Rural Wales – The Utilities

I’m sure I must have mentioned this elsewhere before, but one of the downsides to living here on the edge of Wales is the quality of the utility services. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t live anywhere else and the problems and shortfalls we face are a small price to pay. We don’t really live ‘out in the sticks’ so probably have it better than quite a few people around here, but I also realise that many people reading this (especially those from a city) won’t believe that there are many households out here who don’t have running water, mains drains, gas etc.

Quite a few people that I know get their water from a spring as they don’t have mains, and some of those springs dry up in the summer leaving them no option but to buy bottled water. Mains drains is another issue and many mnay houses out here don’t have mains drains but instead rely on septic tanks or cesspools. We’re lucky as we do actually have mains water coming into the house. Our problem however is the lack of mains drains, and in our case (which is unusual) the complete lack of any drains at all. This of course means that there is nowhere for out mains water to go so we can’t really use it.
We get by using buckets for washing up and washing and have hired a portaloo as the all important toilet. It lives in the back garden and gets emptied most weeks. It is actually quite nice having it there in the summer when we are sitting in the garden, but not so pleasant when nature calls in the early hours of a cold, wet and windy february morning! We have tried our best to get either mains drains or install a sewage treatment plant of our own, but Building Control seem to put hurdles in our way whener we start getting anywhere… Hopefully next year we will get something sorted (I’m sure we said the same last year).

So what of gas, electricity, and the phone? Well, there is no mains gas, no questions asked there just isn’t! We do have electricity, but it can be temperamental at times. We get fairly frequent power cuts, and every night at 9pm the power seems to be ‘turned down’ a little as all the lights dim. Last night things went a little weird too (which is what prompted me to write this). At around 3am lots of our appliances started beeping at us, so I got up to investigate. As I switched the lights on they would come on for a second then go out.. The night light in a socket in the hall was flashing, the phones, microwave and other things were constantly beeping, the computers had switched themselves off, but were trying to start up. Even stranger, some sockets would power certain applianes but not others, and some appliances would work in one socket but not another… We didn’t know what was going on, but it seemed as though there just wasn’t enough ‘juice’ so things were trying to switch themselves on but wouldn’t quite be able to, so would just keep trying over and over again hence the annoying and constant beeping!

In the end we phoned our electricity suppliers and got a man on the other end of the phone who was obviously asleep, but once we woke him up he did inform us that there was a low voltage problem that they were trying to fix. At least we knew it wasn’t a problem with our wiring or something so could go back to bed.. It was now 4am, not the best time to go back to bed knowing that Morgan would wake us up at 5.30am!

Still, at least when he did wake us up the electricity was off completely which is a much nicer situation than ‘sort of a little bit on’! In a way it is almost relaxing and there isn’t too much that goes wrong due to a power cut. The weather station stops updating to the internet, but the station itself and data logger have battery backups so no data is actually lost, and as long as the freezer doesn’t defrost it isn’t too bad.
Phones… Well, we do have a phone line and a broadband connection, but they too can be a little less than perfect, If it is windy (which it usually is) then the phones can be quite crackly and although the Broadband is supposed to be 2MB we don’t get much more than 1MB speeds through it…. When we first got this I thought it would be plenty, but faster would be better.

Overall our utilities aren’t great, but the views, lack of pollution, lack of traffic, fresh air, sea and mountains more than make up for them. I wouldn’t change that for the world, but wouldn’t say no to some improvements to the utilities either… Why can’t we have the best of both worlds??

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.