Signs of spring in Mid Wales

Posted on March 4, 2013 · Posted in News

More than the snowdrops flowering in the lane down to Staylittle, or the birds beginning to sing again, it is when you see the lambs in the fields that you know spring is round the corner.

In the lower farms down by Caersws and Newtown, lambing is already well under way.  Up by Bron y Llys, the WelshMountain ewes are a hardy breed and give birth in the fields rather than in lambing sheds and so lambing won’t begin until early April.  Last week they were all scanned to see whether they are carrying one, two or three lambs.  Triplets are not good news.  The ewes will manage twins but generally cannot feed all three triplets adequately and so one of the triplets will either have to be adopted by another ewe which has lost her lambs or else hand reared by the famers, Aled and Catherine.  Last year they had to hand rear 26 lambs!

We have used a fortnight of dry and often sunny weather to get lots of outside jobs done.  The ground is too frozen still to plant anything much but we did manage to put some oak, rowan and birch trees into the slope above the house.

The local lakes and our pool have also been frozen, so a heron, on the lookout for running water, came to the little stream by our lane.  We saw it as it clumsily took off.  Yesterday, our pool thawed a little in the brilliant sunshine and we saw our first frogspawn.  Another sign of spring.

A couple of days ago, I went to have a look at the Welsh Mountain Orchard near Llanidloes where Bill Bleasdale and Chava Richman have created an amazing apple and pear tree nursery in a windy field, 1200 feet above sea level (www.welshmountaincider.com).  They stock hundreds of varieties, including many rare heritage ones which are in danger of being lost, and specialise in grafting and propagating hardy trees which thrive at altitude and in wet and windy conditions.  As the climate in Britain changes, we may have cause to be grateful for the vision and skill of people like Bill and Chava.   They also produce superb award winning Welsh cider.

I wanted to buy one of their apple trees with wonderful evocative names: Banwell Souring, Fair Maid of Devon, Fran’s Flushed Red Mystery, Bloody Ploughman, Hog’s Snout, Doozer’s Prolific, Peasegood Nonesuch.  In the end I came away with four trees (Lord Derby, Peter Locke, Camelot and Ashmead’s Kernel) all of which should do well on the north east facing slope at the front of Bron y Llys.