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Bridgend
All Year: Yes (except December)
Area (ha): 18
Persons: up to 4
Category: Organic Farmstay
Host ID: 46790
Country: Wales

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Last Updated: December 3, 2017

Hallo and Welcome! S'mae a chroeso!

**Taking bookings now for next year!**
Volunteers welcome from mid-January onwards

Current residents include sheep, cattle, several chickens, ducks and geese, two Welsh Cobs, two cats and one or two humans...

There is also loads of wildlife including buzzards, foxes - and of course slugs...

Lots to do!

Currently need help to:
- fence around young fruit trees so they are protected from livestock
- clean out and restore old sheep run
- fix guttering on barn (needs someone with a head for heights!)
- repair dry stone walls (great skill to learn)

Also it's now time to start coppicing and restoring a small overgrown woodland. Some of the branches can then be used to protect hedgebanks with 'dead-hedging'.

Ok, now for more details....

The farm has been grazed heavily for many years as one large field. I took over nearly two years ago and am working hard reinstate the old walls and hedges, and am adding shelter belts and orchards.

Repairing and replacing old fences is very important job at the moment. The farm boundary is almost done, thanks to help from neighbours and many fantastic volunteers, but there are plenty of field boundaries still to do! Fencing takes a lot of strength so be prepared for hard but very satisfying work.

Some field boundaries are dry stone walls and there are always repairs to do somewhere. Dry stone walling is a very satisfying skill, and I enjoy teaching people how to do it. Just remember that once we start on a section of wall, we have to finish it!

There is also some work to do on the house and outbuildings - including insulating the house. As far as possible I am using traditional building methods and natural materials, including lime mortar and hemp-lime plaster.
The bunkhouse roof needs repairing, and some outbuildings need replacing completely. Anyone with skills and experience in traditional masonry (using lime mortars), structural carpentry (roofs and floor joists) is especially welcome - I'll be keen to learn from you!
(I have a fair amount of experience of building with straw bales and of making and using clay plaster and lime plaster, so there may be opportunities in the future to learn these skills alongside me.)

This Winter I will be working with Dragonscapes to establish habitats for amphibians and reptiles across the farm, digging out old ponds and building hugulkutur beds nearby (log piles covered in turf which can be planted with fruit bushes) and also putting muck heaps nearby. This will probably start in December. Watch this space!

I try to give volunteers a range of different things to do, but it does depend what needs doing. Typical jobs vary seasonally and as well as fencing and dry stone walling may include tree planting, coppicing, grafting fruit trees, gathering seeds and cuttings, digging irrigation channels, making charcoal, sawing and chopping firewood.

Food is important so taking turns with cooking, washing up, making bread etc are also part of the volunteer role. If you've not made bread before, here's a chance to learn!

Let me know if you have particular interests or skills, or are keen to learn certain skills. My background is farming and conservation and in the past I have also set up an accessible community garden. I have over 25years experience of no-dig organic growing and also of applying permaculture principles to different situations, not just food-growing but also eg housing, health care, accessibility and alternative approaches to education. I am actively involved with Paramaethu Cymru (Permaculture Wales), with the local Slow Food group and also with projects working towards equality and social justice.
Here on this farm I am keen to make use of traditional knowledge from across Wales and combine it with current ideas about sustainable agriculture. For example I am gradually reinstating some areas of Ffridd, the traditional Welsh agroforestry system, but adapting the method to include fruit trees, and may (re-)establishing irrigation channels (Ffosau dyfru in Welsh) from the many springs and streams once I know the land better.
I have been learning a bit about biochar, a technique developed originally by the Xingu tribes in Brazil. However the fertile lands where biochar was first used are under threat - the Xingu river is where the Brazilian government is building the Belo Monte dam, the world's largest hydro-electric dam. You can sign Chief Raoni's petition here: http://raoni.com/signature-petition-contre-belo-monte.php

I can speak Welsh fairly fluently and am happy to teach volunteers some Welsh - such as the names for plants, tools, the fields and hills etc and to tell you stories about the history and culture of Wales and of this valley.

Croeso i dysgwyr Cymraeg: Welcome to Welsh learners - Come and practice your Welsh while volunteering! Dewch i ymarfer yr iaith trwy gwirfoddoli yn Gymraeg!

Accommodation is in a bunkhouse. If you can bring sleeping bags that's great - blankets, pillows and pillow cases provided.
I can provide linen (sheets and duvets) but as I have no washing machine, the deal is that you handwash a sheet and duvet cover from the laundry basket in exchange.

There are compost loos, and a small sink where you can wash. An important part of living here is learning to appreciate how precious water is. Thanks to the changing climate, we no longer have a regular rain and therefore our spring is not reliable. If it hasn't rained for a few days we can run out of water very quickly. This year, both January and April were very dry so even deep springs became very low, and the one where our water supply comes from was just a trickle for a long time. "Water is life" so drinking water for everyone (including other animals and plants) takes priority.
Don't expect showers if there's no rain!

A bar of soap is provided in the washroom, so you don't need to bring anything else if you're travelling light.
If you do bring your own stuff, kindly be aware that any soap, shampoo, cosmetics etc you use will end up in the soil here on the farm, and therefore in the ecosystem and in our food, so avoid over-manufactured and chemicalised stuff, and definitely nothing with plastic micro-beads please.

You'll need wellies, and a torch is useful, as are slippers or indoor shoes.
***Please bring plenty of warm clothes and waterproofs!***
This is a hill farm, rising to 1000feet, and although the weather can be gorgeous, it can also be wet and windy, and also get pretty wild at times, with strong winds coming straight off the sea.

I usually work with volunteers, especially to begin with.
I also try to make sure there are some jobs on the list you can to do on your own.
In return, I provide three basic, nutritious, filling meals a day. Most meals are vegetarian.
If you want any snacks or any extra food or if you have particular dietary requirements, there are shops within walking distance.
**If you are vegan and want to bring soya products here please make sure they are GM-free**
(NB: Organic certification is generally the only guarantee to being GM-free)
Instead of soya milk, why not try making oat milk from local organic oats!

Stays of 1 week are generally a good length for a start.
Short stays, eg weekend and day visits, are possible, especially for those living nearby. Do get in touch if you live locally and would like to volunteer here from time to time.
Long term stays are by arrangement and usually only for those with sufficient skills and capability to be able to work on their own - come for a week first and let's see how we get on!

On your days off, there are plenty of places to visit.
The farm is on the edge of a village with frequent buses to Bridgend and is also on a bike trail. Cyclists and hikers welcome!
The local area includes a network of footpaths and mountain bike trails. Down at the coast, just a few miles away, there are fabulous sandy beaches with cliffs on one side of the estuary, and sand dunes the other side. (Check out pictures online of the Glamorgan coast, especially Southerndown, Ogmore and Rest Bay beaches and Merthyr Mawr sand dunes)
Cardiff, Swansea and the Gower peninsula are within easy reach by public transport.

Kindly note that your day off is also my (much-needed!) day off!

Disabled access is something I take seriously and am working on but it is a farm so accessibility is not straightforward - the ground is uneven and there are steps everywhere. However the bunkhouse, the compost loos and the farmhouse kitchen are all on one level, each with just one step up at the doorways.
There are perch stools by the cooker and the kitchen sink.
If you use a guide dog, please be aware that there are footpaths across the farm used by dog walkers. There are currently horses, cattle and sheep grazing the fields and the mountain, and poultry in the yard by the house.

It should go without saying but we're living in strange times so I feel it's important to state clearly that no-one is excluded because of the colour of their skin.
Neither am I worried about your religious beliefs, your gender or your sexuality. The only thing I don't tolerate is intolerance :)

Languages: English, Welsh, a little French, learning Spanish (beginner) and Arabic (complete beginner), a tiny bit of Makaton (sign language - keen to learn more).
If you are coming here to improve your English, I'm happy to help, especially if it is in exchange for helping me learn and practice a few phrases of your language - but I'm dyslexic so please be patient with me!

***SMOKING*** strictly no smoking in or near any buildings, especially where there is hay or straw, and don't leave cigarette ends on the ground.
If you go outside to smoke, make sure you go down-wind of everyone, and kindly walk far enough away so your lungs have cleared of smoke before you come back inside. Up by the mountain wall is a good place - enjoy the views while you are there!
This includes e-cigarettes.
**Strictly no drugs anywhere**
Thank you.

Getting here:
How to travel to the UK without flying:
Trains: http://www.seat61.com/
Buses: Look up Eurolines for buses from across Europe to London

Public transport in Wales: https://www.traveline.cymru/

Long distance buses:
National Express comes to Sarn, near Bridgend, from London and also other parts of the UK. Local buses stop on request at the same stop.
Megabus comes to Cardiff.

Sadly the local company providing direct buses from Aberystwyth and Llambed (Lampeter) to Cardiff is no more; thanks to "austerity" we have lost this vital link. Check the Traveline Cymru website (above) for details of connecting buses if you are coming from this direction.
Update: Megabus have some buses between Aberystwyth-Cardiff-London.

Cycling: see Sustrans website for maps. Route 4 crosses South Wales with branches up every valley, including this one. The beginning of the local cycle track not well signed - I can send a map and photos, just ask :)

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