Having considered my intention to reflect further on the communities displaced to make way for a reservoir, I decided to investigate further so that I might expand the scope of the project. There are 570 reservoirs in the UK with the largest being Rutland Water. There were many reservoirs created in the 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s, all create to meet the increased meed for water supply through the increase in population and the development of industry. I know that there were changes approved in parliament that made way for the easy construction of these reservoirs, and these parliamentary bills are something I need to research further so that I can fully understand the process that allowed the building of these reservoirs in the first place.
The following reservoirs, I have identified as sites where communities displaced to make way for the reservoir to meet these increased water needs.
- Tryweryn Reservoir – village of Capel Celyn, Liverpool Corporation, 1965
- Lake Vyrnwy – village of Llanwddyn, Liverpool Corporation, 188’s
- Haweswater Reservoir – village of Mardale Green, Manchester Corporation, 1935
- Thruscross Reservoir – village of West End, Leeds Corporation, (1966
- Ladybower Reservoir – village of Ashopton, Derwent Valley Water Board, 1943
- Derwent Reservoir – village of Derwent, Derwent Valley Water Board, 1943
I am also interested in the Elan Valley Reservoirs created by Birmingham Corporation to provide water to Birmingham this may well become an extension to this project. I have applied once for a residency in the Elan Valley and hope to apply again next year (2019).
Having the need to spend some time at a location for me to get a sense of the physicality, I decided to organise a weekend of site visits. A lot of miles, but well worth the time. Over one weekend we visited Haweswater, Thruscross, Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs where I collected photographic evidence and had the opportunity to gain the essence of the energy around each of the reservoirs. Continuing this, I soon plan to re-visit Tryweryn and Lake Vyrnwy too.
To form a link with my previous work, we set off armed with my whirly gig and some plain white shirts used previously a clear reference to the domestic reasoning behind the creation of these reservoirs and was a good creative link for me to use to help with my thought process.
At Haweswater, it was very clear to me that the Water Authority did not want people to have access to the reservoir. However, the reservoir walls built a long time ago had somewhat disintegrated, we jumped over to record some footage. Whilst I was at Haweswater, I felt very on edge and unsettled, feeling very nauseous too – more reflection needs to take place for me to understand why this might have been.
It was clear that the water level at Haweswater was low; however, it did not appear to be that low. We did not drive to the end of the reservoir where we may have seen some of the remains of the village – at that point, I was under the impression the reservoir levels would be too high to see anything.
It was only when we arrived at Thruscross; I saw how low the water had become for some of these reservoirs. We visited Thruscross twice over the two days. To be honest, Thruscross on paper was the reservoir I was least interested in – I had not completed a lot of research for here and believed that the reservoir filled long after the community had left. However, a discussion with someone who remembers being in West End as a child revealed a different story. A community was indeed, displaced by the reservoir here and bodies exhumed in the process.
Upon our first visit to Thruscross, we crossed the dam and made my way down to the edge of the water where we set up and took some photography. On the way back up to the water line I noticed there were many fragments of pottery and rusty pipes, along with walls and foundations – signs of buildings and daily life in a place where life had not existed for a very long time. At the time, I felt this was the site of the mill but later discovered that this had been a sailing club in the past.
The next morning we returned to Thruscross with the intention of walking the opposite shore to where we had been the day before and this yielded some interesting insights. Signs of buildings and the village of West End along the shore, and the further we walked towards the point where the river meets the reservoir it was clear that this was indeed the site of the village and the mill. We were able to gather some interesting footage and spend time in a place that is usually submerged.
To make way for the reservoir many trees were cut down along the shore. These trees are clearly normally below the water line. However, the effect of being underwater has washed away the dirt around them exposing their roots and they still clearly show the marks from being cut down, some fifty-odd years ago. I found these tree stumps fascinating as to me they reflected a memory of a life that existed prior to the reservoir that had simply and brutally been cut short/down. I have much inspiration to work with sculpture here. They remind me of creatures that roam the woods and appear like they are crawling out from the water – Wildlings!
Our last visit of our trip Ladybower where the water was exceptionally low and remnants of Ashopton very visible although not easily accessible, however when we arrived in the Derwent valley, where the Derwent reservoir has reduced to just a small river surrounded by foundations and remnants of the village of Derwent that was. What appears to be whole building is visible, I think this may have been part of the church and many people were there wandering about in the mud and sludge at the base of the reservoir. What was apparent to me was the vastness of this reservoir and the fact that the recent rain has done little to replenish the water levels. I set up my trusty whirly gig where it was not too muddy and shot some photography.
This visit has made me very excited to visit Tryweryn again as I am sure the water levels there will still be low too. The footage I have taken is both in colour and in monochrome, however at the moment, I feel the monochrome is more effective as it gives a feeling of nostalgia and timelessness, a long since forgotten or seen past.