Our journey began in Rosslare Europort at 7:30am on Sunday morning. The first challenge for some of us was figuring out how to pay for parking, thankfully another member of the group came to our assistance, it may have taken us some time to realise we needed to press the “plus” button to bring up the hours!
After meeting the rest of the ladies, including Siobhán from Farm tours Ireland, we boarded the ferry to Pembroke. From then on, Siobhán had everything organised for us, some compared it to having a Mammy. This meant we could just sit back and enjoy the trip.
The majority of the group of 12 were members of South East Women in Farming Ireland (SEWFI), though there was a member of Meitheal na mBan, and myself from West Women in Farming Ireland (WWFI). The trip was organised by SEWFI, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for organising an amazing trip and for being so inclusive and welcoming.
The crossing to Pembroke was quite relaxed, though some of us, myself included felt like we were still on a boat that evening and even the next day! This was completely unrelated to cider sampling with Kate and Jim Beavan.
After arriving in Pembroke, we loaded onto a bus to visit Kate Beavan and family. The farm itself had a brilliant character, including a 17th century barn. The barn was the oldest of its kind which, is still in agricultural use. Lambing takes place in the same barn where we enjoyed tea and coffee, some beautiful welsh cakes and cider amongst other homemade treats.
The farm’s personality was reflected in the family who were very open and warm. The story they told and their open and genuine way of telling it was brilliant. This was the highlight of the visit for me. It was interesting to see that some of the same issues were of concern in Wales as in Ireland. The topics of succession, diversification, and access to land were discussed, for example.
Other highlights on this farm included Kate’s home kit for faecal egg counts. The sheep were only dosed for stomach worms when counts were over 300 eggs/gram. A game called ‘guess the poo’, where we tried (unsuccessfully) to match animals to their droppings was also entertaining. I think it’s fair to say we all left feeling inspired and energised.
We headed back to Hereford town in Herefordshire, where some enjoyed Hereford beef for dinner.
After an early start, we arrived at the Royal Welsh show around 9:00am. We were welcomed at the International Pavilion where we pinned flags onto the world map, I made sure to place one in the West! One group headed straight to the food tent, already feeling peckish after breakfast. The range of food and drinks on display was impressive. We went from there to view livestock and a wool handling competition.
The highlight of the Royal Welsh show for me was the networking lunch with Welsh farm women. Again the common issues of concerns really stood out for me. The conversations I had included the potential effects of Brexit, milk price volatility, labour issues on farms and diversification. There was a definite feeling of unity between the two groups. Great contacts were made and it won’t be the last time we will meet these women.
After lunch we viewed a fantastic horse display from Lorenzo who stood on the backs of two horses, with one leg on each, while other animals in the group followed alongside. The display was spectacular. His communication skills and obvious respect for the animals was fascinating.
One incident which I feel belongs in this piece involves three of us desperately looking for ice-cream when a young man unexpectedly stripped to his underwear and dived into a hot tub display. I am still unsure as to whose reaction was more amusing, was it that of the salesman or an unfortunate small boy who happened to get soaked at the edge of the hot tub!
The second night of the trip was spent in Carmarthen. During dinner and long afterwards many stories were told and wisdom shared, as was the case throughout the whole trip. One conclusion reached was that the root cause of all stress on farms is SHEEP (other livestock are also a potential cause, as are men!).
Our visit to the National Botanic Garden of Wales was excellent. After a walk around the ‘Circle of Decision’ – a beautiful fountain, surrounded by a spiral stonework path, we split into smaller groups and explored different parts of the gardens.
The butterfly house was the highlight for me. It was located in a heated glasshouse. The butterflies were amazing, flying around and above us. I was also on a tour of the largest single span glasshouse in the world. This was filled with plants from the Mediterranean climates of the world. One particular plant called a wire mesh plant was of particular interest to us!
The journey back to Rosslare was equally as relaxed as the one to Pembroke, We all returned home with wonderful memories, ideas and new friends.