Photo by one of our guests, Darren Waters.....many thanks for letting us use it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Featherdown Farm Days at Pant yr Hwch

To stand a chance of becoming self sufficient in the coming years we needed to look at ways of supplementing our farming activities. Over the summer of 2010 we talked about the possibility of setting up a tourism based enterprise.......we felt that the location of Pant yr Hwch and its proximity to the Ceredigion Heritage Coast lent itself to tourism.
The enterprise would have to fit in with our farming activities and have a minimal impact on the environment. With little knowledge of the tourism sector we looked to work with an established tourism business who shared our ideals. Our search led us to Featherdown Farm Days as a possible option.
In early Autumn 2010 we were visited by Featherdown to assess our suitability to become a Featherdown farm, we visited an established Featherdown Farm and discussed in detail what was involved.
Together we decided to go ahead, the next few months involved a lot of negotiation with the planning authorities, approval eventually coming through in March'11. It was then a hectic perion to get the camp site ready, tent bases prepared, water and sewerage for each of the 5 tents, shower block and farm larder in the old cowshed.......we just made it in time for our planned opening date of 27 April'11, which was the school half-term holiday after Easter .....just as well as we were fully booked!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Farm Livestock & Crops

Ann and I were taking a lunch break in June 2009, sitting on the gorse bank looking down over our fields one day whilst we were working on restoring the cottage, we'd been so busy with the cottage we hadn't noticed how quickly the fields were being overun with braken, thistles and nettles......we needed to get the fields grazed......the label on bottle of beer Ann had bought for our lunch had featured the Torddu breed of a rare breed by native to the area, renowned for its hardiness, disease resistance and easy lambing.....just what we were looking for!
We had fenced off our bounday some time ago so that night we went onto the net and found the breed soceity web site....and as luck would have it one of the members was looking to sell 5 pedigree ewe lambs. Olwen, Olive, Olivia, Olga and Opera duely arrived.....the breed society allocate a letter alphabetically each year and lambs that year had to have names beginning with the letter "O"
The sheep settled in well but 5 ewes on their own had a limited impact on 10 acres of rough grass so in October we bough a pedigree ram to run with the ewes with the aim of getting the flock up to 12 or 15 ewes over the next 3 years or so ....this we have managed to do with 16 ewes going to the ram in Autumn 2011.
Some of the land we wanted to clear in order to plant fruit trees, field vegetables, etc. so we though about getting one or two pigs. Whilst reading the local paper I came accross a small ad for a pedigree Mangalitza (more commonly known as wooly pigs for their thick coats) gilt (young female)...if I'm honest I didn't have much clue about the breed but a bit of web research showed they are a hardy, easy breed to look after. The local breeder, John Addis from Dihewid, who was selling the gilt explained they were highly social animals and that it would be wise to get her some company.....we were put in touch with another local smallholder who was selling some Tamworth cross weaners these we'd rear for bacon and ham. Once we'd got the paddock fenced off and put together the pig ark Lulu the wooly pig arrived together with the two weaners and settled in well together....we havn't had any fruit and veg waste since!
In the spring of 2010 we put up a 20' x 14' polytunnel and fenced off a small garden plot to grow some of our own fruit andd veg.......the polytunnel went up too late to get the full benefit of its potential in 2010.....we also didnt get the borders properly dug and it was a disasterous jungle of weeds.....for 2011 we put in raised beds and benching and whilst we've a long way to go there have been good crops of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, parsley, carrots, cucumber, beans......
We bought 3 Silver Sussex point of lay hens and and a cockrel back in the Autumn of 2010. The flock was expanded in Spring 2011 with 9 Light Sussex point of lay of our Silver Sussex hens went broody during the Spring and produced 4 chicks....3 cockrels and 1 hen.
To complete our stocking so far, we were gifted 8 Call Ducks in Spring 2011 who spend their day on the farm pond....their contribution to date has been entirely decorative.....
Early Spring 2011 also saw us planting a small orchard with old Welsh varieties of apples, pears, cherry, plums and damsons.......unfortunately planting coincided with a dry spell and particularly busy time when we were getting the Featherdown tent site the trees did not get watered frequently enough and we lost quite a few.
The goal for our stocking and cropping is to be as self sufficient as possible, modern farm economics are such that a traditional smallholding like Pantyrhwch cannot be a viable farm business without diversifying. Historically Pantyrhwch had supplemented its farming activities with sand its traquility and setting lends itself to tourism and it was with this opportunity in mind that we began to explore possibilities over the summer of 2010.