19 March 1999

Grandad riding for a good cause

On May 12 Terry Lamport

will mount his Welsh cob

gelding Iolo and start a

1000-mile trek to raise

funds for a farm that

provides holidays for

children with special needs.

Robert Davies reports

THE organisers of an eight-week ride hope to collect £200,000 for much needed expansion of the Blaen Wern Farm Charitable Trusts facilities at Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire. Boosting funds from the 700 collecting boxes placed in pubs and village shops will also allow the trust to offer many more free holidays to disabled children.

Terry Lamport, a grandfather of "mature" years, and his wife Irene bought their 63.9ha (158-acre) hill farm in 1984 and it is still run as a commercial beef and sheep unit by their son Mark. But it is also an integral part of the 10-bedroom holiday centre, which annually caters for over 500 guests. Many of these pay £119 to stay for a week. Sick and disabled children whose parents or school cannot afford to send them can be nominated for complimentary visits.

"We have received plenty of help in kind but no grants, and our application for national lottery cash was refused," says Irene. "We need money to take many more nominated children and to provide our guests with better facilities.

&#42 Teachers amazed

"All the kids seem to benefit from their stays and teachers have been astonished by the reaction of some severely disabled children to the farm animals. We do not get paid but Terry, I and the other trustees get enormous satisfaction, and our young visitors certainly put our own worries into perspective."

Tammy Boughtwood, the centres only paid worker, will drive a support vehicle during the ride through 17 counties. Full day promotional and fund raising stops will be made in 18 towns and cities, including Shrewsbury, Derby, Stratford, Salisbury, Bristol and Cardiff.

NFU offices and regional pony clubs are helping with the logistics, including accommodation for horse and rider, and arrangements are being made with farriers to get the four sets of shoes Iolo will require during the trip.

Retired national hunt jockey Brian Fletcher, who won the Grand National three times, including twice on Red Rum, is arranging fund raising visits to race courses along the route. Brian now lives near the centre and is a keen supporter. He jokes that his offer to ride part of the way was turned down because people felt he might try to jump fences and go cross-country.

&#42 Raising profile

"We hope the ride will raise the profile of the trust and publicise how it caters for special needs children and their carers, and raise funds to continue and expand activities," says Irene. "It should also publicise other charities and schools concerned with the welfare of these children."

Tammy will also be raising funds by selling copies of Terry Lamports book Little Acorns, which chronicles the centres establishment and his familys experiences dealing with special needs children.

SHOPPING TRIP TO BUY

Milk quota to spare. Sounds like a dream. One solution, lets buy some in-calf heifers from a good dispersal sale to help fill this years quota; and heifer calves would be a bonus in our recently established herd. Now, when the man of the house is up to his eyes in silage, concrete and the habitual milking and there is a sale which cannot be missed. There is only one answer – pick out those that take your fancy in the catalogue and sweet-talk the wife into a day trip to Cheshire.

With trepidation, the catalogue, cheque-book and young daughter, I set off for my days shopping. The aim of the day is to purchase a couple of heifers, in-calf to trendy bulls and, as I recall, the last words spoken as I drove out of the yard were "Dont spend too much". My other half is well aware how carried away I have been on previous shopping excursions.

&#42 Limited ability

To say my stock-judging abilities are limited is about right. Often, I have chosen a particular animal using a simple criterion: A cow should have neat feet, plenty of body depth and – most importantly – a pretty face! Technical, it isnt, but this "female instinct" approach to selecting cattle has proved quite consistent in the past.

Faced with paddocks of beautifully turned-out black-and-whites, sunshine on their backs, picking out potential purchases is difficult, and a toddler intent on stroking every single one of them doesnt help. With much debating and pondering, I manage to highlight some possibilities. The auctioneers bell signals the start of the sale, a sea of tweed green flows towards the straw amphitheatre. The lack of females is apparent; conspicuously, we position ourselves on the front row.

The bidding starts slowly, everyone cautious, wanting a bargain. In and out each cow strides, older ones to start. My thoughts turn to my little one and concerns as to whether she will last the duration.

"Lot 66" bellows the auctioneer and adds a running commentary on her ancestry. This is the one we want and I prepare to start bidding but he seems to be ignoring my attempts to bid. "800, 820," he continues.

&#42 Frustrated

The bidding steams on. She is now getting expensive and I am getting frustrated. I continue to try and get his attention.

"940, the bid is with the lady at the front, do I have any more?" he exclaims.

There silence around the ring, broken after a few moments with "940 for the last time, sold to the lady. Your name please?"

"Dalton", I shout nervously as our new acquisition strolls out of the ring.

I am bewildered and excited but my feelings are not shared by my offspring. She has curled up and fallen asleep beside me.

Quietly confident, I continue to experiment with bidding, as people disperse towards the catering facilities, strategically placed to entice customers with wafts of aromatic bacon sandwiches. With the ring half empty I am determined to pick up one more and when I saw how pretty Lot 88 was and that my husband had given her two stars in the catalogue, she was destined to come home with us – and she did.

One year later both heifers purchased, gained the approval of the expert. They both calved without trouble, both had heifer calves and managed 8000 litres. A bargain…now thats what I call shopping.

Sue Dalton

TWO HEIFERS

SITTING PRETTY ON CAST IRON SEATS…

WORKING farmers could once be found sitting pretty on decorative cast iron seats. Many different types were produced and collecting them today has become something of a national passion, writes Tom Montgomery.

They were largely made for horse-drawn implements such as hay rakes and mowing machines. Tractor seats tended to be of pressed tin. Implement seats are now highly prized with rare examples fetching into four figures.

Ted Edwards an ex-farmer in North Wales is now secretary/treasurer of the Cast Iron Seat Society which has around 200 members. His collection of 550 seats, painted up and hanging on the walls of his garage, is one of the biggest in the country. British types are complemented by seats from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and Holland.

According to Ted the bug for this unusual form of collecting bit 20 years ago. "About 50 different makes, with many variations, were manufactured in this country between 1875 and the last war. They were introduced to implements as a natural progression from the farmer walking behind the horse."

Prices vary enormously. A run-of-the-mill Bamford is worth about £20 to a collector but for a very rare Glover, for example, you could almost write your own cheque. Ted knows of one that fetched £1350.

Members of the society are also interested in other farmyard collectibles such as old tool boxes and wrenches, which are becoming very valuable.

&#42 US counterparts

Many British enthusiasts have links with their counterparts in America, where they are even crazier about their seats. One enthusiast has 2000 of them. £4500 was a top price paid over there last year and there is no sign of the market bottoming out. The hunt for old seats has led to a two-way traffic springing up across the Atlantic. Ted himself was off Down Under this year seeking additions to his collection.

Mike Thomas, who has a 101ha (250-acre) arable farm near Market Drayton, recently disposed of his seat collection as part of a reduction sale. In more than 20 years he had put together about 120. The bulk went for between £20-90 each. "Buyers were like flies round a honeypot," said Mike. "Four years ago I sold some rarer types. One went for £220."

Mikes collecting days have ended with an ambition unfulfilled. He always wanted to find a rare Wrekin seat, but had to be content with a replica. One would be worth four figures today.

&#42 Valuable seats

Odd valuable seats do occasionally emerge from barns and hedges but not often. Ted reckons the bulk are now sold between collectors. "Years ago you could pick them up for a few shillings," he said. "There are imitations about, but not that many. You can usually tell by the feel and the pitted and weathered look whether it is genuine."

"The old manufacturers took a lot of trouble with the designs, sometimes introducing variations for inexplicable reasons, but the casting could be rough and ready."

A farmer who bumped around fields last century on a cast iron seat would be astonished to know the same one is probably still being sat on today on the other side of the world. Ted says there is a demand for them in New Zealand where they replace tin seats that salt water has rotted on tractors used to haul boats from the sea.