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  • Writer's pictureDawn Fletcher

From Peru to North Devon: The Alpaca Adventures of Jess, Cocoa and Tilly

In the winter, our three alpacas get spoiled – they are completely free to roam all the fields surrounding the campsite and enjoy the delights of the varied grasses and hedgerows.

They even occasionally head over the peak of the hill into the adjoining fields owned by the local farmer, Richard. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with him, and he is most amused when Jess, Cocoa, and Tilly pay him a visit.



A brown alpaca on a green field in the UK
Our gorgeous Cocoa

When I visited Peru back in 2016, I spent some time up in the high Andes. There, I was able to see herds of alpacas living wild, roaming the Ausengate mountains and meadows.


They had indigenous Quechua herders, usually women, who would live out on the land with them to shepherd and keep an eye on the general well-being of the herd. I tell you what – it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. Temperatures can get very warm in the day and then below freezing at night. In addition, they can travel significant distances over very rough and challenging terrain, and the alpacas (as well as the humans) are at risk of attack by the Andean Mountain pumas.


I’m glad looking after alpacas here in the UK is significantly easier!


Two alpacas with Andean mountains in the background
Alpacas in the High Andes... Brrrrrr!

Like all animals, each of our girls has a very different character, likes, and dislikes.


Jess is the nervous, hyper-vigilant one of the group who is always on the lookout for danger. She will make a very unusual high-pitched alarm sound if she feels there is a security risk close by.


Cocoa is the older of the two brown alpacas and tends to be a bit bossy and serious at times, then Tilly is a soft and gentle girl who regularly gets into trouble with the older two.


Alpacas, wherever they live, have to be sheared annually. The fleeces are beautifully thick and soft, and the fibre, once spun, produces a very special and unique wool. The ancient Incas valued the alpaca fibre more highly than silver and even gold.


Our girls are not particularly keen on being sheared each year, but Colin, our expert shearer, has it off to a fine art, and it’s over in no time despite their protestations.


We now have enough bags collected to send to the mill, so one of my big jobs sometime this year is to sort through all the bags to find the good-quality fibre. I have been procrastinating as it will be quite a mammoth task. However, it would be so lovely to have our own wool to use and sell, so I will prioritise it as a job for a sunny spring day.


 

 

Once the season starts again and the campsite reopens in mid-March, the wild alpaca adventures will be put on hold, and they will be brought back down to their large field overlooking the pitches. Given that they are prey animals, they can get a little stressed by dogs getting too close, which is why we don’t allow dogs in the viewing area, but otherwise, they are very inquisitive, and they love to watch all the activity on the site.


Do plan a visit sometime and pop up to watch them for a while... it's a very relaxing pastime.




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