Day 1. 16 miles.
Bontgoch – Mynydd Gorddu – Bontgoch – Bow Street – Rhydpennau – Dole – Llandre – Rhydypennau – Bow Street
Treatment works – chapel house – wind turbines – holding tank – old school – building site – farms – housing estates – cafe – school – farms – housing estates – cottages – housing estates – bus stop
Well, people talked to me. (Of course they did. They always do. I worry too much.) About washing the car, deserts that were once oceans, coffee and crystals, rainwater harvesting, over-filling the kettle, magic, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, a three million year old drop of water in a piece of Chilean quartz, the use of water on building sites, tulips, the waste and laziness of buying bottled water, filling a saucepan with the not-hot-enough water while you’re waiting for the tap to run hot and using it later, the benefits of European showering, our over-obsession with cleanliness (or lack of it!), water wastage and OCD, and the taste of water from the hills.
So, an ongoing flow of ideas, thoughts, guilty water-use secrets, admissions, poetic imagery, water-saving pride, promises, platitudes and truths.
The overwhelming sense is that most people think about water and water usage: they know what they do right and what they’re doing wrong. But then (in my experience) acknowledging something we need to change is too often the first brave step that we spend so much time praising ourselves for, then do nothing about putting into action. (I am guilty of this a million times over.) So, the feeling I get from people is that agreeing to make a promise with/to a stranger – even if it’s to do something for a day, a week or a month – feels like a start, a token, stepping over the bridge of awareness into action. The cumulative power of small acts…and a sense that other people have made the same committment today. ‘Oh, there are other people out there doing this too.’
But why even save water in a wet country? The published reasons are manifold (the UK water industry consumes 8100 GWh per annum, 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and is the 4th most energy intensive sector in the UK e.g. see this Nature and Climate Change review article or this Environment Agency ‘essay’ collection) so the more you consume (or waste) the more energy it takes at both sides of the treatment process: ‘creating’ clean drinking water and treating/processing waste water and sewerage.
But it’s more subtle than that. One person I met yesterday was talking about a friend who’d visited Spain during a drought and when he returned to the UK, used much less water as a result. ‘Ah, so do you believe in magic?’ the person I met had asked his friend. Because, while conserving water in the UK won’t ‘magically’ help the water situation in Spain or Africa, there is something vital and ‘magical’ about the shifted mindset of responsibility to natural resources and the more-than-human world – ecologically oriented ‘citizenship’ – that we all need to cultivate and which might make a real difference. It isn’t the magic that is sleight of hand, but it is a ‘magic’ that is a massive shift of consciousness in the hive mind…
[For more images visit the Gallery]