EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 41 Summer 2019
Well, after wondering if our unusually hot, dry spring was a sign of global warming, our summer seems to have settled into its usual unpredictable state albeit on the fine and dry side as I write this introduction. Summers were always fine in our childhood memories and Gaynor Waters evokes some wonderful memories of cinema going in Llanidloes in the 1950s and 60s.
Still in Llanidloes, the annual exhibition of quilts is a great visitor attraction and Chris Shercliff, a trustee of The Quilt Association gives a fascinating account of its history and some of the exhibits. Diana Ashworth takes to the choppy waters on a brief visit to Bardsey Island, hunting the chough. Does she find one? You will have to read and out.The centenary of the 1st World War and its aftermath continues to affect our lives and in this edition Peter Francis takes a journey across mid Wales using the war memorials as markers. So many names on them, so many young lives taken.The life of the First Lord Davies of Llandinam was also touched by the 1914-18 World War, so much so that he was driven to campaign for the formation of the League of Nations to try and prevent a future war. This and his many other activities are touched on in this excerpt from Peter Lewis. Fishing is an integral part of life in rural mid Wales and Val Church looks at the impact of the Vyrnwy dam on the migration of trout and salmon at Dolanog.
Time was when every other vehicle you saw on the roads in mid Wales was a Land Rover. Not so now with a huge variety of 4x4s to choose from, Brian Poole has fond memories of the Land Rover and its workhorse capacity and he takes us through them with illustrations which will surely bring back memories to many of us as well. It was a magpie and a buzzard that stopped Lawrence Johnson in his tracks in the hills above Carno and Trefeglwys and he found himself musing how nature gets along very well, much better in fact, without us. This observation is certainly reinforced by Gareth Morgan’s account of the proposal in 1966 to make a reservoir out of the Dulas Valley with a dam at Tylwch to provide water for the south east of England. There was a vigorous campaign against it in which he, along with several other legal professionals, such as Emlyn Hooson, gave their services for free to ensure the project would not go ahead. Marian Harris, born and bred in the Dulas Valley, has written a book about it which was published in April this year and reviewed in this edition by Chris Barrett. Meanwhile Gareth himself has written a two-part article for PenCambria about the event and in this issue he looks briefly at the history behind flooding valleys of Wales to supply water to English towns and cities and the preliminary build up to the Public Enquiry, which will be the subject of his article in the October edition.
Phil Brachi discovered the magic of mid Wales some 40 years ago when he made a new life here for himself and his family. The Upper Cledan Valley is his special place and here he found many things that challenged his severely intellectual outlook on life, not the least being the Tylwyth Teg, those faerie phenomena that just catch your eye when you’re looking the other way… Life along the Montgomery Canal continues to thrive and Michael Limbrey has us a report on the progress of its restoration and the annual triathlon event held there and filmed for television in May this year. It is part of the Restore Montgomery Canal! Appeal, which in 2018 was enhanced by the appearance of Timothy West and Prunella Scales.
Mid Wales Arts Centre has a full programme of exhibitions of paintings and sculpture this summer, and sculpture, pottery and printing workshops for adults and children. A Poetry Party in September will be great fun, so do along if you can. The King’s Rent Hole and the Red Lady of Paviland are our topics from the Royal Commission this month. Read the article to find out what they are about.In the Dragon’s Crypt a surprise at the Show from Bruce Mawdesley, summer musings from Julia R. Francis and from Norma Allen, a story based on the tale of the man who was wrongfully hanged in Montgomery in 1821 and whose grave has been a source of mystery ever since. Enjoy your read. Gay Roberts PenCambria Editor and Founder
CONTENTS PenCambria 41
- Llanidloes Cinema Gaynor Waters
- The Quilt Association, Llanidloes Chris Shercliff
- Bardsey Island Chough Hunt Diana Ashworth
- How We Remembered: the War Memorials of Mid Wales Peter Francis
- The First Lord Davies of Llandinam: part II Peter LewiS
- Trout and Salmon in the River Vyrnwy above Dolanog Val Church
- Remembering the Land Rover Brian Poole
- We Do Not Belong Lawrence Johnson
- The Dulas Valley Victory and the Treweryn Factor – book review Chris Barrett
- Dam Tylwch and Flood the Dulas Valley Gareth Morgan
- A View from the Hills : Little Wing Zöe Spencer
- The Truth Fairy Phil Brachi
- Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust
- The King’s Rent Hole; the Red Lady of Paviland Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
Article in PC 41 selected by the Editor to be reproduced in full on this website:
DAM TYLWCH AND FLOOD THE DULAS VALLEY : The 1966 threat to build another reservoir in mid Wales: Part 1, by Gareth Morgan
As a solicitor, I found that once a case was closed and the decision made, it became a closed book. No more was heard of it. However, Tryweryn and the threats to flood the Dulas Valley do not to fit into that category. After 50 years or more they both still have a life of their own!
The year 2019 saw the publication of an excellent account of the campaign to save the Dulas Valley from being flooded. Entitled The Dulas Valley Victory, and the Tryweryn Factor. It has been written by Marian Harris, who was born and brought up in the Valley. The launch took place at Chatwood in Llanidloes on the 18th April 2019. It was a sell out. The story is still alive in the minds of many people. I doubt there has been a better book launch in Llanidloes; venue packed to the rafters, and many standing outside on the pavement.
The episode clearly still resonates with so many people. At the time I was often told that “all former attempts to stop the powerful machine preparing to flood your valley, had failed”. Mind you, I recollect someone telling me how David Lloyd George had been the only successful solicitor in this respect when an attempt was made to flood the Ceiriog Valley in an era lost in time. A part of our history never recorded in print. A big “Thank you” to Marian Harris for ensuring that the Dulas experience is recorded for posterity.
This publication seems to have revived raw memories of the many Welsh Valleys that had been flooded to supply water to English cities. The most celebrated was the drowning of the village of Capel Celyn in Merioneth in the 1950s to create the Tryweryn reservoir supplying water for the city of Liverpool. Prior to this there had been the construction of the Vyrnwy Reservoir in North Montgomeryshire to supply a city in England. Tryweryn, built in the 1950s, seems to have left the greatest hurt in the Welsh mind and memory. After 70 years it is still a sensitive point in Welsh history. I doubt it will ever heal. It has even prompted the construction of one of Wales’s most famous pieces of graffiti. On a roadside wall in Ceredigion near Llanrhystyd, there is painted on a lay-by wall the words “Cofiwch Dryweryn” “Remember Tryweryn”. These are poignant words, challenging everyone who passes on the main coast road never to forget how Capel Celyn was taken against the will of the people to satiate the needs of a large city in England.
Occasionally one sees film of the opening ceremony when a large crowd tried their best to disrupt the ceremony. Plaid Cymru had led and sustained a long campaign to try and stop the project. This was a period when Plaid was a rising political force even though it had not at that time seen anyone elected to Parliament as its representative. It also led to the seed being sown that enabled the founding of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg, an organisation that has without doubt helped enormously to raise the cause for saving our language. It was against this background that we entered the 1960s and 70s in Wales. The Welsh conscience had been roused by Tryweryn. No other valley was to be flooded in Wales. If every Welsh Member of Parliament had voted against it, as was the case with Tryweryn, the huge majority of English M.P.s were more than enough to drive it through. Consider for a moment that all the Welsh M.P.s totalled a mere 36, in those days. Very small in number compared to the total of 650 members in the House of Commons. I mention this background, because it shows that political pressure alone was insufficient to stop the Parliamentary machine when it embarked on a programme to legislate enabling it to acquire the land to build a reservoir in Wales.
The early 1960s brought the news that the Severn River Authority, as it then was, had identified 24 sites in Montgomeryshire that were potential reservoir sites to supply water for the South East of England. There is some doubt as to whether this information had been made public at that stage. Later in 1966 it became publicly known that 29 sites in Montgomeryshire (including the Dulas Valley) were being examined as potential reservoir sites. These sites were being investigated on the instructions of the then Secretary of State for Wales the Rt. Hon. James Griffiths M.P. He was the first Secretary of State for Wales, a new office with a seat in the Cabinet, created by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He had set up a Welsh Water Committee to advise him on water matters. There also existed a Water Resources Board charged under the Water Resources Act 1963 with taking “all such action as they may from time to time consider necessary and expedient, or as they may be directed to take by virtue of this Act, for the purpose of conserving, redistributing or otherwise augmenting water resources in their area, or of transferring any such resources to the area of another authority”.
At this time industrial growth was expected to accelerate along with significant increases in population in the south east of England. The Central Electricity Generating Board was by now responsible for the investigation and selection of sites in both England and Wales for large sources of water to meet future demand for water abstraction from the river Severn to provide water for electricity generating purposes. At the time, demand for water was growing year by year for cooling purposes at power stations. It is believed that there was a need to double the daily flow of water over the measuring gauge on the Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire. That gauge still plays a vital part in Severn river flows from the Clywedog reservoir outside Llanidloes. There is a statutory obligation in the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Act of 1965 to maintain a minimum flow over the gauge. In 1966 it was stated that future demand as then estimated required a daily flow of 300 million gallons of an “unfailing supply” of cold water. The high rainfall in Montgomeryshire coupled with its topography, and low population, classified the County as a suitable area to conserve water to meet the future demands of England.
Publication of this information produced huge concern and considerable unrest in the County. The then M.P. was the Liberal Mr Emlyn Hooson Q.C. who had been elected in a by-election in 1962 following the death of his predecessor the Rt Hon. Clement Davies Q.C. who had been the Leader of the Liberal Party for many years. There was so much consternation, that a county wide defence committee was created comprising representatives of all the areas affected. The Secretary was Mr R.P. Davies the County Secretary of the Farmers Union of Wales all under the Chairmanship of Mr Leslie Morgan the owner of an agricultural engineering business and ironmongers in Llanfair Caereinion.
The Dulas site was not only situated in Montgomeryshire but it also extended into Radnorshire close to the village of Pantydwr. The main dam or buttress was proposed to be erected adjacent to Tylwch rocks. In view of the inclusion of part of Radnorshire, the Labour Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnor, Mr Tudor Watkins was a member of the Defence Committee. Mr Watkins was the member from 1945 until the early 1970s when he retired and became the first Chair of Powys County Council. By this time he had been elevated to the peerage, becoming Lord Watkins of Glantawe. He was known for his diligence as an M.P. and for the care and attention he gave to his constituents.
The arrival of crisis point, that is the threat posed by 29 reservoir sites, led to Emlyn Hooson Q.C. the distinguished member for Montgomeryshire obtaining an emergency Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on Friday the 27th May 1966. Mr Hooson delivered a masterful speech. A poignant sentence in his speech is worth quoting:
“ in response to a request of mine, the Authority (Severn River Authority) sent me a plan on the 8th April and I think that all who have seen it will agree that it is a horrific document in itself because it purports to show, by way of illustration, about one-third of the land surface of Montgomeryshire under water.”
He went on: “ In the hearts and minds of most of the people affected it was a preliminary step which would eventually lead to the submergence of their valleys. The production of the map and plan, more than anything else, had a deep psychological impact on the population of the area. I feel justified in saying that in many cases people have been caused needless anxiety and fear by these proposals.”
He concluded: “ It would be a great help if the Secretary of State (now The Rt. Hon Cledwyn Hughes Labour M.P. for Anglesey) were today to make the authoritative statement which I have asked for as to precisely what the Government’s policy is and what kind of proposal he would definitely not even consider on sociological and economic grounds. It might be possible for him to announce today the elimination of these sites from any further consideration. I hope he will do so.”
An English poet wrote:
“ Breathes there the man, with soul as dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!
Never was this matter so well expressed, even though it was expressed by an English poet. It expresses the feelings of many of hundreds of my constituents who are affected by this proposal.
The Member of Parliament for Denbigh Mr W.G. Morgan also spoke in support of Mr Hooson. In his reply the Secretary of State made some cogent comments for example “ I am quite sure that the Welsh Committee (the Water Committee) and the river authority will take the most careful account of the sociological objections before they make any final recommendations……. Let me say now, so that there may be no more misunderstanding or further misconception, that as Secretary of State for Wales I do not propose to consent to the drowning of any villages in Mid Wales ….. I can assure the hon and learned Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman the member for Denbigh that communities count as far as I am concerned. The need for preserving first-class agricultural land will also be very much in my mind”.. The Secretary of State concluded “I intend to see that the interests of our country and its people are fully safeguarded. This is my responsibility and privilege as Secretary of State for Wales.”
What was the result of this debate and these assurances extracted by Mr Emlyn Hooson? We know that Secretaries of State change from time to time and even though they have a seat in the Cabinet, they may not be there for too long. Cledwyn Hughes did in fact deliver good news. It did appear on reading the debate that some lessons might have been learnt following the Tryweryn debacle. In September 1966 it was announced that no less than 19 sites were eliminated, but this left a further 10 in the melting pot. Further investigations were carried out by Binnie and Partners Consulting Engineers who then reduced the number to 6.which still included the Dulas Valley. The latter was presented in the form of two different projects, still in the valley but differing in capacity.
After much deliberation by the promoting authorities ( there were several representing their area of benefit, with the Severn River Authority as lead authority supported by the Water Resources Board) the decision was made to publish an application for consent under section 67 of the Water Resources Act 1963 for compulsory powers to carry out trial borings at Tylwch near Llanidloes in connection with the proposed Dulas Regulating Reservoir. At this stage it was clear that 17 farmhouses and their outbuildings were to be inundated as well as 6 other residences and a further 20 farms were to be affected by land acquisitions. The Severn River Authority admitted “disturbance would be relatively high and disruption appreciable”. That was an understatement if ever there was one. In fact 50% of the valley with a total population of 380 persons was to be affected.
Shortly after this a draft Order was published by Severn River Authority, and the date of the Public Enquiry to consider the application was announced. At this the stage the Dulas Defence Committee had no legal representation and at most about 6 weeks before the hearing. This called for urgent action. This will be outlined in part 2 of the story.