Upper Wye valley farmers embrace conservation, tourism and food production

A few miles outside Rhayader, in Mid-Wales, nestled between the Elan valley and the river Wye, is Nannerth Fawr farm, home to Andre and Alison Gallagher. The farm house is one field from the 2 mile river frontage and the land stretches from the river to the common hill land.

It’s diverse ground and the 200 acre farm includes 103 acres of grassland, including wetland areas, 62 acres of wood pasture, and 30 acres of woodland, in 9 separate enclosures. The couple currently farm 200 sheep, keep a few horses and poultry, as well as Boer goats for meat.

Andre and Alison bought the farm over 30 years ago, by sealed tender. With no previous experience in farming the couple embarked on a steep learning curve.

As well as improving the farm and renovating the farm buildings and house, the couple have worked to maintain diverse habitats and support biodiversity on the farm. When they bought the farm a lot of woodland already existed, which they fenced off, as well as creating further woodland over the years.

Sustainability of the farm is important to Andre and Alison and looking after the land plays a big part in that. Overall the couple aim for sustainable farming practices, less cost in raising the livestock, and for the system to be low input.

When it comes to looking after the grassland on the farm, Andre is proud of the ancient meadows here at Nannerth. A survey carried out on the meadows many years ago showed that there are over 60 species of plants growing there. Whilst the crop is light, Andre says the grass is as good as it gets.

Around 66 species of bird call the land around the farm home and Andre and Alison love seeing the summer visiting birds, such as pied flycatchers and redstarts.The Welsh Clearwing moth also thrives at Nannerth Fawr. Whilst the couple strongly support biodiversity and are very aware of species decline, they recognise the important role of livestock.

When it comes to food production the couple are clear that anything other than livestock would not suit the land. As strong advocates of good quality food, they avoid heavily processed foods and meat. They believe it’s better to have good quality local meat two or three times a week than processed, poor quality meat every day. Livestock farming, how they do it here in Wales, is fairly sustainable and they would encourage consumers who are concerned to look for Welsh and homegrown produce.

With constant advice for farmers to diversify to survive and drawing on previous experience of running a hotel Andre and Alison diversified into self-catering holiday cottages starting almost 30 years ago. With tourists from far and wide coming to stay at Nannerth, Andre and Alison enjoy the opportunity to show people what farming in Mid Wales is about.