As a keen walker and public transport enthusiast, Jo Kibble was intrigued to discover the newly launched Montgomery Bus Walks produced by Walkers are Welcome Montgomery in association with Tanat Valley bus company. Jo Kibble has recently been interviewed on many regional radio stations and Channel 4, after being somewhat surprised to rise to fame during August when his travel blog of a recent day’s bus journey from London to Morecombe went viral, being viewed over one and half million times. In September, whilst having a quick chat with a route 81 driver outside Montgomery Town Hall, he met three walkers just about to catch the bus to walk back into Montgomery in time for lunch using one of three new walking leaflets with seven walks which give the opportunity to “bus out - walk back” through the Montgomeryshire countryside and its wonderful views. One of the walkers, Mary Nicholson, told Jo, “I live near Berriew and have been using the bus walks since they were published in July. I organise a local walking group and we have used these Bus Out Walk Back trails several times. They have become really popular. The descriptions are so clear and all the walks easily accessible thanks to the local Footpath Volunteers. I have done most of the seven walks and my next will be the longest: a 9 mile ramble over Corndon Hill. I am sure that will be a stunning walk.” Jo commented, “This is a splendid idea for encouraging people to explore the beautiful Borders countryside. There are walks here for everyone from a short 4 miles to the longer one that Mary mentioned. It’s also a great way of getting people to use the bus services more, particularly after covid.” The leaflets have been produced with assistance from a grant from the Welsh Government and PAVO and can be picked up in Montgomery from Ivy House, Bunners or the Tourist Information Box, or downloaded from the Walkers are Welcome site at https://www.montgomery-waw.org.uk/walkers/walks/
Montgomery Mayor, Jill Kibble, has thanked a small but keen group of residents and councillors who helped with the town tidy and street sweep at the end of September. She said, “A very big thank you. It made a real difference. Your participation was much appreciated and many people around town have commented favourably.” She added, “There was no use of weed killer, and lots of composting. Thanks also to those residents who came out and weeded and swept their frontages in sympathy and the lovely people who offered cups of tea and words of encouragement!” Councillors were dismayed by the amount of litter on the Chirbury Road, and the cumulative effect of small items of litter discarded around the Town Hall. Cllr Oliver Lewis commented, “There was more than you might think - especially cigarette butts and lollipop sticks. If you use these things, please bin them; don’t drop them outside our beautiful town hall.” Cllr Kibble added, “There are plenty of litter bins around, and a new larger one will be delivered to near the Council noticeboard very shortly.” The Mayor also thanked the Year 1 and 2 class from Montgomery School for doing an enthusiastic litter pick earlier in the week, after purchasing new litter pickers from Bunners. She said, “The class had done a jolly good job and we definitely noticed there was very little litter in the centre of town. Well done all!” Photo: Rob Harper and Dave Beddoes work hard as part of the Town Tidy Team
In 2019 Montgomery received a plaque as a gift from Hungary, in celebration of János Arany being conferred with the posthumous Honorary Freemanship of Montgomery, acknowledging the connection of the Hungarian National Poet with the town. In 1857 Arany was asked to write a poem of praise for the visit of Franz Josef I of the repressive Austro-Hungarian regime. Instead, he wrote an allegorical poem detailing the imagined slaughter of 500 Bards at a banquet at Montgomery Castle for refusing to sing the praises of the tyrannical Edward I of England. The poem is still learnt by every Hungarian school child so the tiny rural town of Montgomery is probably better known there than Cardiff. The planned mounting and unveiling of the plaque was a victim of the 2020 lockdown and the Town Council is now hoping for a Hungarian Day celebration in May 2022. In the meantime, Montgomery has made such strong links with the Magyar Cymru group, through the Building Bridges initiative, that many more people are aware of the vibrant Hungarian connection and ‘The Bards of Wales’. The town has also developed an affinity with the ‘Welshest village’ in Hungary, Kunágota. Given the interest, the Town Council determined to erect the plaque as soon as possible, in advance of a future official unveiling. The Arany plaque is now mounted in its beautiful oak frame made by Powis Sawmills. The community garden at the foot of a path to the Castle is the ideal location and the plaque is already attracting and intriguing many visitors. A short greeting to the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association and good wishes for the upcoming Hungarian concert in Cardiff has been filmed with the plaque as the perfect backdrop, by Lydia Bassett and Jill Kibble (members of the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association) and Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier. Photo (L-R): Lydia Bassett, Executive Director of Mid Wales Opera; Cllr Jill Kibble, Mayor of Montgomery; Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier, photographed during filming of the greeting.
Author Cari Davies, who grew up in Montgomery, has published her debut novel, “On the Border”, explaining that her Welsh family, and the community and town of Montgomery, were the springboard for her imagination. Cari Davies is the pen name of Sheila Hawdon, who chose to use her Welsh maiden name as she wrote the book, described by one reviewer as "a love letter to the landscape of the Welsh heart". Sheila grew up on Stalloe Farm, Montgomery, with her sister Philippa, who not long ago was President at the Montgomery Show, and both girls shared a love of acting with their mother Clara, who was a cup-winning tennis player as well as a leading light in amateur dramatics. Sheila’s father, Philip Davies, was Mayor of Montgomery and High Sheriff of the County as well as vice president of the NFU in London, though his heart was always in the farm and Montgomery. Sheila has had a varied career as an actress, drama teacher, psychotherapist, and now writer, and is married to the actor/playwright and novelist Robin Hawdon. The pair are currently in Australia, with hopes to return to Wales when covid restrictions are lifted. Sheila has been in touch with Montgomery residents over social media, some of whom remember her parents and family, and many are keen to read the novel. She says, “Stalloe farm is just outside Montgomery - on the border so to speak - which inspired me to write ‘On the Border’. The book is fictional but has authenticity.” “On the Border” is the tale of a young girl who struggles to decide whether to stay in the Wales she loves, or go over the border to try her luck in the wider world. Sheila explained, “It is set in the 1950s, heading for the ‘swinging sixties’ in London, and explores how we come to make such decisions - which is no easy matter, particularly when fate will keep intervening.” The book can be purchased from Cambria Publishing, whose website includes more reviews, as well as being on Amazon and Kindle, and available to bookstores through Ingram, so you can also call into Montgomery Bookshop (Eaves & Lord) to order it.
The performance from the Dragon Big Band on 1st September was a real occasion for Montgomery in a number of ways. Not only did it see the very welcome return of live music to a highly appreciative audience, but it also marked a symbolic return of a band that started life in the town 25 years ago. Former owner of the Dragon Hotel, Mark Michaels, recalled how the band was started by Montgomery resident, Ivor Tanner, a former local dance band leader and trumpeter, along with professional trombonist, Paul Munnery. Mark remembers how, after many a night of Paul and Ivor sitting In the bar swapping musical anecdotes and bemoaning the fact that there was no live music in Montgomery, he persuaded them to give it a go and "The Montgomery Irregulars" were born. They played in the Dragon Coachway until the function room was created. Mark reminisced, “I remember well how Paul played with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He usually managed 8 pints and at least 20 cigarettes before 11pm. At that time the style was more trad jazz than big band and we had up to 23 musicians playing at any one time from keen beginners to seasoned professionals.” “A notable occasion was when Stéphane Grappelli's guitar player, 'Diz' Disley, asked anonymously to sit in, a most unassuming looking chap in a tatty mac with a battered old guitar case. He had roots around Montgomery and had always wanted to play with Ivor. He didn't have to give his name, his artistry was all. It lifted the band - they'd never played like it - the word went around and the room was full within 15 minutes.” The Dragon Big Band went on to play regularly at the Horse and Jockey in recent years with only an occasional visit to Montgomery but the town is delighted that the band has now come home to Montgomery in the great acoustics of the refurbished Town Hall. The Dragon Big Band has a further date booked for Wednesday 15th September, from 8 until 11pm in the Town Hall Lower Floor, and plans further dates for the autumn. No tickets / £5 suggested donation at the door.
As there was no Show on 21st August 2021, a small group was formed to organise a community picnic on the recreation field on the same date. Along with food and drink vendors James Peake, Dairy Dreams, Montys Brewery and Old Monty Cider, the community were invited to bring their own picnic and gazebo as required. Looking ahead at the weather forecast it was at one point looking pretty doubtful whether the event would go ahead, but as the afternoon came closer the forecast improved, the rain kept off and some 160 members of the Montgomery community turned out to enjoy some long-awaited catching up, good food and drink, and good company. Friends of Montgomery Play Park displayed information about the proposals and fundraising for the new play park and the event included a grand raffle, entertainment and games for the children. Well over £275 was raised towards the playpark and The DPJ Foundation, one of the Mayor's charities for this year. Three resourceful younger community members, Finlay, Woody and Toby, organised their own football goal game and raised nearly £40 for the playpark. Mayor Jill Kibble, who was part of the group who organised the event, said, "After all these long months of cancelled events this really felt like a fresh beginning and a return to community life. It was good to see Montgomery friends and families relaxing and enjoying themselves together. Next year will hopefully see the return of Montgomery Show and, if the Friends of the Playpark are successful in their funding bid, the recreation ground may well have a unique new playpark for the town." The Montgomery Energy Group bicycle recycling scheme brought a selection of free bikes to the recreation field, and 13 proud youngsters selected and took away a new bike from the picnic. The Montgomery Show committee and other organisers would like to thank all those that helped in making the afternoon a success and all those vendors that braved the weather and provided some good quality local produce. Show information here: Montgomery Show
Mae Clwb Eiddew, grŵp darllen Cymraeg yn Nhrefaldwyn, wedi bod yn cyfarfod yn wythnosol ar Zoom dros y deunaw mis diwetha, ond ym mis Awst, cymeron nhw hoe fach o Zoom, a chynnal eu cyfarfod cyntaf go iawn cyntaf ers misoedd. Dwedodd Julie Pearce, trefnydd y clwb, “Am bleser mawr fynd am dro efo criw bach i fyny i Gastell Trefaldwyn a sgwrsio am y llyfrau dan ni ‘di darllen yn ddiweddar.” Mae’r grŵp yn gobeithio cyfarfod unwaith y mis eto yng Nghaffi Tŷ Eiddew o fis Medi ymlaen, ac maen nhw’n bwriadu cyfarfod ar Zoom unwaith y mis hefyd. Dwedodd Julie, “Dan ni’n darllen ‘Llwch yn yr Haul’ gan Marlyn Samuel mis yma ar gyfer ein cyfarfod cyntaf nôl yn y caffi.” Cysylltwch â Julie (Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org) neu Denice yn y caffi am fwy o fanylion. Clwb Eiddew, a Welsh book group in Montgomery, has been meeting weekly on Zoom over the last 18 months, but in August they took a break from Zoom and had their first real meeting for months. Julie Pearce, the club’s organiser, said, “What a pleasure to go for a walk with members of the group up to Montgomery Castle and to chat about the books we have read recently.” The group hopes to start meeting once a month again in The Ivy House Cafe from September onwards, and they intend to meet on Zoom once a month as well. Julie said, “We are reading ‘Llwch yn yr Haul’ by Marlyn Samuel this month for our first meeting back in the cafe.” Contact Julie (Julie.email@example.com) or Denice in the café for more details.
Members of St Nicholas’ Church have been busy researching, recording and sharing stories of the Church through the centuries with support from a 15 Minute Heritage grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The Church now has three new bilingual panels telling the stories of Sir Edmund Mortimer and Catrin Glyndwr, as well as the Herbert family and their global influence, connecting Montgomery to the history of the wider world. Church members have also made films with local people, collecting their memories of the Church and their relationship to the building and its history. The trailer for the films is now on the Church section of the Town’s website starring lots of familiar faces from the Town at https://www.montgomery-wales.uk/church/nicholas/index.html Montgomery Church in Wales School has been working on the Montgomery Lives project led by composer-musician, Ian Morgan-Williams, and poet, Pat Edwards. Ian and Pat worked with the children to share the stories of Catrin Mortimer and Magdalen Herbert, and to think about the roles they and other remarkable women had played in our history. Pat wrote a poem focussing on how we learn from our ancestors, which Ian put to music and the children learned. A recording of the song sung by the children, with the words, has been shared on the Montgomery Wales and Church Facebook pages. The children then worked on a choice of three writing exercises: a letter from Sir Edmund Mortimer asking Owain Glyndwr for Catrin’s hand in marriage; a poem about the view from Montgomery Castle; or a speech to motivate either Glyndwr’s army or Thomas Herbert’s navy before impending battle. The work will be part of a display in the Church celebrating the end of the project, once the Church is able to reopen fully. [Photo by Adam at G17]
Montgomery has a lot to offer in terms of arts and crafts, with the Charter Market each Thursday, a pop-up arts and collectables shop every Thursday and Saturday in Broad Street, and local artists and crafters being able to display and sell their pieces at the Ivy House Cafe. Denice Jaunzens, proprietor of the cafe and Montgomery’s post mistress, decided to host more arts and crafts in her cafe space to support other local businesses, provide interesting pieces for customers to see, and diversify her own business following the challenges of covid. Denice explained, “Covid changed the character and atmosphere of hospitality businesses, as well as meaning that I can only have two tables of cafe customers at a time. Hosting more arts and crafts has been a great use of my space and has given customers something to think and talk about.” Denice has always wanted the cafe to have a community feel. She said, “The Ivy House serves the community through the post office, and providing walk leaflets and information, and now I am displaying and selling affordable items made locally in the community too. The window displays, which are lit in the evenings as well, help to make Broad Street feel more vibrant for my Montgomery neighbours and visitors to the town.” Val Oram, who has her jewellery items on display at the cafe, said, “The cafe is a gem overlooking Broad Street which also supports local crafters by displaying a selection of hand-made items to browse and buy alongside its great food. I encourage everyone to shop local. You can support small businesses in your own community, and leave with a smile and a sparkle in your step.” Sharon Smith, who displays her Wild Welsh Wool pieces at the cafe as well as, like Val, bringing them to the Charter Market on a Thursday, said, “I was thrilled to be offered a window to display my Wild Welsh Wool items and very grateful to Denice for being given this wonderful opportunity. The cafe is a lovely, relaxing, friendly place with a great selection of crafts to buy. Montgomery is a delightful town which I like to support for all my shopping etc. Ivy House is my perfect place to sit and look out onto the town whilst enjoying a delicious cake and coffee.” Denice added, “Locals and visitors can consider Montgomery as a shopping destination throughout the year and when thinking of gifts. As well as lots of arts and crafts, there is also Bunners and the Book Shop.” Other local makers would be welcome to display at the Ivy House and can contact Denice on 07971 435157. Photo: Items from Sharon Smith’s Wild Welsh Wool on display in the front window at the Ivy House
Montgomery Town Council wants to run in an open and transparent way. Here is a graphic to show where the Council spent money during the financial year from April 2020 to March 2021. The accounts are available annually from the Clerk after auditing (usually around July each year). All council meetings, including those being held online, are open to the public. Town Council costs included e.g. the Clerk’s salary, admin costs, allowances and audit costs. Communications included e.g. the website, community news, and providing wi-fi. Town Hall running costs included e.g. utilities and insurance, maintenance and cleaning, and council tax, which the Council was disappointed to have to pay throughout mandated closure during covid. While the Town Hall was not available for all its usual uses, the Market took place in the hall for part of the year, and the toilets were opened as much as possible, and cleaned daily. Montgomery Town Hall was extensively refurbished in 2018-19 and the Council is now paying back the public works loan following this work. The planned transfer of the Town Hall to the Montgomery Community Buildings Preservation Trust (MCBPT) was put on hold due to the pandemic. Amenity and recreation costs included e.g. grass cutting, defibrillator maintenance, and necessary repair work to the playgrounds and at Whitegate Pool. The Destination Montgomery project was extended into this period with grant funding and no further income from the Town Council, and its expenditure was from its own bank account and so is not shown here. Note that the graphic shows proportional Council expenditure only. The Council’s main income in this year included the precept (portion of council tax), some limited Town Hall and market income, and some refunds of VAT and council tax from the refurbishment period. The Council also holds some ear-marked funds in reserve for particular planned spends. The Town Council’s income and expenditure were affected by the coronavirus situation, as were planned events and projects. Nevertheless, the Council had planned its budget looking at multiple scenarios and its contingency planning and decisions through the year were sufficient to avoid a deficit during the 2020-21 year.