Author: Lou

Walking the land with Ivy from Conservation and Trees, June 2023



We are very lucky to be stewards of the land here at Llwynbwch.

We’re not the first and we certainly won’t be the last and whilst we’re always looking, listening and learning from the land, neither of us are trained ecologists, so we happily look to others for support and advice. (As a small aside, Adam did study Environmental Biology in his university days, but they’re a few years ago now!)

In June we spent an enjoyable afternoon with Ivy, an ecologist from nearby conservation business Conversations and Trees, walking the land and discussing our land management plans, especially in relation to how the Exmoor ponies are grazing and any impact this has. It was particularly dry, being a warm June day and many of the usual streams had stopped running – quite unusual here!

During our walk we spotted purple moor grass/ melinio, plenty of healthy valerian, orchids and dog violet growing as well as meadow thistle, tormentil scabious and numerous meadow brown, ringlets and checkered skipper butterflies. We discussed brambles, whether and how much to control its growth (it can be a habitat for both hedgehogs and dormice) and whether or not to bruise bracken to weaken its growth. We also talked at length about scrub encroachment – some scrub is great for wildlife but it will keep trying to turn into woodland if left. 

We told Ivy that nearby neighbours had been out looking for glow worms and asked if she’d ever seen any locally. Neither of us have, so far, but we are hopeful and will definitely be on the lookout now it’s in our thoughts!

We found Sneezewort, Marsh willowherb, an absolutely stunning golden ringed dragonfly, Burnet moths, Hemp agrimony and some common Cow-wheat down by the gorge near ‘Goat’ field. This is a plant food for the Heath Fritillary butterfly. We didn’t see any Heath Fritillaries, but will now keep our eyes peeled for any sightings.
We were lucky to share a beautiful afternoon and have much to look up and think about moving forwards, along with some more decisions to be made!

Bat survey June 2023

Common Pipistrelle

Common Pipistrelle

In June 2023 we were very happy to be surveyed for bats, as part of the Carmarthenshire Bat Project. The project aims to build on the biological records for bats at the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre (WWBIC).

Between 2nd and 5th June 2023, a bat survey was carried out, with four Audiomoth bat detectors deployed around the site in ‘night time mode’, with the main objective being to determine which bat species are present in and around the area. Two of the sites were very close to Hafan and Derwen cabins, one close to Llwynbwch Barn and the final one near Lou & Adam’s home.

Bat abundance overall was considered to be moderate. However, noctule activity was more than seen anywhere else in Wales by this surveyor, with the following 7 species detected: Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Longeared bat, Noctule bat, Natterer’s bat, Possible Daubenton’s bat and an Unidentified Myotis bat.

The bat most recorded was Common pipistrelle and is likely to be roosting at the site/ dwelling or very nearby. It was recorded at both dusk and dawn. The likelihood of bats roosting locally is determined by their expected time of emergence and also the time they arrive back at dawn to roost. The next most recorded bats were soprano
pipistrelle and noctule, with the latter being recorded at dusk and dawn suggesting a nearby roost. Longeared bat (Plecotus species), which is most likely to be brown long-eared, was recorded late in the evening and at dawn.
The Myotis group covers 6 species of bats in the UK and they are all difficult to identify unless captured, but there
are some subtle differences! Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii) and Natterer’s (Myotis natterer’s) bats can
sometimes be determined by their distinctive call shapes. However, it is likely that any bats identified as just
“Myotis” will include both Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats. Echolocation calls vary, depending on what the bat is
doing and where it is. Myotis and Plecotus species are found roosting in buildings as well as in trees but the noctule are primarily tree dwellers and from its emergence here at Llwynbwch it is most likely to be roosting in one of the boundary or woodland mature trees.

Overall, a total of 24 new biological records, 6/7 species was generated from this site survey. Three
were new species records for the area (Daubenton’s, Natterers’ and longeared). We are so pleased to hear that our home and business are supporting so much night time activity!

Celebrating Ty Mawr, our new communal building! Easter 2023


We’re over the moon happy to have welcomed our first guests to Ty Mawr, our new communal building!

Situated in a beautiful, peaceful meadow under ‘y fan’ (our beautiful local hill), Ty Mawr is a short enough walk from both Hafan and Derwen cabins, whilst each space still remains private.

Ty Mawr literally means ‘big house’ and it’s here that you can enjoy a relaxing time with friends and family. Inside you’ll find a large, light room with a comfy seating area to chill around a woodburner, a kitchen area and a large dining table which can easily seat eight. There are also books, board games and a bluetooth speaker for all your favourite tunes. Outside, take it easy on the deck which is a suntrap by day, or by night chill under starry skies. Perhaps you’re hoping to toast marshmallows during your stay – just pull up a bench by the firepit!



Ty Mawr opened for our Easter guests (who loved it!) and offers each cabin its own private, modern shower room. Now you have a choice of where to cook, eat and relax – either in your own cabin or here in Ty Mawr. We’re excited to offer more for family or friend groups who may wish to book the cabins alongside Llwynbwch Barn. We have our first retreats booked in for 2024, when the whole site will be used together and we hope to host more over the coming years.

We finally started building Ty Mawr in 2020, after many years of planning and then a long old wait for planning permission whilst the department locked down during covid days! It’s been a great project to work on – our largest build to date, still with sustainability at heart. Much of the furniture and kitchen has been hand built by Adam, using sycamore, oak and ash felled and planked here at Llwynbwch. The building foundations were made with concrete piles, rather than footings (to use less concrete in the build – concrete isn’t a very sustainable material). The roofing is recycled, the whole building is clad in local larch and the tree uprights which support the roof come from our friends at nearby Coed Talylan. LED lighting is used throughout the build and the bathrooms have timed lighting sensors. The composting loos are sourced from Woo Woo waterless toilets and are completely odour-free, off grid and really rather posh! We twinned these toilets with Toilet Twinning to help fund a project teaching communities about hygiene and supplying sustainable resources for families to build their own toilets and of course, like all our bathrooms here at Under Starry Skies, they’re stocked with Who Gives a Crap loo roll!        

All in all, as you can probably tell, we’re feeling rather proud!                       

Toilet Twinning, Feb 2023


Toilet Twinning!

‘What’s that?’ You may well ask!

Toilet Twinning has been running since 2010 and funds global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes run by Tearfund. ‘Tearfund’s partners work alongside communities, bringing people together in workshops and action groups focused on issues that concern them – such as farming. Lasting, whole-life transformation comes from working alongside someone, not making decisions on their behalf. Toilet Twinning’s approach is about dignity and self-respect as much as it is about alleviating poverty and accessing safe sanitation.’ (words from Toilet Twinning’s website).

Essentially, by twinning our toilets here at Under Starry Skies with toilets overseas, we’re helping in funding projects which teach communities about hygiene and supplying sustainable resources for families to build their own toilets.

Having seen Toilet Twinning at many festivals and other community set ups, we’ve finally got round to twinning here at Under Starry Skies!

The loo in Llwynbwch Barn is now twinned with a latrine in Cote D’Ivoire (Poliedouo 2, Bouna Latrine No. 13279, Latitude 9.13994, Longitude -2.92672), while the two loos in our new building, Ty Mawr, will be twinned with a latrine in Afghanistan (Latrine No. 26416) and one in Zambia (Nkwazi, Latrine No. 45835, Latitude 12.5634 Longitude 28.3849).

If you happen to be reading this whilst sat on either of our loos, perhaps you have a moment to read a bit more about Toilet Twinning and the great things they do here, you may even wish to make a donation!

Toilet Twinning Cote D'Ivoire & Llwynbwch Barn     Toilet Twinning certificates 

Our carbon footprint/ Ecollective Carbon Emissions Survey, Jan 2023

Carbon Footprint
Carbon Footprint

Carbon footprint image Getty Images

Our Carbon Footprint…

We’re really happy to receive results of our Carbon Emissions Survey from Ecollective, in collaboration with Canopy and Stars. We’re super excited to report that our carbon footprint per cabin per night is currently 1.0kg CO2e. This amount can be compared with the National average for UK Hotels of 14.9kg (CO2e) per bedroom per night.

Since we set up in 2012, sustainability has been at the heart of our business. The data we submitted to Ecollective incorporates all aspects of our cabins and our business, from the way the cabins were built, the land that surrounds them, how the water is heated for guests’ showers and even how the laundry (guests’ bedding & towels etc) is done! In a nutshell, we designed, built and maintain the cabins ourselves, using local materials where possible. They are highly insulated and heated by wood burners, with wood sourced and processed by ourselves from our woodlands. Electricity for the cabins is supplied by solar panels, cooking is on gas hobs (camping gas bottles), woodburner, over a campfire or on the BBQ.

Currently guests shower in the extension to our farmhouse, with showers heated by a mix of back boiler from our woodburner, and electricity provided by solar pv on our roof, topped up by electricity supplied by Ecotricity. Once Ty Mawr (our new communal building) is complete, showers will be powered by gas.

We do all the cleaning and landscaping, including all the guest laundry here on site using earth friendly products. The cabins are surrounded by our 60 acres of wildflower meadows and woodland, which are large carbon sinks. Over the last 10 years we’ve been thinking about all these things so you don’t have to! You can arrive for your stay knowing your carbon footprint is pretty teeny tiny, your impact on our planet small. We’re always looking to improve and further reduce our emissions.

A farrier visit for the Exmoor ponies, July 2022

Huge thanks to Kevin who came down on one of the hottest days of the year to give Bear, Jasper and Rosemarie a pedicure!

Big brave Bear went first and showed nervous Jasper and Rosemarie how it was done. All three of them behaved themselves and then bolted off together into the cool shade of the trees once it was all over! They’ve been enjoying cooling off in the river and streams during this warm weather.

As the ponies are constantly on the move searching for food, their feet wear down naturally as there is constant movement and therefore blood going to the foot. However, it’s good to have their hooves checked every few months. We’ve made a fenced holding pen for this purpose and thankfully it worked well.

SpeedoMick comes to stay! August 2021

Speedomick with Lou, Adam & Blue dog outside Llwynbwch Barn

We were very pleased to support fundraising legend SpeedoMick over the weekend, by putting him up for a night in Llwynbwch Barn.

SpeedoMick (Michael Cullen) is well known for his incredible fundraising efforts wearing his trademark speedos and little else! He’s walking through Wales as part of the ‘Giving Back Tour 2021’ a mammoth five-month, 2000 mile trek across the UK and Ireland, taking him to all five capitals. He’s raising money as well as handing out from his previous fundraising adventures.

What a thoroughly lovely and truly inspriational guy he is, it was a real pleasure to have him stay!

We were contacted by Mick’s PA who was on the hunt for somewhere for him to stay and refuel after walking from Lampeter, before the next day of his trek. A link to his live GPS tracker would give us an idea of when he might appear. Adam & I went with Blue the dog to find him as he made his way towards us. Thanks to patchy mobile signal, confusing lanes and a spot of bad luck, we eventually found him after he’d added a couple of miles detour! We chatted together over an evening meal and introduced Mick to the Exmoor ponies as well as our family.

Mick’s passion for fundraising started in 2014 when he swam the English channel, raising £4000 for a homeless hostel. This was part of a personal journey for Mick, who had a challenging background, suffering from addiction and mental health issues and spending a large part of his life homeless. He has gone on to set up the SpeedoMick Foundation, fundraising for charities who support disadvantaged and homeless young people. To date, the foundation has raised over £650,000. For so many charities, covid and its limitations has made fundraising more difficult, so Mick was keen to pop back on his speedos, swimming hat and goggles and lace up his hiking boots to get stomping again!

After a night’s rest and a big bowl of porridge, Mick gave our dog Blue a big cwtch (funnily enough, Mick’s dog is also called Blue!) before heading off on his stomp towards Cross Hands. It’s amazing what a good bowl of porridge can do for you – he kept on walking all the way on to Swansea! From there he heads to Cardiff, then on to Devon before heading up to the north of England.

Mick is looking forward to a few days rest from his walk soon, as he’s been invited to London’s Palace of Westminster to finally receive his British Citizen Award (he should have received it in July 2020, but due to covid, the award ceremony was delayed).

To find out more about SpeedoMick and the SpeedoMick Foundation and make a donation to this great charity, have a look here

Who Gives a Crap Jan 2020

Who Gives A Crap Logo

Exciting news!

Who Gives a Crap? We do!

That’s why we’ve started stocking all our toilets at Under Starry Skies with Who gives a crap toilet paper. There’s not really much more to say except that, in their own words, it’s ‘Good for the planet, good for your bum’.

‘We donate 50% of our profits to ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet within our lifetime’ Who Gives A Crap Logo