1 August 1997

Keris voice could help save lives

The Royal Welsh Show is a lively event but despite all the colour and excitement it is a place where farmings less fortunate people

are not forgotten. Tessa Gates reports

IT TAKES something special to move agricultural journalists to a spontaneous round of applause and something very special to get them to part with their money. Keri Swain achieved both at the press launch of A song for Tara*, a collection of songs she has recorded to raise money for Rural Outreach.

It is Keris first commercial recording and she certainly has the voice to do justice to such easy listening songs as You dont have to say your love me, The wind beneath my wings, and From a distance.

Keri and her husband Kevin, from Llandeloy, Pembs, farm in partnership with Kevins brother and keep 150 dairy and a few beef cattle. The couple have four children aged from four to 18 years. Keri was moved to raise funds for Rural Outreach, which promotes the work of the Samaritans and Citizens Advice Bureau, when she learned of the high incidence of suicide among farmers.

"The BSE crisis has really hit the agricultural community and coping with it has been very hard for many producers. With this recording I am trying to help an organisation which in turn is helping people with very real problems," explains Keri, who had been a singer with several amateur bands in the past.

Her first fund-raising idea was to stage a concert with musical friends but then it was suggested that she cut a record.

She approached a recording studio and half expected to be told she was not good enough, but the producers comment was "What a waste of talent" when he found that Keri had not been singing professionally.

Although Keri could provide the talent for the recording, she needed sponsors for the production of CDs and cassettes. Unigate and 16 others came up trumps and now she is hoping that sales will soon deplete her stock of 1000 CDs and cassettes. All profits will go to Rural Outreach.

"If people listen to it and enjoy it, then it will have been worthwhile and if just one life is saved because of it then I will be very happy," she says.

*A Song for Tara is on CD (£10 plus £1.50 p&p) and cassette (£7.50 plus £1.50 p&p) from Keri Swain, Upper Vanley Guest House, Lower Vanley Farm, Llandeloy, Haverfordwest, Pembs SA62 6LI.

Young farriers skills were put to the test during the donkey foot trimming contest when they had to trim one hind and one forefoot against the clock. "A lot of blacksmiths dont like trimming donkeys feet and some cant trim them," said Margaret Mills of Stonehill Farm, Cockshutt, Shropshire, who had provided her working donkeys for the contest. When her animals get too old for work they retire to the Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon, and the vet from the sanctuary, Miss V Anderson, judged the competition.

Goat Major David Joseph, BEM, of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Wales, was possibly the hottest man on the showground in his smart but heavy uniform. His charge, the regimental mascot, known as Lance Corporal Shenkin, remaind cool and calm despite the sun and the crowds.

Dragons are to be expected in Wales and David Williams was working on a large wooden one at the show. "It will have figures from the Rebecca Riots all along here," he said, indicating the back of the piece. "The price of the finished work will depend on how many figures I get in." David, from Builth Wells, had just returned from a carving festival in Slovakia, where he had represented Wales. As well as producing original wood carvings and furniture he also engraves glass.

One man in a boat: Edgeworth Evans from St Clears, Dyfed, who is more usually found in his coracle on the River Taf, showed how to handle this little craft.

Witty chat and tasty titbits are always winners with the public at shows and the audience got both when they watched Kevin Dunford demonstrate sausage making, while Ernie Jones gave a running commentary without divulging the exact seasoning that makes Kevins bangers special.

Kevin, a butcher from Whitchurch, Cardiff, was also an entrant in the Welsh Sausage Championship at the show which called for three types of sausages, traditional pork, speciality, and low fat.

Yee-ha! Glamorgan young farmers donned western gear for some foot stomping in the dance competition. Right: Claire Chappel-Gill who, with her sister Sarah, helped Mr T Chappel-Gill win awards for his Derbyshire Gritstone sheep.

Jims and Bitty, a pair of captive-bred otters, drew the crowds to the Welsh Wildlife Trusts stand.

One of the otters had found a frog in the pond and used it for a spot of juggling before Martin Neville managed to rescue it. Martin and his wife Daphne, (pictured) from Glos, own the otters, which have appeared in many wildlife films.

"In the wild, otter numbers

are improving in Wales, the bordering counties and in the upper Thames, due to better

water quality and less use of pesticides," said Mr Neville.

Eels are the prime source of food for otters and they store poisons in their body fat. Otters have very little body fat and with 80% of their diet being eels, the poisons they consume quickly affect their vital organs and this, rather than hunting, caused the decline in the otter population.

Otters live for about eight years and fishermen should welcome their presence in a river. They are an indication of quality water and healthy fish stocks, they control the eel population which eats 80% of fish eggs laid on the river bottom, and clear up diseased fish.

Its big, its noisy, it can leap 10 cars – the awesome 8t Bandit monster truck stands 11ft high and runs on 66in tyres. Maintained and driven by Ian "Bootsy" Dean, the alcohol fuelled Bandit is a sight to see. Tuesdays giant leap at the show resulted in a broken prop shaft but the Bandit was back in action next day to the delight of its fans.

The Sports Council for Wales offered plenty of opportunity for youngsters to try a new sport. Darrel Edwards, Youth Development Officer, Mid-Wales, and Simon Green-Price, coach at Lucktonions Rugby Club, Hereford, were available to pass on their rugby skills to youngsters. For something cooler, children could take the plunge and learn snorkling coached by John Rudd and Simon Williams, while hard riders took to the BMX track and pedal power.