SHEEP farmers living and working in the Cambrian Mountains will be featured on an S4C documentary this week.
Focusing on the area’s close-knit community, the programme, Drych: Hel y Mynydd, allows an insight into the traditional livelihoods of the handful of people who live on the Cwm Elan Estate in the Cambrian Mountains, one of the most secluded landscapes in Wales.There, sheep are free to roam on the Elenydd and are round-up on foot and horseback by the farmers - a traditional method which is rapidly dying out.
Glyndwr Jones, the head shepherd of the estate, who farms Claerwen with his wife Wendy, loves the community aspect of his way of life, stating that “there isn’t a single fence between me and my neighbours”, as well as speaking with warmth about the hectic daily round-ups in Summer and the “complete solitude” of the job itself. He acknowledges that “There isn’t a lot of this rounding-up business going on any longer,” but insists that “there’s no need to change it”.
The reservoir and dams on the estate were built in the 1890s, and because of this, the Estate has survived as a landscape without fences, and all the farms belong to the Cwm Elan Trust. The beautiful scenery and open plains are a major appeal to a number of the residents. Erwyd Howells, an experienced shepherd from Ponterwyd, says that “While walking the mountains, a person gets to see the wonders of nature, this is what I call paradise. I feel a part of the place – it is completely unique.”
There is not just a love of community in the open mountains, but also a dependency on each other, which becomes obvious during the programme. Clive Hamer, who farms at Hirnant in the Elan Valley adds that “There are no rules here, no-one makes money or loses money, everybody just helps one another.”
Following a day of rounding up, comes a day of shearing, and neighbour Gwyndaf Owen is someone who takes pleasure in the task; “Shearing day has always been an important day in the mountains’ calendar with the mountain community coming together. It’s one of those jobs that have to be done, but I love shearing. I would shear every day of the year if I could”.
“Drych: Hel y Mynydd” will be shown on S4C at 9pm on Sunday, January 12 with English subtitles, and will be available on BBC iPlayer