A mile, or so out of Elsdon village at the edge of the Northumberland National Park, just over the road that snakes over Carter Bar from England into Scotland you will find something that you wouldn’t expect to see in this part of the world, a herd of Alpacas. A little bigger than a Vicuña and smaller than a Llama they are animals that are more used to the Alto Plano in the Andes rather than then low hills of the English border country.
We had first met the Alpacas, if that is the right expression, or come across them at the Morpeth Fair Day back in June. We had gone down to see the Falabella horses which normally lead the parade but this year they were not there. The Alpacas, whilst not in the parade however, made an excellent substitute. The two animals were located in a pen in Oldgate Street and had drawn a crowd of onlookers making it difficult to get close enough to have a real look. They were very attractive animals and seemed laid back and un-phased by the milling throng around them. They only got a little jumpy when hands reached out to touch their heads.
We picked up a postcard with some details about the animals and through the power of Twitter found out that we could visit the farm and get to see them first hand. It wasn’t long then until the weather was good enough and a convenient excuse had been found to make our way along the old Roman road from Morpeth to Liberty Hill Farm to spend a couple of hours amongst these fascinating creatures.
The majority of the herd, the pregnant and mothering females or hembras and their young crias, was found in a field a hundred metres from the farm stead. The males or machos and the other females were kept in fields nearby. The herd was made up of many different colours from white to black but there were rich browns, creams, fawns and even a bluish grey.
Armed with sliced carrots we were able to make our way amongst the herd and coax some of the less suspicious animals to come and feed from our hands. It wasn’t long before we had quite a crowd around us which made us town dwellers a little more nervous than the Alpacas as their heads were at about the same level as our own. Some would let you stroke them and their fleece was softer than cloud and not at all greasy or matted like a sheep’s coat but all the while the mothers remained vigilant and would hum to keep in contact with their offspring which were never very far away.
A little later we were given the chance to halter some of the Alpacas and take them on a short walk through the farm, a truly a surreal experience and one that we will remember for a long time. We spent a really interesting, informative and enjoyable morning amongst these charming creatures and were made to feel very welcome by Debbie and Paul, the owners.
If you like cute and furry animals then Alpacas will be right up your street. You can find them at www.barnacre-alpacas.co.uk or follow them @BarnacreAlpacas.