Muddy goes alpaca trekking
Combine a pack of camelids with one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds and what do you get? The coolest experience this side of Peru. Muddy Glos Editor Sophie swapped heels for hooves for a morning's alpaca trekking.
I have a confession; I like alpacas. These adorably gangly, shaggy creatures have always looked, well, a lot of fun. Famed for their placid temperaments, highly biddable natures and zen-like effect on your mood, what’s not to like?
So when an invite to go alpaca trekking hoofed its way into Muddy Glos’s inbox with Painswick-based Tibbiwell Alpacas, I couldn’t wait to try it out.
MEET AND GREET
Tibbiwell Alpacas is located on the leafy fringes of Painswick village, better known for its butterscotch period buildings and quaint charm, it’s possibly the last place you’d expect to meet a pack of Peruvian pack animals.
We were greeted by Sandie and Shaun, the super-friendly owners and their herd of six, tufty-headed alpacas. The roll call alone was totally fantastic – sounding like the cast of some fabulous Hollywood blockbuster! … Dumbledore, Pablo, Apollo, Pan, Teagan and Salvatore.
In her spare time Sandie is an Anthropology lecturer at Bristol university and Shaun a musician and they came up with the brainwave of keeping alpacas when they moved into the house with land five years ago. Since then it’s grown into one of the loveliest and quirkiest experiences in the Cotswolds.
The experience begins with a meet ‘n greet in the herd’s spacious barn. Being pack animals as they are, alpacas are super-spookable, so Sandie explained it’s very important they scope you out first to feel calm, and make sure you’re not a predator of any kind.
Teagan is the self-appointed leader of the pack and he came over and duly did a lot of sniffing to check us out, we seemed to pass the test.
Next up is a great talk and Q&A session – guaranteed to turn you into an expert on everything alpaca-related.
It was incredibly fascinating, taking us through the personalities of each member, (Pablo; the naughty one, Dumbledore; wise and cool, Apollo; super friendly, Salvador; kind, but a drama queen and Pan; the littlest and super cute).
We found out where they come from (Peru via Cowley) how many there are in the UK (4,000) and which bits, err, not touch (top of head and the behind). And crikey, who knew that alpacas spit in their children ears to discipline them! One nugget the kids found totally hilarious of course.
Alpacas we discovered also make the best noises ever. Fact. It’s kind of like a high pitched hum, with a bit of bumble bee thrown in.
As soon as the meet and greet was done, it was walkies time, the alpacas are guided out of the pen and you’re handed a lead which you clip on (all of which are pre-sanitised).
Walking these gentle animals makes for a great day out for the whole family, as children are strong enough to guide them unassisted. Kids over 13 are allowed to lead on their own and the under 13s can walk an alpaca with an adult.
I was honoured to have Dumbledore for the morning, and he immediately proved to be my spirit animal, as he seemed to be the snacker of the pack.
It took us twice as long as the others to get up the hill as the roadside blackberries proved far too tempting for him to pass by.
Once we were up in the village we took a walk around the picturesque lanes and up to St Mary’s Church and it’s famous courtyard with 99 yew trees.
Of course Painswick is a living breathing village so you do get the odd car, but these fellas seem pretty loved around here and most cars creep past slowly to avoid startling them.
Alpacas seem to have the same response as many humans in the face of fear and will simply freeze and wait for the scary thing to pass! One thing they particularly dislike is dogs. Walking past a notorious garden en route, thankfully there was no spitting in our direction, but they don’t half get a trot on to get away and catch up with the pack. Sort of like a camelid version of the Kardashians, alpacas do everything within their family group and hate to be separated.
Sandie and Shaun gave us a brilliant tour of the churchyard, with loads of fascinating history titbits thrown in as we walked around. And trotting our fuzzy steads along paths lined by the stunning, large yew trees was a real treat.
By the end of the session, we’d all really got the hang of it and didn’t want it to end. The kids loved it, the thrill of walking around with their own alpaca a huge hit.
It’s also an unexpectedly great workout, there’s a fair amount of guiding and coaxing so by the end of we were all shedding our coats, hats and gloves like it was mid-summer.
After the walk we headed back to the barn where we got to pet and hand-feed the pack with some special treats before they were unleashed, a few of them doing some fabulous barrel rolls in the dirt!
And by far the youngest’s favourite bit was getting a giant alpaca smacker at the end, these gorgeous creatures are incredibly affectionate you’ll find, and a brief hugs session at the end was so much fun.
The whole adventure lasted about an hour and a half and was honestly the most fun we’ve ever had walking around a village.
Sandie and Shaun have all kinds of walkers, from birthday and anniversary surprises to brides and grooms and what’s great is they tailor the walk to the group, if it is a young family for instance you can do the quiet lanes rather than up in the village and spend more time petting and feeding.
These gentle, funny creatures certainly put a smile on all our faces for the whole day, and it’s one we’ll be coming back to do without a shadow of a doubt.
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An alpaca experience costs £30 per adult and £15 for 13’s and under. Under 2’s go free.
For more info and to book contact Tibbiwell Alpacas.
Tibbiwell Lane, Painswick, UK GL6 6YA, Tel: 07957 458991