Author: Adam

Exmoor ponies for grazing

November 2020

We’re really excited to welcome four beautiful Exmoor ponies to help us with our land managment and grazing here at Llwynbwch. Gypsy, Rosemarie, Sienna and Ursula arrived a week ago and have to come to us from a local Welsh breeder, with help from The Exmoor Pony Society. Ursula and Sienna have recently been grazing a nature Reserve in nearby Ystradgynlais. All four of them are very friendly and inquisitive and have the distinctive Exmoor features of a reddish brown coat and honey coloured ‘mealy’ markings aound their eyes and muzzle. It’s a good job they’re hardy little ponies, as this past week we’ve had a lot of rain! Their shaggy thick coats and wide nostrils mean the cold and wet is no bother to them.

The Exmoor pony is native to the British Isles, their natural habitat is the high moorland of West Somerset and North Devon. Numbers plummeted to a low of 50 just after the second world war. Although their numbers have improved greatly, they have been given “endangered” status by The Rare Breeds Survival Trust and “threatened” status by The Livestock Conservancy.

Exmoor ponies are versatile, adaptable, very strong for their size and able to turn their hooves to a wide variety of activities. ‘Historically, the Exmoor pony was used by the hill farmers to undertake all kinds of work from being ridden for shepherding to being used in harness for ploughing, harrowing, taking feed to stock and the farmer’s family to market and church.

Exmoors have carved a niche for themselves as conservation grazers. Their excellent dental conformation makes them very neat grazers with a clean bite. They readily graze on tough herbage that other animals will not touch allowing more delicate plants space to grow. The Moorland Mouse Trust have over 100 ponies tidying up the British countryside as do the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust who, as their name suggests have a smaller number of ponies grazing in North Yorkshire and the Sussex Pony Grazing and Conservation Trust who place ponies on sites in Sussex.

They are also employed by a number of county Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the RSPB.’
(Text taken from The Exmoor Pony Society website.)

Here at Llwynbwch they can roam free in our 60 acres and they seem to be settling well. They have plenty of places to shelter in the wooded areas and access to lots of streams for fresh water.  We hope their light but varied grazing will encourage and increase the biodiversity.

Electric car charging, Green Key Site accreditation, Visit Wales & PV solar

  • Common spotted orchid
  • Common spotted orchid
  • Meadow at Under Starry Skies
  • Marsh fritillary butterfly
  • Common Blue butterflies
  • Bees in hive at Under Starry Skies
  • Derwen cabin
  • Derwen cabin
  • Wild Guide Wales

As 2020 gets into full swing, we’ve been reflecting on some of our highlights from 2019. We’re really proud to have had a year which has seen us lowering our carbon footprint even further.

Firstly, a huge ‘Thank you’ to all our guests who have either discovered us during this past year, or who have returned. We really enjoy meeting you all and sharing Llwynbwch farm, the beauty of the Twyi Valley and all that Carmarthenshire has to offer and we’re genuinely grateful that you have chosen Under Starry Skies for your holiday.

2019 started with a wonderful flurry of snow which we loved (especially Adam, who gets possibly more excited than our kids!) February was a great month; firstly we were delighted to hear we’d been included in Wild Guide Wales: Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life, a travel guide from Wild Things Publishing. We were pleased Visit Wales awarded Llwynbwch Barn four stars and accredited Hafan and Derwen as a ‘Quality Assured Glamping Site’. Lastly, we were super happy to have our electric vehicle charger fitted by Zero Carbon world. After providing electric hook up for a number of guests with electric cars during 2018, we decided to upgrade to a charger and take another small step towards Under Starry Skies offering low carbon holidays.

April saw the return of the wood anenomes down by the river and through the woods here at Llwynbwch farm. Although we have lived here for almost eight years now we’re always amazed by the swathes, which seem to increase year on year. May brought the bluebells, which are equally stunning, both in their intense colour and sheer numbers down in the woods beyond the cabins. As a family we also enjoyed visiting National Trust Dinefwr‘s Castle Woods and Coed Tregib, both in Llandeilo, which had incredible carpets of bluebells this year. If you haven’t stayed in Llwynbwch Barn or Hafan & Derwen cabins during bluebell season, do come and see them for yourself! As the bluebells died down, the wildflowers in the meadows started their show, including yellow rattle, devil’s bit scabious, helleborines, many common spotted orchids and at least 7 greater butterfly-orchids, the most we have counted here at Llwynbwch. This year our friend Charlotte from Clyn Wallis Apiary in nearby Gwernogle established a further two beehives in the meadows, as the previous year had done so well. She harvested a satisfying large amount of honey, which is now available for our guests to purchase. We noted many butterflies and day-flying moths, damselflies and dragonflies. The wildlife ponds were full of life and we took great pleasure in watching the heron arrive most days. Throughout the year guests have seen and heard bats, owls and the groups of deer, along with signs of badgers. We still haven’t spotted an otter, although we’ve definitely seen footprints and plenty of spraints.

In May we were able to realise our long term goal of installing PV solar for Llwynbwch Barn and our own home, providing both buildings with low carbon electricity. When demand is higher than that can provide, we continue to use electricity from Ecotricity.

In July we were delighted to become a Green Key site. The Green Key award is a leading standard of excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. This prestigious eco-label represents a commitment by businesses that their tourism establishments adhere to the strict criteria as stipulated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

August saw the return of the horses and cattle for our annual meadow grazing, after the wildflowers had finished flowering and set seeds. We love having the stock on the land and always enjoy their return. Whilst they are gentle animals, they certainly do their best at checking on the fencing, often giving us extra work by barging through week points in hedges to find tastier titbits!

Autumn once again found us making chutneys from apples and fruit grown here at Llwynbwch.

The year came to an end with a lovely surprise, Hafan and Derwen cabins were included in the Sunday Telegraph magazine’s cover story on cabin stays article about cabin stays.

We hope to welcome you to Under Starry Skies in 2020!
Lou & Adam