How it started
Animals and the outdoors have been part of my life since I was born; for decades, I've spent countless hours in all Lake District weathers walking, splashing and building camps.
Ask any alpaca or llama-herd owner and they will usually tell you they started out with 2... In 2019, at a local wool festival, I met a couple of captivating alpacas; just being next to them brought an undeniable feeling of calm, and I was instantly drawn to them. So I did some research and ended up buying 2 llamas. Then I looked for some alpacas, and found 6 on the Isle of Wight. Fast forward 2 years and we now have a mix of 32 llamas and alpacas.
In the first lockdown we stumbled across a small piece of land sandwiched between two areas of woodland for sale not far from where we live. We went to walk round it, and despite being over-run with bracken, we instantly fell in love with its wild, untouched charm. Sat in the shadow of Irton Pike, and not far from England's tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, and deepest lake, Wastwater, rocky outcrops, streams and ancient trees made it feel like we could be the only people on earth. We knew straight away that the land would make an ideal home for the llamas and alpacas and allow us to share our love of the animals and the land with customers.
Buying untouched land has loads of advantages, including the ability to design the layout to suit your needs, but one of the biggest disadvantages is trying to figure out where to spend your money and time first. We knew we needed somewhere to store food and bedding for the animals, so we put a planning application in for a wooden barn. We also started to build paddocks for the animals - the male and female llamas and alpacas all have to be kept separate and ideally the breeding males should be completely out of sight of any potential mates. Two miles of fencing and many months later, we have built 6 paddocks, 4 field shelters and our barn is up and being improved every day.
There are no services at the land, and in our aim to keep the farm as natural as possible, we want to keep it that way, so we harvest water from the barn roof for our animals and hand washing and water from our stream, which goes through a very complicated-looking system of filters (including a UV filter) for drinking water. We installed 6, six-foot solar panels which keep four enormous batteries topped up, which we use to power security cameras, our kettle and computer (all the important stuff). We've also built a composting toilet block on a trailer.
I run the farm with support from my husband, Dan, who still works full time as a project manager. We employ two amazing members of staff, Abby and Charlotte, who are both from the local area. Charlotte recently completed her bachelor's degree in early years education, and wrote her thesis on the emotional benefits of interacting with alpacas for children on the autistic spectrum. In May, Abby completed her level 3 diploma in early years education. They are both assets to the farm; we wanted to hire people who shared our passion for animals and our joy for sharing them with guests and we really struck gold. One of our goals for the future is to hire apprentices from the local area who are studying animal-related of child-related courses.
What we offer
We offer short alpaca walks and longer llama walks that go both around our land and into the nearby Forestry Commission-owned woods and Irton Pike. As the months have passed, we've collected more animals too, and now have a naughty gang of pygmy goats, two fabulous kune kune pigs, Buddy the donkey, many, many hens, horses and three different breeds of sheep. My aim with the farm has always been for guests to have the ability to interact with the animals, not just see them from behind a fence. They are able to hand feed them, stroke them and learn about them. As they are like family, we get to share their quirks, like Bertie the goat enjoying going along for the occasional farm walk, and Pixie pig's love of drinking straight from the water stream as it's being poured into her bucket.
Why are we raising money?
We were originally going to open in March 2020, and just like everyone else, we have been hugely impacted by the pandemic. As a result, one part of our original plan that we haven't been able to progress with is making the farm 100% wheelchair accessible.
This area of the Lake District has very few wheelchair accessible 'wild' spaces and we want to change that. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the stunning surroundings at the farm and the feeling of peace so many of our guests describe. We want to put in 2 miles of winding, wheelchair accessible paths around the perimeter of the farm that blend in with the surroundings, and a wheelchair accessible toilet. We also want to buy at least 3 off-road wheelchairs, so that guests can get around the farm no matter what the weather. Finally, our blue sky dream is to train Abby and Charlotte as forest school leaders and offer forest school sessions to people of all ages and abilities.
Thanks for reading this far. I am grateful for any support you can offer, even if it's just telling your friends about us.