A trip to the Lake District isn’t complete without this off-the-wall excursion
The Independent Travel
“So what’s this surprise then?”
“You’ll see in a minute.”
Excited as a child, trying to wheedle the details of the day’s excursion out of my long-suffering beau as we enter the idyllic grounds of Lingholm Estate – famously the childhood holiday home of Beatrix Potter – I shield my eyes from the sun and look up. And see something truly astonishing.
Fifty metres ahead waits a man wearing wellies and a tweed flat cap over his flaming red hair. That isn’t what’s astonishing – it’s pretty standard dress code for nearby Keswick, the pretty Lake District town where we’ve been staying for the last few days. No, what’s taken me aback is his two companions: a couple of joyously adorable alpacas.
5 ways to explore the Lake District
“Surprise!” The boyfriend looks at me with a grin as I splutter in shock. Of all the things I was expecting, this wasn’t one of them.
“What…? How…?” I stumble forward in awe, staring lovingly at the creatures before me and immediately anthropomorphising them: “They’re smiling!”
The man turns out to be Terry, former soldier turned breeder and entrepreneur, who in just four short years has grown his herd from a couple of alpacas to over 40. He has no background in farming but learnt the trade as he went along, asking breeders for advice and doing research online.
“Here you go, this is Jake,” says Terry, handing me a lead attached to the white fluffy specimen on his left. I cling on, half delighted, half terrified, as he informs me that this is Jake’s first time out of the paddock – he’s never been walked by a stranger before.
“Won’t he be nervous?” I ask, covering for the fact that I’m a tad nervous myself.
“Nah, he’ll be fine. Probably. You can’t tell whether they’ll like it until you get them out on the lead, so we’ll see.”
Terry hands the other alpaca, a gorgeous auburn beast called Bradley, to my partner and explains to us that we can pet them, but only in certain places. “Stroke them on the side of the neck – but don’t touch them on the back. It makes them anxious.”
I gulp. Got it, no back-touching.
There’s really no need to be scared though – Terry is quick to inform us that our charges’ top teeth have been trimmed, so they can give us a nip but it won’t do any damage.
Adding that alpacas make different sounds to indicate their mood – when they hum it means they’re contented – the perpetually laid-back Terry beckons us forward to begin our tour of the estate’s private grounds.
Alpacas aside, booking this experience provides an innovative loophole in the law of the manor. Only parts of Lingholm Estate are open to the public – namely The Lingholm Kitchen café, a smattering of public footpaths and the walled garden that provided Ms Potter with the inspiration for Peter Rabbit’s adventures with Farmer McGregor. But the actual house and grounds behind are privately owned by boy-done-good millionaire businessman David Seymour, who bought the estate in 2014: “He’s a decent lad,” Terry tells us. The only way you can walk freely around the grounds is by staying on the estate in one of the 11 accommodation options, ranging from bijoux apartments to sizeable houses – or by taking an alpaca for a walk.
Taking a selfie with an alpaca is harder than it looks (Oliver Jarvis )
The latter is infinitely more entertaining. As we tentatively take our first steps with our new best friends, I’m torn between gazing in wonder at Jake’s jovial face and gazing in wonder at the magnificent grounds. The house is perfectly positioned at the top of a gentle slope leading down to Derwentwater, providing an unbeatable view of what I consider to be the Lake District’s most beautiful body of water.
We soon warm up to our companions, gently leading them across the path, trying to discourage them from eating every blade of grass in sight. In no time I hear the unmistakable vibrations of a hum: “It’s Jake! He loves me!”
Terry gives us his patter as we walk, telling us about how he built up the business from nothing; in addition to alpaca walks, he makes a tidy profit from selling their fleece, coveted for its softness. He throws in some ghoulish Beatrix Potter facts that were conveniently left out of the movie – apparently she chloroformed and stuffed animals as a child so she could draw them more accurately. Nice.
We make our way down to the water’s edge at a leisurely pace, pausing every now and then for Terry to capture a few snaps of us as a memento. When we reach the shore, he encourages us to take a selfie with our alpacas: it’s much trickier than it sounds, as they move their heads this way and that in diva-like fashion.
I sigh contentedly as I stand looking over the tranquil beauty of Derwentwater while Jake the alpaca nuzzles into the sleeve of my coat (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). How could life get better than this?
Moving on, we come to a rope swing tied to a tree, which was reportedly a favourite hangout of Beatrix’s. “Fancy a swing?” asks Terry. Do I?!
I push off, hoping for the inspiration and creativity of Britain’s most lauded children’s author to filter through the years and take root in my head. Ooh, imagine if a hedgehog did laundry – wait, that’s already been done. Oh well.
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The hour passes ludicrously quickly, and before I know it we’ve circled back around to the field where Terry keeps some of his herd. I look down sadly at Jake – I can’t bear to be parted from him already.
And it turns out I don’t have to. “Come on, it’s feeding time,” shouts Terry. He brings a big bucket of feed, pouring pellets into our outstretched palms so that alpacas trot over and snuffle their soft snouts against our fingers. We spend a busy half-hour ensuring everyone has had their fill before it really is time to go.
“Goodbye Jake,” I say softly, stroking his neck as I imagine I see his clear blue eyes welling up with tears.
And then I chloroform and stuff him, Potter-style, so our love will never die.Travel essentials
A 90-minute long alpaca walk around Lingholm Estate for two people costs £60. Children under 8 can walk for free (sharing an alpaca with a paying adult).
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Just when you thought that my life couldn’t get any more interesting, I went Alpaca walking in Yorkshire with a Science Fiction Book Club this weekend!
I’m back in the UK after an amazing few weeks in Iceland. Whenever I’m back, I miss the travel lifestyle, of course. So I do try to make the most I’m my weekends in England.
My fiancee Simon meets with the York science fiction book club one Thursday month. It’s a really great group of people – intelligent, easy to get along with and up for a laugh. One member of the group, Andrew, inviting us to walk alpacas at his mom’s partner’s Alpaca farm. More exciting than Christmas? Oh yes!Stockholes Alpacas in Yorkshire
Stockholes Alpacas is about an hours drive from York city centre. You do need a car, as it is in quite a remote farming area without many public transport links. Les has over 30 alpacas, as well as a few other animals including pigs and chickens.
You can book an alpaca walk for £50-£60 per group (depending on group size) and Les will show you his other animals before you take your harnessed alpacas walking!
Andrew joked about me being a total city girl. When I was going to university, I don’t think I even knew that eggs were not fertilised, or what a butternut squash was! So, this weekend, I got to chicken for the first time in my life at the grand age of 35!
Book accommodation in the UK on hostelworld.comMeeting the Alpacas
We met many of Les’s Alpacas, which were grouped with their own gender. There was a beautiful pack of girls. We met an adorable white alpaca called Lucy who really didn’t mind being stroked at all!
The group of boys were apparently quite difficult in the beginning, but when another ‘alpha’ alpaca was introduced to the herd, they calmed down a treat!
Alpacas are originate from South America and are predominantly found in Peru, Chile and Bolivia, but there are now around 30,000 alpacas in the UK. In the UK, they are mainly farmed for their wool which is much softer than sheep wool.
Handmade Alpaca products on sale at Stockholes Alpacas
They are also show animals in the UK and used by people with large areas of land as ‘Posh lawnmowers’! Alpacas are very sociable animals, so you cannot own just one. It is important to keep them in pairs or groups.
Alpaca Walking UK! What’s it like to Walk Alpacas?
Walking the alpacas was brilliant. They go on a bridle, a bit like a horse, but they are smaller and much easier to handle than horses.
It’s strange – I thought that they would be really fast, but they are actually quite slow! The first alpaca I walked was called Merlin, and he was right at the back being really slow at the start – Les had to walk behind him to get him going!
After 5 or 10 minutes they get into it and start properly enjoying the walk. They are very particular about the order – they take the first 5 or 10 minutes deciding who is to go first and last!
They are very alert creatures and like to have a look around to see what is going on. They do get a little spooked by the wind and other animals (cows, horses and dogs) but you just have to have a firm grip on the reigns and they soon calm down.
Les was a great guide – extremely knowledgable about Alpacas and answered plenty of questions along the way. I never realised that they can be so expensive – the stud male is worth around £7000, and some stud male Alpacas can be worth up to £70,000!
Les also looked out for our safety, and, of course, the safety of the Alpacas. He sometimes would go in front at corners to make sure that cars weren’t coming. There were only the odd few cars going very slowly down the lane, and so we just walked the alpacas to a bit of grass while the cars went past.
When we were about to turn around to head back, all of a sudden, we saw all the alpacas start lying on the ground! There was a ploughed bit of land with dust or sandy soil and they just got right into it! It was hilarious!
Apparently, the dusty sand is good for getting rid of mites that might get into their coats. Now these alpacas were mite free, but they were just doing it out of instinct, or because they absolutely loved it!
After about an hour around the farm and then the alpaca walk (around half an hour to an hour? I’m not sure – it was so much fun I lost track of time!) we headed back to the farm house for some lovely Yorkshire tea and cake!
Book accommodation in the UK on hostelworld.com
Where am I next?
My name is Amy and I am a traveller and blogger with 15 years of travel experience across 4 continents. I have a degree in Religions and Theology and and MA in South Asian Studies from Manchester University. I also have a BTEC in Social Media for Business and run www.trumpetermedia.com. I am here to help you to work remotely and travel the world! Please get in touch if you need anything.Contact Me
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You will learn about alpacas – including where they come from and their long history as domesticated animals – along with the therapeutic benefits of spending time with them.
After a brief introduction, we’ll introduce you to our lovely animals, show you how to halter and lead the alpaca of your choice (you’ll find they each have very individual characters) then take you on a scenic walk around our Northamptonshire farm with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW If you need more information or to ask any questions, please call Drew on 07831550118
A ‘WALKING WITH ALPACAS’ VOUCHER MAKES AN IDEAL GIFT. THEY ARE VALID FOR A WHOLE YEAR.CLICK HERE TO BUY A VOUCHER CLICK HERE TO REDEEM A VOUCHER
Our 2017 Alpaca Walking season runs from March to October.
A bespoke walk for up to eight people costs £25 per person when pre-booked (£30 when paid on the day). Additional people not wanting to walk an alpaca can accompany for £10
TESTIMONIALS: WALKING WITH ALPACAS has been described as ‘idyllic‘, ‘confidence-building‘ & ‘an absolutely fabulous day out‘.
We are very pleased to be working with Stable Mates Therapy – recent feedback from them below:
Great Ground Farm
Stable Mates Therapy is very excited to be working in association with Great Ground Farm. Their wonderful, graceful, funny and interactive herd have proven a real hit with clients. Our clients are mainly, children with behavioural and emotional issues, but also adults with learning difficulties and family groups needing assistance.
The therapeutic benefit of alpacas is clear, with even the most vulnerable able to interact safely with the animals in the beautiful setting of Great Ground Farm.
No one can dismiss the honour of forming a bond of trust with an prey animal, whose very survival relies on their ability to escape the threat of a predator…a category which of course, we humans fall into.
The reindeer are a fascinating and somewhat magical twist to what’s on offer here, as they roam their own forest showcasing Wayne’s stunningly crafted, organic environment.
The opportunities this set up offers from a local school group ‘story telling’ arena, to learning survival skills and workshops, or in our case, a therapeutic backdrop to learning about body language and how animals should live within their own community, is a wonderful bonus that should not be kept a secret any longer!
Get close to our friendly and very fleecy alpacas with our 'Walk with Alpacas' experience.
Alpaca walking is great for those of you wishing to try an activity of a different nature that takes you away from the hectic hustle and bustle of urban life. Enjoy a carefree and leisurely ninety minutes with our calm and delightful alpacas and take some alpaca "zen" home for free.How much is it? What is Included?
We have planned our walks so that they suit a wide variety of visitors. We want you to get the maximum pleasure and enjoyment from the experience.
Upon arrival you will be signed in and handed your free tea or coffee voucher which you can redeem during your visit with us. There is also opportunity to purchase a couple bags of alpaca feed and browse our small shop.
Your experience will begin with a quick health and safety brief with one of our experienced handlers. You will also have the opportunity to learn about where alpacas come from and what makes them so unique. Next we demonstrate how to lead the animals and then, when you are partnered up with your new alpaca chum we will take you on a gentle meander around the farm, stopping for a photo opportunity along the way.What do I need to bring with me?
We advise you to check the local forecast so that you are prepared for all weather conditions before setting off. How do I book?
We have three options available …
If you have already purchased an online voucher this will take you to our booking calendar where you can redeem your voucher and book your experience
This will take you straight to our booking calendar where you can book and pay for your walk experience.
If you haven’t decided when you want to visit yet, or want to buy a gift voucher for someone special our walk with alpacas e-vouchers can be purchased in our shop.Booking Terms and Conditions
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