Back in August at a Traws link Cymru meeting, committee member John announced he had an idea, “ how about we clear the old station at Pont Llanio?I know the guy who owns it. It’s not been developed, he uses it for storage” all the members, were enthusiastic about this, so we arranged a site visit.
On the 23rd October 2014 we got permission to do an inventory of the site. We arrived in the village of Pont Llanio, not far from Tregaron. It was a early in the morning and nobody was about.
We pulled up to the entrance to be met by an enormous abandoned milk factory that dominated the yard as we entered.
As soon I saw the building I felt exhilarated. I began to have idea’s for a site specific dance and performance. A multidisciplinary performance incorporating sound, projected visuals, lighting, spoken word, songs and dancers. was very excited!
During my research I will be focusing on Pont Llanio I wanted to know, how the factory operated? what had the working conditions been like? Had such milk plants been common? Who had worked in it? When did it close? Was it a directly related to the closer of the line? what were the feelings of the factory workers when was the last freight train was loaded with the milk? When was it’s last run? What was the village like when the factory was going strong? what sounds/noise came from the site?
An interesting fact that Ceredigion was known as “very milky Ceredigion” but at one time the people could not afford their own milk to drink or to make into cheese, instead theyhad t sell it to Liverpool or London.This fact made me wonder who remembers drinking the milk that came from Pont Llanio and about the London dairies?
I spent such a long time observing and walking in and around the milk factory building that I almost forgot about the platform. The TLC group had already located the platform and it was my turn to discover it. The platform was completely barricaded off with brambles and we had to bash our way through with sticks.
Once through the brambles I entered onto a fully intact platform, with it’s stone top and walls.
I felt a huge energy surge, and again ideas for a performance flooded my imagination. Evoking more questions like, what did it look like when it was up and running? what buildings and shelters stood there? who caught the train? Where did it go? was it passenger or mainly freight?
I was told that a water tank still survived, and I was eager to see it. We had to walk a little further, bashing more brambles that had overgrown the platform. As I approached, it was the sound of rushing water I first sensed; it sounded strangely like the you were traveling on a train. Then WOW! There was this beautiful stone bridge, and then, across the track was the water tank, still holding water.
The sound I heard was the water running around the tank due to blocked pipes. This very elegant water tank used to fill locomotive boilers, and is still standing firm at Pont Llanio.
Walking back, a little further up the platform I explored part of the railway track that had been totally reclaimed by nature. Seeds had been blown onto the track, had taken root and were now 40-50 years old high.
I was struck by the symbolism of this relating to my project. Like seeds blown in the wind, ideas can take root in peoples minds and imaginations. And how seeds of change and or future growth waiting to emerge from within each and every person.
I was happy to see the trees and the thoughts and feelings that sprang from them; however, I was saddened at the prospect of them being cleared, feeling guilty and sorry for what many humans have done to this planet from the overfishing of the sea to the poisoning of the land to climate change. I needed to transform these sad thoughts, into positive thoughts out into my world. What comforted me was the belief that this railway line if reinstated will connect busy towns in Wales with a reliable rail link, reduce the strain on the roads, link north and south Wales, railways are more socially inclusive means of transport. I feel my project research will also look into the symbolism this line has regarding the economy and the necessity for new approach to doing business– a new economy, one that is driven by caring, sharing sustainability rooted in the soil, ideas of ethics and spirituality, not greed and ecocide.
A week or so later I met a lecture Dr Louise Ritchie a lecturer in theatre and performance at Aberystwyth University. After our conversation, we both felt that it was a synergistic meeting, as we are both involved in a train project. Louise applied for funding from Strategic insight programme, and we got it! I will be engaging I talks with louise and running workshops with the BA students. More information as and when it develops.
Thanks for reading