Step into the sitting room of a 17th century South Wales valleys hill farm and the collection of silverware, rosettes and pictures of prizewinning animals leaves little room for anything else.
Swffryd Farm at Hafodyrynys, a former coal mining village a few miles west of Pontypool, is home to the Groucott family – Martin and Anne, with their sons, Aled and Rhys, being the third generation to farm about 80 hectares (200 acres) of difficult ground at three separate locations and under the jurisdiction of three different local authorities.
The trappings of success, however, are mainly but not only down to Aled, seen as a rising star in the world of showmanship.
At the age of 21 he has been making quite a name in shows up and down the country with not one but several breeds of sheep.
At this year’s Royal Welsh Spring Festival he topped the pure continental breeds section before going on to take the reserve supreme interbreed championship with an Andrew and Becky Bishop-bred Beltex.
The yearling ewe is one of the foundation animals for his fledgling Swffryd flock, a prefix shared by the already well-established Balwen, Torwen and Torddu Badger Face Welsh Mountain and Blue Texel flocks he runs alongside the family’s 450 South Wales Mountain ewes – not forgetting their Welsh cobs.
There have been considerable successes, too, in recent years at the Royal Welsh Show, having taken the Torwen breed’s shearling ram award in July and last year the overall breed championship among some strong turnouts.
Regular appearances at around a dozen or so one-day shows, stretching from the Vale of Glamorgan to the Monmouthshire County and Sennybridge, have also brought a string of awards.
Visits to national events across the country have proved to be beneficial as well in honing Aled’s show ring expertise.
A keen member of Abergavenny YFC, he is a past winner of the Wales stockholding competition and in 2013 won the Wales YFC lamb trimming competition – a skill he has been called on to exercise in preparing stock on behalf of some well-known exhibitors.
Two years ago he won the Countryside Live butchers lamb championship, while in March this year – together with Elin Havard, Sennybridge, and Christie Joseph, Llyswen, Brecon – the trio topped the sheep section with a Badger Face Sheep Society-sponsored group of three at the inaugural National Young Show Stars Challenge, held at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern.
At this year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Aled and his girlfriend, Holly Jones, Raglan, have entered four pairs in the competitive classes with Beltex, Torwen, Torddu and South Wales Mountain combinations. And there is an extra special reason for wanting to do well at this year’s event.
Aled with some of his championship cups from this show season.
Away from the farm, he works as a full-time assistant herdsman for the Usk-based Trostrey Holsteins – owned by this year’s Royal Welsh president, David Morgan, in what is Gwent’s featured county year.
There the 200 cows are milked by three robots – a system he says is far better than standing in a pit for hours on end.
For the future, especially following the arrival of the Beltex breed, Aled is looking at trying his hand in carcase competitions.
In the meantime, he has already set out his breeding programme to coincide with 2016 show dates.
“Getting stock ready for the shows is time consuming,” he says. “But I just love competing – and a win at the Welsh Winter Fair is at the top of my wish list.”