On a drizzly day in March, Chavey Down WI visited Pennybridge Alpacas where we received a warm welcome from our hosts, Joy and Peter Newman and some of their herd of alpacas. After a warming hot drink Peter described the history of the alpaca and its introduction to the UK providing lots of hints and tips on the perils of keeping alpacas. All the time the herd “hummed” gently to themselves, a very individual and comforting sound.
Once the adult females had been let out for their breakfast, we watched a demonstration of weaving by Jan Blight with alpaca hair (it is definitely not wool) and were shown examples of jumpers made with this amazing fibre.
We were then allowed to walk the yearlings, each one wearing a halter with its name on – and each with its own personality. It soon became clear how much of a herd animal they are as they did not want to be separated from the group and when they caught up they greeted their friends with friendly nose bumps. Joy also brought out a 2 week old baby goat for us to hold. The goats were brought in to keep the shrub down but are now part of the farm.
The alpaca fleece was amazing soft and dry, despite the weather, and warm at the skin – we all enjoyed warming our hands on them. They will all be sheared in June by specialist alpaca shearers who travel from Australia so when we make our next visit, which we are planning for September, they will all look completely different.