Through his diary entries, William Beechey, (farmer on the Ruperra
Estate) continues to describe aspects of his life on the estate during the
spring of 1899.
14th April - ' Heard the cuckoo today.' (Like all country
people, then and now, he thought hearing the cuckoo was important.)
4th May- 'Caught 19 lame ewes. Found a pheasant's nest. Finished tailing all the lambs. I hear that Tredegar ewes and lambs are looking very bad. They say the ewes are rotten.' ( This seems to indicate some rivalry!)
How good it was for the cuckoo to tell William Beechey that Spring would be coming!.
Today in Ruperra, we’d be lucky to hear the cuckoo at all.
Until about the 1960s, we might have heard them
arriving every Spring from South Africa, a continuous flight of 50 hours. Going
home for the winter in August, 95% of Welsh and Scottish cuckoos will fly safely through
Italy. There has still been a
decline of 60% however. This one is fat on berries and ready to leave.
Cuckoos are now classified as "endangered" like many other birds. This could be due to the lack of insects, in particular their favorites, the hairy caterpillars, as well as to the loss of our natural world, through modern agriculture and the way we manage our countryside, not to mention climate change.
Today in Wales, we can hear their lovely call
in Spring in areas like the Brecon Beacons and central Wales near Tregaron.
What about the sheep? - William Beechey's flock was his pride and joy .He took great care of his sheep.
Millar, a visitor staying in the castle, must have had a very expensive camera
to take such a good quality photo in 1898! The sheep look good. Let's hope William saw the photo!