In my current creative thinking around the subject of Hydrocitizenship, I am attempting to weave narratives which complicate our perhaps black and white view of farming activity. Using a narrative of compulsory dipping during the 70's to the early nineties, I draw out a story of ignorance: an ignorance of the OP chemicals that the government were asking farmers to use for twice yearly compulsory dipping, and an ignorance from farmer's about not only the chemicals, but how carefully managed the waste needed to be.
Gwilym explains how before the government grants were introduced 'willy nilly' in the post war period, farming was a much more social activity. Never profitable, but the farmers were their own masters, and they treated their land with respect. Farmers would look out for one another, helping each other out at shearing time to wash the sheep in the rivers, ploughing and 'plygu sietyn' hedge-laying. He suggests that had the grants during this period been for encouraging skills such as hedge-laying, stone walling, clearing ditches etc. the damage might never have occurred. It was during this time that grants were given for clearing hedges, spreading fertilizer, weed-killing etc. and of course, farmer's took the money; but with it came a change in attitude towards the occupation, and farming became less social and more interested in profitability.
Gwilym and I stood on the bridge over the river Ceulan, near his home. He mourned the loss of the fish in the river, and wanted to know why they were no longer there. I felt his sadness when he looked over at the clear water. Neither of us had a concrete answer...he told me that when they used to dip the sheep nearby, the river was full of fish. They stopped dipping fifteen years ago and he noticed about five years ago that there were no longer fish here. We walk back to his home, stopping to admire his yearling bulls who are still wearing their winter coats; their hair curled messily on their warm, fluffy heads.
In his house, I admire his collection of photographs on the wall; his many grandchildren and all of their achievements. Nestled amongst them, is a black and white image of his wife, and his wife's friend standing on the bridge that we've just visited; smiling elegantly for the camera. Gwilym talked about how early electricity came to Talybont, and how the mills were the reason for this. Hydro-electricity seemed to be common in and around the village at one point, he told me that he didn't understand why more small-scale hydro-electric schemes weren't installed locally instead of the wind turbines.
There are less of Gwilym's generation left in the local area now. Less farmers who have the skills that would have inevitably been a valued asset to any farming enterprise. Less farmers who remember such drastic changes in not only agricultural policy and agricultural innovation but also in the social aspects of the farming culture. In order to move forwards, we have to look backwards and try not to repeat the mistakes of previous generations.