National Trust advertises for second shepherd to walk north Wales foothills to keep sheep away from vegetation such as bog asphodel and fruiting bilberries
The successful candidate will need to love walking, fresh air, have appropriately trained dogs – and an awful lot of patience.
Applications are open for a man or woman prepared to work evenings and weekends in all elements as a shepherd on an innovative conservation project in the foothills of Snowdon in north Wales.
The idea of the project is to help restore sensitive mountain habitats such as upland heaths and flushes – damp areas – by gently coaxing and nudging sheep away from such areas.
The National Trust already employs one shepherd to work from May to September helping to manage 1,600 mountain sheep in the hills and valleys around the Hafod-y-Llan farm. Bryn Griffiths spent last summer working on the mountain. He worked full, long days but the Trust found that those pesky sheep would return to their favourite grazing spots after he clocked off for the evening. It is now looking for a second person to cover weekends and evenings. Griffiths said it was hard but rewarding work and progress was being made. “It got to the point when the sheep knew who I was and what I wanted,” he said. “When I got up on the mountain in the morning, they would start walking even before the dogs started. We got into a routine, my dogs learned a lot, and so did I.” The Trust does not want to simply get rid of the sheep in the name of conservation because it believes in the social and economic importance of hill-farming. Arwyn Owen, farm manager at Hafod-y-Llan says: “By combining the traditional skills and knowledge of shepherds as well as new conservation approaches, we are trying to demonstrate that farming and conservation can work successfully together. “Taking on another shepherd or shepherdess will allow us to manage the flock seven days a week so that the habitats and wildlife have the maximum opportunity to renew and thrive. The role itself is truly the opportunity of a lifetime, but it won’t be for everyone. Snowdon is wet and the work can be lonely, but for a shepherd(ess) that loves sheep, sheepdogs and walking it will be the perfect job!” The five-year conservation shepherding project is being part-funded by Natural Resources Wales, and is being closely monitored to measure its effect on the mountain vegetation as well as on the flock. Sabine Nouvet, the National Trust’s conservation ranger for Snowdonia and Llyn added: “If we are successful with this project, the mountain tops will flower with heather and other plants such as bog asphodel and fruiting bilberries. The valleys will be mottled green after grazing by the flock. “Our aim is that in five years we will have better habitats, a better understanding of how sheep can be managed for the benefit of conservation, and more skilled shepherds on the mountains.” Nouvet said the shepherd will be needed to work in a “subtle” way. “There are a lot of shepherds who are very good at moving a lot of sheep quickly. This needs to be much more subtle. The idea is to move the sheep so gently that they don’t know they are being moved.” And, over time, to re-educate them into not straying into the sensitive areas that the Trust wants to steer them away from. “It will take a lot of patience,” said Nouvet. The pay? Up to £11 an hour depending on experience. And the successful applicant will be able to stay in a pretty cabin at the foot of the mountain.