In 1973 at the age of 16, I came to the hills above Tregaron, on a pony trekking holiday. I fell in love with the area, and my dream of living in Wales, and running a farm here was born………
37 years later I realized that dream, when we purchased Cwmgogerddan, our 62 acre farm, tucked into the hillside above the Cothi Vale, nr Llandovery.
Our farm sits midway up a valley, above the Cothi Vale. The farm house itself sits snugly tucked into the hillside, and has been here since at least the early 1700’s. We know this because the famous Welsh hymn writer, ‘Dafydd Jones’ was born here in 1711, Dafydd was the son of a drover, and he became one himself collecting, and walking cattle, sheep, and maybe geese to markets, possibly as far afield as Smithfield, London. On his travels he began to write hymns, some of which are still sung in Welsh chapels today.
From the 1700s onward a man could only apply for a droving licence if he was over 30, married and a householder. Drovers were well rewarded for their skill, typically being paid two or three times as much as a humble labourer. They appear to have had several roles beyond transporting animals. Until the 19th century the few roads that existed in Wales were impassable for most of the year, so there was very little communication between the scattered hamlets, and the drovers were relied on as news carriers between the farms. Legend has it that it was from drovers returning from London that the Welsh learned of the victory at Waterloo in 1815.
Our land is all south facing, and rises steeply away from the house, culminating at a height of 1,081 feet above sea level, with the most spectacular 360 degree views, over the nearby Black Mountains/Brecon Beacons, and the Cambrian Mountain range. Up there it’s like being on top of the world, with buzzards, and red kites, sharing their sky with us. Beautiful when the weather is with us, but bitterly cold, and exposed when the snow and gales decide to visit. Our sheep are not stupid though, and seek out shelter in a natural dip in the land, ‘Penylan’, it’s the site of a ruined cottage, now merely a pile of stones, with an embankment built around it forming shelter that is protected from the worst of the weather.
Lower down the hillside we have Gorse bushes that grow naturally in various places, and our ewes use these bushes to protect their lambs from the wet, and the cold, pushing them under its cover, whilst standing guard, and keeping a watchful eye on their young.
Most of the fields are fed by natural streams, or springs, but its quick draining land that lends itself to sheep farming.
Further down across the lane from the house lies the farm yard, this is where our sheep spend the Winter months, as they come inside for lambing, usually around the 1st, or 2nd week of January, returning to the fields once they have lambed, from the end of February onward. A big feature of the farm yard is the natural pond, which has proved to be a life saver when winter temperatures plummet, and all our outdoor taps freeze up. The pond has never frozen over during our time here, and although it’s hard work we can always bucket out water from the pond to give to the sheep in the sheds. Our policy here is to farm with a very low impact on the land, our only form of mechanization is a quad bike, which is a vital piece of machinery, and apart from large jobs like muck spreading/ silage making/ hedge trimming, which is done by our neighbour, everything is done by man power, or in my case woman power!! I do have one employee however, without whom I could not manage the sheep, she is my ever faithful sheep dog Brynne, not quite up to ‘one man, and his dog’ standards, but a willing worker none the less. All our sheep are known to me, and when they come inside to lamb, it’s a good time to get reacquainted with them, they all have their little traits, some may have their favorite resting place in the shed, some may behave as if they are still lambs, and eye up the milk bottles with envy, that are intended for the lambs who need a little extra help, others will always pick the same spot to give birth, and some are just so bossy, but whatever their personality they are dependent on me, and I try to give them the best life that I can possibly manage…….. I love them all, and the wool that they provide. What clever animals they are.
We consider ourselves lucky to live in such a beautiful area, and encourage crafters attending our courses to walk around our farm, and discover it's delights for themselves.