Lifelong Learner of the Year Award Runner Up

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The patience, humour and attentiveness of her trainer were a big factor in her success according to LANTRA Cymru Award winner, Helen Hall. A latecomer to farming, Helen was runner up in the Lifelong Learner of the Year Award 2021 for over 40s.

She was ‘so chuffed’ to have achieved Runner Up and says the lambing course, run by Dr Sotirios Karvountzis, was a turning point in her farming journey. And she is proud that she can now lamb even the most difficult births, unaided and with complete confidence.

They lamb early. This year, the only two lambs she has lost were due to prolapse. Helen says the day long lambing course was fun and hugely informative. There had only been two students on the course, so that they had the instructor’s full attention.

She adds: “He’s extremely patient, very thorough, and he answered any questions we asked. He answered questions about lambing technique and about anything to do with the ewe.

“It was great and the knowledge that came from him was absolutely fantastic. He makes it fun. He’s hilarious. We had so many jokes on the day. He’s fantastic. We had a giggle and it makes it so much easier to learn.

“I had no knowledge of sheep full stop.  He was amazing and thanks to Sotirios I haven’t had to call the vet out this season. He made a box up and actually put dummy lambs into it and then you have to put all your kit on and he will place the lamb into different positions

“You can’t see how he placed it in the box. You have to put your hand in and retrieve that lamb. While you’re doing it he has a little door or window so he can see and talk you through. It’s amazing – he put one in backwards, one with its feet down the side. He put them in all sorts of precarious positions. ”

Helen has also followed numerous accredited short courses and every e-learning course on sheep health and husbandry available through Farming Connect. She says she loves to learn as she goes.

Dr Karvountzis found her an able and willing student: “I nominated Helen Hall, because in my opinion she represents what training through Farming Connect in Wales is all about. She is enthusiastic, very keen to learn and above all she is most conscientious, wishing to put all this newly gained knowledge into action.

“Helen cares greatly for the animals under her care and wants the best out of them. I am delighted to have worked with her, particularly in the Lambing Techniques course, which we aim to keep, as with most of our courses, as small groups of learners.

“This guarantees efficient information transfer, ensuring that we understand and focus on the needs of the individual. Helen is one of many likeminded students in Wales, eager to learn and thriving to succeed!”

A Londoner and Greek Cypriot by birth, Helen had no previous experience of farming or country life. Ironically enough, though, her mother had worked as a shepherdess during her childhood in Cyprus, earning much needed cash to help send the younger siblings to school.

When she and husband, Barry, took on a 45 acre holding at Rhydlewis in West Wales four years ago, it was a later life project, primarily to accommodate his passion for Welsh Cobs. They took Reserve Supreme in Harness at the Royal Welsh Show in 2016, Then came the sheep, and a whole lot of learning!

She now has 74 ewes, comprising Suffolks Xs, Polled Dorsets, Llanwenog and Torwen. She also has three rams and ‘a fine lot of lambs’. Her progress has been phenomenal, since three years ago she thought it was simply a matter of buying sheep and letting them ‘munch grass’.

The ewe lambs are generally kept as replacements. The wether lambs are sold privately and also go into the family freezer. She also enjoys taking some to market. It’s all part of the community spirit and open hearted life she loves so much.

The judges said that, despite being new to farming, Helen showed impressive determination to gain the essential skills and knowledge. She puts this into practice every day to run her successful smallholding in an efficient and sustainable manner.