Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

In 1966, the British tourist bureau in New...

In 1966, the British tourist bureau in New York sent us a wonderful booklet called ~“Farms and Caravan Sites in Britain” to help us plan a long bicycle trip in Europe. Our Nancy and Walt and a neighbor girl, all in their teens, were helping me plan the itinerary. We decided to take a week off to rest near the midpoint of the tour. This booklet included a section on “working farms.” The children were involved in 4-H work, so we chose a farm near Llanbadarnfynydd, Wales, for our week’s respite.

The description said, “Sheep and cattle farm, operated by couple with two young boys, near central Wales, takes up to six guests at a time, modern facilities, bed, breakfast and evening meal.” That was it! We reserved space at Abergwenlas Farm with Joyce and Herbert Lewis. When we pedaled into Newtown, Wales, we “rang up” Joyce to say that we were on schedule and would arrive after lunch. We climbed uphill for thirteen miles before reaching the farm. After settling in we got acquainted and asked Joyce and Herbert to just treat us like family. Before we left, they promised to visit us in America someday.

Two thousand sheep and a herd of Hereford cattle grazed their steep hillsides. The town with the long name was actually a small, crowded store and “The New Pub,” built in the 12th century and enlarged later. Exploring, we hopped across the Gwenlas River in their pasture and fished there for non-hungry little fish. The river was a fast-flowing stream, which had once powered a grist mill. Part of the mill’s equipment was still intact as was a kiln house, which was necessary to dry the grain before it could be crushed. What an interesting week!

We attended the Lewis’s beautiful, old church where tourists often came to admire the ancient, hand-carved oak “screens.” The doctor made a surprise trip to the farm to inspect and treat Herb’s infected foot. We played with two sheep dog puppies in the hay barn, and the vicar called to chat with us four Americans.

Joyce and Herb took us by tractor and wagon to the top of the tallest hill on the farm where we saw the earth scars of a castle built in the 12th century. Border trouble between England and Wales required small protective castles every few miles. Some were of stone and others of wood. This one on the Lewis’s highest point was wooden and had rotted away. A few foundation stones remain. Guards had an almost endless view from this point.

They took us to a sheep dog competition. Dogs and unfamiliar sheep were released at one end of a pasture, and the owner stood near a post at the other end. He directed his dogs to bring the sheep up to the pen. On the way, they had to take the sheep between two free-standing gates. Some men communicated with weird whistling noises. Others used clackity, one-syllable words that meant something to the dogs but nothing to us. Fascinating skill by both the man and the dogs!

Twenty-nine years since Herb and Joyce promised us a visit they’re presently making good on that promise! Our bicyclists and the Lewis’s children are grown. Their Owen now manages a flock of “two and a half thousand sheep” and about a hundred cows. Now, Joyce and Herbert are learning about America from the families of Walt and Mary Starr Gerard, Nancy and Mike Russell and from Chub and me. What a happy two weeks!

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