She who dares…..farms…

Bryony with her sheep dog.

Bryony is a farmer… 

But once she just a farmer’s daughter, 4 years ago a sudden illness struck her Dad and the realisation, that our parents are not immortal, meant that this daughter became the farmer.  

Llanthony, 250 acres and 600 ewes, sits in the Brecon Beacons bordering England along Offas Dyke. The family of 6 have lived here for 40 years, it is place called home, a place full of heart and community. It is definitely a place to lay your hat. 

It is unique, in that it lies within the ruin of Llanthony Abbey, where you will find 2 pubs, a campsite, bunk house and private residences! A community still thrives here, swelling in holidays and high days, but still a community. 

Llanthony Abbey
Llanthony Abbey

Farm life….

To grow up on a farm is such a privilege, a childhood of freedom, roaming and working, add to that a trekking business, this would have been the stuff of childhood dreams! The 4 siblings were schooled locally until secondary, when they won scholarships to Christ’s Hospital, Horsham – a place where you learnt to work hard until all the work was done and only then the fun could begin.  This was the same at home, but the work was the horses and the fun was the local pub

shepherdess with her 4x4 with the llanthony valley behind.
The valley – a place called Home

From the heart….

After studying Zoology, Bryony came home for a year of deciding what next and to run the trekking Centre. However the lure of London and the desire to see if the streets were really paved with gold, took Bryony off to the big City, a placed she loved whilst she was there, working as PA to the Head of the CEO office of the Standard Chartered Bank.  A successful career was ahead of her, PA’s could go wherever their bosses went, wherever in the world.  However, a weekend home, a friend’s party and falling in love with Steve, meant Bryony followed her heart back to Wales.

A job with A-Z Expeditions saw her become an outdoor instructor, a job she loved, then after her babies a job in the Expedition office, which suited her love of the outdoors and  her family life.

sheep grazing on the mountain. www.myruraltribe.com

Llanthony means so much to all the family, and everyone wanted it to stay in the family, for the future generations. With 4 siblings, 1 working away and 2 with other careers, Bryony, who was at cross road, put her hand up – she would come back to farm Llanthony and take over the running from her Dad.

Being handed the reins…

Bryony is lucky, she feels blessed and honoured that her dad has handed over the reins of running the farm, is letting her make her own mark but is there to offer advice.  Being the daughter is very different from being the farmer, the one in charge, not just the one being given jobs to do.  Decisions are for her to make, with support, and Dad is always on hand to get lambs to market.

old blue tractor on the farm yard

Knowledge is power….

Bryony has taken advantage of all the courses, training, clinics and surgeries available to her through organisations such as Farming Connect.  She’s received Young Person In Agriculture grant, which she will use to fence off the mountain and buy a new handling system, she has a Management Exchange Grant, which is using to try out early lambing with 3 Performance Recorded Innovis rams, which should bring in a higher return for early lambs and getting culled ewes off farm sooner. 

She has a Farming Connect Mentor – Ben Anthony, who’s wisdom of ‘Pick 1 field as a time to improve… it will become easier as half the boundaries will have already been improved”! This has given her a plan, and reduced the stress. 

The day before I met her, she had been on a Soil Surgery, learning about getting the basics of soil pH, and benefits of P & K for the soil and how to implement them.

Llanthony mountain
Knowledge to learn from the past and the research for the future of these lands

Motivation is what you need…

Getting off the farm, attending learning days, going to market and meeting like-minded people is the motivation that Bryony needs, especially on those days that there is little to be had! A phone book that is getting fuller and a range of people to ask for advice and help or just a chat has been key for her new career. Never one to shy away from hard work, running the farm has given her a new sense of motivation and a stronger work ethic, as this time it is for her and her family, to get it right.  Where obstacles lay, such as dagging, she came up with a solution, which will become even easier with the new handling system. 

Just do it!

You’ve got to throw yourself into everything! Take advantage of all the learning and new experiences out there, then bring back these new skills and ideas to the farm. Meet new people, take part in challenges, get out the comfort zone.

Did I say I met Bryony whilst carrying a cow to the top of Snowdon….. (BG – I LOVED this trip!x)

She who Dares… most definitely farms! 

She who dares farms. Shepherdess looking over her farm.
NFU She Who Dares Farms
Mart Life

Mart Life

farmers at llanybydder livestock market selling sheep my rural tribe photography
Farmers at Llanybydder Livestock Mart

The livestock market or ‘The Mart’ is a place I am not familar with.  Even though Dad is a sheep farmer it isn’t a place I have frequented, mainly due to either being at school, uni or quite frankly, not finding the early morning start appealing! But a photographic assignment took me to Llanybydder and Tregaron, on two wet cold days.  The Mart may have been chilly, but the welcome was warm.

A smile works wonders…..

I was slightly nervous about going along, no one knew me, I would have cameras, they might be wary of me, especially in light of recent anti farming views.  But I needn’t have worried.

The key though is to smile, say hello to everyone, engage in conversation, ask them about themselves and tell them who your dad, or mum is! Boom! They relax, they smile, they ask how your parents are, and all is good! They start to relax in-front of the camera, joke with those that don’t know who I am, that I am there to check tyre tread, or make their friend look at the camera!

Thank goodness for Gwyneth… ‘do you know who this is’… she would say as she presented me to a farmer, for which I would be greeted with a blank stare – Bills daughter! A smile, a relax…. Oh so where do you live?  What are you doing?  How is Bill? Is he here

A place of community…. 

The Mart is not just a place to sell sheep or cattle, it is a place for farmers to come together, a place to meet, once a week, or once a month, yes to sell, but for much more than that.

Imagine that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, you are surrounded by green fields, amazing landscapes, your nearest neighbour is a mile away, your farm is at the end of the track and the only person you might see in your working hours is the postman.  For many of us, we dream of such idyll, but imagine doing that everyday, with the added struggle of weather, unforeseen circumstances, ill livestock, stresses of bureaucrats… and then see how we feel about it.  THIS is why the mart is so important to the farmer.  It gets them off the farm, it gets them to others, it gets them to their friends.

Friendship is strong in rural areas, it has to be.  You have to be there for each other, you have to look out for each other, you have to help each other.  You have to come together as a community, and it is powerful.

The Mart is place to take your time.  You can’t rush livestock, they need to be kept calm.  Shouting and hollering will only upset them.  So it is a place of routine, and a place to take your time, to have a cuppa, to eat a bacon sandwich and to chat, to lean against the pen or to take a sit down.  The sale starts at 11 and no sooner.

 

A place of men…

The Mart is a place for the men.  A few women doing paperwork, the ladies in the café and a few wives and girlfriends.  But this is the place for men.  This is a place they bring their livestock, it is a place they can stand, not looking at each other, talking about livestock, costs, the weather and hopefully, eventually, themselves.  But if not, it is a place they have come, not to feel alone, for a morning, they will feel part of a community, part of something greater than them.  And if they have done a good job they will go home with some gossip for the wife!

I looked around the Marts, farmers unloading livestock, men with jobs to do, unspoken, all knowing where to be and what to do, which gates to open, where to stand out the way and I smiled. I was in awe. In awe that on this cold wet day, there was friendship, there were smiles, there was laughter… a lot of laughter.  Me being there might have added some interest, some banter, some jesting, but for that I am happy.  Because being at these Marts made me happy.  It made me want to be part of that community, and certainly made me want to go back and hear their stories.

For the sake of out rural farming communities’ places like these need to be preserved, their place in the community is vital to the survival of that community.

Check out my Rural Photography , or follow me on Instagram @my_rural_tribe to keep up to date with my walks and thoughts! 

If you would like to be part of my blogs please do Get In Touch! I would love to hear from you, visit your farm and hear all about what you are doing.  Or if you have some ideas of who I should visit, please do let me know!

Sian Mercer

Sian Mercer

Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs

I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.

I am a photographer, please check out my website www.myruraltribe.com to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family.