Sunday, 15 August 2010

'Wind in & out of unwholesome lungs/time before & time after...'

Ah there's a T. S. Eliot line for every occasion (see Bontgoch conversations below for relevance...)

Day 6 & Sara (my collaborator, the film maker) has told me about a family who live right below the Rheidol wind farm & are positive about the turbines. I'm keen to talk to them, because so many people who like them say 'but I don't think I'd want to *live* by them'...

We make hasty arrangements to meet at their house when they get back from town later that morning.

Meanwhile I get the bus to Bwlch Nantyrarian then take a section of the Borth-to-Devil's Bridge route up to the turbines on the common. I photograph massive pylons (oft-cited as the landscape eyesores much less appealing than turbines but to which we've all become accustomed) and an e.on sign which helpfully tells me the make, number and size of the turbines but also says 'no unauthorised access'. This worries me as the map says this is open access land, so when I'm trudging up the hill & hear a car horn behind me, I'm half expecting to be in trouble: i'm not, it's Marie & family, who then walk up the hill to be interviewed right under the turbine.

The Sustainable Development Commission wind power booklet i'd been reading the night before says 'it's possible to have a normal conversation with someone while standing underneath a turbine without either of you having to raise your voice'. This is certainly true - though perhaps not the most normal of conversations - when I ask what they'd paint on a turbine the children all respond 'a rainbow'.

Back down at Nantyrarian visitor centre I interview the Forestry Commission ranger who says on cold, still days the red kites (who are fed at the centre) are canny enough to perch on the unmoving turbine blades, but not fly near them when operational.

Stupidly, too lazy to read the map, I end up following way markers which take me down a tortuous mountain bike track winding up & down the hill. Out of the forest, I pass lakes at Pendam, along Blaenmelindwr & Syfydrin out onto the hill opposite Craig y Pistyll. Now we're in Bontgoch lead mining country, an industry which I realise (belatedly, because it's obvious) had a huge impact on these landscapes & the health of these communities, surely far more destructive than wind energy even in its least positive light.

This is confirmed by an interviewee in the village - a retired lecturer in agriculture who taught in Hampshire & north Wales but was born here in the late 1920s - who talked of the graveyard full of miners who never saw 40, 'their lungs full of dust'. The turbines he sees from his window he uses as a barometer to tell which way the wind is blowing & where the rain will come from. He tells me he'll have to trim his hedge soon so they don't become obscured from view.

It was bumping into this same man on a walk earlier this summer that had given me the inspiration for this project & we talked for a long time about differing agricultural practices, the changes in rural living, transport, school & how much knowledge of self-sufficiency has been lost. He showed me his impressive veg garden, marrows, cabbage, leeks, rhubarb, raspberries (I shared a recipe for the best ever barley & raspberry porridge with rosehip syrup but not sure he was impressed) & carrots grown among the onions for the first time to thwart the carrot fly. We talk about the benefits of companion planting (I can hear my friends laughing at this: all my gardening knowledge is purely theoretical) & he says you have to live a lifetime to find out all these things by trial & error.

A friendly chat with a mountain biker about countryside access as he cycled along at walking pace next to me for a while. Then up onto the hill to look at the turbines: I choose these for the filming site. There are mountains behind & sea in front & a Tir Gofal open access area under two of the turbines.

From here I can see Aber, Clarach where I grew up, the turbines at Rheidol where i've come from that morning & the turbines at Llangwyryfon where I'm going.

It's all starting to make some kind of sense...

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