Sheep, Alpacas and a Dog, oh my!

I just spent a week in the Lake District with my parents. We were staying in a cottage that valued pink and flowery over functionality, but was on a farm complete with sheep and supposedly ponies although we never managed to find them (not being as interesting to us as the sheep). I’m still finding leaving the house difficult and as my attempts to learn how to apparate have not yet been successful, it takes some persuading to get me somewhere that I can’t leave easily and quickly but sheep, hills and a dishwasher help.

It being the lake district, there were rather a lot of sheep. We definitely saw lots of Herdwicks and the farm had a flock of Ryelands. There were also unconfirmed sightings of Scottish Blackfaces, Hebrideans and Swaledales (I forgot my sheep identifying books), sometimes in the middle of the road. I brought home a Herdy mug and a sheepish tshirt, just in case people weren’t already aware of my sheep obsession.

Herdwicks in Keswick ©Rachel Gibbs

Herdwicks in Keswick ©Rachel Gibbs

Ryeland Sheep on the farm ©Rachel Gibbs

Ryeland Sheep on the farm ©Rachel Gibbs

There was a local wool collective called the Wool Clip which had breed specific local wool as well as some lovely hand dyed yarn. I cam away with some Fornside Gotland DK and two skeins of BFL/nylon sock yarn from Wild Wood Wool. I have a horrible feeling the turquoise/bronze variegated won’t look as nice knitted up as it does in the skein but I loved the colour combination enough to risk it.

Wool from The Wool Clip ©Rachel Gibbs

Wool from The Wool Clip ©Rachel Gibbs

While browsing Trip Advisor for things that weren’t lakes (limited interest for me as I hate boats of all kinds), or hills/mountains (very pretty to look at but rarely worth the climbing in my opinion, especially given how unfit I am at the moment), I found a place that offered alpaca trekking. My Dad was rather reluctant, the idea of entertaining large fluffy creatures for an afternoon didn’t appeal to him as much as me for some reason, but we decided to give it a try.

Alpacaly Ever After are based at Armathwaite hall and it was a brilliant afternoon. Our guide, Terry, was incredibly knowledgeable about alpacas and told me lots of things I’d never thought to ask but were fascinating nonetheless. We started by visiting the babies, called cria, and mothers (and a very friendly castrated male called Billy). Alpacas have a gestation period of 12 months so they’re almost always pregnant. The best way to tell if an alpaca is pregnant is apparently to introduce a male and if he gets spit at, then it’s positive. Alpacas produce thick green spit but usually reserve it for other alpacas, not humans.

Billy going in for a kiss ©Rachel Gibbs

Billy going in for a kiss ©Rachel Gibbs

We took three of the male alpacas for a walk. Mine was called Dudley and he was a lovely brown colour. One of the things I like about alpacas is the variations in natural colours they come in. He sired all the baby alpacas this year, so there will hopefully be lots of pale brown ones. Dad had a strong-minded alpaca called Will and Mum had Will’s little brother Boo, both of whom were white.

Dudley and Me ©Alpacaly Ever After

Dudley and Me ©Alpacaly Ever After

We were told that alpacas like having their neck stroked but to avoid the back and the legs as they tend to think that a touch there is a giant hornet and will kick out. Their fleece was lovely and soft and they were very patient with us, we managed the whole walk without incident.

Cuddling Dudley ©Carolyn Gibbs

Cuddling Dudley ©Carolyn Gibbs

After walking across the path in front of the hotel, and confusing all the guests sitting down to afternoon tea, we went on a stroll through the woods ending up at a lake. Dudley was easily distracted by nearby foliage (if biscuits grew on trees, I’d be right there with him) so we tended to trail at the back of the party. Rhododendrons were the only things we were told to avoid, but Dudley found plenty of other tasty things to eat instead, apart from the nettles which he wasn’t keen on. Eating thistles is supposed to be good for them, however, as it strengthens the upper gum.

Follow the leader ©Alpacaly Ever After

Follow the leader ©Alpacaly Ever After

Will was very keen on going for a paddle and apparently really likes having a pee in the lake. Dudley didn’t want to go in the water but we all got rather damp due to the rain that kept reminding us we were in the second wettest place in Britain. The alpacas are given special vitamins to help protect their fleece against all the rain, which we fed to them after returning to base camp.

Will going for a paddle (and a pee) with Terry ©Rachel Gibbs

Will going for a paddle (and a pee) with Terry ©Rachel Gibbs

After their feed we returned Dudley to the boys’ field where Terry could tell some had been fighting because their bottom lips were drooping. The alpacas at Alpacaly Ever After had often been rescued from owners who didn’t want them because they didn’t fit the ideal shape for the breed or because they couldn’t look after them properly. One of them was a rare grey alpaca who would have been very valuable if he hadn’t been gelded. They are apparently difficult to breed and often result in blue-eyed whites which have a high chance of being deaf.

Colourful Male Alpacas ©Rachel Gibbs

Colourful Male Alpacas ©Rachel Gibbs

I really loved the afternoon with the alpacas (in case you couldn’t tell) but I also got to take the sheepdog who lives on the farm we were staying at for a couple of walks too. I’ve been hankering after a dog for a while now but they’re not very compatible with one-bed rented flats or people who have no idea how to look after one. Mac was lovely and patient and was keen to go for a walk whenever we showed up.

Mac having a sniff for local wildlife ©Carolyn Gibbs

Mac having a sniff for local wildlife ©Carolyn Gibbs

I liked the week with the hills and the animals but am glad to be back in my own bed with reliable internet and civilisation within walking distance.

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