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lambing at Llwyn-yr-eos Farm

Gareth Beech, 3 March 2015

Lambing is one of the most important and busiest times of the year on the farm. It means long hours, day and night, watching over and caring for the sheep to ensure their lambs are delivered safely and that they survive the first couple of days. Lambs are a major source of income by being sold for meat, and provide replacement stock for flocks.

The keeping of sheep is such a significant part of farming in Wales because they are suited to the high altitude, damp climate and generally poor land. Sheep can survive and flourish on grass in both upland and lowland areas of Wales. The products from sheep have been wool, meat, milk, skins, and tallow for candles. Also, their manure has been used as fertilizer on the land. 

The first sheep brought to Wales were probably small, brown Soay sheep. They came with Neolithic farmers around 6 thousand years ago. The Romans brought with them superior, white-faced sheep whose wool was finer. The sheep were bred only for their wool, for which Roman farmers had a high reputation. These crossed with the Soay sheep, becoming the tan-faced ancestors of the hardy Welsh Mountain sheep, which have inhabited the highlands of Wales for over two thousand years.

By the Middle Ages sheep were most likely kept for their wool and milk rather than meat. Wool dominated until the Industrial Revolution, when the population started growing. This led to an increased demand for meat from the eighteenth century onwards.

Meat became the principal product from sheep and lambs, worth far more than wool in the twentieth century. Today producing fat lambs is the main income for many Welsh upland and hill farms. Exports of Welsh Lamb products were worth £154.7 million in 2013. France is the biggest overseas customer, followed by Germany. There were 9.74 million sheep and lambs in Wales in 2014.

Dafydd Jacob, shepherd from Ystradgynlais

A shepherd on horseback

Farmer on a quad bike

The Contents of Fragile?

Penelope Hines, 24 February 2015

Fragile? the major new ceramics exhibition in the west wing will contain a mix of pieces from our own collection, loans and site specific installations. Each ‘source’ (for want of a better word) of objects will bring different delights and challenges to the installation and display.

The loans we have coming from artists and other institutions have never been on display at National Museum Cardiff before. This gives us the opportunity to tell the story of objects and artists who visitors may be unfamiliar with or would not have the opportunity to discover otherwise. 

However it means we are presented with display requirements that may be different to that which we are used to and the intimate familiarity that we have with the appearance and presence of objects from our own collections is lacking.

None of this should, of course, detract from how excited we are to show these works and the fact that these challenges are ones taken on with alacrity.

The installations are thrilling due to their uniqueness and (in the case of the three in Fragile?) the extent to which visitors will be able to interact with them. However they present the element of the unknown.

Until they are completed the specific details of their appearance is unknown and though we can look to past audiences of galleries and museums who have displayed these artists work before we cannot know how visitors will engage with the installations.

When working with pieces already in the collection there is the bonus of the afore mentioned familiarity with the objects; their shape, size, handling requirements. But also a good understanding of how they work within different spaces or their “presence” as I called it earlier.

The inclusion of works from the collection is an opportunity to show pieces visitors may already be familiar with in new ways. Hopefully allowing the formation of new ideas and insights.

Works from the collection will be displayed with pieces which they are not normally displayed alongside and some will be displayed in a different manner, such as on open display rather than cased or viewable from all angles rather than against a wall.

We have a number of works coming out of the balcony cases on the first floor of the museum. Those who are familiar with the applied art collection of the museum and its permanent displays may know that these cases are arranged thematically; including cases of “Studio Ceramics”, “Craft and Design inspired by History” and “Craft from 1900 to present”.

For Fragile? pieces from these cases will be taken out of these displays and put into new groups to form new narratives. For example James Tower’s Pod Form, will leave “Craft from 1900 to present” and instead go into a dialogue of objects which examines how artists have applied colour to the base ceramic body.

Another example is Claire Curneen’s In the Tradition of Smiling Angels which usually sits in our "Contemporary Acquisitions" balcony case. In the exhibition it will be surrounded by other artists who have approached figurative representation through the ceramic medium. Though it could be argued that this work could also sit comfortably in all manner of dialogues; artist who mix materials, artists who use hand building as their technique and religious iconography this is the primary dialogue it sits in for this exhibition.

Putting object into new narratives, whether to do with ideas of form or decoration, we hope will be interesting and thought provoking  to new and regular visitors alike.

As some objects to be included in Fragile? are coming from display in the museum other objects have to come in and replace them in the permanent display cases. Therefore it gives another opportunity to get works out of stores and on display for everyone to enjoy. This too though a good opportunity, presents challenges. We have to get pieces which both fit into existing case narrative but also those which will practically fit the dimensions of the spaces which objects being used in Fragile? are moving out of.

Fragile? opens on the 18th April, in the meantime why not come and see the works which have replaced the works going into the exhibition on display? Come and see if you can spot the new pieces!  

View this exhibition in our “What’s On” Guide

Are there any themes or processes to do with Fragile? or the Applied Art Collection that you are particularly interested in? Leave any suggestions for future blog posts in the comments.

Pod Form

James Tower, Pod Form, 1985, tin-glazed earthenware.

In the Tradition of Smiling Angels
Claire Curneen, In the Tradition of Smiling Angels, 2007, terracotta & gold lustre.

 

A Year at St Fagans Gardens

Sally Anne Lickley, 23 February 2015

A Year at St Fagans Gardens.

A Robin sitting on top of a hard pruned Yew hedge

Robin on a Yew hedge

Ever wondered what gardener’s do at winter?

Hello and sut mae. This is my first blog entry and it’s my story about being a trainee gardener and Welsh learner at St Fagans Museum over the course of 14 months. I’d better start by telling you a bit about myself. I arrived on the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme (HHSS) last September and I’ll be blogging about what I get up to until I finish the course in November.

Before I became involved in the scheme I was a self-employed ‘maintenance’ gardener for several years in Cardiff. My technical knowledge was limited and I was really looking to learn new skills through practical experience. I also wanted to expand my knowledge of plants and horticulture techniques. In the past I’d tried doing this through books and YouTube videos, but I soon realised that what I really needed was some kind of gardening guru to guide me. When I heard about the HHSS scheme I got very excited and knew it would be perfect for me as it was an opportunity to learn a huge amount in a practical hands-on way, with guidance from experts in the field.

So, here we are in mid-Feb and I can’t believe I’ve been on the scheme for just over 5 months already. It’s been incredibly busy and I haven’t had much time to stop and think. The months have flown by. In this post I’ll be talking about what I and the other trainees have been doing over winter. Lots of people think that winter is a quiet time without much going on in the garden. A time to tidy up the shed, clean your tools, and think about your summer planting scheme. Don’t believe that for a second. Trust me, there’s plenty to do!

During the winter months the daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions can be harsh at times, but in a place like St Fagans the gardens are so varied there’s always a job that you can get on with. There are lots of plants that benefit from pruning at this time of year including fruit trees and bushes, late flowering shrubs, roses and some climbers. In the past few weeks we’ve tackled a few of these, and used different techniques to suit the individual needs of the plants.

Why prune at this time of year?

In winter, deciduous plants shed their leaves and that makes it much easier to see its general structure. There is also less chance of transmitting diseases from one plant to another or attracting insects to fresh pruning wounds. Sap producing plants will bleed heavily if you prune when the sap is rising. Many of these are dormant over winter and bleeding is not so much of a problem if you prune at this time of year. As you may have already gathered, this post is going to focus on winter pruning techniques.

The first thing to remember when pruning any plant is the 4 D’s. Always remove Dead, Diseased and Damaged or Displaced material, in that order!

There are 4 main types of pruning.

·         Formative pruning encourages growth and builds the basic framework in a young plant.

·         Maintenance pruning improves the look of the plant as well as increasing the amount of fruit or flowers.

·         Regenerative pruning – If you have a plant that’s been left to itself and grown out of control for a few years, there’s no need to panic. Certain plants can be restored. This type of pruning can help you manage the growth, size and the overall look. It’s often an intimidating prospect. But, if you have an idea about what you’re doing and you feel brave, it can give your old plants a new lease of life. And save you throwing them out, when all they need is a good prune.

·         Specialised pruning creates and maintains an attractive look. If you’ve always wanted a hedge in the shape of an elephant, then Topiary is a form of specialised pruning that might be right up your street.

Now that you know the basic rules, I’ll talk a little bit more in depth about what we’ve been doing recently.

Pollarding Lime (Tilia) trees

It’s best to Pollard Lime trees annually in late winter or early spring if you want to restrict height. Prune the new shoots back to a bud, 1-2cm from the pollarded head. This will also stimulate new shoot production for the following spring.

Wisteria

Wisteria can grow 10-12ft in a season, it’s a beast, and benefits from pruning twice annually in summer and winter. At this time of year we prune the lateral growth back to 2 or 3 buds on each spur shoot. These spurs will bear the following season’s majestic display of flowers.

Standard Apple Trees

Apple trees are pruned to manage fruit buds and the shoots they grow on. Not, as many people think, to control the size of the tree. Start by concentrating on one main branch at a time. Find the leader and work your way down to the main trunk. Cut the leader by a third, leaving a bud facing the direction you want the new growth to follow. Prune back any laterals to 2-3 buds. Thin out large groups of spurs because too many will produce small fruits and it’s much better to have less quantity, but bigger and better quality.

Hard Pruning Yew (Taxus baccata) Hedges

We decided to prune back hard the Yew hedges down by the ponds because they had grown too wide, and in places the height was obscuring the pretty spectacular view. Yew responds well to renovation pruning, but it’s best carried out staggered over a few years. This year we concentrated on one side and the top. We used string lines tied to bamboo canes to mark out a straight cutting guide. We cut back hard using loppers and secateurs to reduce the height and width, and to re-shape where needed. After hard pruning it’s always good idea to apply feed and mulch at the base to give the plant a bit of extra nutrition and TLC while it recovers.

Rose Pruning

A few of the other HHSS trainees from other gardens on the scheme joined us just last week for a Rose pruning workshop led by St Fagans gardener Julie. Our task was to give the Roses a light annual prune. Different Roses respond better to different styles of pruning. We were each given a specific Rose bed, a map, and a list of the Roses with their pruning preferences. I was working with ‘Gruss an Teplitz’, which are a beautiful and fragrant old Hybrid Tea which prefer to be pruned thin. The first move was to remove any dead, diseased and damaged or displaced material. The 4 D’s! Next I thinned out the centre to produce a well-balanced open shape, and removed any crossing stems to stop them from rubbing against and damaging each other. I removed some of the very old, less productive wood to encourage new growth from the base. Always remember to prune to just above an outward facing bud, and make sure the cut slopes away from this to shed water.

A Lime tree before pollarding

A Lime tree before pollarding

HHSS trainee Sally pollarding a lime tree

HHSS Trainee Sally pollarding a Lime tree

A person in silhouette in a tree with the sun in the background

Pollarding a Lime tree

Trainees Sally and Nico Hard pruning a Yew hedge

Sally and Nico hard pruning Yew  hedges

St Fagans ponds on a frosty morning

St Fagans ponds on a frosty morning

A picture of a statue of a piper over looking St Fagans ponds

The Piper at the ponds

histoire jardin St Fagans

Nicolas Reynes, 23 February 2015

Les jardins du château de St Fagans montrent à quoi pouvaient ressembler la propriété du conte de Plymouth et sa famille à la fin du XIXe siècle et début du XXe siècle.

Ces jardins sont bordés par un parc paysagé arboré qui nous mène vers 4 étangs en cascade surplombés par des terrasses formelles finies en 1871 et pensées par le paysagiste James Pulham.

S’en suis de magnifique parterre qui nous mène vers différents jardins comme le Dutch Garden entourant une fontaine, la roserais recréé comme elle avait été pensé en 1899 ou encore l’Italien Garden qui a été restauré il y pas longtemps grâce à des récits et photos d’époque pour retrouvé sa beauté d'antan.

Ces jardins regorge de secret historique comme les serres construite en 1899 et, de très belles variété de plante et de vieux sujet comme un hêtre planté en 1872.

Alors n’hésitez pas au cour de votre visite de questionner les jardiniers présent qui s’occupe avec passion de ces jardins.

travail dans le blue housse garden

travail dans le blue housse garden

travail dans la roseraie

travail dans la roseraie

vue des terrasses

vue des terrasses

vue du chateaux

vue du chateaux

Valentines Day for Peregrines

Barbara Mireille Brown, 18 February 2015

It was Valentine's Day for Peregrines too

Valentine’s Day is traditionally the day when birds start to pair up and our Clock Tower Peregrines seem to be no exception.

Thursday the 12th of February saw Mrs Peregrine (the bigger of the two birds) clearing out a possible nest site very high up on the tower. Although we could only see her back and tail feathers, it was clear she was busy, as leafs and small twigs were spirally down behind her, occasionally hitting Mr Peregrine who was perched nearby, maybe overseeing operations.

Friday the 13th saw more action as Mr P left the Tower in a swift hunting flight mid-afternoon. He was soon back with a Valentine’s Day meal of Pigeon for the female. Offering dinner to your partner works for Peregrines as well as humans!  She didn’t wait for Saturday the 14th though and after a plucking the prey in a shower of feathers, tucked into her meal without any courtship ceremony.

They are often on the tower together now, and I think it won’t be long before they make their choice of nest site and start carrying a few new sticks in to build it up.

Barbara Brown

Opal Community Scientist