Family farm where time has stood still

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The Independent Online
For five generations Berthllwyd Farm has been owned by the Llewellyn family and in that time they have shunned the dictates of modern farming, ensuring the flora and fauna on their land reflects more the late 19th than late 20th century.

The conservation value of the 162-acre farm in the Brecon Beacons National Park has already been recognised. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1992 with Jim and Janet Llewellyn staying on as tenants.

Now, though, the economics of the industry mean it is no longer viable to farm traditionally. And in a move that could be repeated on many of the trust's 1,200 other farms, in England and Wales, a strategy is being drawn up to subsidise the farming so that the environmental value of the site can be preserved. Phil Park, the trust's property manager in South Wales, said: "Generations using a particular farming system have produced a farm of outstanding value. This is one of the most important farms the National Trust owns. It is a relic in the best sense. There are quite remarkable hay meadows, which in spring are full of wild flowers and orchids."

The trust wants the farm to remain as a working model, with the people being regarded as important as any building or wildlife species. But it has encountered difficulties because the bulk of grants available are either to increase productivity or to mothball areas - neither of which is appropriate.

Philip James, the trust's land agent in South Wales, said: "We are keen to preserve the farm not as a remnant of the past, but because this way of farm- ing is far more sustainable. We see Berthllwyd as a bridge between the past and the future." A year's grace has already been found using the trust's funds while a long-term solution is sought. Negotiations are in hand with the Countryside Council for Wales to develop a 10-year plan. The council has already classified the farm as a site of special scientific interest.

"If the National Trust had not bought the farm, we would have had to leave. We hope we can continue," said Mr Llewellyn.

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