Gathering the sheep in Abergwyngregyn
Nowadays when the sheep are gathered in Abergwyngregyn, they are all driven down to a farm near the coast for sorting. But this was not always the case, and like in the area around Llanllechid, the sheepfolds higher up the valley were used in a set order during the gathering of the sheep - Buarth Newydd on Tuesday, Buarth Mawr in Cwm Anafon on Saturday and Corlan Hen (Cwm Anafon) and Corlan Cwm yr Afon Goch (shown in the picture) on Mondays. None of these sheepfolds are used today.
The sheepfolds have not just been used for sorting sheep. A farmer who lives near Llanllechid told me that he could recall his father telling him about the time the sheepfold Buarth Fro-wen, in Cwm Caseg, was full of Carneddau Ponies. Farms in the area bred up to 100 each and grazed them on the Carneddau before being collected in the sheepfold and then driven down to Menai Bridge fair, about 10 miles away, where they would be sold as pit-ponies.
Gathering the sheep
It takes longer to gather the sheep on a hot sunny day because the sheep don't like leaving the mountain, and the dogs get tired as well, according to a farmer in Rachub.
Grazing the bilberries and the heather
The area around this sheepfold, on Foel Lwyd, is covered with heather and bilberry plants. Farmer Dewi Jones told me that his father, and his grandfather, told him that after shearing it was important to send the sheep up to graze around the bilberries and heather, as they were believed to be generally good for the health of the sheep.
Gathering the sheep in Nant-y-Benglog in the 1950s - Arfon Jones, Caersws
(this article first appeared in welsh in edition 71 of Fferm a Thyddyn, May 2023)
Building the Enclosures
When the large estates started enclosing the common land around the 18th century (for more information, see here), it was not popular and in some areas, riots took place. In one area of north Wales, near Nebo, the enclosing wall was built during the day by the estate, only to be knocked down each night as quarrymen returned home from work.
Counting the sheep in Cwm Anafon
Up until 1951, the Penrhyn Estate owned much of the land - and the farms - across the northern Carneddau. Once a year, for the farmers around Abergwyngregyn, the Estate insisted that their sheep were sent down to one of the sheepfolds on Estate land, Corlan Hen, to be counted. Any farm found to have too many sheep could be fined (presumably a method of stopping overgrazing). However, usually a week or so before this happened, the farmers had another gathering of their sheep, this time in the sheepfold called Buarth Newydd (pictured) which is on common land, away from the reach of the Estate. This gathering was arranged by the farmers so that they could do a count themselves, before the 'official' one. It would not be surprising to hear that one or two sheep 'went missing' during the following week in order to get the right numbers expected by the Penrhyn Estate! The Estate land passed to the National Trust in 1951, when the practice ended.
Sheepfold, Tafarn Bara Ceirch (Oatcake Inn)
This pub was by the side of one of the Drovers routes from Llanwst to Abergele in north Wales. It did not have a licence to sell alcohol, so the owners sold oatcakes at inflated prices, and offered the drovers a free pint! The sheepfold behind is an example of a Post & Tin sheepfold and appears relatively modern.