This week I met a delegation from Women’s Rights Network and Merched Cymru. We had an interesting and constructive discussion about women’s rights in Wales. Many women are worried about allowing anyone to self-identify as female. It would mean that women will find themselves sharing spaces which they would expect to be single sex – such as changing rooms, hospital wards and prisons – with people who are physically male. The campaigners are also concerned that health professionals are increasingly discouraged from challenging young people who question their gender and resort too quickly to prescribing medical treatments. The Welsh Government wants to change the law in the same way as the Scottish Government, to allow people to self-identify their gender without any checks. Yet despite wanting a far-reaching change to the law, Senedd ministers refuse to meet with Merched Cymru. When my colleague Laura Anne Jones MS raised their concerns in the Senedd, she was dismissed by First Minister Mark Drakeford as “shrill”. I strongly recommend people look at the website of Merched Cymru. Whether you agree with them or not, these are intelligent and moderate people. The grassroots group I met included a doctor, a retired senior police officer, two civil servants and a women’s refuge worker. They have every right to ask to have their views heard by those who are considering extensive changes to the law.
National Mills Weekend is an annual festival of our milling heritage and it was a great way to spend Saturday afternoon. I visited Mathern Mill in the village of Mathern near Chepstow, a Grade-II listed water powered corn mill dating back to at least the 17th century. It was once part of the St Pierre estate and although milling ceased in 1968, much of the Victorian machinery remains intact. Owners Janet and David Bowen, who bought the mill so they could open it to the public, told me they have done a lot of research and found information about past occupants of the mill who were not only millers, but also farmers and publicans. Until the advent of the steam engine, wind and watermills provided the only source of power for many different processes – from making flour, paper and cloth to hammering metal and extracting oils. I didn’t quite realise just how important they were. There are many stories to tell about Mathern Mill and the people who lived and worked there for over three centuries. With audio and visual displays, it is a fascinating insight into the milling process, the role of the miller and the social history of the time.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 17 May 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 18 May 2023*