Women in Farming

billie poster

Photo Exhibition by Billie Charity

Recently, photographer Billie Charity launched a new exhibition highlighting the rarely acknowledged world of women farmers. Her hard working subjects, like Billie herself, are based around Hay-on-Wye and range in age from 18 to 93 years old.

Billie’s incredible exhibition is being held at Shepherds Parlour (Hay-on-Wye) running throughout the summer and is FREE for everyone.

For more images from this collection click here

Excitingly, one of these inspirational female farmers is our very own Hay Writer, Peggy Ann Stevenson. Here’s what she has to say.

billie charity peggy ann

Copyright Billie Charity

“Farming is in my blood, one branch of my family, the Godsalls having been farmers in Herefordshire for over 600 years.

The picture taken by our local photographer, Billie Charity, shows me, now in my late eighties, feeding some of my Hereford cattle at Windle Park near Hay-on-Wye.

I have lived here for the past twenty years, having moved from Goodrich where I had spent most of my life.  There I bred riding ponies well as keeping a few Hereford cattle.

As a young person waiting to go to Pitmans college in London, I worked on a local farm, where knowing my interest in horses they made me Under Waggoner.  I had to have help putting the collars on, before taking them out to work the chain harrows or harnessing one to the hay rake with warnings not to let the horse back up, as one might end up under the hay rake.

While living in Goodrich I was master of the Ross harriers and President of Harewood End Agricultural Society. For the past five years I have been a member of Hay Writers. Writing and Watercolour painting have been among my interests for most of my life.”

Outside of farming Peggy Ann’s writing goes from strength to strength with Hay Writers’ Circle and her non fiction writing draws heavily from her daily observations of the natural world.

THE EDGE OF NIGHT by Peggy Stevenson

AS I stepped out of the old stone porch, the soft evening air of evening was pleasant after the stuffy air of the house. I crossed the drive and turned left up a narrow path, through a rockery to the iron wicket gate and into the field. Ahead of me ran the little white terrier, stopping now and then to see that I was following. We walked up the gentle slope of the field and climbed through the iron railings at the top.  A stubble field stretched up to the crest of the hill over which the moon was just showing its yellow disk among the grey streaks of the clouds. I turned and looked westward to where the last rays of the sun still lit the sky, orange along the summit of the wooded hill, becoming paler, until overhead the clouds straggling across the sky in mares’ tails, were a pearly grey. Walking along the hedgeway a little way I climbed the stile, the terrier running hither and thither on the scent of imaginary rabbits. On down the grassy bank past the old hollow elm, pausing a moment to gaze on the floodwater at the bottom of the field where the last rays of the setting sun were still reflected, a touch of pink in the faint bluey green with the tops of the rushes sticking up like spears. We walked on down past the floodwater and jumped over the ditch that had been deepened to allow the water to run back into the brook. The ground was still very squelchy and stepping from one clump of reeds to another we reached the stream and walked along the bank, as the terrier ran on sniffing here and there among the brambles and driftwood, the occasional plop of a water rat or the flutter and splash of a startled moorhen broke the stillness of the twilight. We came to an old wooden footbridge where part of the bank had been washed away by the floods. One of the bridge supports had slipped and the bridge now sloped at a dangerous angle. I walked cautiously over and onto the ploughed ground. In the distance I could hear the pealing of the church bells up the valley and then from down by the river another peal joined in.

Beyond the ploughed field where the sunset was still reflected on the freshly turns furrows, a hazy mist was rising and a warm breeze lightly rustled the trees along the stream.

The moon had risen quickly and now shone through the trees on the rippling water where the stream rounded a bend. Hearing a gentle splash as a moorhen dived into the water, I crept quietly to the bank of the stream where she was hiding among some tree roots. Suddenly she saw me and with a startled squawk splashed and few away upstream, alarming several others on her way. Walking along the stream an owl flew silently out of the trees, sweeping low over the plough in search of an unwary field vole.

Having reached the end of the field, I climbed over the wooden stile into the lane, the terrier wiggling his way underneath. We crossed the ancient pack saddle bridge and walked on up the lane. On the hillside to the left, the lights from a farmhouse glowed warmly in the dusk. Further up the lane the old elm trees were silhouetted like black lace against the bright full moon, which was now hanging in the sky, like a ripe yellow cheese. Overhead a few stars were beginning to show in the pale blue sky. Wehh turned off the lane into an old sward meadow and could still hear the moorhens calling rck rck rck along the stream. In the mists over the plough the owls were hooting and cheeping as they awoke sleepily from their perches in the hollow of old trees and flitted like spirits of the night in search of their prey.

The moon cast long shadows as we turned and walked back up the grassy bank, over the iron hurdle into the stubble field. Here the distant whine and rumble of traffic could be heard as it crawled slowly up the hill from beside the river.

Stopping at the iron gate at the top of the field and gazing towards Symonds Yat where the mist hung over the valley and the lights on the hill looked like distant shore lights seen from a boat at sea.  I whistled for the terrier and walked down the field back to the house as the shadows veiled the edge of night.




About thehaywriters

The Hay Writers : a highly active & forward thinking writing group based in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous 'Town of Books'. ✍️ In 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary.
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