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Today I'm on a journey
across Welsh mountain country, from here,
just north of Merthyr Tydfil, all the way
across the Brecon Beacons to Llandovery.
Along the way I'll be looking back at the best of the BBC's rural
programmes from this part of the world. Welcome to Country Tracks.
And what better way to start my journey
than on the Brecon Mountain Railway?
I'm here with Matt, the driver.
Matt, how long has this railway been here?
Well, the railway was opened in 1980.
It's built on the Brecon to Newport railway,
which was closed by Dr Beeching in the early '60s.
We managed to get some rail from the ex-MoD camps around the country
and we brought the track down here and re-laid it in these conditions up here.
What about the actual steam train here?
This locomotive was built in 1908, in Germany,
and it operated out there until the mid-'60s,
where again that railway out there was closed and we managed
to acquire this loco in the early '70s and brought it back to UK
and since then we've rebuilt it.
So can I have a quick... Do you trust me for a moment?
Yeah, I'm sure I trust you, yeah.
So, we're going a bit too quickly now.
Lift this up a little bit?
Tap it with your hand is easier. It's quite stiff.
Yeah, keep going, keep going, keep going. OK.
Don't forget to tell me when I can blow the whistle!
-That's my favourite thing in the whole world.
I'm just a little boy really. Happy with this speed?
Yeah. OK, we're coming to a curve now.
-You can blow the whistle now if you like.
There you go. Brilliant.
Made my day! The thing that amazes me about steam trains
is they're like living organisms, aren't they?
Once you've been involved with steam it never leaves you. It's in your blood.
It's quite noisy. Is that because it's oil?
That's right, yeah. You get a rumbling from the firebox,
whereas if we were coal-fired you wouldn't hear all this noise.
You'd just hear the noise of the loco itself and not the firing.
But we converted to oil because of the trees and the fire risk.
I'm assuming because it's oil you can't do that old trick
of cooking bacon in the furnace?
Unfortunately not, no. The fire box is sealed up so we can't do that.
Ah. And I have to say the views from here are spectacular.
You probably get used to it, doing this every day, but it's quite something.
The views are fantastic, aren't they?
I mean as you say, we probably take it for granted
but the general public who ride on the railway are taken aback by it all, yeah.
The landscape around here is astonishing.
We've got Brecon over that way and journey's end, Llandovery, is just over there.
Now in the first of two parts of classic Countryfile,
Adam Henson tries his hand at geese droving, Brecon-style.
It's a common myth that the American Wild West is the only home of the cowboy,
but it's the Welsh who are the original cowboys.
Known as drovers, these boozy bandit fighting womanisers walked their animals
hundreds of miles across the British countryside for a millennia.
With 40 geese, I'm going to attempt
to follow one of South Wales' droving trails.
Whilst cattle droving is well known, walking birds is nowadays unheard of
but the popularity of the Christmas goose saw thousands of birds
being walked to market every winter.
I have just three days to get 40 geese 12 miles across the Welsh hills.
No-one knows if I'll make it.
Before we start we've gathered at an old gold mine,
where Peter, our veterinary consultant, can check the birds.
How are they looking? Do you think they're ready for a long walk?
Yeah, I think they're very good and I'm very glad to hear
that they're just over a year old
because the bones are properly formed,
so they're quite able to walk and they have been kept out of doors,
so they're in good, what we'd call, hard condition.
Our journey is taking place in South Wales
along a well-trodden drovers path.
From the gold mine we'll take small roads to the village of Caio,
then it's up through the forest onto the open moorland, where we'll camp.
Day two looks tough. We need to cross the moor before nightfall
and get to our accommodation at the pub in Cilycwm.
On the last day I must get to Llandovery,
Wales' most famous droving town.
We're setting off now. Bring 'em on, Maud.
In drovers' times long-distance travel was rare
so the gentry would get the drovers
to carry letters, trading documents and goods
and in my bag I'm carrying a letter for the mayor of Llandovery,
a letter of thanks to give her when we arrive.
Come on, Maud, bring 'em on.
As a farmer, I'm used to herding cows and sheep but not really geese.
I'm nervous one of the birds might get lost or injured
but Maud's a brilliant working collie
and she doesn't seem fazed by her unusual charges.
We're soon moving at a slow but steady pace.
Hello, Adam. How are you? Enjoying it?
Yeah, it's great actually.
The geese are well-behaved, the dog is doing a good job.
I'm doing all the droving alone but historian Richard Moore-Colyer
will weave in and out of my route to help me understand the droving world.
When was all this droving going on then?
We have ample evidence of droving being carried out
from Saxon times if not earlier than that,
but the heyday of droving would have been from the 16th century
through until the end of the 19th.
And why were they doing it?
You have to remember that in Wales in particular until really
the end of the 19th century pasture quality was very, very poor indeed.
It was virtually impossible to fatten cattle and sheep on the grassland of Wales
and the result was this trade developed whereby lean cattle, store cattle as we call them,
were taken to the richer pasturelands of England, fattened there
-then sold on to the metropolitan markets in Britain.
-Is it unusual to drove geese?
Not in the least, no, no.
Geese certainly from the Carmarthenshire area around Caio,
would have been driven to Llandovery,
to the markets, particularly for the Christmas markets.
Are we following an old drovers road?
Yes, we are. Much of this area was honeycombed with drovers roads.
Many of them coalescing on Llandovery
and eventually working their way into England.
Drovers of old would walk hundreds of birds around 12 miles per day.
We've gone just two miles so far and I've already got a straggler.
She's my favourite and I've nicknamed her Jemima.
We stop to rest and get a vet check.
I think they've got on very well indeed.
The weather has been kind for them.
The road hasn't been too flinty and rough.
Interesting that they rest for about 20 minutes,
then they come to life again spontaneously.
A short break then back on the road.
It's going quite well so far.
The geese are quite calm and the weather is lovely. Very pleasant.
And then the rain comes pouring down.
In four hours we've gone just two miles.
Go on, geese.
# Sitting on my own
# Chewing on a bone
# A thousand million miles from home... #
The first day has been a lot harder than I imagined.
It's now half past six, quarter to seven,
and we're still quite a way off from the camp.
But we'll get there soon.
The enclosed forests and constant rain has left us all tired.
The geese try to use the puddles to preen their feathers
but they just get muddy.
He's getting on pretty well, he's making good progress.
He's gone through the rushes and marram grass and he's coming across the open moor.
The geese look well, he looks well, if a little wet.
# Sitting on my own
# Chewing on a bone
# A thousand million miles from home
# When something hears me... #
Is this typical drovers' food then, Richard?
Well I guess it is, yes.
A haunch of bread, a piece of cheese, the odd onion.
Would they bite into raw onions like this?
They'd probably slice them, it'd depend on the drover.
So what about the dangers of sleeping out?
Well for anyone to sleep out in the countryside in the 18th and 19th century was pretty dangerous.
Footpads of course lurked by the wayside,
highwaymen were fairly common,
and you took a fair bit of risk when you slept out,
particularly in these locations such as we're in at the moment.
I reckon we'll be pretty safe up here tonight, won't we?
Well, you've got to watch out for the foxes and the geese,
but beyond that you're pretty safe. The locals are pretty quiet.
Let's have a little drink to that.
Why not, here here. Try some of this excellent mead.
With darkness creeping in I tackle my last job,
creating a shelter for the geese.
MOBILE PHONE RINGS
Dad, I'll have to phone you back.
I'm in the middle of erecting a tent on the moor for my geese.
The geese seem happy with their new home.
I'm shattered. All I want is a soft, warm bed.
There's just a couple of us left up here
looking after the geese during the night.
We're camping out, but it's cold and wet
and fairly eerie up here on the moor.
My main concern is that foxes may move in
for a bit of a midnight feast on the geese.
I just hope they're all going to be there in the morning.
I'm steaming through the Brecon Beacons National Park
and pulling to a stop at Pontsticill.
OK, we're just approaching the platform now.
You can apply the brakes in a minute.
-We just need to close the throttle fully now, close that fully.
-Pull it down?
-All the way up.
-All the way up.
Close it, that's it closed now.
We've reached the end of the line and it's time for me to start walking.
Thanks very much, guys.
Well, it's not every day you find yourself marooned in one of Britain's wildest National Parks,
but luckily there's a warden on hand to accompany me on the next leg of my adventure.
Alan, how are you? Thanks so much for coming along.
Fantastic weather, a bit of snow.
It does help, all sorts of weather here.
Area manager Alan Ward gave up a job in the oil industry
in south-east Asia to make a career in the mountains 21 years ago.
And since then, he's never looked back.
So what for you is so special about this National Park,
this part of the world?
The scenery, the landscape, the people who live and work here,
the farming community we get on very well with
and the fact that my job as area manager every day is different.
I assume you must spend a lot of time out and about walking in these hills?
I wish I could spend more time out in the hills walking.
I am sometimes at a desk in HQ.
Obviously the Brecon Beacons are famous for their changeable weather?
Very changeable. It's always best to be prepared before you go out in the hills.
OK. Where are we heading for today?
Into the central Beacons, one of the most spectacular parts
-with big open spaces, big summits and plenty of space.
-Lead the way.
And one of those summits is Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in southern Britain.
But true to form the Brecon Beacons treated us to a staggering display
of changeable weather, from winter wonderland to very soggy land.
Well, the Brecon Beacons are notorious for their weather
and looking ahead, it's not looking too good, so Alan's gone ahead.
He's got a weather forecast and I'm going to find out what the plan is. Hi, Alan.
-So a little bit rainy.
-It certainly is.
Have we got a forecast here?
I've produced the current forecast for the day.
It's a site specific mountain weather forecast for the Brecon Beacons,
that's what we all should refer to before we plan a walk on a hill.
All I can see is heavy rain, snow, hill fog, gales, wind chill!
And the only thing missing is the sunshine!
I don't think that's coming today.
So what do you think our chances are of getting to the top in the time we have?
If I was here by myself, Ben, I'd be looking at this, I'd have looked at the forecast at home,
maybe stuck my head out of the window and I really would think,
well, why would I want to come up here on a day like today?
We have to be responsible. Coming out in bad weather, accidents can happen causing inconvenience.
The mountain rescue team would have to and assist us off, so I'd save this for another day.
OK, I've got to get to Llandovery, is there another way apart from going over Pen y Fan?
We can look for a lowland route that wouldn't go much above 500 metres altitude,
so there are plenty of options.
-So we can stay below the cloud cover?
-We certainly can.
-OK. Shall we go and look at the maps?
-OK, this way.
Thwarted by heavy rain, freezing temperatures and low cloud cover,
we've altered our route to take us west of Pen y Fan
to a secret destination.
It's a bit of a disappointment we haven't made it up Pen y Fan today,
but Alan here promises me we're going somewhere even better!
You'll be amazed when we get down to the site I'm taking you to.
Really? I've been to the Brecon Beacons before but never to this part.
I've worked here 21 years. I haven't seen it all yet.
And even in this weather it's going to be worth it?
It'll be better in this weather.
I'm going to hold you to that.
OK, I promise.
I'll prove to you there's something for everybody to enjoy in the National Park.
-Whatever the weather.
-Whatever the weather.
-Missing Pen y Fan.
Yes, it's in good flow today.
That's absolutely incredible.
You can see a couple of people walking behind it?
You can go behind it?
The footpath goes right behind the waterfall and it's a good day for it.
How amazing! I've never seen a waterfall this size in the UK.
We don't tell everybody, but they'll know now!
-This is a real secret isn't it?
-It certainly is, a real gem.
-What's it called?
-Sgwd Yr Eira.
-What does that mean?
-Fall of snow.
-Fall of snow?
-Because of the whiteness coming over when the river's in flood.
We've got another little waterfall here, all of the cliff.
A very wet hillside, filling this stream.
It does look magnificent today.
I hope you're up for coming behind it.
So, basically, the fact that all this rain has been falling has benefited us?
It certainly has. What worked against us in our attempt to get up Pen y Fan this morning
has definitely worked to our advantage here today.
Are there many other waterfalls in this part of the National Park?
Five or six other really impressive falls
that can be linked on a six-hour circular walk.
Where does this path go now?
It goes right behind me, right behind the waterfall.
-Underneath the waterfall?
-Right behind it.
That's like the film Last Of The Mohicans. Exactly.
My chance to be an actor.
-I'll follow you, then.
-Are you sure it's safe?
-I don't think I've walked underneath a waterfall before.
Wow, I'm certainly seeing the extreme side of the Brecon Beacons.
Adam Henson, however, took a more leisurely approach.
He also had a bit of sunshine.
The dramatic Welsh mountains, home to male-voice choirs...
..thousands of sheep...
..the occasional rugby player...
..and some of the toughest horses in the world.
Over the next two days, I'm taking on the challenge of riding on horseback for 17 miles,
starting at the Brecon Beacons National Park.
-How are you doing?
Nice to see you. Is this my charger for the day?
Yes, this is Murphy.
Is Murphy a good horse?
He's lovely, yeah. As all the Welsh cobs are,
he's nice and and sensible. Safe, steady, but will go all day for you.
The Radnor Forest Ride joins the Three Rivers Ride
in the Welsh Brecon Beacons and the Jack Mytton Way in Shropshire.
Of the newly created 70-mile route,
I'm planning to take on the first 17 miles
from the Brecon Beacons National Park to Upper Chapel.
-It's a wonderful ride, isn't it?
A lovely route. You've got mountains all the way over
it's fantastic round here. You can see why it's so popular.
It's one of the best riding areas in the country.
There we go, Murphy. Look, you can have a drink.
I've never been in the saddle longer than an hour before,
so two days up and down the Welsh hills will be a challenge.
Seems to go into a farmyard here.
The route provides good variety,
we're soon out onto the country lanes.
I'm one of the first to try out this newly mapped-out ride.
It joins up existing bridleways via public roads and permissive access across private land.
A drink there for you, Henry.
-There we go.
-We enjoyed the hospitality of locals,
who were only too willing to provide buckets of water for our thirsty steeds.
-That was lovely. Thank you for that.
-Thank you. Isn't that lovely?
Amazing, yeah. Fantastic.
Do you think we're going the right way, Henry?
It seems like a bit of a building site.
It looks that way, doesn't it?
-Well, the route goes up there.
-There's a house in the way.
There's a house in the way and the gate's blocked with topsoil.
Well, we'll just drop back down,
come up on the side and rejoin it just round the edge.
So, where do you reckon now?
What do you think, Murphy? We're in another farmyard.
Well, we've found our way, round from the other farmyard.
Looks like we're venturing off into the woods, possibly.
Or maybe not.
We're not lost after all.
Oh, no. Never lost. Just temporarily mislaid.
Beautiful Brecon Beacons.
Once you've completed a hard, long day riding,
you want a good bed and stables for your horse.
I suppose it's very important, looking after the animal that's been looking after you all day.
Very much so. Give him a good wash off.
It's 10:30 at night and I've just come out to check the horses.
Murphy's looking well, fit and healthy.
Not looking as stiff as me.
It's 7 in the morning and I've got up and had a shower and a shave.
You know, I don't feel too bad.
A little bit achy, but looking forward to my next day.
I hope Murphy's up for it.
Thank you very much.
Fantastic. Very comfortable for both horse and rider.
I was about to start the second leg of my journey
eight miles north, to Upper Chapel.
It was great to be back in the saddle.
Around 2.5 million people enjoy riding in the UK each year.
But only 20% of public rights of way are open to horses.
Oh, just canter.
It's lovely to be up on the tops now. The scenery is spectacular.
It's great to have a bit of a canter. Murphy's on top form.
Come on. Go on, Murphy.
We kicked on the pace and quickly made our way to the highest point
of our journey, up along the main ridge.
We've reached the trig point at the top of the hill.
Magnificent scenery from up here.
We've been getting a little bit behind on time,
so we're gonna have a quick sandwich and then press on.
Some for me.
'I'd been stung by a hornet and covered in horseflies.
'And I think Murphy was beginning to suspect that I wasn't such a great
'rider after all.
'But the end was in sight.'
Two days in the saddle!
Across from the Brecon Beacons for about 17 miles.
And I've got a very sore behind.
But it was absolutely wonderful.
-My Welsh mountain journey started at Merthyr Tydfil, on the southern edge
of the Brecon Beacons and I've made my way deep into the National Park.
The Brecon Beacons have thrown every bit of weather in my direction.
Snow-capped mountains, raging rivers and pelting rain.
But just maybe, I've proven myself,
because the sun is finally poking through the clouds.
You really can have four seasons in one day.
And whatever the weather, the Brecon Beacons really
are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
I've camped and hiked these hills many times.
But there's one side of the National Park
that many people don't get to see.
And that's the working farmland.
My travel companion is National Park area manager Alan Ward.
So, obviously the National Park shares a lot of its land
with working farms. How does that relationship work?
National Park staff work very closely with the farming community.
And it's a good relationship, is it?
I think so. I go to meetings and I know most of the farmers there.
My daughter's married into a local farming family. So I have good connections, so to speak.
Presumably, they're important to the upkeep of the National Park?
They are. The National Park can't manage
this area without a partnership concept, with local farmers particularly.
Obviously this region was particularly badly affected
during the Foot And Mouth outbreak back in 2001.
What are your memories of that time?
My memories of that time are lots of meetings with the farming community
to decide on the best course of action, how we could assist.
We have staff with Land Rovers and other vehicles.
Most of the public footpaths were closed.
At key honeypot sites, we ensured people weren't...
breaking the restrictions and going onto the open hill.
A pretty bleak period for everyone involved.
It was. Tourism suffered, as well as farming. It was a difficult time.
Obviously part of this landscape is sheep, people and things.
During that period, it must have been absolutely empty?
It was like a ghost town. Ghost town countryside. On the hills,
you can always see little blobs of little white sheep up there.
There was nothing. You'd drive past vast fields like we're looking up now and they would be empty.
There would be very few people, very few cars on the road, no tourists. It was a difficult time.
A cull of 4,000 sheep in the Brecon Beacons will go ahead tomorrow.
A further 6,000 face tests for Foot And Mouth disease
over the next few days.
More sheep have been slaughtered in the Brecon Beacons to fight against Foot And Mouth.
Foot And Mouth hit Britain in February 2001.
And by April, the highly contagious disease had reached the Brecon Beacons.
More than 100,000 sheep were slaughtered across Powys that summer.
The crisis lasted 11 months and cost
the UK's farming and tourist industry more than £5 billion.
Local farmer Edwin Harris saw his entire flock of 1,000 sheep slaughtered.
I'm on my way to meet him.
But first, we go back to 2001 when he spoke to Countryfile.
The Brecon Beacons, almost a sheep-free zone
and the latest casualty of a Foot And Mouth crisis which just won't go away.
These hills have had a lot of attention over the past few days.
That's because of a cull of 4,000 sheep,
which farmers say is unnecessary and hugely expensive.
Sheep which usually roam freely on the Brecons have been gathered in and blood-tested.
Some have been exposed to Foot And Mouth, so a cull's going ahead, while more are rounded up for testing.
Farmers whose sheep graze these hills
are unhappy with the extent and the expense of the cull.
Edwin Harris, who represents them, is still tidying up after his own sheep were slaughtered.
If the government is concerned about the cost of the clean-up operation,
plus the cost of buying everything
that is included in that operation, you've got to remember
that we could vaccinate everything for 50p a sheep.
And in three weeks' time, tourists could go back
on the mountains, we could be back in business with all our stock intact,
at no more expense to the government.
Ironically, perhaps, the Welsh Assembly announced its
Foot And Mouth recovery package just as the disease re-emerged.
But Welsh ministers seem remarkably unconcerned about the cost of the latest cull.
It doesn't cost the Assembly anything. It's paid for by DEFRA.
-How much will it cost DEFRA?
-I couldn't tell you.
It's a matter for their budget.
Wouldn't it be cheaper, above anything else, to vaccinate?
If we vaccinated in Wales, we would lose our export market for good.
We'd end up with bankruptcies amongst our hill farmers.
The only market they've got is the export market.
Added to that, it doesn't work. If vaccination was a viable option, we'd have done it by now.
But despite the slaughter of more than 3 million animals,
the disease isn't yet beaten. Until it is, farmers can't export.
Losing that market has halved the price of lambs in Wales.
Sheep in Cumbria and Yorkshire are now being blood-tested.
There are warnings that'll mean more slaughter at yet more expense.
It's quite manifest by the outbreak in the Beacons that
there is widespread disease within the sheep population.
It could well be that the same exists in Yorkshire
and the Lake District and so on.
And until the blood-testing is carried out, the vets and
scientists won't know how far the and disease has gone.
So the tail is enormous. We're looking well into the autumn and winter, possibly 2002.
The tail is almost longer and has more impact than the outbreak of the disease to start with.
So far, Foot And Mouth has cost us,
British taxpayers, more than £1 billion.
This week, the government closed the chequebook, halting the disinfection
of farms after realising just how much it was costing.
Contractors on Edwin Harris's farm were ordered off, though they're
only halfway through the job.
He's no idea when - or if - they'll be back.
We've got sheds with the sides ripped off, floors ripped up.
Someone has to pay and come back and replace them.
And...I don't see why I should pay for that.
Yes, it's my business. But it is not my choice the sheep went.
They could have been vaccinated and protected.
It's not just those who've lost animals who are,
like the taxpayer, counting the cost.
There's been no Foot And Mouth on this farm near Welshpool.
But it's three kilometres from an outbreak and has been under restriction since April.
The movement of cattle and sheep, even from one field to another,
has been limited and they can only be sold for slaughter.
Business is at a standstill. Had the farm got Foot And Mouth,
there'd have been compensation for the animals killed.
Farmers who fall outside these compensation schemes
feel abandoned by the government.
Though John Yeomans stresses he wouldn't want to change places
with anyone who's seen their stock slaughtered.
We're just deserted. Our borrowing's have gone up about 25,000.
We've been very fortunate of the support of the bank.
Without that, I don't know what we'd have done.
But the stress that we and the stock have been under
because they've been confined, has been horrendous.
The politicians or the people in MAFF or DEFRA, as it now is,
can have any concept of what we've been going through.
The National Audit Office is investigating the amount
the government spent on Foot And Mouth to see if it's getting value for money.
There is a feeling that some farmers have been
over-compensated for lost stock. But Edwin Harris says it's wrong
to see the payments farmers in his position have had as compensation.
Because of the timing of this cull, which is June,
I won't be able to replace
my stock until January. So I won't be able to buy ewes in the autumn,
so I won't have any lambs next spring.
In other words, the next lamb crop I'll sell off this farm
will be two years this autumn, in two years' time.
So, when you're talking compensation, who's compensating me
to keep my family and everything ticking over tidy for two years?
And it could take a lot longer for flocks
to be re-established on the hills.
The problems in the Beacons have coincided with serious
concerns about the cost of this crisis to the taxpayer.
In some other countries, farmers pay into an insurance scheme.
Here, the eventual bill for Foot And Mouth
is expected to be more than £2 billion.
It's a very large amount of money.
I think there will be difficulties in the future.
If we have an outbreak like this again,
there'd be difficulties in terms of the public perception,
of our carcass disposal, of cullings and so forth.
We must think very carefully as to who in future should pay for it,
whether there should be a compulsory insurance scheme perhaps and so on.
Sadly, the one thing we can't do,
is guarantee that Foot And Mouth will never come back.
And it'll be a while yet before we can guarantee that it's gone away.
If more sheep in Wales, and Cumbria and Yorkshire, are found
to have been exposed to this disease, then there'll be more culls
and we could see more animals and more money going up in smoke.
Edwin is still farming in the Brecon Beacons,
albeit with a smaller flock.
It took him four years to rebuild his livelihood
after Foot And Mouth, but the memories will stay with him forever.
Edwin, that must have been an incredibly emotional
and very frustrating time for you?
It was. It was frustrating for everybody.
We're all in the same boat.
We're all neighbours. Stock all taken out.
My sheep were all killed in this shed.
And not wanting to take you back to such a dark place,
but that day when they came to slaughter your sheep,
what was the process? What happened that day?
They were killed in here and that shed there, as I said.
We were bringing sheep in with these dogs in groups,
into pens, and they were killed.
Then we'd bring another group in and they'd kill them.
That's the process. We started killing at about nine in the morning
and we finished that night about seven o'clock. So it was a long day.
And I'm imagining the noise must have been terrible of the gunshots?
You heard the gunshots, but for days after,
you could smell the smoke from the guns, if you like.
In this building for days and days, it seemed,
weeks, perhaps, but a long time.
The reminder was constantly there.
Thinking back to that period, did you ever think there would be
a time when you would fully recover from it?
I don't think... Well, yes.
Obviously, you've got to fully recover and you've got to move on,
but you don't forget, do you? The memories are there.
You kind of brush them to one side and you move on.
But you don't forget.
And how did the different farmers in this area cope with Foot And Mouth?
Did you chat to one another or was it something you suffered alone?
We had to then because it involved all of us.
The Beacons is a Grazers' Association.
It affected everybody.
It was all discussed in meetings.
"Which way are we going to go?" "Met DEFRA..." you can imagine.
Since then, if you like, it's...hardly referred to.
We don't speak about it.
It's something everyone wants to forget.
Did anything positive come out of it?
We got together and we started off an organisation
called the Welsh Commons Forum. Suddenly, you know,
we do have a voice in what we're expected to look after.
At the end of the day, you can't undermine the fact that
to keep these hills in good heart,
you're relying on the sheep, the grazing animal.
But to have the grazing animal, you have to have the farmers.
How is farming today then?
How is it looking in 2009?
I'm going to Llandovery market shortly and if you'd like to come
-for a run with me, and I'll show you.
-Perfect. Let's go.
We're in the heart of upland hill farming country here
and a couple of years ago,
you might have caught sight of one man and his flock.
Let's catch up with Adam Henson in the second part
of his geese droving adventure.
It's half past six in the morning.
I've got a good fire going.
Tea's on the brew.
it just didn't stop raining all night long
and I'm so pleased I've got a dry morning.
I'll have a nice cup of tea.
And I've also got a typical drover's breakfast.
Some nice, look at that, fatty bacon.
There's no chance of a lie-in because I'm so worried about the geese.
Thankfully, all 40 are still there.
The straw and tent have kept most of them dry, but Jemima is still muddy.
Peter's turned up to help me assess their condition.
There's one there, Peter, that's still looking quite wet.
Shall we catch it and dry it off a bit?
Yes, I think that would be a good idea.
It doesn't seem to be particularly waterproof, does it?
I think that's part of the problem with this bird.
It hasn't got such good feathers.
I did notice it when we were in the rain yesterday.
Whereas the other birds got white again, this bird didn't seem to be
making any really good impression when it was trying to preen.
Her neck's nice and dry.
She certainly feels very warm under her wings and things.
Probably warmer than I am!
So you think they're fit and ready to go?
Yes, I'm happy about them now.
I wouldn't have been if we hadn't had the straw.
It was most important to have that.
But as they're dry now, I think we're all right.
I was hoping for a few eggs this morning to go with my bacon.
You'd be lucky in weather like this, wouldn't you?
With miles of empty moorland ahead, we get under way.
Long grass makes for a slow waddling.
It takes an hour to travel half a mile.
With Jemima holding back, we take plenty of rest. This allows me
to find out more droving tales from Richard, our historian.
Richard, why did the drovers decide to cross the moor
when the going must have been pretty tough
and they could have used the highways?
Yes, there were lots of highways,
but the problem was that from the 17th century onwards,
many highways were turnpiked, which meant you had to pay
tuppence for every animal that passed through the turnpikes.
So, frequently drovers would choose these torturous mountain routes
to avoid those tolls and they took a balanced view,
"If I take my cattle along the turnpike and have to pay the toll,
"perhaps I'll get them to market in better condition."
Or they'd say, "In order to avoid the turnpikes,
"I'll take the mountain roads and take a risk that
"I'll lose condition."
This is the goose that we dried off this morning with Peter, the vet.
I think she's OK, but she seems to be hanging to the back of the flock
the whole time. We've got a few miles to go, so I thought I'd just
give her a lift, give her a helping hand.
In the big wide open, I am isolated, but I don't feel alone.
Hundreds of drovers and millions of animals have trodden this same track.
Most would have been the huge cattle droves
bound for Smithfields in London.
Their spirits still seem alive on this moor.
Maud's ducking and darting keeps the geese
on track over the hazardous pathways.
After six hours, we're leaving open moorlands of South Wales behind,
to head for Cilycwm,
a village where many drovers have spent the night.
All 40 geese are still with me and we're on target.
After a quick wash and a swim, the birds seem revived.
It's just Jemima who needs a helping hand.
The villagers of Cilycwm come out to watch
as I herd the geese down the main street.
We've made it to Cilycwm that used to be a popular drovers' haunt,
with five pubs catering for the herders and their beasts.
There's now just one pub left.
And that's where we're staying for the night.
There you go, girls and boys, lovely spot to settle in for the night.
Now it's time for me to go and get a nice pint of beer.
This is a well deserved pint after a long day.
Cheers. I really do need this.
Our daily routine is now firmly in place.
First thing, Peter, our vet, checks the geese.
They're looking very well this morning.
We put them in a shed overnight because there are
a lot of foxes in central Wales and we thought better safe than sorry.
They look this morning almost as though they're on
a Butlins holiday cruise. They're very comfortable
and there's masses of grass to eat.
No problems with the legs at all.
So, hopefully we shall have another good day with them.
Sit, sit, sit.
Come on, geese. Here, Maud.
We're off on our third and final day to the market place in Llandovery.
There's quite a lot of roadwork and it's a fair way,
so I hope they're all going to make it.
Today's slow pace even suits Jemima, the runt of our flock.
I'm beginning to think we might actually pull this journey off.
The geese have come eight miles so far and there's just four more to go.
I bet my last hunk of cheese
that this is the first goose drove on this road for 100 years.
When the last drovers came through, these trees would have been saplings.
When we set out, Llandovery seemed a far away goal.
We've trekked through forests, over moors and down country lanes.
Some said we'd never get 40 geese over the 12 miles,
but we're all still together, even Jemima, and we're nearly there.
After our three-day journey we've reached Llandovery
and the procession of geese is going to
lead us down to the market place where I'm going to meet the mayor.
They look very tame.
-They've quietened down nicely.
-They are nice!
-They're not flustered by the people or anything, are they?
That's it, keep nice and clear now so we come through,
we don't want to worry the geese too much. Thank you.
The mayor is just over there, so I'll go and say hello to her.
-Hello, you must be the mayor.
-I am indeed. How do you do?
And you've done this wonderful journey.
We've had a fantastic trip. We walked them right over
the top of the moor and then down into town.
We've had a lovely trip. I've got a little something for you.
Drovers used to carry letters. We've got a letter of thanks for you here.
What a lovely idea. Look at that! I'm absolutely thrilled with that.
-Thank you very much.
-Thank you for welcoming us.
it's been a great trip for me and the geese and the dog.
I think it's a wonderful achievement.
Give the geese a round of applause, they've walked for three days.
When the crowds disperse, I walk the final part of my drovers' way.
200 years ago, my flock of 40 geese would have been a tiny number in
comparison to the hundreds of birds, cows and sheep walked here by others.
Drovers would swap tales and drink beer in this buzzing market square
as they waited to sell their animals.
Today it's traffic, not animals, that fill Llandovery's streets.
But the drovers are this town's historical heroes
and reminders of them are everywhere.
Well, we've made it to Llandovery, so I suppose that's the end
of our epic journey. It's certainly a trip I'll never forget.
Now it's time for the geese to return to their farm and me to mine.
Over the last three days, I feel like I've stepped back in time
and just got a taste of what it must have been like to be a drover.
I've made it to Llandovery, too.
The final stop on my journey across the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Local farmer Edwin Harris has brought me along to the market.
How important are these markets?
The livestock markets through the country
are a vital part of the farming industry.
Without them, I think the industry would die.
Obviously, during Foot And Mouth they were closed down.
The whole place ground to a halt. Did that really affect it?
It did, especially with the Foot And Mouth areas where you couldn't travel anyway.
Not be able to move the livestock around?
No. We were totally reliant on supermarkets then to buy stock.
Do you remember when the markets reopened after that terrible time?
-What was the mood like?
because we had our markets back.
Are you likely to actually be buying anything today?
I doubt it because of the time of the year.
You'll see a fairly good trade today, but of course time will tell
and if we go inside we'll know what happens, won't we?
£4, 4.20, 4.20, 4.50, 4.50, 4.80, 4.80,
4.80, £5 - at £5.20.
5.20, 5.50, 5.50, 5.50, at £5.50.
And on same pen. 47, what a lovely pen of lambs these are.
All new lambs and look at them and all farm-assured now.
It's incredibly fast but I'm just getting a handle
on the different type of sheep and lambs.
These are for store, so the prices go slightly lower.
7.50, and 52...
It's an extraordinary atmosphere because you've got the farmers,
you've got the supermarket buyers and they're all watching out
to see who's selling what for what sort of price.
It's an amazing atmosphere. It's very social here.
And the biggest surprise of all is that despite grim global economics,
the trade here is booming.
The two lambs I brought in, they were meant to be keeping on as rams,
but I didn't see them good enough.
I thought I'd sell them today because the prices are quite high
and they made £80, so I was quite happy.
But there were only two, it's a pity there weren't 100,
you know, but there we are!
No, trade's good. Everybody seems happy and smiling, so it's not bad.
I bought 20 hoggets in and they averaged...
£80 - about £80 apiece.
Some of the smallest ones were in the 40s,
but the majority in the 80s.
They're probably £20 up on this time last year.
£20 better off.
Yes, which we could do with.
I wish I'd bought some sheep to make some money, yes.
As I was telling you earlier,
empty pockets. That's the story of my life!
What's your first reaction to today's sales?
First reaction? It's been a decent sale this morning, to be honest.
Trade is back up from last week.
A bit more spirited bidding, less numbers about.
Drawn a few extra customers out today.
We've had a very nice show of lambs here today, to be honest.
It's reflected in the price, really.
So some very happy farmers
and you as an auctioneer must be happy as well.
-For a change, yes, we're all happy!
-Thank you very much.
So, how come the farmers are smiling while the bankers are sobbing?
I met up with National Farmers' Union county chairman,
Bernard Llewellyn, to find out.
What I'm interested to see today is that while the country is dipping
into economic turmoil, farming seems to be on the up. Why is that?
I think you must be aware that in reality
WE'VE been on the dip for a very long time.
Really, primarily, certainly today because of the value of the Euro
against world currency, we're seeing the advantage at last
coming through to us as farmers.
Anybody producing anything in the UK at the moment
is going to be at an advantage.
Because it's going to cost, particularly supermarkets
in our case, more money to buy in from abroad.
Also as producers we can compete with those farmers from abroad as well.
So while the rest of the country is suffering an economic downturn,
farming is coming out of recession?
We hope that it's coming out of recession anyway.
I think it's a very complicated equation, isn't it?
It's about the value of the pound against other world currencies,
it's also about the attitude of banks.
Farming has always been a very, very poor return on capital invested,
But now we're seeing a change in that banks are starting to get nervous
about assets that people have, because in reality we're actually
very asset-rich it means that
we're probably being looked on in a bit more of a friendly way now.
2001 was an incredibly bleak period for the entire farming community.
Did you or could you imagine a time when farming would bounce back?
Well, you have to. You really wouldn't be a farmer
if you didn't have SOME faith in what was going on.
All right, Foot And Mouth was a huge problem,
but we've had problems every bit as bad as that in the past.
Certainly that was the straw that broke the camel's back at the time,
but it certainly wasn't an issue
that we never felt we could come back from.
Travelling the length and breadth of this National Park
has given me a real insight into the people and the places
that have shaped the Brecon Beacons.
And for an area that was so badly hit by Foot And Mouth
it seems all the more deserving that farming is finally back on its feet.
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