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!

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 

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.

Spring is on its way! Feb 2021

As the snow and ice has made way for milder days we’ve been so happy to be outside more, starting clearing for spring.

Cutting brambles, pulling bracken and clearing old growth to discover snowdrops, celendines and crocuses around the ponds and sprouting daffodils along the track. In the barn garden the hellebores and hamemelis/ witch hazel are flowering, along with the tiny cyclamen along the hedge lines. We love this time of year!

The bank between the barn garden and the track is full of beautiful little snowdrops which bob about with the breeze. The Welsh for snowdrop is either eirlys, from eira, meaning snow, or lily wen fach, little white lily. Both are beautiful names for a beautiful flower!

O Lili wen fach, o ble daethost di?
A’r gwynt mor arw ac mor oer ei gri?
Sut y mentraist di allan drwy’r eira I gyd?
Nid oes blodyn bach arall i’w weld yn y byd!

Oh little snowdrop, from where have you come from?
With the wind so wild and how cold it’s cry?
How did you venture out through all of the snow?
There isn’t another flower to be seen in the world!

The pond on the track had a good amount of frogspawn from February 4th, which felt incredibly early. Less than a week later we had another cold snap with hard frosts and some flurries of snow. Sadly all the spawn perished. We spotted a number of frogs very busy in the pond on the 15th February, followed by huge amounts of spawn. Best time to see them seems to be on a rainy night – we chivvied one across the track the other night so it didnt get squished. Fingers crossed, this lot of spawn will survive, although the heron is visiting daily! Every year we try to catch the frogs on video, but they’re canny little things and the second they sense us they dive down deep and disappear.

Today’s job has been to tidy around the pond in the yard and remove some of the yellow flag iris. Each year we do this and each year it fills again during the summer, the iris really is a thug. Usually we aim to do this earlier in the winter/ very late autumn but somehow time has run away this year! I love this yearly job, especially uncovering the sweet little iris reticulata which nestles by the willow.

The woodpecker has given us a backdrop for the last few weeks, making its way through  nuts in the feeders in our garden, as well as finding insects on various trees. We’ve loved watching the garden birds recently – being home so much has meant more time to watch them coming and going and all the little tussles and fights that happen around the feeders. Our daughter joined us for this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch as part of her Brownie’s ‘Red Kite’ badge. We saw 10 house sparrows, 8 blue tits, 9 great tits, 1 coal tit, 3 robins, 1 Great spotted woodpecker, 1 blackbird, 3 nuthatches, 1 bullfinch, 1 magpie and 3 red kites flying overhead.

The Exmoor ponies are getting on so well. They’re currently contained in three fields and have been eating their way through a lot of grass and also some of the rushes we were hoping they would. They’re getting more used to us and Sienna & Ursula are both loving head scratches! Last weekend we welcomed Jasper, a ten year old gelding who has come to join the gang. When he was led into the field with the girls they made a dash for him. Safe to say he was a little overwhelmed! A couple of days later we found he’d done a houdini and managed to find his way out of this field. Aah, more fencing to be strengthened!

Of course there’s also the continuous fire wood processing…

Back to lockdown… we may be closed, but what have we been up to? Jan 2021

We hope you’re keeping well during these uncertain times. We’re missing welcoming you to our little spot in the Welsh hills. It’s been very strange indeed to have to close our business for most of this year and we understand it has been upsetting for those of you who’ve cancelled holidays. Thanks for your understanding and support, especially to those who have rescheduled dates.

What do you do when you’re put in lockdown and have to close your business? This is the first stretch of time that we haven’t had any guests here at Llwynbwch since we opened in 2012 & it has definitely been very strange! We thought we’d write a little update about what we’ve been up to behind the scenes this year…

During the first lockdown we spent some time repainting and refreshing in Llwynbwch Barn. We also set up the barn, the cabins & communal space so that guests can now check themselves in when they arrive and can access firewood without our help. We feel this has worked well, although we genuinely miss meeting and greeting everyone. We miss our little chats, finding out where you’ve driven from for your holiday, whether you’re celebrating something special and if you’ve ever been to this beautiful area before. We hope that the welcome info we’ve put together works & that you have enough info for ideas of places to visit, eat and explore. Please do let us know if you have any suggestions.

We also worked hard to extend the car parking area for the cabins, meaning the walk from your car to your cabin is now shorter. This, of course meant having fun with diggers!

In spring 2020 we were excited to be finalising our plans to apply for planning permission to extend Under Starry Skies, with the addition of a new off-grid building to house a communal space for the cabins – a cooking & chilling space and two shower rooms. This is something we’d been working towards for a long time and with the news of a new virus bringing social distancing with it, it suddenly seemed even more important. Sadly, our planning application took way longer than expected, meaning we didn’t receive our decision until December 2020. We’re happy to have finally started works, now that we have permission.

Late spring/ early summer brought the wildflowers, sunshine and a few guests while we were able to open, which was so lovely. We also had our yearly visit from Butterfly Conservation Wales, who confirmed multiple larval webs for the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly. We did indeed go on to see many Marsh Fritillaries and a larger amount of Orange-tips than we have in past years.

October half term was spent processing firewood – I’m sure our kids loved helping us! In November we welcomed the Exmoor ponies, who are settling well and helping us with our land management. Along with juggling homeschooling for our kids, we also continue with the general upkeep of the farm – keeping pathways clear, weeding and bramble bashing and all the other things that need care and attention. Adam’s other job is touring Sound engineer and production manager. He was out on tour in Europe in early March 2020 and returned swiftly as the pandemic shut down venues and shows. He spent much of the summer doing carpentry jobs locally & we’re very grateful that he’s now found new additional work with a local environmental water management company, whilst Lou has temporarily returned to teaching in a local primary. We may be closed, but we’re keeping busy and we’re really looking forward to being able to reopen sometime soon!



Exmoor ponies, conservation grazing & working with Exmoor Pony Society, Nov 2020

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.

Dark skies, the Milky Way & Mynyddoedd Cambrian Mountains, Sept 2020

The stars were just magical the other night, with the Milky Way clearly visible beyond Derwen cabin, looking West. It was the perfect night for stargazing. Which is just as well as we were lucky to have Dafydd Morgan, from Mynyddoedd Cambrian Mountains, staying in the cabin. Whilst here, he took some photos to celebrate our dark skies. The Cambrian Mountain Initiative is an organisation promoting development in the part of Wales including Pumlumon, Elenydd, Mallaen & llanllwni/ Brechfa. Visit their website here for loads of suggestions for things to do in the area…

A cosy cabin weekend during Storm Ciara! Feb 2020

We’re really excited to share some wonderful photos with you, taken by Victoria Lugton Photography.

Victoria and her family stayed in Derwen cabin for a long February weekend, which just happened to coincide with the arrival of Storm Ciara! Ciara gave them plenty of rain, strong winds and it was pretty chilly outside, so Victoria, her husband & their young boys snuggled in by the fire, played board games and enjoyed the guitar. She said the wildness of the weather added to the cosiness of their stay!

You can see more of Victoria’s lifestyle photography here.

We hope you like her photos of Derwen cabin and Llwynbwch Barn as much as we do! If you’d like to look at booking Derwen, take a look here.