Alpaca walking in the Suffolk sunshine – the perfect way to slow the pace…
“You’ll have to wait a minute, mine’s crashed again.” Not the words you expect to hear on a gentle walk with alpacas around a Suffolk farm field.
It seemed Andy hadn’t quite struck up the same rapport with his alpaca, Blue, as I had with my Dexter. Blue was finding the fresh grass far more interesting than being dragged around by partner, who didn’t quite know what to do with him. This was the sixth time Blue had ‘crashed’ to graze.
Dexter and I looked at each other and smiled. (Yes, alpacas can indeed smile). It was no problem. We’d wait.
If you’re looking for an activity that forces you to take your time, look no further. Even my adorably scruffy-looking, red-headed Dexter dude was stubborn at times. He’d without warning dig in his heels, and no gentle tug on the lead and encouraging, ‘come on then,’ was going to budge him until he was ready. He simply wanted to bask in the sunshine for a moment, feel the breeze, sniff the fresh grass, take a pee… which was apparently a sign that he felt comfortable with me. And I could forgive him that.
I think we can learn a great deal from these crazy, lazy creatures. What’s the hurry? Take your time. Just take it all in.
As we waited for Blue to rise again, I found myself hypnotised by the movements of a bumble bee, buzzing about his daily nectar-collecting business. He wasn’t doing anything extraordinary, but I was mesmerised. It struck a chord with me, that I haven’t done this for such a long time. To just enjoy nature, stirring around us.
We’d booked the alpaca walk last minute, as an add-on to a weekend break. Our ‘main event’ would be a self-drive cruise on the Norfolk Broads, but we couldn’t resist tagging on a stay at an incredible looking treehouse just a few miles from our starting point. I couldn’t hide my excitement when I found out it was located on a hobby farm, complete with pig, goats, chickens, donkeys and, of course, alpacas. In fact, my “THEY DO ALPACA WALKS!!!” cry probably rang in Andy’s ears for a few hours after I screeched it.
You might have guessed, I’m a big animal lover. Andy… not so much. He loves our two dogs, but I don’t think he’d considered stroking a goat before, or hand-feeding a pretty hefty pig who, we were assured, had lost quite a bit of weight on a recent diet. Both of these he did as part of our Unicorn Alpaca Walk experience. He drew the line at holding a chicken.
I think even Andy will agree, animal lover or not, Alpaca walking is a great way to spend a morning. It was unexpectedly hilarious and wonderfully slow.
We had time to pick the brains of our lovely guide, who helps take care of the animals lucky enough to call Church Farm home. We learned some of the animals, including three donkeys and Ralph the pig, were rescues.
She shared with us, throughout our stop-start journey, how they introduced the herd of alpacas, and how they’ve grown to love each quirky character. We found out about the different types of alpaca, which ones have the best coats to turn into wool, where they originate from and how they differ from llamas. Her knowledge was brilliant, as was the passion with which she relayed the stories of her beloved animal charges and her ‘home from home’ workplace.
Our regular stops provided perfect photo opportunities, and I was really grateful to Lucie for taking some fabulous shots of us on our walk. There’s no chance for alpaca selfies when your hands are well and truly tied-up in an alpaca walking lead. We were warned that they can get spooked sometimes, loud noises or jerky movements can send them cantering off unexpectedly, so we had to hold fast just in case.
Our chat also gave us more of an insight into the owners of Church Farm, Celeste and Sergei, who have opened this magical place for us all to enjoy. It’s obviously an expanding business. Alongside quirky accommodation in the grounds including our treehouse, a yurt, a railway carriage and a rustic shack, all available to book through Airbnb, the foundations are already in place to open a yoga retreat. Sergei also offers flights in his small aircraft, and the animal encounters are an extra.
I think the popularity of the alpaca walks has taken them by surprise, but I can see it becoming one of their main activities once word spreads. Families and groups have taken the steady stroll with these comical creatures, and it’s becoming ever-more popular for birthday parties, or just couples like us wanting to do something different! I loved that the walk was just for us, we weren’t booked into a bigger group. I can also imagine how special that would be for kids, to have the alpacas all to themselves for a while.
Like everything on Church Farm, the alpaca walking experience is more than you could have imagined. A great deal of thought and planning has gone into making it special. I loved the little touches, like getting to know the other animals around the farm, and writing our own wishes to hang on the wishing tree before we left. I even got a postcard from one of the goats, signed with a special goat-kiss.
You feel a part of something special, spending time here. Church Farm is other-worldly. It feels like it exists in its own little bubble. A bubble where time stops. Now I realise why my question about how long the walk would take was met with a shrug of the shoulders and a, “well, it takes as long as it takes, really.”
I urge you to leave your watch in the car and go walking with alpacas. It has most definitely become a highlight of our trip.
It’s also left me wanting to channel my inner-alpaca more often. Slow the pace and soak up the day.
Our Unicorn Alpaca Walk cost £25 per person and the whole experience, including a tour of the farm and introduction to the other animals, lasted around two-and-a-half hours.
For more details, or to book, visit the Unicorn Alpaca Walk Facebook Page.