Farmer to ancient cattle
Pembrokeshire people: Robert Vaughan
Robert pulls up on a quad, shakes our hands and bids us jump on the back.
Penlan Uchaf is one of the three farms his family owns in the Gwaun Valley and the land they farm falls between them. Up a steep, winding and daffodil laden drive, Penlan Uchaf is home to gardens and a tearoom and situated high over the Gwaun Valley floor, a beautiful view.
Robert points to a farm on the brow of the opposite hill, ‘We can trace our family back 600 hundred years to that farm, probably longer but that’s as far as we know.’ This landscape is in his blood then, and perhaps an indication as to why he chose to farm an ancient breed that hadn’t been common in the area for hundreds of years: pedigree Longhorn cattle.
We speed up the track, gorse hedges high on either side and break out onto Carn Edward proper, sister mountain to Carn Ingli. On one side of the valley it stretches to Fishguard and on the other to Newport, on a clear day you can see the sea. The Longhorns are difficult to distinguish at first, so blended with the landscape, they are almost the colour of the rocks and reeds, tussocky grass and bluestone. They have beautiful mottled coats, wide faces and intelligent eyes, and huge curved horns in various shapes.
‘The animals suit this pasture, the weather can be quite extreme up here but they cope well.’ Robert has diversified the way he farms to survive, a regular at farmers markets and food events, he tells us his grandfather still walked the sheep to market along the old drovers routes that run across his farm, luckily it’s an easier trek to market now!
The weather worsens on the mountain top and we head back down to the maternity ward- lambing season is in full swing and his 700 strong flock of ewes are inside, waiting their turn. He moves through the sheep, spots a new mother that has just had twins, picks them up and leads them into a side pen with her, to bond. He has a mix of breeds, but has mainly bred the Lleyn- a small, hardy, white-faced breed from the Llyn Peninsula, north Wales, that is quiet in nature and are excellent mothers.
Watching Robert work is a privilege, he’s so genuinely enthusiastic about his livestock, overjoyed at the new lambs and the calves born just after our visit, we can see why he does so well. Long may it continue, with a website that offers a ‘build your own’ local meat box, events and local markets across the county and a way for consumers to really get in touch with the produce they are buying, we know where we’re getting our next Sunday lunch from!
Visiting Penlan Uchaf Gardens is a must if you’re spending 48 hours in Fishguard or a short break in Newport – don’t forget to stock on supplies before you head home.