Sheepfarming on the Carneddau
Grazing on the Carneddau
The high number of multicellular sheepfolds in the Carneddau is a reflection of the large size of the unenclosed common grazing land. North of the main ridge of the Carneddau the grazing rights are administered through three grazing associations; Talyfan, Abergwyngregyn & Llanfairfechan , and Llanllechid. The latter is unique in that the grazing rights are held in trust by the Llanllechid Community Council (formerly the Parish Council) on behalf of the farms in the area. It is the only Community Council in Wales to hold and allocate grazing rights. Farms can apply to the council for grazing rights and they are allocated on the basis of the size of each farms land within the council area. The grazing is administered jointly between Llanllechid Community Council and Cwmni Mynydd Llanllechid.
Grazing rights were defined in law in the 1965 Commons Registration Act and supplemented by the Commons Act 2006 . At that time, in 1965, Llanllechid Parish Council was allocated the rights to graze 25,000 sheep, while a further 11,000 rights were held by individual farms and the Penrhyn Estate, although it is unclear whether the maximum number were ever grazed there. Now, of course, far fewer sheep are grazed across the Carneddau.
The grazing associations co-operate with their neighbours and they have set days when the sheep are gathered - for shearing, for separating the lambs from the ewes and for clearing the mountains over winter to prepare for tupping and lambing. These are the times the sheepfolds are used. Farmers on Llanllechid Common use five of the large sheepfolds in a designated order when gathering their sheep. Buarthau'r Gyrn is first, then Buarth Fro-Wen, then Buarth Carreg Y Garth, then Buarth Mawr y Braich and finally Buarth Mynydd Du.
In the Llanllechid area, applications for grazing rights to the Community Council need to be received by 29th October each year. This is the date of the funfair in the village. The fair dates back to 1758 when a sheep market was set up in the village to allow farmers to trade their sheep. The sheep market was followed by 'refreshments' for the adults and a funfair for the children, which survives to this day.
On the southern Carneddau there are no grazing associations and the grazing agreements are made directly between the farms and the appropriate landowner.
Each grazing association employs a Setiwr. The word comes from the old English word Escheator, who in medieval times was a royal official whose job it was to reclaim assets for the crown after a death when there were no legal descendants or heirs. The Setiwr of the grazing association has two responsibilities, the first of which is to make sure that stray sheep (defaid diarth) that are picked up in any of the gatherings are reclaimed by their owners in neighbouring farms. The second responsibility is to auction off any unclaimed or orphan lambs found at the time of the gatherings in July and September. Usually these lambs have no earmark to identify which farm they would belong to. The picture shows the lambs gathered up in June 2022 and made available for auction in the Llanllechid sheepfold Parc Set, which (unusually) is in the middle of the village.
Identification Marks - pitch marks
Identification Marks - earmarks (nodau clust / clustnodau)
Earmarks are not to be confused with the yellow identification tags required by law.
There is a special vocabulary to describe the types of marks made. In most cases, of course, just the welsh would be used. The two pictures are taken from a 2015 publication by The North Wales Police of all the earmarks in the area which was produced to help identify sheep that had been stolen. Many farmers have old handwritten records of the earmarks used and records exist of earmark registers going back to 1825.
Earmarks are not unique to Wales and can be found in other parts of the UK. In Cumbria, for example, they are known as lugmarks. Earmarks are commonly found abroad as well, for example in Iceland and Australia and New Zealand, although in all three countries it is no longer a legal requirement to make an earmark.
Glanmor Isaf Farm earmark register, 1870
Nos. 182 and 183 were the marks of the Pritchard family farm that at that time was at Ty Slaters, before moving to Pen-y-Bryn farm near Bangor and then subsequently to the present site at Glanmor Isaf.
With thanks to Dafydd Pritchard
Glanmor Isaf Farm earmark register, 1920
By 1920 the Pritchard family were in Glanmor Isaf Farm, near the coast. The earmark at the top of the list was unchanged compared to no 183 on the 1870 list and is still in use today.
With thanks to Dafydd Pritchard