Sunday, 25 October 2009

Fast Cars and Fast Cows

A varied weekend to say the least. A combination of two passions.

Castle Combe is a race circuit near Bath and I've been to a few of the Formula Ford races this season. I was lucky enough to attend the end of season award ceremony which saw some of the great drivers of the year being acknowledged.

I spoke to a racing driver called Steven Jensen who came second in his class and fifth in championship overall. Steve was telling me of the random connection he has with this years F1 Champion, Jenson Button. Steve had some coaching from Jensen Button when he was younger and it seems that Jenson Button was actually named after the Jensen family. Steve's father Erling Jensen used to know John Button. John liked the name 'Jensen' so much that when his own little boy was born he decided to call him that's something you don't hear everyday!

So whilst Jenson Button is up in the Formula One series, Steven Jensen is still supporting his local circuit-bravo to the both of you.

Swiftly moving on to other goings on in the land of Briohny-more farmer's markets! This time the Food and Drink festival at Cowbridge. Big white tents full of yummy pies, soft cheese, scrumpy cider and sweet treats. Something for everyone. There was even a company that sells Welsh Cookery DVD's. On their table was Welsh fruit cake and cheese on the same cocktail stick! Now this bizarre combination I have never tried before but I was actually quite surprised how well it worked together. Each bite reminded me of James Bond, a little cheesy but you're left wanting more.

A great day out. Cowbridge as a market town has a lot to offer, it even has its own Physic Garden. Lovely pubs and a good range of charity shops, all good. A successful weekend.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Farms and Farms

What a day. As I'm sat here typing this, it seems like a world away from where I was at 9am this morning. I visited Penrhiw Farm near Cardiff and where I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the serenity of the farm. John and Celia Thomas and their three dogs run the farm which produces organic beef and lamb. If you are looking for 'happy meat' then I would recommend getting down to the Riverside and Roath Farmers' market in Cardiff where you can pick up some of John and Celia's meat.

Celia was more than happy to show me and my friend around the farm and then invite us in for a warming cup of tea. A picturesque farm kitchen, with the kettle slowly boiling on the aga-bliss! I spoke to Celia about the problems that frequently effect farmers and also some of the more recent government initiatives like sheep tagging and badger culling...

Sunday, 18 October 2009


I've recently been on a nice hike around the Rhondda Valley, South Wales. I went with my local walking group the Cardiff Ramblers which was brilliant. Me being the ripe old age of 24, I considerably lowered the average age of the group! To be honest it was very refreshing to be surrounded by a wealth of age and knowledge. If find that people that have been on this planet have a lot more interesting things to say than I have so I was quite happy lapping up all the general knowledge they were throwing at me.

As we walked through woodland, fields, housing estates and cemeteries, in true welsh style the rain didn't stop! And to add to the excitement we had to walk through farmland in undercover fashion, hoping we wouldn't be spotted by the angry farmer! Our walk leader for the day had mapped out the route a few days before and was harassed by the landowner in true 'get off my land' fashion! However, we managed to pass through without ay trouble.

Just thought when I thought the walk couldn't get any better an elderly lady,Diane, revealed that she had left her glasses at the first toilet stop. As were about 8 miles into the walk, this meant she pretty much had to circle back around to the very beginning to see if she could find her specs. As she wandered off back to the beginning we all wondered how she would cope searching for her specs without being able to see this space to find out how she did.

One of the most groundbreaking things I discovered on the walk was the notion of 'Gentleman forward'. I had no idea what was going on when someone bellowed this phrase and all the men marched off whilst I was told to stay put with the other women. This I learnt was the way in which that everyone could discreetly 'spend a penny'-genius! It was not only this that was memorable of the whole day but of course the amazing views of the valleys and the site of Avonmouth distantly in the background.

It was a grand day out. Luckily the weather cleared up towards the latter part of the day. After finishing the walk and heading back to the start point, joy of joys as we found out that Di had found her glasses. A happy ending. I cannot wait until I have another rambling adventure and I have to say, I think 54 is the new 24.

Fox and Hound

What a fab weekend I've hand. I was lucky enough to follow the Llangeinor Hunt on one of their taster days. Which was just brilliant. We met on a crisp morning at Ogmore Junction in Blackmill, Bridgend. Horse box after horse box, hound after hound. I helped hand out mugs of soup and tumblers of whiskey before the hunt set off over the hills. As I don't own a horse, a kind gentleman, who went by the name of Derek, bustled me into his landrover and we followed the hunt trail in the car. Accompanied by my partner in rural crime, Becky Whitefoot, we had an adventure over the Ogmore mountains.

The sound of the horns, the sight of tweed and the rustle of a packet of polos in the glove compartment...what more could you want? Well maybe my thoughts on fox hunting? Now there's a tricky one...

Prior to this glorious morning of Welsh Hunting I actually to went to a social evening set up by the Llangeinor Hunt. The venue for the evening, a working mens club, the preferred drink, diet coke in a can and the most popular choice of food to accompany the event, a packet of crisps. A far cry from the stereotypical hunt gathering shown in the media. You were more likely to see a piece of toffee stuck to the table than a toff.

The purpose of the evening was to inform and educate and it certainly delivered on both accounts. The Chairman William Pugh and Hunt Master Brian Hughes led the evening explaining that we may see a fox on the hunt but in no way were we hunting it...
"if we see a fox we will stop and restart the trail"

Since the ban on fox hunting came into effect in 2005, after the Hunting Act 2004, hunting communities have had to adapt to the new laws. Even with the ban in place the core themes of hunting are still in tact. There is a great sense of community and purpose within the group, an overwhelming force of tradition and an eagerness for young and old to be involved. I even learned how to tie a hunting tie, otherwise known as a stock!

To be honest after my social interaction with everyone on the Llangeinor Hunt, I feel so much more informed about the whole fox hunting debate. An active member of the Llangeinor Hunt Mair Hughes was ready to answer any questions I had and was keen for people to understand more about what actually goes on on a hunt. And when asked why she thought people were against hunting the answer seemed clear "it's a class issue". That seems to be Britian all over doesn't it? A class misunderstanding.

I'm not going to pitch one way or the other on this debate but I do agree with Mair when she told me that the Fox Hunting issues are a like a drop in the ocean. So much surrounds the Fox Hunting debate that you really do dig up more than you bargained for.

What I have taken from this was a brilliant day out with a lot of lovely people. I came away from the hunt with my belly full of stew, my head full of horses and my boots covered in mud. But the most important thing, I had a smile on my face.