's Church, where a big suffragette rally was held over a hundred years ago. There was a photo of it in the exhibition tent on Castle Green, with a lady addressing the crowd from a platform that must have been just about where the war memorial is now. The war memorial was built in 1922. I'm not sure if the person in the archive photo was local campaigner Mrs Massey, or one of the Pankhursts who visited Herefordshire to campaign.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Celebrating the NHS

Owen Sheers has written a new play, To Provide All People, to celebrate 70 years of the NHS - and what a star--studded cast BBC Wales have assembled to perform it! The actors include Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Aimee Ffion Edwards, George Mackay, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Rashan Stone Michelle Fairley, Suzanne Packer, and Michelle Collins. It covers a day in a single hospital.

Copies of the book are available from the Poetry Bookshop.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Hay-on-Wye Rocks

That's the name of a new Facebook page for a group that is painting pebbles and leaving them around Hay for people to find. They are encouraging people to paint their own rocks to leave out, and anyone who finds a rock can either leave it where it is, or take it home, or put it somewhere else for another person to find.
Here's one, lurking somewhere in Hay....

Monday, 18 June 2018

HOWLS Meeting

HOWLS will be holding their AGM on Wednesday 20th June at 7pm, at what we must now call the Old Library.
It will be a time to say goodbye to the old Library, look back on the campaign, get updates on the new library, and plan for the future.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Dan the Elgar Dog and other Statues

When I was talking about statues around Hereford a little while ago, I was told about a statue of a dog down by the river, in King George V Playing Fields. So yesterday I went to find it.

This is the bulldog that belonged to the organist at Hereford Cathedral, who was a friend of Elgar's. The story goes that they were walking along the riverbank one day when the dog fell in. It's quite a steep bank there - there's another memorial nearby to all the people who have drowned in the Wye, adding sternly "Don't Let It Be You".
The dog paddled furiously to a place where he could pull himself out, and shook himself vigorously. The organist said to Elgar something along the lines of: "I bet you can't make a tune out of that!" Elgar took up the challenge, and the tune he wrote became part of the Enigma Variations.

I was also told last week about the three legged statue in Hereford Cathedral. I didn't take a picture, because my camera is a bit weedy indoors, but I went to pay my respects to Sir Richard Pembridge, 14thC knight, with his head resting on his great helm. One of the statue's legs was badly damaged at some point, and a wooden leg was carved to put in its place. Then in the 19thC an alabaster leg was carved as a replacement, and the wooden leg passed into private hands. And now it's back, donated by the owner, and propped up against the pillar beside the tomb.

A little way along the wall from the tomb (opposite the main door of the Cathedral) is the new SAS memorial, in rather beautiful polished blue stone, very plain, and with a modern window above it, also in blue, with the title Ascension.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Clifford Castle

What a wonderful evening!
Cusop History Group organised a trip to Clifford Castle, which is privately owned, yesterday. The present owners have been there for 7 years, and have just completed extensive renovation of the castle with the help of Historic England. As part of the agreement with Historic England, they have to open the castle to the public for 20 days a year. The castle is also open today and Sunday morning, though they do ask on their website for any group larger than 5 people to contact them in advance. The website is
Parking is limited in Clifford, so the group met up in the Co-op's car park for car sharing. Signs are now up in the Co-op car park restricting parking to one and a half hours for customers only, but permission was granted for the History Group to park there.
I've been to Clifford Castle before, many years ago, as the guest of Mrs Parkinson, who used to own it. The people who owned the castle after her were not well liked in the area - there were stories of them stopping local people from walking their dogs and so on - but the present owners seem both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the castle.
We were taken round by the owner, who had prepared laminated sheets with details of the castle's history and features, and a rather good reconstruction drawing. One of the group is an expert on Fair Rosamund, who was the daughter of Sir Walter de Clifford and mistress of Henry II. Henry was known to have visited the castle, and the owner commented that he couldn't see the king being entertained in the Great Hall of the keep, because it's really quite small. There is a possibility that there was a larger, wooden great hall in the outer bailey, though there would need to be more excavation to find out.

As part of the renovation work, several trenches were dug around the site, and the soil taken out of the tops of the walls was sieved, yielding mostly Victorian pottery. They think that Dr. Trumper, who owned the castle in the 19th century, and built the present house there, deliberately planted ivy in the walls to make the keep look more like a "romantic ruin". All that ivy, and the several trees that had burrowed their roots into the walls, have had to be removed to save the stonework from further damage. They also had to remove masses of brambles. The owner said that he only found one of the five towers by accident, when he fell into it while strimming - it was completely covered in brambles, and he went into them up to his waist.
The trench in the middle of the shell keep revealed, somewhat disappointingly, that the present ground level is about a metre above the original ground level - and across the courtyard stones from the castle walls had been neatly stacked on end. They assume that this was done by Dr Trumper, who probably intended to use the stone to rebuild some of the walls. When he came to sell the castle, not having used the stone he collected, he just covered them with earth. The owner said he wished he'd known the stone was there - they wouldn't have needed to buy in new supplies!
Other walls have primitive repairs, with little columns of stones holding up walls where there are gaps or the facing stones have disappeared. One wall, overlooking the river, has a solid buttress at one end, provided by the railway engineers who were building the railway down below, between the castle and the river, presumably so stones from the castle didn't fall down onto the tracks!

View of the entrance to the keep

And here's the reason that the castle was built on that spot in the first place - the ford across the river Wye, as seen from the walls of the castle. You can see how high above the ford the castle is, hence the "Cliff" part of the name.

There is a lot of potential for more work to be done to discover the secrets of the castle - they still don't know where the kitchen was for sure, and they don't really know the purpose of the hornwork behind the keep either - but the work that has been done has ensured the castle's survival for perhaps another hundred years.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Changing Banking Arrangements

Well, that was easier than I thought it was going to be!
This morning I went into Barclays and withdrew all the money from my savings account. I'm leaving the current account, because that's kind of essential for paying rent and direct debits and so forth, and there is no other bank in town I could transfer it to. The savings, though, went straight across the road to the Yorkshire Building Society, where I already have a small account. I suppose that means I don't count as one of the 67 people that the leaflet from Barclays said use the Hay Barclays branch exclusively for their banking needs, even though I do 95% of my banking through Barclays. The lady at the Yorkshire Building Society said that they'd been busier than usual over the last week or so. She banks with Barclays too, and said: "Don't mention that name to me!"
I had thought that I'd have to go into Hereford to get the Barclays savings account closed, but Helen did it all for me on the spot.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Meanwhile, at the Library....

The Library has closed its doors to the public for the last time, and the books are being boxed up.
The new Library, at the School, will open on Monday, in what the County Council are calling a "brand new flexible community space" according to the article in the B&R. Also according to the B&R, the County Council are saying that they hope the new library space will "open up opportunities for residents and community groups" to utilise a community resource for a multitude of activities. They say that the space can easily be re-arranged to suit a variety of activities.
Every single one of those activities, except perhaps the suggested possibility of cookery demonstrations, could be done in the existing Library building, which also has more space than the new building at the school. I'm not sure how practical cookery would be at the new building, even though it has a little kitchenette.
One of the suggestions was a "knit and natter" group - I belong to the local Stitch and Bitch group, and we meet at Kilverts on the first Thursday of the month from 6pm to 8pm - where we can also buy a drink, which won't be possible at the Library. Maybe the Council should have talked to the local groups before blithely declaring they could meet in the new Library.

The new Library will only be open for 12 hours a week - Mondays and Thursdays from 9am to midday, and 1pm until 3pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 12.30pm.
So any adults at work during the week will only be able to go to the library on Saturday mornings.
Any secondary school pupils who want to use the library will only be able to go on Saturday mornings.
The parents of children at Hay School are already complaining that their children will not be able to go to the library after school, and it hasn't even opened yet. The school has already decided to use the space for after school clubs most afternoons.

Rachel Powell, the portfolio holder at the County Council for young people, culture and leisure, says that the new library will include "a great range of books" as well as computers, wi-fi and information for residents on other council services.
But there's no point in having "a great range of books" if you can't get to the Library when it's open, and in any case there will be fewer books, because the space is smaller. And the "new and exciting activities" could have been housed in the original Library building if there had been the will to do so.

This morning, I was approached by two ladies who want to start some sort of community activity for local mums (I forget what it was). They wanted to know if I'd put a poster up, and if I had any idea of where they could go to find a suitable venue.
There used to be a community centre, which was knocked down, of course. The new school only provides a small fraction of the space that the community centre used to offer. Rachel Powell can talk about "new and exciting activities" all she likes, but the new school and library complex is not an adequate replacement for the amount of space there used to be in Hay for community activities.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Pub Without a Till

I went to Stitch and Bitch at Kilvert's last Thursday, and we had an interesting chat with the lady who has come out of retirement to run it again, after Hay Tap, and then the management buyout of Hay Tap, failed. She had to come back from Spain to pick up the pieces.
And the till behind the bar had just been taken away by the company it had been leased from, because Hay Tap hadn't paid the bill - so now they're operating without a till. Which rather begs the question - what happened to the till that Kilvert's used to have before Hay Tap took over, which they owned?

Monday, 11 June 2018

Meet the Builder

On Wednesday, 13th June, Hay Castle is having an open evening to meet the builders who will be carrying out the restoration work (the metal fencing has already been going up around the Castle). The open evening starts at 5.30pm, and entrance is by the Oxford Road gate.
On the Hay Castle Trust Facebook page, they say that conservation expert Nathan Goss of John Weaver Contractors will talk about their approach, critical conservation works, opportunities for the community, and how long the work will take.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

More Thoughts on Barclays Closure

Just a small point that I've been pondering - the leaflet I was given at Hereford concentrates on customers of the Hay branch, and how they say that those customers have been finding alternative ways to do their banking. They do not seem to have considered Barclays customers from elsewhere who come to Hay as tourists.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Barclays Bank is Closing

I'd been planning to do a little gentle retail therapy in Hereford (I needed new pumps/gym type shoes for summer) - and then I got the letter from Barclays, telling me that the Hay-on-Wye branch will be closing on Friday 28th September.
I don't often swear, but on this occasion I think it was an appropriate reaction.
An hour on the bus on the way to Hereford made me think I was feeling calmer - still furious, but calmer.
So the first thing I did when I got to Hereford was go round to the Barclays branch there.
It's all do-it-yourself screens now, so I queued for the one desk that has real people behind it, and I said I wanted to make a complaint. As soon as I mentioned Hay, the young lady went to speak into some sort of intercom on the wall to tell the manager.
After a short wait, the manager came out to see me and took me into a little side office.
Honestly, I can't fault the staff in the branch at all. They were as helpful and professional as they could be, and I did my best to be polite, and told them that I knew it wasn't their fault and I wasn't angry with them.
The bank had obviously been prepared to receive complaints, because the manager had a leaflet all ready to give me, explaining the decision and offering alternative ways to bank.
They claim that only 67 people use the Hay branch exclusively for their banking, which I find difficult to believe, with other customers using telephone and online banking more. They also say that they have "taken into consideration the availability of other branches in the wider community", and then say that the next nearest branch is in Brecon. Oh, and there's a free cash machine at the Garage at Llyswen….
I informed the manager that the bus fare to Brecon is £8.30 (Explorer ticket), and the bus only runs every two hours, so that's half the day gone every time a customer wants to use another branch in the wider community.
The leaflet also says there is help available for people who want to switch to online banking.
The other option appears to be the Post Office, which is on the market at the moment. They recently had a cash machine put in, though it's had teething problems and breakdowns.
I have no wish to do online banking, so it looks like it's the Post Office or nothing for me - which led me to ask why I should remain a Barclays customer at all, having banked with Barclays since 1977? She had no answer for that.
I also mentioned local businesses, who need to bank their cash frequently, and get change for the tills. Are they supposed to drive across to Brecon to do this? The manager had no real answer to that, either, but mentioned some sort of collection service that might be offered, and said that all the businesses that bank with Barclays will be contacted.
The manager also said that, although Barclays was taking feedback, the decision had been made.

I feel a bit sorry for Gareth Ratcliffe. No sooner had he posted on his Facebook page that he was going away for a couple of days, all this blew up and he's been taking calls on his mobile. Most people commenting are against the closure, and are angry. Barclays is the only bank left in Hay, since the HSBC and Nat West closed down.
The Nat West send a van once a week. They've already changed the original arrangement of Thursday lunch time for an hour. At the moment it comes to the front of the Cinema Bookshop on a Friday, for three quarters of an hour.

Having done all that I could, I went shopping, and I did find some nice pairs of pumps.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Discovering Historical Hay

When Tim Pugh came round to tell me what had happened to the Le Redu twin town sign, he also gave me a new leaflet which should be appearing around town now. It's called Discovering Historical Hay, and costs 50p, which is to raise money for the Warren Club.
There's a good map in the middle, and it's really comprehensive, starting with the biggest and most important historic building in town, the Castle, and working round the Cheese Market, Butter Market, chapels, the sites of the old town gates, the oldest pub (the Three Tuns), the town clock, St Mary's Church, and the various historic wells and springs which used to provide the water supply for the town.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Update on the Sign

A couple of people dropped by today to tell me what had happened to the Le Redu twinning sign.
Apparently it was taken down because the wooden frame was rotten, but once that is repaired, the sign will be going up again. It probably won't be in the same place - the Castle were not very interested in having it back, it seems. But another possibility is the Buttermarket.
At the same time, wall space is being sought for a new slate sign celebrating Hay's twinning with Timbuktu, so they may go up together some time soon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Disappearing Sign

For many years, there was a sign cemented into the wall beneath the castle, commemorating the twinning of Hay with Le Redu. This is a village in Belgium, in the Ardennes, and it became a Village du Livres in 1984. I don't think that many people, in either Hay or Le Redu, now remember the twinning. Certainly I don't think there have been any visits between the two book towns for many years, though Richard Booth did have a friend who lived in Le Redu. I met him in 1991.
And then, last week, I noticed that the sign had been taken away.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Goodbye Beer Revolution

Beer Revolution's closing night was on the last evening of the Festival, so I went down there after work to have a last half. There were lots of local people there to give them a good send off (Beer Revolution will still be trading online, though), and the sun was shining, so people were standing outside.
The beer they stock has always been interesting, and they had a very successful vegan menu for a while.

Meanwhile, in Backfold, Greenaway Books will be closing on 15th June, and George will be leaving for sunnier climes after 16 years there, and 15 years before that working for Richard Booth.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

On the Ocean with Barry Cunliffe

This was the talk I'd been most excited about when I got my Festival programme. Barry Cunliffe was a big name in archaeology when I was in college, and he's written several good books over the years.
We were in the Oxfam Moot tent, one of the biggest venues - and before we went in staff were taking some of the fixed panels out of the walls so there would be a breeze. At last the weather had turned hot and sunny.
This was a lecture, with slides, picking out some of the stories from the book, from the very earliest beginnings of seafaring in the Mediterranean. Recent research has pushed this date back to 130,000 years ago, after a field survey on Crete (I think) found hand axes datable to that period. Previously it was thought that nobody got to those islands before about 10,000 years ago.
One interesting snippet of information was that archaeologists can tell whether people got to an island and stayed there, or whether they went back and forth to the mainland, by the skeletons of mice. If the mice came with a human population which stayed on the island, then the mouse population would drift, genetically, from the mainland population. If there was constant travel between the two, new mice would constantly be arriving, stowed away in cargo, so the populations would remain the same.
At the end of the lecture, a chap stood up to ask a question in the audience and said that he had been involved in researching mice on islands, and gave Barry Cunliffe a bit of information that he hadn't previously known, about an island off the coast of Ireland. The mice there had similar DNA to the mice on mainland Ireland - but the fleas came from Southern Spain!
Another story, and the place Barry Cunliffe got his book title from, was of the voyages of Pytheas, a Greek explorer who had circumnavigated Britain and either went to Iceland or met people who had and wrote down their stories. The impetus for these voyages was to find a source of tin that the Greeks could access, as the Phoenicians had cut off their access to the source they had been using, in Spain.
And then there were the Viking journeys that led to the coast of Newfoundland. Columbus was really a late comer to the continent of America - even Bristol fishermen were ahead of him. Here we learned about latitude sailing, by which ships can travel in a straight line by measuring the distance of the sun above the horizon at noon, or of several stars at night, out of sight of land, instead of hugging the coasts.
And it's worth mentioning that all the maps in the book look unusual because north is not at the top. Barry Cunliffe said that the direction of sunset would be of more interest to an early sailor, so all the maps are oriented with west at the top.
He also spoke about Phoenicians, and later Portuguese, traders and explorers heading down the coast of Africa. There's an island at the mouth of a big river in Senegal, Port St. Louis, that may well have Phoenician archeology under the modern town, but no digs have ever been done there.
He also mentioned St Brendan the Navigator, who headed out to sea to put himself into the hands of his God - the exploration was of his own mind as much as the wonders that they came across in the journeys.
He also spoke about the delight of being an archaeologist - that a new dig could unearth new evidence that completely changed the story we thought we knew, such as the hand axes that changed the entire timeline of seafaring in the Mediterranean.
I was delighted at having the opportunity to listen to a really good archaeologist give a lecture - and that I recognised quite a bit of what he was saying.