With Cleddau safely moored at Sawley Marina Boatwif was free to join a very special gathering.
Cruelly designated The Coven by certain males of the family, last week Saltie (Senior brother-in-law) declared that the far-flung sisters and cousin could now be called The Famous Five… This is a much more suitable name for the once giggly girls. (Whoever first claimed that such well brought up young women would present in public with blood on their hands, wicked spells on their lips and evil in their hearts surely deserves to be thrown into a boiling cauldron…)
West then, to Powys, in mid-Wales, to convene in picturesque Crickhowell. This tiny town makes the heart sing – it’s surrounded by hills, the tumbling River Usk weaves through it, there’s a top-rated bookshop a splendid Tourist Information Centre and Gallery, many independent shops, street seating, the ruins of a castle and a fine coaching inn.
Taking a post lunch walk round the village brought back memories of walking the Nephew (AKA Injured Soldier – remember his wedding last year? ) to school, past the village shop (and the bus stop now equipped with heaving bookshelves ), over the canal bridge and along to the school. Here was the iconic Talybont lift bridge, its picture often featured in descriptions of the 35 mile long isolated Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. And moored beside the towpath, (a feast for Boatwif’s eyes), were boats! Castle Narrowboats have electric boats, it would seem – here was a charging point. There is a tram laden with stone and interpretation panels alongside the towpath these days, explaining the tramway and the limekilns across the way.
Over the hills then one morning to Hay-on-Wye – it dubs itself these days as ‘The World’s First Book Town’, though previously it was renowned as the second hand book capital of the world. Hay first reached the world’s attention when in April 1977 Richard Booth declared himself King of Hay-on-Wye. See his throne here and the pavement slab marking one of his bookshops.
By chance it was Market Day, a good day to be there, the town now “coming back after Covid” according to one shop owner. A busker on a corner, artisan foods and hand-crafted items in the Butter Market, flowerpots on steps, quaint antiques positioned on the pavements… Most of the bookshops are well organised (this one was gloriously appointed), some deal just with specific subjects – and then there is the old cinema, packed with the printed word (and music CDs too).
The town’s fame has expanded – the annual literature-based Hay Festival takes place for 10 days from May to June. Nowadays there are performances, workshops and talks delivered by Famous Names; in 2001 Bill Clinton described the Hay Festival as “The Woodstock of the mind”.
With the town being “…on-Wye” a look at the river was considered a good plan. Two sisters and a cousin on a warm afternoon Decades ago the Cleddau crew used to hire kayaks and Canadian canoes to float downstream on this lovely river. For a current River Wye story, though, read this report here: Virgin Mary to ‘cleanse’ polluted river
There’ll be a right turn out of Sawley, down onto the River Trent proper – then where…?
Road miles to and from Crickhowell: 298