Oldest mother brings media circus to quiet corner of Wales

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Somehow woodcarver Nancy Hemming had managed to miss out on all the gossip. Richard Smith visited her hilltop cottage overlooking the ruggedly beautiful sheep farming village Cwmann in west Wales, which just happens to be the home of Elizabeth Buttle, Britain's oldest mum.

Since it was revealed that a 60-year-old farmer had given birth two months ago to a boy called Joe - nicknamed "Skippy" - tongues have been wagging as never before and Cwmann has become a far-flung scenic setting for the latest media frenzy.

But Nancy Hemming had remained blissfully unaware, until yesterday. "Oh well, that's nice," she said. "I don't have a television and I don't read the papers. I just listen to Radio Four so I hadn't heard anything about it. But I think she must have an amazing amount of courage to start having children again at 60."

Birth is always a prime topic on everyone's lips in Cwmann at this time of year. But the talk is usually about the offspring thousands of speckle- faced ewes will produce when lambing gets into full swing during March.

Red kites and buzzards still soar above the hilltops but most of the rain-sodden fields are deserted because farmers have put their flocks indoors to protect them from the worst ravages of winter.

Villagers struggled to remember the last time Cwmann hit the headlines: a Land-Rover was used in a ram-raid at the local garage and an RAF jet crashed into a nearby mountain. But the biggest scandal involved a local farmer who was jailed for sexual activities with a donkey and some pigs.

Cwmann (pop 600) stands 950 feet above sea level and boasts a primary school, a village post office and four pubs. Most people find work on the farms, at a large slaughter house in nearby Llanbydder, or at the light industrial units in Lampeter.

Yesterday, Elizabeth Buttle was still staying out of the limelight at her 40-year-old daughter Belinda Pleavin's home four miles away. But a member of her family claimed she had sold her story to the News of the World for pounds 100,000.

She keeps horses, cattle and sheep on the 97-acre spread. Her grandson, Nick Pleavin, 19, said: "The baby has completely changed my gran's life. She is much jollier now.

"The baby sleeps in the bed with her. She started off breast-feeding him but he drinks milk from a bottle now. He is quite chubby and doesn't cry much. His hair started off blonde but it's going a bit ginger now.

"She is very proud of Joey and shows him off to everyone. He has a little yellow teddy bear in his cot which my gran bought him for Christmas. Although I'm his uncle he is just like a little brother to me.

"My youngest brother Matthew is five and mum has given gran the babygrows he wore when he was little. Gran is a hard worker who has grafted all her life. She was offered a lot of money by the paper and you can do what you like with that.

"I know she wants to get laser treatment for her eyes in Russia which will cost her pounds 3,000."

There was no sign of the baby's father, Peter Rawstrom, 58, who runs a fodder merchants business with his wife Vera, 56 - mother of his four other children - from their home in Llangybi, five miles from Cwmann.

But the reporters, photographers and television crews, who have made their base at the Tafarn Jen inn on the edge of the village, were still looking.

Judith and Tom Newman, who moved from Croydon a year ago when they bought the pub, said it had made their week.

"Some days we can sit here for five hours in winter and take 78p but on Wednesday our takings were pounds 300," said Mrs Newman. "Nobody believed Liz was pregnant at first. Some people knew and others didn't. People were thinking, is she or isn't she.

"Liz has always been a very private person and an extremely hard worker. I admire her. As a woman on your own you have to be tough to run a hill farm and have a small baby."