Thursday 26 May 2011

Country Wedding Party

Earlier in the week I had long baking session as the young couple who have been staying in the cottage this week were here to be married and had asked for a large batch of cup-cakes for their wedding reception.
J. & M. arrived here from London on Saturday by public transport (it took them 11 hours!) to be married on Wednesday in Carmarthen Registry Office and then to have their wedding party here in the cottage garden.
While they were off doing the deed, the Farmer & I decked out the exterior of the cottage with bunting and set out tables & chairs with pretty tablecloths. The sun was shining but we did unfortunately, have a rather gusty wind blowing  but with the judicial use of clothes pegs we managed to keep the cloths anchored to the tables.
J. & M. returned very happily as a married couple during the afternoon, being brought back in a very smart open-topped BMW with the customary ribbons attached, followed by their small family party of about 12 people 'all in their best looks'. They then proceeded to have a very happy & relaxed party in the garden.
The bride & groom had wanted just a small simple wedding, out of London, and I am so pleased that they thought Penyrallt would be good place to do it and we were more than happy to help them have a lovely day, especially when J. said everything had been perfect!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

'A Sense of Place'; The Teifi Valley, West Wales

Yesterday I attended a workshop put on by Visit Wales for the Teifi Valley Tourist Asscociation ( entitled
 'A Sense of Place' the purpose of which was for the TVTA to learn how it may most effectively promote the Teifi Valley as a worthwhile tourist destination.
Of all the attendees I had lived in the area the longest (nearly 30 years) by having married a resident, everyone else had chosen to move here for the beauty of the area and the way of life it offered. It was fascinating to hear what people had to say about why they were drawn to this part of Wales.
For many it was the sense of re-connection to simpler values, a slower, more relaxed way of life and the great beauty of the valley.
We discussed the varied aspects of the area such as the rich history and the diverse artistic population that has come here, the artisan food producers, the Welsh language and its survival here and the fact that the Teifi Valley is a perfect base from which to enjoy easy access to Pembrokeshire, Cardigan Bay, the Cambrian Mountains and Carmarthenshire and of course the castles.
TheTeifi Valley stretches for 75 miles from the source of the River Teifi up in the Cambrian Mountains of Ceredigion to the estuary at Cardigan. Along those 75 miles there can be found a diversity of landscapes from empty moorland where only the sheep & the buzzards can be seen, gentle rich farmland & flat river meadows to impressive water-worn gorges and rushing torrents of white water with ruined castles & ancient religious houses, a university, old drovers inns and ancient market towns.
The TVTA will try to harness all this wonderful range of history, arts, food, landscape and the stories of the people who make & live in this part of Wales to make the Teifi Valley a recognisable region that people will wish to visit. Care will have to be taken however that we are not overcome by our own success and end up by West Wales becoming as over-crowded as Cornwall. It is a fine line to tread between having desirable and successful tourism on a sustainable level and mass tourism that will result in spoiling the area.

Monday 23 May 2011

Laburnum Hedges, Demise of a Peahen,

Despite the vile & unseasonable weather we are having at present, the farm is looking beautiful in its May-time glory. Yesterday we had a short respite from the blustering winds & rain and I was able to take photos of the laburnum, or golden chain, which grows in our hedges and looks so magnificent at this time of year.
Many miles of hedges in this area are planted with laburnum trees which have grown from fencing posts put in by the farmers many years ago. They pose no threat to livestock which is always a concern to people who see the hedges for the first time. Cattle just don't touch it.
The rain over the last few days has brought the growth on apace in the fields & gardens, though the winds have damaged certain of the garden plants, particularly the taller rambling roses & I have had to remove stems laden with buds as they been snapped off by the wind. The hedgebanks are full of pink campions, stitchworts and jack-by-the-hedge & the last of the bluebells, looking like a medieval tapestry.

The Farmer came in yesterday with the sad news that Hettie the peahen was dead. Having looked after her & Charlie all through the winter and seen them safely (we thought) released to wander around the farm it was a bit of a blow. We can find no reason for her death and she had even made nest a laid an egg. The Farmer had removed the egg as peacocks are notoriously bad sitters & mothers, and as we have a couple of broody hens the egg will go under one of them, so maybe we will get replacement for Hettie. Charlie meanwhile is still strutting around though rather less vocally than he has been I suppose because he no-one to screech at now. He was chased by one of the Labradors (who was soundly scolded) and I saw the extraordinary sight of a full grown peacock with his massive tail feathers trailing, flying across a meadow and landing up in a tree. He was most put out & spent the next little while sitting on a branch about 20 feet off the ground being tossed about by the fierce wind that was blowing, looking very foolish.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Peacocks, Lambs on New Grass, Lammas Project

Just before Christmas the Farmer acquired a pair of peacocks, Charlie & Hettie. In order that they did not try to return to their old home they were kept confined in a large and airy loft until it felt they had been here long enough not to make a runner. They were let out a week or so ago and have learned the lay of the land in their new surroundings very happily. Hettie is very unobtrusive and spends a lot of time back in the loft or in one of the cattle sheds while Charlie struts his stuff around the place with great presence and much shrieking. He was in the garden of the farmhouse the other day while we were having tea and through the windows we were able to see his magnificent display of the great fan of his exotically unlikely sight somehow in a Welsh farm garden, but quite stunning. Hettie was with him at this point and seemed totally unimpressed with his posturing and preeening!

Things are rather quiet on the farming front at present. Lambing has finished and the ewes with their tiny companions trotting alongside are all out in the fields. Lush new grass is now growing apace after the recent rain that fell in the last couple of days, much to Farmer's relief and the fields that have been shut up for silage are beginning to thicken up very nicely with the clover growing very well.

Yesterday the Farmer & I had an opportunity to visit the Lammas Project in Pembrokeshire ( The Lammas Project  is an eco-hamlet being created under the new 'low impact development' planning policy (Policy 52 JUDP 2006) that was set in place in Pembrokeshire and is now for the whole of Wales.
Under this new policy eco smallholdings can be built in open countryside as long as they are off-grid and blend into the countryside. The people involved in these developments must be working the land, getting 75% of their needs from their smallholdings.
The project is in its second year and the 9 families that are living in this eco-hamlet are working to get their houses built and crops growing. Many of them are living in caravans whilst building cob and straw bale dwellings and in time it will look great. However, we were surprised at how little had been done in terms of growing food  in 2 years. The food production plots were not very large and we could not see how any of the families were going to keep themselves fed. There was almost no livestock to be seen, one family had a few chickens but that was all and there were no decent sized plots of potatoes and other vegetables that would produce sufficient food for a family. When one thinks of the incredibly productive gardens that can still be found on farms, particularly those run by older people, and that have been managed using tried & tested husbandry methods over centuries it seems a pity that the new smallholders do not try to replicate thse amazingly productive gardens. And they all need a pig!
All that said, as a project Lammas is fascinating and it will very interesting to visit it again in couple of years time.

Friday 6 May 2011

Basket Making & Bread Making Courses in West Wales

Local Basket Making and Bread Making Workshops

Basket Making Courses

Learn how to make country style baskets for every day use: berry picker, shopping basket and log basket. The basket is the ultimate bio-degradable container able to last 50 years with care and repair. Try to come to as many days as you can to practice your skills and make a number of baskets.

Dates; Saturday 21st May, 11th June, 9th July
           Tuesday 21st June, Thursday 21st July, Wednesday 3rd August

Venue: 1 Castle Green Pentrecagal, Newcastle Emlyn, SA38 9HY

Time 10am-3pm.

Please email for more info. and to book a place. Small classes - no more than 6 people.

Mob;  07964530436

Bread Courses and Open Days at Mair’s Bakery

Sourdough baking with stoneground flours:  25th May, 24th September, 22nd October 2011

Baking in a commercial retained heat wood fired oven;  27th-29th May 2011, 26th-28th Aug 2011

Sustainable bakery open days;  24th July , 29th August, 25th September, 23rd October 2011

Contact for more info.;

Mair’s Bakehouse, Pwll y Gaseg, Cwmduad, SA33 6XP

Phone; 01559 370082

Day Out in Pembrokeshire; St Govan's Chapel, Green Bridge, Rock Stacks

Yesterday the Farmer & I took a day off and went down to the south Pembrokeshire coast to visit St. Govan's Chapel which is tucked into the cliff near Castlemartin. This part of the Pembrokeshire coastline is owned by the MoD and is used as a firing range, and thank goodness it is, otherwise it would no doubt now be covered in St Govan's very own caravan parks, visitors centres and other monstrosities!
On previous occasions when we have gone down there it has been closed to the public, however yesterday we struck lucky. We were able to drive onto the range and walk along the cliffs and to the flight of little steps that leads to the chapel. It is an extraordinary place; a tiny stone-built single room with a well and stone altar. It is named after the hermit who lived there in the 6th century though the building itself is thought to be medieval. It was very damp and dark. It is wedged into a narrow angle in the cliff with steep rocky area leading down to sea and must have been miserable place to live, but then those early saints were stoics and needed few creature comforts. Did he live on sea birds eggs & seaweed do you think?
 I am not good with cliffs & caves and found the whole place rather unnerving. The Farmer however loved it and went off rock-hopping as is his wont, under the cliffs and exploring the geology of the cove. I took myself back up the narrow stairway onto the cliff top and had a lovely time looking at the profusion of wild flowers growing in the turf. I found rich magenta orchids and tiny yellow pimpernels, violets sedges and tiny blue squills.
When the Farmer returned to the top we walked westwards to what is called Huntsmans Leap and the grass all along the clifftop was a mass of squills creating a blue haze over the short cliff-top turf.
Legend has it that a huntsman jumped across the the gap between two parts of the cliff on his horse but on looking back to view the gap both he and the horse fell to their deaths. Looking at the distance involved it is impossible but makes a good story.
We next made our way further along the coast to the Green Bridge of Wales and Rock Stacks.
The Green Bridge is self-explantory being a fine example of erosion by  
sea & weather.
Rock Stacks, a collection of rocky stacks(!) off the cliffs is the home to the largest mainland breeding colony of guillemots in South Wales and was an amazing sight, thousands of birds crowded together on treacherous ledges on the cliffs and all over the tops of the stacks. There were not just guillemots but razorbills and seagulls with jackdaws mingling in the swirl of birds that was constantly flying around overhead. The noise was tremendous and downwind, the smell of guano was very certainly pungent.
For lunch we went to the excellent Stackpole Inn ( in the very pretty village of Stackpole and had very good meal before heading west towards Fishguard and visiting some acquaintances on our way home.
Pembrokeshire was looking stunning even in the very welcome rain which fell in extemely localised showers...because we are needing it so badly at the moment we didn't mind that it rained on our day off and today it has rained properly here which is good, the grass will come on well now.

Before heading off down to Pembrokeshire we went and did our democratic duty and cast our votes in three elections. It seems that Plaid Cymru has held its seat in our constituency which is no surprise to anyone and we're still awaiting the results on the other elections.