It’s lambing season at St Fagans National History Museum, with more than 150 expected to be born this month.
I took my toddler along today to see the newborn lambs, as part of our role as blogger ambassadors for the open air museum, which is home to more than 100 historically significant buildings from al over Wales, reconstructed in the museum’s grounds.
We arrived when the museum opened at 10am, and the staff at the visitor cabin at the main entrance told us that 88 lambs had been born so far this month, 30 of those since yesterday. (In fact, when this article was published the number had risen to 97.)
The lambing shed is at Llwyn yr Eos farm. I’ve written about the farmhouse in detail before on Cardiff Mummy Says, but it was built in 1850 and still stands in its original location, with the rest of the museum built around it.
The pregnant ewes were all huddled together in the lambing barn when we arrived. We didn’t see any births during our visit – but in the next barn were around 10 new mothers and their baby lambs. The ewes were in separate pens, some with one lamb, others with two or three. Some were sleeping, others suckling from their mothers, and other lambs shakily skipping around. Toddler kept saying ‘ahhh, cute!’ and I have to agree. Seeing such newly born creatures is an incredibly precious experience… and I must admit it left me feeling very broody!
Once the farm staff are happy that the lambs are healthy and feeding correctly, they are moved to the field near the museum’s bakery. For some of them, this is as early as four days old, and many of them were wearing blue plastic coats to keep them warm in the cold Welsh weather. Other lambs need bit longer to establish feeding, being helped by farm staff where necessary.
I was pleased to see the animals’ welfare is taken into consideration. No touching of the animals is allowed and visitors are not allowed to bottle-feed the baby lambs. There are also warnings advising pregnant women to stay away from the lambs, as it can be dangerous for their unborn babies.
The lambing continues until the end of March, with the museum open daily. However, if you can’t visit, you can follow #lambcam on social media plus the 24-hour live feed on the museum’s website.
After an hour so looking around the lambing sheds, watching the pig squelching in the mud, and visiting the farm house (pictured above), which depicts life at around the time of the second world war, we headed off to explore the rest of the museum, stopping first at Bryn Eryr, the Iron Age round houses.
One of the newest additions to the museum, these are reconstructions, based on archaeological excavations at Llansadwrn, Anglesey between 1985 and 1987. The round houses date back around 2,000 years, and the reconstructions saw around 1,500 volunteers using ancient techniques such as making the walls from clom and thrust thatching the roof. Inside the two conjoined houses, a fire heats a large cooking pot, with a bread oven nearby.
From there we visited some of our favourite buildings – the Victorian school, the Rhyd-y-Car mining cottages, the bakery and Gwalia stores.
Usually, I would take a packed lunch to St Fagans but I wasn’t so organised this morning, so we stopped to buy lunch at the Odyn Café, which serves a range of soups, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and other hot and cold snacks. The museum is currently undergoing redevelopments, so the large café is currently closed. The Odyn Café is quite small, and I can imagine at weekends and holidays it gets busy, but it was a good choice for today, with a bowl of carrot soup warming us up. Other food options include a food kiosk at the entrance and stalls serving ice cream and drinks dotted around, and of course the bakery serving freshly-baked bread.
If you’re visiting with pre-schoolers, toddlers or babies, it’s worth being aware that while the site itself is buggy-friendly, most of the cottages won’t allow you to take prams and pushchairs into the houses. This is due to the damage they can cause to the ancient structures, as well as the fact that a lot of the houses are so small, allowing buggies in would make it difficult for visitors. Pushchairs and prams are permitted inside the larger buildings of Oakdale, St Teilo’s Church and Gwalia Stores.
Lambing at Llwyn yr Eos runs until Friday 31st March. See the website for more details.