Our sheep have been carefully bred for 30 years to provide high-quality wool in a variety of natural colours. With no need for dyeing, the wool is very eco-friendly. It only travels to West Wales to be spun, so has very low “fibre miles” – even more eco-friendly.
It all started when Lesley learned to spin and discovered that however good the spinning, good quality wool was needed too. Rubbish in, rubbish out. There were not many coloured sheep around at that time so a search began, and soon the meat sheep on the smallholding were ousted by the foundation stock for the wool flock, with a large learning curve about wool types in the different breeds going on at the same time.
No one breed gave all the qualities needed, so the flock has always been ‘mongrel’, with various breeds added in to the mix over the years. A move to a hill farm in Mid Wales gave more space to enlarge the breeding programme, with up to 300 ewes plus their lambs at one time.
Breeds used over the years have mainly been the old (and now rare) breeds, plus some ‘foreigners’. They include Shetland, Cotswold, Ryeland, Wensleydale and Portland, with Gotland, Corriedale and Merino. The first-ever tup was an Icelandic, and we have come full circle with an Icelandic again right now. In between, even the tups have been cross-bred, so all of the sheep are a real mix.
Their fleeces are a mix of types, as each sheep throws back to a different side of its breeding. This means that the fleece ‘stash’ is a treasure-trove for spinners; whatever staple length and type of wool is needed for a project can be found here, and in many different colours too.
The farm was also home to The Vatch Herd of pedigree Dexter cattle. Founded in 1982, breeding concentrated on the long-legged type to avoid any genetic problems, producing a good-sized animal with a calm temperament. All three colours in the breed (black, red and dun) appear in the herd, and many are also naturally polled.
At various times we also kept hens, pigs, and Boer and Angora goats.
With retirement from full-time farming these have all gone, and The Vatch herd has moved to Pontarddulais near Swansea, having been taken on by our daughter.