PENINSULA LIFE • OUR HERITAGE
James and Jade Tregoning are livestock farmers and beekeepers on Little Walterstone Farm. Nestled behind the north side of Cefn Bryn just outside the village of Penmaen, the rambling collection of stone buildings and wildflower borders is a glorious slice of Gower heaven. Floral cloth bunting flutters in the breeze and clouds of grey smoke billow from a bee smoker that James is filling with dry hay.
It’s a wholesome affair. The Tregonings are hard working, from the land people. They moved to the farm five years ago knowing that in order to support two families, they would have to diversify and graft to make it work. Investing your time, family and livelihood into an industry that is struggling nationwide is a brave move. We caught up with both James and Jade over a cold pint in their garden to find out if their seemingly idyllic life on the Gower Peninsula surrounded by thousands of bees, polytunnels and organic veg was as picturesque as it sounded.
Jade laughed, “It’s quite funny actually. We got into beekeeping because I just wanted a hobby for me where the kids couldn't follow me, and I thought bee keeping would be perfect. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by it. So we got one hive, we both bought suits and then became obsessed with it, so we just kinda grew it from there really.
Four years, thirty-five hives later, we’ve gone a little crazy with it! But we love it.
James brought me here over sixteen years ago and I fell in love with the place. We moved here to help Newton (land and farm owner) out and bring in new ideas to help grow the farm.”
“Thankfully you fell in love,” James added, “it’s a hard life being a farmer, you have to love it or you wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s good though. I wouldn’t imagine doing anything else, it’s so fascinating!
You see, the hive has to be in the right condition for you to make honey - for you to be able to skim some off, because you can’t just take it all. Some hives you’ll be requeening so they wont give you any yield. But mostly it depends on the weather and time of year. But let's say a typical production hive and the weather is favourable, then, how long is a piece of string? They can make you ten kilos or fifty kilos per hive, or none!
We’ve had a couple that have swarmed, or the queen failed, then you’ll end up with nothing from an entire colony. You’ll put in all that hard work for no return. But then you have the odd hive that gives you loads - like the hive we saw today will easily give us 50 kilos this year.”
We love everything about the Gower. I mean, where do you start?! We’re so lucky! We’re based right on the edge of the common, we have the land and an abundance of wildflowers so we’re able to produce some really unique honey.
Then there’s all the beaches, countryside, amazing walks - we also love bringing our kids up here. We also have an amazing community here in Penmaen. Often it's the small things that bring us together like the tea & cake morning every fourth Saturday down in the village.
We love it. We feel part of the community. There is a huge array of all the independent businesses springing up, food, crafts - we love being part of it all.
Each day is exciting. We wake up and there is always something new, something different, and you can start the day with the best laid plan and end the day doing something totally different. Something happens and you’ve gotta drop tools and just adapt.”
Originally from Dunvant, Little Walterstone Farm has been part of James’ daily routine from a very young age. His family kept horses on the farm and he’s been working here his entire adult life. We asked both James and Jade to describe their life here on the Gower in three words:
Rewarding. Fun. Exciting.
Steeped in community and surrounded by acres of natural beauty, the daily graft for this family is clearly more than worth it. Together with their three children, two collies and a passion for pure Gower honey, the Tregonings take everything in their stride. And it works, beautifully.