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16 October 2014

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A Year of Change

By Jane Jones
April 2002, Denbigh
A digital story from Capture Wales

A fearful time

As someone who lives on a farm, Jane Jones knows well the stresses and concerns the foot and mouth crisis forced on agricultural communities in north Wales.

In silent disbelief we hear the news... foot and mouth is confirmed in Anglesey.

It was February 2001. I'm a farmers wife and work for Vale of Clwyd Mind supporting people experiencing stress in rural Denbighshire. For two days I'm afraid to move from the farm; afraid of this thing we cannot see or touch or smell.

We watch every news broadcast and surf the net for weather forcasts, afraid the wind direction will change and blow the virus in from Anglesey or Powys or Cheshire... we are surrounded.

My phone starts ringing at home. Some people we already support and some we do not know... they want to talk... people do not want me coming to their farms.

We arrange to meet off the farm... at the end of the road; in cafes; in borrowed offices.

A school teacher phones me concerned about children from a farming family who haven't been to school for a week... I phone the farmer... he's too scared to let anyone in or out of the farm... afraid for the future of his prize winning cattle - less concerned about his children's education. The teacher doesn't see it this way...

I cannot persuade the farmer to break his siege... I understand his need to protect all that is precious to him.

I see another farmer... always a small he looks tiny and shrunken. I know it's a bad day...he hasn't changed his wellies to come and see me... a smell of sileage prevaids the office - I will have to find some air freshner before this evening's meeting.

I return home - afraid of bringing the virus with me and infecting our stock... we put straw and disinfectant at the end of the road - it blows away... we do it again.

The postman leaves the mail in a bucket at the end of the road... I keep a disinfectant spray in my car and spray my wheels throughout the day. We hear that disinfecting may not be effective but it makes us feel better - we are doing something to protect ourselves from this thing we called control.

12 months on... we are lambing again...we were lucky, so they tell us... we didn't get foot and mouth in Denbighshire. Around us, farmers are re-evaluating their lives... a decade of change forced into one year.

Things will not be te same again... they cannot.

Jane Jones

What's your background Jane?
I work for Vale of Clwyd Mind, supporting people with mental health problems. I work in the rural areas of Denbighshire. I am also a farmer's wife. My story is about the fear of animals contracting foot and mouth during 2001, and how this impacted on my work and home life.

Why did you chose to tell this story in particular?
A lot of attention has been focused on people in areas that got foot and mouth disease. I wanted to record the stresses and effects on people in clean areas. There is a perception that foot and mouth has gone away. However, for many, their lives have been changed permanently.

How did you find the experience of creating your digital story?
Hectic. Distressing. Emotional. Cathartic. Satisfying. Supportive. Fun. Creative.

The BBC is grateful to the University of Oxford for their permission to use the image of the foot and mouth virus in this story.

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