It's the young who keep the countryside alive

For the past 35 years, Cefn Gwlad has been an integral part of the S4C schedule and one of the channel's most popular programmes. But as the new series starts on Tuesday evening, 27 February, a new team of presenters will be on hand to assist presenter Dai Jones.

Farmer and broadcaster Dai Jones, Llanilar will still be the backbone of the series as he meets characters living in rural Wales. But joining him in the new series will be self-professed country girl Meleri Williams from Ceredigion, Bethesda sheep farmer and presenter Ioan Doyle, presenter and farmer's wife Mari Lovgreen and farmer Rhys Lewis from Machynlleth.

Another presenter and the youngest member of the team is Elis Morris, 10, from Cardiff who, like Dai Llanilar, has his roots in the city but has his heart set on becoming a farmer. During the series, we will follow Elis as he takes his first steps into the farming industry.

At the age of 74, Dai, originally from London, still has enough petrol in the tank. He continues to farm and broadcast as much as ever and he's enjoyed over 50 years presenting popular programmes such as Sion a Siân and Cefn Gwlad as well as a weekly radio programme on BBC Radio Cymru, Ar Eich Cais. But he's looking forward to sharing the saddle of his most famous programme with the new team.

"It's going to be quite a big change," said Dai from his farm in Llanilar. "To begin with, the programmes will now be an hour long rather than half an hour and I'm over the moon with the choice of the four new presenters. They are all young people from rural Wales, with a farming background. It's important that Cefn Gwlad retains its agricultural, rural character. After all, you wouldn't ask a person who works in a chip shop to fly an aeroplane, would you? And it's young people like these who keep the countryside alive."

In the first programme of the new series, Dai will travel to the Llŷn Peninsula to meet Ifan Hughes, owner of Garej Ceiri in Llanaelhaearn, or Ifan Lodge as he's known locally. Mari, who grew up in the town of Caernarfon but now lives in the old county of Montgomeryshire, Powys, will learn more about the enterprise and ingenuity of women who manage to juggle family life with running a farm and a business. Rhys goes out in the middle of the night to watch the Bro Ddyfi Night Rally as the cars race past his farm.

Over the years, Dai has met a lot of characters all over Wales for Cefn Gwlad, but does he have any advice for the new presenters?

"The important thing is that they should just be themselves. I remember the late Geraint Rees, the former producer of Cefn Gwlad, telling me when I was doing a voice over for one of the early series, 'Don't try to be poetic, Dai. Let the poets do that. Do it your own way – then it comes from the heart.' And that's the best advice I can pass on to the young crew."

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