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Irrigation.jpg 

The real news currently is all about the drought that NSW is now encumbered with. Without doubt this is a serious drought. Without doubt the response from ordinary Australians has been exceptional. I love this about all Australians!

During a moment of reflection I recalled memories of being on the family Dairy farm in Berkshire, (pronounced Bark, not Burke), England, where throughout the Seventies, (yes, the 1970s), even England had its fair share of droughts; one in 1976 springs to mind.

Our farm was situated on rich gravel bearing land, which meant that natural drainage was excellent; excellent that is if you weren’t relying on the subsoil to retain the moisture to ensure the grass grew, as opposed to it seeping directly to a nearby pond (dam)!!

As such we resorted to using an artificial irrigation system, aptly called ‘Wright Rain’, named after its founder Jack Wright. (See image above). You can imagine the fun my siblings and I had playing under the spray from the sprinklers! Well we weren’t close to any beaches!

My first paid job was helping my Dad move the ‘sprinkler pipes’ every 4 hours to ensure the whole field (paddock) received the required 6 inches of water to maintain grass growth.

In 1976 I clearly recall letters of angst being sent to my Dad, to the Newspapers and to local politicians, up in arms that we were wasting precious water resources by irrigating our land. 

This ‘perception’, as that is truly what it was, being exacerbated by a local farmer, experimenting with the latest leisure pursuit of Hot Air Ballooning, cruising over our land taking photographs of our ‘Oasis among the neighbouring parched lands’. Not that the neighbours were actually parched grazing lands, as they were actually golden corn fields which had just been harvested, leaving behind the golden brown stalks in readiness to become bales of straw. 

It became so bizarre, that we even had to erect signs along the roadside advising motorists travelling on the A4 from Bath to London, that we were using recycled water, (as simply the water we were applying was filtering through the gravel, back into the ponds/lakes/dams from which we were then pumping the irrigation water).

Fortunately the then Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Peter Walker, and our local MP, Michael McNair-Wilson, paid us a visit, taking full advantage of a photo opportunity, praising my Dad’s innovation in support of keeping the flow of milk to the populace of Southern England. All very dramatic, even pompous, but at least it removed the ‘heat of hostility’, allowing us to show our faces in the community, without feeling somewhat tarnished!

I recall this experience with a wonderful sense of fun, not to mention perspective. Country people have an enormous amount of self- respect, enduring hardship with an equal, if not greater, degree of stoicism, passion and self-belief not to be broken.

The more serious issues of mental health well-being still need to be addressed as a priority, to which I am extremely encouraged by the dialogue and actions being taken by the community, at all levels. Long may it continue! 

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