Pont Stock Checkers Course; Ash Die Back; October Meadows Meeting Update

Pont Stock Checkers Course  (30 August 2016)

Thanks to Rachel Barber for this report, and some photos of ash die back disease on her ash trees …

Interested in what PONT does – and interested in getting grazing animals and meadows working together, I went along to the Stock Checkers course highlighted on the CMG blog on 16 August.  The course was held at the Wildfowl and Wetlands centre at Llanelli.  I’ve not been long in the area and it was my first trip there. It was a sunny and very warm day – and the views from the training room out over the estuary were stunning.  There was plenty of information given on the course – thank you Hilary for an excellent delivery (and Emma for arranging the training).  There was also plenty of discussion in the group – and lots learned.


In the context of grazing for nature conservation, we covered the fundamentals of the legal welfare framework – and the signs of healthy and unhealthy stock.  We looked at shelter, fencing and dangers to animals out grazing both natural and human related.  The indicators of common diseases in cattle, sheep, horses, goats and pigs were reviewed in a structured way so that there was a methodology for reporting (should we actually be doing a formal stock check)…s1010014-2

(Always remember to check numbers, sometimes not as easy as it seems…ed.)

In the afternoon session we meandered out to look at the stock that the WWT have on their land to apply some of the checking methods we had tackled in the class setting in the morning.  It was also of course a chance to have a nosy at what plant life and insect life was immediately visible.

I don’t have lots of stock – but 4 ponies do need managing for their own health and that of the land.  I came away from the course with new ideas as well as the fundamentals in stock checking under my belt.s1010015-2


Whilst on the subject of Pont could I ask about the hay exchange?  This is the first year we have put our haylage on the site.  I would be interested in any feedback that others have on that route or others used to sell their meadow hay.


Eithinduon is losing its ash trees to Dieback.  Some have fully succumbed but it’s mixed, with others which are showing few or no signs of attack.  Those holding out tend to be the older and larger ones – but there are a few in some rows planted some 10 or so years ago which are currently ok although side by side with the brown stems of those already hard hit or dead.  I can only hope that the resistance shown continues – although I am not holding my breath.  Not knowing how things will look next spring, I have been round to take some photos.  I won’t share the ones with the sad view of the bare stems – unseasonal twigs with a few limp leaves still clinging but a couple of glorious trees that I am going to miss very much.img_7911img_7944img_7915 …. Thanks to Rachel Barber.


In our area of North Carms, (Gelli Uchaf) 2016 is the year when ash die back has also become all too obvious. Many young trees were showing typical dying leaves, and yellow browning of stems earlier in the year.sdim9320-2sdim9318-2sdim9315-2 Now there are huge numbers of trees which even at the beginning of September have lost all their leaves.sdim9313-2 This will increasingly create major landscape impacts, as the trees die completely, but also possible safety concerns, particularly for those mature trees lining the county’s lanes and roads. However I would speculate that there might be a silver lining for meadow owners in that increased twiggy/branch debris being blown off affected trees into surrounding pastures might be of benefit to meadow fungi and plant growth as this material gets broken down, and nutrients recycled.

I wonder what other reader’s experience of this condition on local land is?


An update about the October meadows meeting at Myddfai Visitor Centre on the morning of Saturday October 8th, from 10.00am

In addition to the opening talk by Sheikh Ahmed on the physicians of Myddfai and their use of herbal remedies, 4 local meadow owners will be telling us a little bit about their own meadows and holdings…s1010044-2

(Aftermath regrowth at one of the Dyfed Permaculture Trust scythed hay meadows, above on 14/09/)

Laurence Brooks is a consultant ecologist, and owns a 25 acre farm, which was bought about 4 years ago. It had one established herb-rich hay meadow (about 2 acres) and no areas had any chemical inputs – or inputs of any other kind – time/effort etc! for quite a few years. It was mainly horse grazed with a few sheep and a lot of chickens. It still has no inputs (except time, money and effort!) and now has three meadows, one arable field and three fields permanent grazing for 11 cows, and about 35 sheep including lambs. Just over 1 hectare has been planted as broad leaved woodland and one ungrazed enclosure contains a pond and is turning to scrub.

Quentin McGarvie who manages meadows on slopes without machinery will also talk about his experiences, as will Maggie Fearn, and Lynn Sharpe.s1010016-2

At the summer social meeting, Colin Cheesman commented that all meadows are individually different and in many ways unique, so it’s great to have such a wealth of practical knowledge and the experience of other Carmarthenshire meadow owners to listen to, and learn from.

There will be also be an opportunity to ask questions, and discuss ideas for further development of the meadows group. The meeting is free for anyone wishing to attend and refreshments, including cakes and lunch, will be available from the centre’s cafe. It would be really helpful for the centre’s catering team if anyone planning on attending could let me know in advance, and if they’re likely to stay for some lunch so that Myddfai have an idea of numbers of numbers to expect..

Please email Julian Wormald …  grumpyhobbit@gmail.com

Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Pont Stock Checkers Course; Ash Die Back; October Meadows Meeting Update

  1. Another interesting blog Julian. Love the photos of the sheep on the road! The dying/dead ash trees are really noticeable now and it’s a very sad sight indeed. The landscape will be changed for many years to come when the trees fail and fall. What news of regenerating the gaps in the hedges with new planting or is it too early for planning? When a tree is in a hedge bordering a road is it the joint responsibility of the land owner and the council to make sure the tree is safe or does it all fall on the land owner to ensure safety of passers by?
    Delighted that the meeting at Mydffai is all planned and proceeding well- sounds really interesting.


    • Thanks Marianne. It’s great to have Rachel’s feedback on the course and the comments about ash problems near her property as well.
      I loved the sheep on the road – one of those occasions where having a camera sitting on the passenger seat, instead of Fiona, was a fluke – and a quiet mountain road, to allow me to stop in the middle and wind down the window to get the shot.
      Your comments about responsibility for roadside trees is one which has concerned me as well. Within the last month, I counted 60 potential “widow maker” trees showing significant ash die back (early leaf drop) on the short distance between Rhydcymerau and Llansawel (perhaps just 4 miles). Dealing with each tree will be a big job, but if not tackled early enough, I fear accidents or worse will be inevitable. But who is responsible?? Ash are prone to drop limbs anyway. Just 2 weeks after I’d thought to make such count, sure enough I spotted a big limb, sawn up at the side of the road. I’ve just had a quick google and see that Devon has an action plan – but I couldn’t get it to download properly. But it seemed to imply that there are nearly half a million ash trees along Devon’s roads, and that landowners are responsible for them. That’s an awful lot of potential expensive tree surgery work, but what happens if the landowner doesn’t know about this. Or doesn’t have the resources to pay for tree surgery work? And the tree could potentially affect a road?
      If you’re interested in a poster to put up somewhere to promote the meeting, I could always email you a document,
      best wishes


  2. Thanks Julian for your reply and yes please I’d like a poster to put up on our local notice board. I did exactly the same with noticing the ash die back on all our local lanes and worried about the consequences of branches falling! I’ll have a look to see if I can find the Devon action plan. Thanks again.


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