Big day for Welshpool today. I live just six miles away at Berriew. As a child I lived seven miles away at Castle Caereinion. The town grew up on the side of the River Severn and it very much the 'gateway' to Mid Wales. Two other significant features of Welshpool are its proximity to the spectacular Powis Castle, and its livestock market which has served as a gathering point for the farms of central Wales, probably for centuries, where buyers from the English lowlands have come to view the bounty produced from the farmlands of my birth. It has a wonderfully preserved, under exploited cockpit as well. Today, we gathered together on the site where a spanking new livestock market is to be built, where local auctioneers, John Jones and Alan Davies together with Welshpool Town Mayor, Anne Holloway cut the first sod.
It rained. Mr Spencer Cooper, a man of epic tenacity was today's MC. For it was he who put the commercial package together. I hope he makes a few bob out of it. Probably no other person in the universe could have pulled the deal off. The Mayor began the speeches, followed by Lembit Opik, MP for Montgomeryshire, followed by Mark Kerr, Chief Executive of Powys County Council. I wasn't shceduled to speak, but was really pleased when Spencer asked me to chip in at the end. So I did.
I remember Welshpool 'Smithfield' (as we called it), as one of the first two locations to which I was taken from the farm when about 3/4 years old. One was to Borth on Sundays to play sandcastles, and the other was with my father to the 'Smithfield'. Pigs and chickens and ducks and geese were traded in those days. My future grandfather-in-law, Harry Ray, owned one of the firms of auctioneers that worked there. My father had once walked cattle to Welshpool for sale - and walked his purchases home. He was a shortish powerful man who worked incredibly hard to provide for my mother and the six of their children. Hard to believe that he died ten years younger than I am now. My grandfather had transported livestock to Welshpool on the train from Llanfair Caereinion. I almost made myself feel nostalgic.
Reason its a 'Big' day is that this was step one of the redesign of Welshpool. When the new market is finished, a new one way road system will be introduced, followed by major redevelopment of the existing market site, which includes a new Tesco - plus a lot more. This is to be followed by a Council sponsored 'Town Redevelopment Plan'. All of this will be done in the next 2/3 years. Also met Felix Gummer, Corporate Affairs Manager - Wales for Tesco, who had been invited. I want to meet him again for a decent chat. I assume he must be a good man because his father was one of the politicians I most respected. And then we all went for tea, as the giant earth movers got down to work.