Imogen giggles as Teddy the alpaca eats treats out of her outstretched hand.
We’re deep in the heart of Sheffield’s beautiful Rivelin Valley at Holly Hagg Community Farm on a bright Saturday morning.
And we’re just about to head off on a trek with herd of Alpacas - cool right?!
We’re being led today by guides Claire and Billy who start the session by introducing us to all the different personalities of the alpacas - which are a domesticated species of South American camelid. And domesticated does not mean they are pets, emphasises Claire, which is why the session begins with a few ground rules to ensure we don’t spook our new woolly friends.
After matching everyone up with an alpaca - we land gentle Gordon - we’re off!
The first few minutes are undoubtedly preoccupied with making sure we have the correct hold on Gordon’s lead and that we’re not getting too close to his hind legs, but once we settle into a rhythm we can begin to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, tripping down pebbly paths surrounded on all sides by leafy woodland and green fields. There’s something very surreal about leading - or being led by, on occasion - an alpaca. At nearly three years old, Imogen is a little younger than the trainers recommended for this experience, and - though I’m thrilled they made an exception for us - I can see why, as helping someone so small along unsteady footpaths on a decent length trek is quite difficult when you’re also trying to keep up with your alpaca and remember the various instructions you’ve been given. But Imogen absolutely adored when we stopped for a rest - something the group does regularly - and she got to walk around feeding all the alpacas from the little bag of feed we’d been handed when we arrived.
Guide Claire Gregory, who has been overwhelmed with thousands of requests for bookings since the Alpaca Trekking experience was featured on Holly Hagg’s Facebook page earlier this year, explains: “The alpacas arrived at Holly Hagg as part of our permaculture land management. Their grazing helps keeps the grass in check while their manure fertilises our crops. Alpacas were chosen due to their hardy nature and gentle temperament - and ability to make everyone to fall in love with them!
“Our walks are recommended for families with children aged around seven and over. The trek itself lasts about 45 minutes with plenty of stops for feeding, taking in the scenery and photography. You can expect to be with us for about an hour and a quarter.”
Visit Holly Hagg Community Farm for more details or to book.
Each sessions starts with guides introducing the herd, demonstrating how to feed them by hand and giving a safety briefing. Walking in small groups with up to six alpacas, trained guides then lead groups on a trek lasting about 45 minutes, with plenty of stops, through beautiful scenery and woodlands.