WWOOFing with alpacas

Host contact Taryn Field used to be a host and is now an occasional WWOOFer. Here’s what she’s been up to lately.

On a Saturday in July my fiancée and I, with a few friends, visited a nearby host for a day's WWOOFing. Great Ground Farm is a new host that joined in March this year, and they have hosted several WWOOFers already. The farm’s main business is Arkadia Alpacas which specialises in alpaca trekking and running creative workshops like spinning and felting using the alpaca wool. 

I was very excited to visit as the hosts had mentioned that we may meet some baby alpacas and I'd never met a baby one before, or even an adult for that matter.

The hosts, Drew and Wayne, were there to welcome us when we arrived, along with Andy, Wayne's partner who came to help on the farm on his only day off, and their current WWOOFer Benjamin, who is from France and is WWOOFing with them for three months. We started the day with coffee and a good ol' chat about the farm and what they do there, and went to have a peak at the new additions to the Alpaca herd. Did you know that alpacas are pregnant for 50 weeks? Some have even been known to go over a year gestation period! That's a long time especially in this heat, but they didn't seem to mind, they looked peaceful and relaxed. 

We had a walk down to the paddocks where the rest of the alpacas were grazing and generally looking cute, males and females in separate areas. We poop scooped both the fields (this is to stop parasites spreading) and then met one of the more social females, Octavia. The females were much more curious and were interested in hanging out with us, Octavia even allowed us to give her cuddles! What amazing soft fleece they have, with such random patterns and colours too. (I saw purple spots on one of them.) 

Wayne and Andy took us down to a small woodland below the paddocks, to do some clearing near the brook. Their next project is building a green wood bridge over the brook so they have access to the fields. The woods are also  used occasionally by Scout groups for camping, so the plan is to build a compost toilet, making the woods safer by creating steps down to the brook, and generally encouraging healthy growth of the woodland itself. 

Within an hour, we had made such a difference, I don't think our hosts were expecting us to be so enthusiastic and up for getting the job done. It was such fun work, being in a group, shaded from the sun, all of us getting stuck in, and I remembered how much I missed working on the land and being enveloped by nature. 

I also think that the amount we achieved, got Wayne thinking about possible ways he could hosts groups of WWOOFers more often. I can tell just by being there for the day, that Wayne and Drew have such a passion for looking after alpacas, and wanting to do the very best with the land they are looking after. 

Over lunch I had a chat with Ben, who seemed to be really enjoying his time WWOOFing. After a few weeks of Ben getting comfortable on the farm, Wayne and Drew were positively surprised when he asked if he could take the lead on an Alpaca walk. It's always nice to see WWOOFer's confidence growing as their English is improving. I asked Ben what his favourite thing about WWOOFing at Great Ground farm, and he told me it was 'conversations with the hosts'. 

We eagerly returned to the woods, only to be attacked by thorns, nettles, and branches but we prevailed victorious and thought of our cuts and bruises as medals of good fun and enjoyable work. At the end of the day we took our time perusing all the marvels that Wayne and Drew have made in the little Arkadia Alpaca shop. Such creativity! (And we may have purchased a few bits and bobs.) 

Our whole group felt good in what we achieved, and Wayne and Drew were very thankful indeed. 

If you are looking for somewhere peaceful, with welcoming, friendly hosts, if you want to learn about alpacas, and are interested in positively improving the land then you would love WWOOFing here.

photos: Taryn Field

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