QUALITY LLEYN ON THE SOUTH DEVON CLIFFS
The Carswell Flock (Flock 284) was established almost 30 years ago and has been one of the premier flocks in the West Country ever since, setting quality standards in the show ring, in promotional exhibitions and at Exeter and Ross Society Sales.
Carswell Farm, Holbeton, near Plymouth , has an incomparable setting on the beautiful South Devon coast. Deceptively benign on a fine summer's day with a light sea breeze, it is a different story in the winter when a south-westerly gale is blowing the ewes' skirts up above their heads! With very thin soils on the steep cliff fields, this terrain would be a bit of a challenge for any breed. The Lleyn thrive there and the reputation of Flock 284 speaks for itself.
The farm was bought 60 years ago and Mrs Pel Sayers has been there for 58 years. For most of that time she and her husband lived in the impressive and beautiful farmhouse but, on retirement, they moved to Carswell Tor, with its lake and sea views. The farm (which is about 400-500 feet above sea level with a reasonable rainfall of 30-35 inches a year) has, over the years, been used for different purposes including, at one time, a sizeable commercially-focused sheep enterprise, but the majority is now farmed by the Sayers' son, Geoffrey, as a 500 cow organic dairy unit. The remaining land (25 acres of non-organic permanent pasture) houses the Lleyn flock.
Peter Honey, Pel Sayers' shepherd, is extremely well known in the West Country as a judge of sheep and ponies; he is acknowledged to have an excellent eye for stock. In the early 1980s, after much discussion, he went to the Bath & West Show to meet George Dyke, the Promotions Officer of the Lleyn Sheep Society, to discuss Lleyn. They thought that they would be suitable for the land at Carswell and also, considering their size (smaller than today), would be easy for Pel to handle.
Peter and Pel went to Malvern Sale and bought 6 shearling ewes from Flock 43 (Tom Rees Roberts) and, a year later, bought further ewes from Flock 50 (Wynne Davies). No further females have been purchased since then. When Peter retired from milking, the flock was quickly increased to 80 ewes and it stayed at this level for many years, only reducing in recent times. Peter and his wife, Peggy, were on a 'working holiday' in Yorkshire and visited Charles Sackville-Hamilton (Flock 172) and bought a splendid ram (172 S189). He proved to be the major influence on the flock. He was pre-potent for very stylish progeny and sired many Breed Champions including 3 at Devon County , Bath & West and Royal Cornwall Shows. His top price son made 1800 guineas, and shearling ewes sold for up to £140. He lasted incredibly well and was used until he was 9 years old. More recently, more blood from Flock 50 was re-introduced. 50 C205 was a good buy, producing numerous show winners and shearling rams sold for up to 1400 guineas and shearling ewes to £170.
Pel and Peter recognise that the outstanding maternal qualities of the Lleyn are the important attributes worth cherishing. They have been, and are, determined to continue producing medium-sized, typey and very productive stock.
Carswell sheep set the standard for many years in West Country Shows. Pel says that 'we started showing 18 years ago and have enjoyed some considerable success, and hope to continue, as we look on showing as a shop window for our sales and for promoting the breed itself'. Major successes have included: 7 Breed Championships at Devon County (where the trophy was won outright and re-presented); 5 Breed Championships at Bath & West and 5 at Royal Cornwall, as well as numerous prizes and Championships at one-day Shows. Flock 284 also won the West Country Club's Flock Competition 3 times. They have certainly been the Flock to beat.
The ewes are outwintered. They are fed concentrates in the last month of pregnancy, starting at ½ lb and increasing to 1 ½ lb, and about 10 days before lambing they are brought in to good quality hay. Lambing is early, starting on 1 st February, which suits the farm, making maximum use of the early grass before it burns off. Lambing is usually in the region of 185-190%. Ewes and lambs are turned out 24 hours after being born.
All the ewe lambs are kept and those not needed as replacements are sold as shearlings at Exeter Society Sale; they are always in healthy demand. The 6 best ram lambs are reared every year. They are registered and are sold at Exeter Sale or privately. Flock 284 rams are not necessarily the biggest but they are of outstanding Lleyn type and are very stylish : they
have gone to all parts of the country (from Cornwall to Cumbria ) and given good accounts of themselves. The wether lambs are either sold deadweight to Jaspers of Launceston or at Exeter Market.
Pel and Peter remain extremely enthusiastic but admit that they are not quite as young as they used to be. They would like to keep going as they are at the moment for as long as they can, perhaps cutting back a little, but maintaining the quality of the traditional blood lines they have taken the trouble to build up. The members of the West Country Club wish them well in their endeavours!
Always delighted to show the Carswell Flock on their home turf, Pel Sayers is renowned for her generous hospitality. This summer, Pel and shepherd Peter will be hosting the West Country Open Day on Sunday 15 th July 2012. All are very welcome. Visitors won't fail to be impressed by this fine example of Lleyn ewes doing what they do best, rearing twins on less-than-perfect land and producing fine pedigree breeding stock and prime butchers' lamb.