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
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
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
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!