An event bringing together schoolchildren, civic leaders and heritage enthusiasts to mark 100 years since the first reservoir in the Elan Valley was filled, took place yesterday. Neil Connor went along to gauge the links between Birmingham and the community that provides its water

"Peace is flowing like a river," said Anthony Pierce, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.

"And so is the rain" he added standing in front of the drenched congregation.

If there was any doubt before why Elan Valley was chosen as the site to provide Birmingham's water, all that evaporated with the downpour which persisted throughout yesterday's event.

Water in the valleys, in the hills, in my shoes and on my notepad. It was no wonder, I thought, that I could always rely on something to come out when I turn on my tap at my house in Sheldon.

It was with thanks for this water that the great and the good of Birmingham's civic fraternity attended an event marking 100 years since water flowed over the lowest dam in the valley.

Thanks came from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, senior Labour councillors and local schoolchildren – but there was no leading members of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition that runs the city council.

Either council leader Mike Whitby or his deputy Paul Tilsley were excellent weather forecasters or they were fearful that the well-documented opposition to provide funding for a new heritage centre in Rhayader might make the situation a little awkward.

Coun Whitby claims his meeting in Birmingham with a senior Chinese official should take precedent. But the Lib Dem contingent in Rhayader were confused at the non-attendance of Coun Tilsley.

Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat welsh assembly member for the area, said: "I am deeply disappointed that the deputy leader of Birmingham City Council could not make the event, both as a local politician and a Lib Dem myself, but it is his loss as we have a great day despite the rain."

Richard Tyler, a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Powys, said he was "ashamed" that there was no Liberal Democrat member at the event.

Nevertheless, the links between Birmingham and this part of Wales run deep. Betty Davies, a 79-year-old who lives in Henfron on a farm which overlooks the dams in the Elan Valley, said her great grandparents watched from above as the valleys were flooded over houses that were part of her community. Families who – unlike the landowners – never received any compensation for the flooding of their homes.

But there was no ill feeling towards Birmingham, according to Mrs Davies.

"We are very proud of our links with Birmingham" she said. "It is so unfortunate that there has been very little to celebrate these links over the past 50 years."

Mrs Davies said that communities in and around Rhayader used to welcome Birmingham's Lord and Lady Mayoress at special ceremonies that marked links with Birmingham.

"All the boys were taught how to bow and the girls how to curtsey" she said.

People in the local community used to live in houses that were provided by Birmingham City Council. The church and the local school were also built by the city, which helped to give a sense of identity to those of a younger generation.

Mrs Davies said: "We used to stamp the sheep with the initials BC because they were being reared on land that was owned by Birmingham City."

The events recognising the links between the two areas stopped in the 1950s. no-one quite knows why. But to develop these links further it was thought a new heritage centre at Elan Valley should be built.

Within this, Birmingham's influence in creating the Bournville-style Elan village would also be celebrated. This concept was originally opposed by council leaders, although they later agreed to provide #20,000 for the project.

The Rhayader community at yesterday's event said they were upset by Birmingham's indifference, but had welcomed the uturn.

David Evans, vice chair of Powys County Council, said: "I'm glad Birmingham finally saw common sense. I think the whole situation summed up how far apart our two communities had grown, but we now have time and the opportunity to bring us closer together again."