A writer’s country strife alias ‘clueless’ in Wales.

I’ve been revisiting blog posts I’ve written over the years. I’ve moved house since writing the following piece, so I am no longer the owner of the two darlings who are the subject of this post.

I’ve always approached anything mechanical with some trepidation. I generally distrust any machine, including my car, if I don’t know how it works. So it was with unusual recklessness that I decided to try a ride-on mower to keep down the grass in my half-acre paddock. It was a second-hand mower, hence it came without instructions. I assumed it would work like my car; turn the ignition, the engine will start; let your foot off the clutch and away to go. All of which happened, but it was only when I found myself hurtling towards a tree with no room for manoeuvre that I realised I didn’t know where the brakes were and didn’t have the luxury of time to find out. I leapt from the beast and hit the ground running. I’m guessing I’m not the first person to have abandoned ship in this way because someone invented a mechanism which automatically cuts out the engine when the seat is vacated; thus the mower was saved from being wrapped around said tree.

Following this experience, I decided what I needed to keep the grass down was a more manageable kind of beast, and I set about a quest to buy myself a couple of sheep. After all, I’d grown up on a farm, what could possibly go wrong? I asked one of my brothers, Phil, to come along with me to a forthcoming sheep sale, based on another wrong assumption; that he would have more idea than me. Off we went to the sale.  I’d set my heart on a couple of Welsh Black Mountain sheep, though heaven knows we had more than a couple of ‘black sheep’ in the family already, including me.

Into the ring they came, in groups of two or four, and the bidding began. With my heart pounding, I proceeded to wave my programme in the air at intervals, and got the winning bid on a lovely pair of six month old, Welsh black mountain lambs. Only when I went to pay did I realise the figure I had bid was not for the two but the price of each. I raise an eyebrow at Phil who avoids my gaze. He was obviously not as knowledgeable as I had hoped or he would have known this, wouldn’t he? At this point I should have had a sense of foreboding.

To be fair, since leaving the farm of our childhoods, neither of us had been involved in farming in any way. It’s astonishing how much one forgets over forty years. This lapse of memory was to become more evident over the coming hours.

With receipt of my payment in hand we go off in search of my lambs. They are not in a pen of their own, all ready and waiting for me as I’d expected. What we are faced with is a large pen of thirty black lambs all huddled together in a corner with their backs to us, and all seemingly identical.

“Which two are mine?” I ask Phil.

He gives a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “I suppose you just take your pick?”

“Oh! Great! Those two look sweet, I’ll have those,” I say, pointing out two from the indistinguishable crowd.

Welsh Black Mountain lambs are WILD. They race, they kick, they bleat, and they buck like untamed horses. After chasing these beasts around the pen for some minutes, we decide to grab hold of whatever we can and hang on for dear life. They are strong; it takes all our strength to carry them, kicking and writhing, out of the pen and down into the waiting trailer.

“Phew! A bit wild, aren’t they?” Phil says, as we bolt the trailer gate behind them.

Job done. Off we now go to the supermarket because Phil needs to do a bit of shopping. All the while, the lambs are trying to kick and buck their way out of the trailer. On returning with his shopping, Phil takes a peek inside.

“Oh! Come and see this!” He says. “Look! They’ve got numbers on them.”

So they have. Buried in the wool under their chins are paper tags with numbers penned on them; eight and twelve. The penny drops. Phil looks at me. I look at Phil. We hadn’t seen the numbers earlier because while we were chasing and catching the beasts, they were naturally facing the other way.

“Oops,” Phil says.

The two lambs I should have taken were the third and fourth of the group of thirty that were brought into the ring, and so would have had the numbers 3 and 4 attached to them. It was obvious now we see they are numbered.

“What a stupid idea. They could at least have put the numbers where we would have seen them,” says Phil.

No doubt the auctioneers weren’t expecting two complete novices to turn up or they’d have stuck the numbers on their backsides.

“I thought you said you’ve done this before,” I say to him with an accusing glare.

“Oh, well, we can’t take them back now. It won’t make no odds, anyway, they all look the same,” he says.

We head for home, accompanied by the loud bangs of our wild companions trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Perhaps they sensed they had been wrongly abducted.

By the time we get to my place, some two hours or more have passed since we had abducted those lambs. We back the trailer up to the open gate leading into my paddock and unleash the beasts. They race across the paddock and do something I’ve never seen lambs do before. They hop, skip, jump, then take a flying leap over the stone wall boundary, straight onto my neighbour’s hill.

“Well! Ruddy hell!” Phil says in his most infuriating laid-back style, while I am wringing my hands with angst.

“You’ll never catch ‘em now, they’ll be gone,” says he, stating the bleeding obvious.

I go indoors to make a cup of tea; the only thing to do when you don’t know what to do next. A light is flashing on my answerphone. While we wait for the kettle to boil, I play back the message. It is a woman’s voice and she sounds furious.

“Please phone the auctioneers immediately you get this message.”

“She doesn’t sound very happy,” Phil says with a hearty chuckle and I give him ‘The Look’ that tells him this is not in the least bit funny.

When I phone the auctioneers I discover the mayhem we have left in our wake.

“The sheep are numbered for a reason!” I am informed in an officious voice.

“So buyers get the sheep they have bid on, not someone else’s sheep!” The woman goes on, her voice rising higher with each word.

“You have caused a great deal of confusion and trouble!” She says, her voice rising to a crescendo.

“I’m ever so sorry,” I squeak.

“And so you should be! Well! Someone else now has your sheep!” she says with a note of triumph in her voice which makes me suspect the ones which have gone to someone else must have been the better pair.

“We’ll never be able to go there again,” Phil says, when I put down the phone.

A neighbour and his dog eventually found my two on the top of the hill, a couple of days later, and brought them home to me after I’d erected a fence above the wall to keep them in.

Not surprisingly, it took them some time to settle in and grow to trust me. They were the best of friends, their relationship cemented during their shared trauma of being abducted by a couple of ne’er-do-wells. At first, their capacity for jumping walls and fences knew no bounds. They had a few adventures over the following months until I made all the fences high enough to restrain llamas. On one of their adventures they ended up a mile away after taking a trip down the country lanes. I suspect they were going in search of their rightful owner.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

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You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

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Awesome walkies today despite the weather.

The long climb up….

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Low cloud obscured the tops of the mountains..

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Beautiful old hawthorns framing the view east …

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A derelict shelter….

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The view from the cairn on top of the hill was worth the climb…

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Nature is beautiful whatever the weather.

Strange tales of animal rescue.

There are some things which are beyond understanding and there is a common and weird thread between the following incidents which I have no explanation for.

Some time ago, I’d been for a long walk with my dogs, over the top of the hills behind my house.  It was while I was heading for home that I veered from the path I usually took and it was then I saw it; hanging upside down with one of its back legs caught in a wire fence – a lamb. When I approached it, I could see that its back foot was caught in a loop of wire. Its attempts to pull itself free had only served to pull the loop tighter. I lifted the lamb in my arms to take the weight off its back leg. The poor thing was as light as a feather, from which I surmised it had been trapped there for some considerable time. Holding the lamb under one arm, I used my free hand to try to untangle the wire from around its leg. The wire was thick and inflexible. For a moment, I despaired of freeing her and was wondering how long it would take to walk to the nearest dwelling (about a quarter mile away) to borrow some wire cutters. Thankfully, with a little  more effort, I finally managed to free the lamb and placed it gently on the ground. It limped away on three legs, one leg dangling behind.  It went off to join the rest of its flock and rejoin the mother who must have all but given up hope.

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This wasn’t the the only time I’ve rescued animals from impending death.  I’ve rescued numerous sheep that have pushed their heads through fences thinking the grass was greener on the other side ( as we do), only to find themselves stuck fast. One such sheep had worked so hard and for so long to free itself, the fence wire had become embedded in its matted wool. It took a long time to tear the wool free of the wire and then turn the sheep’s head every which way to try to pull it back through. All the while, the sheep was pulling away from me, making my task harder. A sheep, even while weakened by lack of food and water, is a very strong animal when frightened.

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Then there was the sheep that had got itself trapped in a brook. The brook was narrow with high banks on either side.  The sheep had either jumped or fallen in and its fleece had become so waterlogged and heavy the sheep could not get back out. It was back-breaking work trying to lift the poor animal out of the stream but I was miles away from any habitation so there was no one I could ask for help. Eventually, I managed to drag her out and laid her down on the grass nearby.  Such was the weight of her waterlogged fleece, combined with weakness from being trapped there for goodness only knows how long, she could not get to her feet. I had no idea who she belonged to so I left her there with a prayer that she would recover. I went back the next day with some hay for her but she was gone.  I guess when her fleece had time to dry out she was able to get to her feet.

Though it is usually sheep I find trapped in wire fences, one winter when there was snow on the ground I rescued a full grown buzzard.   It had become tangled between two layers of overlapped wire fencing.  It was very frightened and distressed and while I worked to free it, it opened its beak wide and hissed at me ferociously. I carried it home. It continued to hiss and glare at me along the way until I got home and placed it in a cardboard box. I don’t know how long it had been trapped but it weighed next to nothing. I had no idea how best to care for it and so phoned the R.S.P.C.A.  I couldn’t get out as our lane was blocked by snow, but the R.S.P.C.A. chap walked the mile of lane through the snow and up our hill, to come and collect the bird.

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I’ve lost count of the animals I’ve rescued over the many years I’ve been walking the hills of Mid-Wales. The eerie thing which connects them all is that every time I have rescued an animal or bird, without exception, it has been when I have made an unintended diversion to my route. As on the day  I rescued the buzzard, I had been walking the snow covered hills and was tired, cold and weary, making my way home.  Then, for no reason I can explain, I decided to make a diversion around a field behind my house instead of coming straight home as intended. If I had come straight home, the buzzard would have died of starvation.

This is how it has been on every occasion that I have rescued an animal from impending death; too many times to be explained away as coincidence and always when I have taken a route I did not intend to take. I am quite convinced that I was somehow led to find them. Is it some kind of collective consciousness at work? Some form of telepathy at work between humans and other animals? I cannot know for certain, but my mind is open enough to believe.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

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