Of Stroppy Cows & Barking People

August 22nd, 2010 by Kim

              -Vacation in Wales, continued

Tuesday, July 20th was the highlight of our time spent in Wales.  We had a beautiful drive across the countryside and two wonderful farm visits.

Free-roaming sheep along the road in the commonlands.

 The Elan Valley

We left Lower Fishpools Cottage in the morning, headed for Penuwch to visit Ken & Jacqi Parks.  Jeff had contacted Jacqi through their Dexter association, and she had invited us for dinner & a visit.  Jeff just typed their address into the “tomtom” (GPS unit) and trusted the gizmo to get us there.  Well, said tomtom seemed to have a fetish for little back roads that make the most direct route to your destination.  So, needless to say, we had quite an interesting drive to Penuwch.

This sheep crossed the road right in front of us to find her buddies.

We first encountered something we’d never seen before: a cattle grate in the road with a sign that said “Caution: Animals”.  Once over the cattle grate, we found ourselves in what Ken later told us was called the commonlands, a large open area where nearby farmers may turn out their animals to roam & graze.  There were sheep everywhere….hundreds of them!  It was quite a sight to behold.

The Elan Valley: lush fields, sheep, and green hedgerows.

After several miles of watching out for unconcerned sheep, we exited the commonlands and went on through the Elan Valley.  It was an absolutely gorgeous drive, in spite of the pouring rain.  When we told Ken how we had come, he said we had seen the most beautiful part of all Wales, and I have no doubt that it’s true!  We were very glad we took Tomtom’s advice on this trip.

I hope a picture is worth a thousand words, because there's no way to describe the Elan Valley.

Barking Mad

We got to Ken & Jacqi’s place, and even though it was raining, we went out to see their herd.  They have a nice little herd of red cows and two red bulls.  They milk the cows and raise steers for beef.  They were all great-looking animals, who were all later put into the shed.  Jacqi says they’ve spoiled them, and now they all expect to be brought in when the weather isn’t nice.

Ken telling me about their cows.

She had fixed us a wonderful dinner of roast lamb with mint gravy, potatoes & “veg” and a lovely pie of apples & berries for dessert.  After filling our stomachs, we all squeezed into their little car and they took us to visit the herd belonging to Rhidian & Judy Lewis in Newcastle Emlyn. 

One of the Parks' pretty, little, red cows...in the dry shed.

It was such an entertaining trip – both Ken & Jacqi can tell things in an absolutely hilarious fashion, and I think we laughed the whole way there.  We heard all about the horrors of beaurocracy and governmental control of agriculture.  The NAIS has got nothin’ on the English system!  This was where we applied our newly learned phrase:  “barking mad”.  Yes, the English government officials & those in the EU making these laws are, indeed, barking mad!  What insanity!

Stroppy Cows 

Here come the cows!

We arrived at the Lewis farm with it still pouring the rain.  Jacqi was continually apologetic about the awful weather, as if she could do anything about it.  We all just donned our raincoats and went to visit dripping cows.  Oh, well. 

Rhid & Judy have a herd of about 30-40 Dexters, for milk & beef, plus a few beef shorthorns.  The first group of cows we visited were up on the hill, so Rhid went up to find them & bring them down to us.  Soon they all came running down the hill to meet us.  What a lovely herd. 

One of Lewis' very nice short-leg cows.

The cows we saw in Wales, for the most part, seemed beefier than most I’ve seen in the States.  We also didn’t see any of the really bad udders like we see so often on American cows.  Seeing Rhid & Judy’s cows, we also learned that there’s a significant, noticeable difference between what they call short-leg and long-leg, and the short-legs aren’t all necessarily chondro-carriers.  Their short-legs are a bit shorter than most smaller, normal cows in the US, and their long-legs are quite tall.  Judy explained that they feel the chondro-carriers are generally distinguishable from non-carriers because their body length is shorter and their head & shoulders look too big for their front legs.

A nicely built red cow.

At one point Judy mentioned a cow which they had sold because she was a bit “stroppy”.  We had encountered this word at the Royal Welsh, and asked now about its meaning.  She explained that a stroppy cow was an obstinate, or uncooperative cow….not something you want to be milking.

L to R: Judy, Jeff, Jacqi, Ken & Rhid talking about the cows.

As we made our way from one pasture paddock to the next, we noticed the nice hedgerows they had.  Rhid explained that they were participating in a government program through which they get a subsidy for maintaining their farm in the “old way” with the hedgerows between pastures.  He seemed quite pleased to be able to keep his animals in such a natural environment, even though putting in double rows of fence with shrubs in between was an expensive endeavor.  The result is definitely lovely, though.

Two Welsh farmers talking under an ancient tree.

After seeing all the cows, we made our way to the barn to see their two bulls. 

Rhid & his bilingual bull.

At this point they have two young bulls that they’ve raised out of their own herd.  Rhid was standing there by the one bull, speaking softly in Welsh to it.  When asked if the bull was bilingual, he answered, “Of course, they must be.  I must curse at them in English.  There are no curse words in Welsh.”

Then we gathered in the kitchen to warm up & dry off by the oven with some tea & Welsh cakes, a very yummy discovery.  Soon it was time to head back to Ken & Jacqi’s home.  We stopped by Aberaeron, a beautiful little harbor town, on the way, and got some quick photos in the rain.  We got back to Penuwch with time to visit  a little longer before we had to leave to find some supper at a decent hour.

Pictures in the rain: a typical funny face by Ken!

Saying goodbye to Jenny & Lower Fishpools.

We got back to the Cottage with some time to pack things together for our departure in the morning.  After one last night at Lower Fishpools Cottage, we were off on another pretty drive across the countryside of Wales & England to the Bristol airport to catch our flight to our final destination, Ireland.

You’ll need to come back next week to read about our Irish horseback riding adventure!

One Response to “Of Stroppy Cows & Barking People”

  1. Susan Lea Says:

    Very interesting! Beautiful countryside!