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 https://huwspodcast.wordpress.com/

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 www.thomasway.ac.uk 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.