73 sheep take over Welsh rugby ground

Glen Williamsin Rugby

A novel idea thought up by one shepherd has helped him get to work as a paramedic as well as raising much-needed funds for the NHS during these testing times

A shepherd has concocted a novel idea to ensure his sheep are looked after, funds are raised for the NHS and, importantly, he can get back to work to fight back against coronavirus.

Brecon RFC chairman Paul Amphlett retired from his full-time role as a paramedic four years ago after 30 years of service., but he is now back working on the frontline during these testing times.

Alongside his duties with the Welsh Division One East side, Amphlett has been employed as a shepherd in the Brecon Beacons, meaning returning to help the health service, while looking after 73 sheep, has proven difficult.

But, thanks for the lush green grass at Brecon's Parc de Pugh, Amphlett has launched a wonderful initiative to raise money for the NHS, offering the public the opportunity to name a sheep, preferably after someone they know who works in the NHS, for a minimum of £30.

Another added bonus, of course, is that the groundsman can rest easy knowing the grass on the pitch will be kept trim owing to all the hungry ewes.

"I didn't want to let my training as a paramedic go to waste in these difficult times and the club needed to find a way to make and save some money during lockdown," Amphlett said.

"I said I'd pay rent if they let me graze my sheep on the pitch. This in turn allowed us to keep our 73-year-old groundsman safely tucked away and also saved us some money on fertiliser.

"Then I had the idea to try to raise some money for the NHS by inviting people to name one of the ewes for a £30 minimum sponsorship. So far, we have raised more than £3,000 and 35 have been named.

"We're going to give away two of the sheep at the end - one to the highest bidder and one in a raffle of everyone who has taken out sponsorship."

Brecon coach Andy Powell and captain Ewan Williams with an "NHS" message cut into the grass as sheep are allowed onto the pitch at Brecon rugby club to keep the grass short while COVID-19 Coronavirus stops sport during the pandemic.

The news is also welcomed by club coach and former Wales and Lions back-rower Andy Powell, who said the sheep are doing a good job at keeping the grass short.

Although they are now wandering the hallowed turf at Parc de Pugh, Amphlett, 57, has allayed fears his flock will find their way into the town centre.

"They are penned in on the pitch, so they can't just wander up into town," he added. But they need to be looked after because if they roll onto their backs they often can't get back up.

"It will be shearing time at the end of May, but there are plenty of shearers in the club to help out. Hopefully, by then we will be starting to come out of this crisis."

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One of the sheep has been bought by the drovers from the Ludlow market, where Amphlett's son works as an auctioneer.

"One of the drovers lost his wife to coronavirus and so they've named the sheep in her memory," he added.

"There are plenty of touching stories like that and many of the others are being named after local NHS heroes."

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