I spent last weekend with some friends and nearly two hundred Alpacas on a farm in Devon. They are weird creatures, the Alpacas, not my friends…well, come to think of it my friends are quite unusual too, in a good way, of course.
I knew them, my friends that is, before they became alpaca farmers and it always takes a few moments to pull focus mentally whenever I go down to stay there. I can “do” rural life, I did for a bit, and I love the West Country, but it constantly surprizes me to see these exotic creatures in such a gentle English pastoral setting.
They come from somewhere in South America and are bred for their wool which is, apparently, luxuriously soft and very expensive. That explains, I guess, why they look so cuddly. I stroked some of them whilst I was down in Devon and I can vouch for the fact that they are very soft cuddly creatures and they do have quite comical Walt Disney faces. Have Walt’s successors ever done an alpaca film? If not, they have missed a trick.
I met all 200 of them when I went round the farm on a wonderful four wheel machine called a Mule carrying bales of hay and buckets of alpaca food which said on the label that you could feed camels with it too. I saw no camels that day but I wouldn’t have been surprized if a camel caravan appeared over the lush pastureland that is Devon. Lawrence of Arabia goes mad in Devon, that sort of thing.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether the alpacas wanted me watching them at their breakfast, I have never seen an animal pull so many confused expressions as these, but it was great fun being a townie playing at being a farmer even if these beasts gave me more than a few queer looks.
In fact it was my ambition when I was somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8 to be a farmer when I grew up but it never happened. I never grew up and, anyway, farming is really hard work especially if you are having to man-handle these large creatures all day long whilst sticking your hands where the sun don’t shine.
Animal breeding is tough and it is certainly not for the squeamish. You should see what comes out of them with their babies…
One was born on the day I arrived but it wasn’t feeding properly and it was ailing throughout my visit. Its mother was very concerned when she watched Chas being substitute mum. I hope it is better now but apparently alpacas, a bit like sheep, are either very very well or dead.
I can see why they enjoy doing it because these quirky creatures really are very charming and tranquil even if God couldn’t quite work out whether to make them giraffes or sheep. So thanks my friends for letting me come to stay and for reminding me how totally fantastic Devonshire food can be too…
It was great getting to know these animals but if I have to declare a preference then my heart belongs to the King Charles Spaniel puppy, Alice Two, who was generous with her merriness and mischievousness which she shared with me almost without let-up.