8 June 2001

WE WANT TO BE FARMERS AGAIN

Fed up with farming?

The Owens were too, and

got out. But now they

miss it so much they want

to swap their luxury house

for a small farm, as

Liz Boynton found out

FOUR years ago, when Charles and Alison Owen moved from their 65ha (160 acre) farm in Radnorshire to a £350,000 luxury home overlooking the Usk Valley, they felt that this was the culmination of their working life.

But now the couple is offering to swap their luxury home near Chepstow for a farm and 50 acres of land in the Herefordshire, mid-Wales area.

Although they both come from farming stock, much of their working life has been involved in establishing a successful printing business. However, in 1990 they returned to their farming roots.

Charles explained: "We always kept a small interest in farming during the period when we were fully occupied with the print business, which varied from a few acres to 50 acres. When we retired we sold a house and 10 acres in Herefordshire and for the same money bought the farm and hill rights in Radnorshire. It was almost too easy and we didnt value what we had."

The couple kept 150 ewes, six Welsh black cattle and a few horses and rented out grazing because of the excellent hill rights.

"There are pressures in every type of work, but perhaps the pressures in farming are balanced with simple pleasures as well.

"Dont under-value getting up in a morning," he says. "Some-times its wet, sometimes its horrid. But some mornings the sun is shining and the land and the animals look well.

"Of course there are severe financial pressures and some farmers will not survive this latest crisis, but we didnt realise how much we would miss it."

Alison adds: "We dont have any romantic illusions about farming. I dont want to give the idea that were soppy about it. We know all the pitfalls and drawbacks that go hand in hand with stock rearing and selling. Farming is a way of life. Its a community thing as well as a business."

Charles describes their ideal farm. "All our friends and family are on the Herefordshire, Welsh borders, so we would want to be within an hour of Hereford. Were looking for an old farmhouse, with 40-50 acres and an adjoining expanse of hill, but not too isolated. Id be happy on the top of Snowdon but Alison wouldnt."

Alison adds: "We probably need to compromise. If I can have my flat bit of field, Charles can have his rugged landscape. That would be ideal."

For Charles and Alison, retiring to a luxury home with stunning views was not enough. "We have a nice life, a very pleasant life, but for us we need a challenge in life. You need goals.

"Its almost like a gilded cage. Its what people aim for, but when you actually arrive there its a bit soulless. Pointless somehow.

"Its often the case that you dont appreciate what youve got until its gone. I think that is what we have found over the past four years."

Any farmers wanting further details can contact Charles and Alison Owen on 01600-860009.