CHRISTMAS is a time of year when many look forward to taking it easy, putting up their feet by the fire and enjoying a chance to relax with family and friends.

However, for those who live on a farm, the work doesn't stop for Christmas with cattle still having to be fed and all the usual chores to be done.

Teleri Fielden, the latest National Trust Llyndy Isaf farm scholar, and former Farmers’ Union of Wales marketing and membership manager, is looking forward to spending her first Christmas on a 614 acre upland farm in Nant Gwynant, nestled in the heart of Snowdonia.

Having spent a few years abroad, Teleri is excited to spend this one at Llyndy Isaf: “It's actually my first time in Wales for Christmas for a few years, so I'm really looking forward to being with my family (and dogs!) A Welsh Christmas will be very special. But I think having family and dogs there for Christmas will make it much more homely- food smells and Christmas lights and a mess!

"It's quite a big house for one person and a dog, so it'll be nice to fill it. Saying that I'll probably be looking forward to having it all to myself again by the time Christmas is over!”

The farm extends from the shores of Llyn Dinas up to the summit of Moel y Dyniewyd, and includes a mix of heath, bog and woodland habitats rich in wildlife.

In addition to managing a flock of Welsh Mountain ewes and a herd of Welsh Black cattle, the farm takes part in the Glastir Agri-Environment scheme, and includes several Sites of Scientific Special Interest (SSSI) with a strong emphasis on conservation farming.

Talking about her plans for Christmas day she said: “I am going to make the most of the free labour and also my Dad’s height to get a load of jobs done.

"No, I’m joking (ish) - my sisters all work in hospitals I’m the odd one out being a farmer! So it’s a bit touch and go when they will be able to arrive here on Christmas Eve.

“The NHS is a bit like farming in that respect- it never stops. I will be feeding the cattle on Christmas day, now that they are in, but then it’ll be the usual routine- Chapel, then a food fest and then falling out over monopoly and watching Call the Midwife!”

And what will be on the menu on Christmas day? Teleri’s own lamb of course. “Earlier this year when I moved back home I bought a (very) small flock to put on my parents’ 6 acres, so I’ve trialled lamb boxes, and I’ve got a well stocked freezer too. I don't have a very big oven but I know what I'm doing with lamb. I’m a complete advocate of lamb as a grass-produced, high welfare, high environmental standard meat (basically the best meat ever) so lamb it is for us on the day.

“And as far as the cooking is concerned, I’m sure we’ll all chip in. We usually have Christmas with the rest of my Mum’s large family in Meifod. We once had 24 of us so it was a strict operation sharing the jobs out! So I’m sure we’ll get organised and share it out as that’s what we’re used to,” she said.

With nearly three months into the scholarship, Teleri explains that the weather here has been a challenge: “The rain is… serious. I had a visit from a Nuffield Scholar from Australia recently- and he found it hilarious when I checked the weather and said excitedly “Ooh, you’re lucky- it’s not chucking it down!”

“However, it’s such a beautiful place, the mountains are stunning. I think upland sheep farming is tough though in a lot of ways- the weather and terrain being one of them. And at the moment- the uncertainty of Brexit (tariffs, support payments etc), and the fact that there are not many options to diversify within farming itself out of hardy sheep and cattle- I certainly couldn’t finish cattle or go into vegetable production on Llyndy without causing some environmental damage!

“But it does lend itself to environmental schemes definitely. I’ve found quite a communal feeling here within the farming community too- everyone really helps each other out, especially around gathering time.”

Despite not having grown up on a farm, Teleri has always sought out opportunities to gain farming experience. From an early age she helped out on her grandparent’s farm and more recently worked and studied on a mixed research farm in the French Rhone Alps, which included mountain shepherding at 3000 feet! Teleri was also short-listed and interviewed for the National Trust’s Parc Farm on the Great Orme.

Talking about the challenges of the scholarship, Teleri added: “A lot of it has been challenging in a great way! The physicality being one thing- wrestling ewes that weigh the same as me, trying not to get shoved by the cows, walking the terrain of Llyndy is quite challenging, (although I’m getting fitter!).

“I’ve also found it hard how much I’ve had to ask the Hafod y Llan team for help- although that is also a great experience because I’m just learning so much from them. I’m slightly in awe of them really! I’ve found the dog training quite hard too- you can have the best day when Roy (my sheepdog) is working really well and improving, and then you have another day where it’s all gone wrong and you’ve got sheep ending up in all the wrong places!

“It also takes a while to get your head around Glastir and all the management options and stocking levels. The media attention has also been an interesting experience- but quite time consuming too. But I’m trying to make the most of it to get some good news stories out about farming- there is far too much negative press about our industry.

“I’m so lucky to get the chance to just focus on farming, plus all the learning and training I’m getting too. Every other time I’ve farmed I’ve been busy with other things too- full time jobs, studying etc, which can make it quite tough. I’m brimming with ideas now because I’ve got the time to think about it for once!

“I think if I went into a tenancy I wouldn’t get that freedom/time- because I’d probably still need to be working to make it pay. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to meet and discuss things with like minded people through the platform Llyndy has given me.”