Wimbledon Alpacas!

Wimbledon alpacas! is now being shown on the US TV channel as a great thing to do if you are visiting Wimbledon tennis fortnight here in the UK.

Last year we hosted a US production company who filmed us here at Alpaca Walking with Spring Farm Alpacas. Millie showed the crew around and they got some great footage of our walking team and the beautiful Sussex countryside – we are in the High Weald AONB. This footage has now been edited and is being run to coincide with Wimbledon tennis fortnight.

You can see the results here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mzusS7Z5VA

 

April wild flowers - apple blossom

April wild flowers

Each month of the year is different here at Spring Farm – it is what makes our walks so special as we get to see the changing seasons in the English countryside. After a walk last week I got the camera out (a slightly rare event these days!) and walked 200 metres whilst looking for a number of wild flowers. We are effectively in the middle of a drought as it hasn’t rained significantly here for two months but still I managed to find 8 flowering April wild flowers in ten minutes. Sometimes its easy to pass by as they are skulking in the margins of fields – but well worth searching out for their delicate beauty.

Here at Spring Farm, the month of May normally sees the first orchids and the hay meadows bursting into life. Unfortunately, as I write this, there is precious sign of the hay meadows doing very much at all but hopefully with some forecast rain, all will be well – albeit a bit late.

In the meantime please see a selection of April wild flowers and if you wanted to bring a camera, you would be very welcome and I can retrace my steps to show the flowers off!

Alpaca walk in Springtime in Sussex

Spring alpaca walks

Over the last few days the weather here at Spring Farm Alpacas has been really glorious! It has been a real pleasure to do Spring alpaca walks around the farm as the wild daffodils are in full bloom and the wood anemones are just starting to flower (and the bluebells are not far behind). The only problem for us is the demand for weekend Spring alpaca walks seems to exceed demand by some margin! If you are contemplating a walk, we have plenty of availability during the week but if you are looking for weekends, best to get a date organised in advance as we hate turning guests away!

Last Saturday and Sunday we had one day of amazing weather and one day where we watched the forecast with trepidation but in the end, had a great walk as well. I have included some pics from the weekends walks. The eagle eyed will notice we have a llama walking as well as our alpaca walkers. This is Eron who is a gentle giant – who seems set to take as many llama photo bombs as possible!

Reserve champion grey huacaya alpaca

Spring Farm’s Lord Percy – 1st place + Reserve Champion

One of the other things we do here at Alpaca Walking with Spring Farm Alpacas is alpaca showing. Its a bit like Crufts in that alpacas are entered within breed (suri or huacaya), then by colour (black, brown, grey etc.), then by age. Its great fun for both us as breeders and for the public who can watch the proceedings.

Lord percy a grey huacaya alpaca

Lord Percy as a cria

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend, Vicki took Lord Percy to the Alpaca Showtime event in Cambridgeshire. Lord Percy was entered into the intermediate grey huacaya alpaca class and won his class – hence the rosette!

Lord Percy then was brought forward into the Champion Grey huacaya alpaca class and was awarded Reserve Champion! Well done to both him and Vicki – who missed a Bad Co. concert to take him to Showtime…

Reserve champion grey huacaya alpaca

Lord Percy with his trophy’s from Alpaca Showtime

 

Dark bush cricket at Spring Farm Alpacas

Dark bush cricket

All that lives on the farm is not cute and cuddly! We are blessed with an abundance of wildlife here and we were lucky enough yesterday to see a dark bush cricket.

A common animal across the southern half of England, the noisy, irregular chirpings of the dark bush-cricket are a familiar feature of late summer. An animal of gardens, hedgerows and woodland edges, dark bush-crickets can often be seen in quite large numbers sunbathing on bramble patches. However, males are very aggressive, defending their territories against intruders. Females lay their eggs in late summer in rotting wood or bark crevices; they emerge 18 months later, so odd-year and even-year dark bush-crickets never meet.

The dark bush-cricket lives up to its name: it’s dark to red-brown, with a paler patch along the top of the thorax, and a yellow-green belly. The female has an up-curved ovipositor.

What I didn’t know is crickets have antenna longer than their bodies and grasshoppers have antenna shorter. Anyway, it might not have the initial appeal of an alpaca, but a stunning creature none the less!

Dark bush cricket at Spring Farm Alpacas

Dark bush cricket

Alpacas and cleavers!

Cleavers and alpacas!

Cleavers and alpacas! Our alpacas like nothing more than browsing along our hedge lines and tucking into what they find. Unfortunately this includes cleavers (as we know them). Cleavers have many names including: goosegrass, catchweed, stickyweed, robin-run-the-hedge and apparently sticky willy. Cleavers officially is a herbaceous annual plant that loves Spring Farm. As we are in higher level stewardship we don’t use herbicides except via spot spraying for thistles and docks so we have an abundance of wild flowers on the farm. This is both good and bad with cleavers in the latter category! This is because the seeds love alpacas and alpacas love putting their heads into hedges and in so doing, pick up a multitude of the seeds which are a nightmare to get out of the fleece.

Alpacas and cleavers!

Cleavers and alpacas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

As to what have cleavers ever done for us? Ancient Greek shepherds would use the barbed stems of cleavers to make a “rough sieve”, which could be used to strain milk. Linnaeus later reported the same usage in Sweden, a tradition that is still practiced in modern times according to Wikipedia.

In Europe, the dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses. Several of the bedstraws were used for this purpose because the clinging hairs cause the branches to stick together, which enables the mattress filling to maintain a uniform thickness. The roots of cleavers can be used to make a permanent red dye. I can safely say “I did not know that” and just hope that our alpacas steer clear somewhat more than Osiria has done.

 

 

 

Edenbridge and Oxted Show 2016

So I have been persuaded to get out of bed early on a Bank Holiday, load the van with various alpaca related goodies, alpacas and llamas and head over to the Edenbridge and Oxted Show 2016 so I can take 2 llamas and 2 alpacas for a day out – it should be fun!

If you are going to the Show come and see me tomorrow and Vicki on Monday. In the last couple of years the weather has been dire and we have had to be towed off the showground alongside everyone else given the all embracing mud. This year, the weather forecast is benign and we are looking forward to two days of good weather and a great Show. So if I am getting out of bed at the crack of dawn, I would appreciate a bit of company – so please come and see me and our team of alpacas and llamas. If you were bearing gifts of tea, coffee or food, so much the better!

The Edenbridge and Oxted is a great Show and I really look forward to seeing you tomorrow and Vicki will be there on Monday with her brother as well. Hope to see you there!

Chris and Vicki

Green lane alpaca trekking

Alpaca trekking – Summer’s here at Spring Farm Alpacas

Alpaca trekking (walking) here at Spring Farm has allowed us to meet some wonderful people and share our passion for alpacas, our farm and the amazing wildlife around us. Spring Farm is a working alpaca farm not a “petting farm” and we grow hay and haylage for sale out of our wildflower meadows. We are part of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme and as such use no pesticides or fertilisers on the farm. We don’t typically cut our wildflower hay till after the 15th July to allow for nesting birds and to allow our meadow wildflowers to flower and seed.

So far this year we have had three film crews on the farm. One has aired already (cBeebies) and the other two will air shortly. Our proximity to London and our amazing friendly alpacas are in part the reason, but I would also add the beautiful Sussex countryside and our wish to publicise alpacas in a positive way.

Our alpaca trekking or walking business is going really well and the main limitation is we only do one walk a day and don’t use the same alpacas to walk every day. We try and limit our walking group to a maximum of 8 walkers (except in special circumstances) that way the alpacas don’t become jaded and we get share around our walking duties between males/females/young and old alike!

Lastly, we also get to go off the farm occasionally to local and national events. We were very proud to take a “show” team to our local village festival – Fletching. We have also featured at the National Pet Show in London and will be at the Edenbridge and Oxted Show at the end of August.

If you are thinking about alpaca trekking or llama trekking for that matter, Spring Farm is an ideal place to do it. We are very proud to have been awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the second time running (we have only been open for 2 years for alpaca walking)!

Lastly, we now have all our baby alpacas on the ground and safely in the field with their mum’s. We had 29 babies this year and after a couple of sales of mum’s with cria at foot, there are 26 bouncing crias in our fields and all are doing well!

 

2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

For the second year since we started Alpaca Walking we are very proud to have received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

We are very grateful to any of our walkers who take the time to review us on TripAdvisor. It means a lot to us and its a service we use ourselves when we travel or go on holiday.

We really hope that our enthusiasm for what we do shines through to everyone who visits us and hope that we are awarded this accolade in years to come.

Chris, Vicki and Millie. 29/5/2016

JB Gill with alpacas

Alpacas on CBeebies from Spring Farm Alpacas

This weeks CBBC programme “Down on the farm” featured Spring Farm’s alpacas on CBeebies – and Vicki was centre stage. On the 18th March Spring Farm Alpacas was the setting for Down On The Farm. This is a brand new five-part series for CBeebies, which explores the outdoor world of farming and the countryside. From livestock to harvesting, presenters JB Gill and Storm Huntley discover where their food comes from and how it’s grown. JB and a production crew visited us on one of the coldest days in mid March and spent most of the day with us.

JB Gill with alpacas

JB with Spring Farm alpaca goodies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JB, Vicki, Millie and the film crew spent most of the day with us to ensure they had what they needed for the shoot. The alpacas were really well behaved and really took to JB. JB has a farm himself and is obviously comfortable in a farm surroundings and is great with the alpacas. On the CBeebies website, JB said “I spend a lot of time on the farm, so it will be great to share this experience with the CBeebies audience. This is a really exciting venture for me, and I look forward to learning more about farming throughout the show.”

CBeebies at Spring Farm Alpacas

Vicki, Millie and JB filming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great features of alpaca fibre is its luxurious feel and warmth. Never was this so needed as on the day of the shoot. The weather was cold and grey and it was a real relief to get “hands on” with the alpacas who had virtually a full years fleece at that time – they have since been sheared as we head into the Summer.

JB and Vicki filming alpaca halter training

Filming halter training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it was too early for births, JB and Vicki spent their time feeding our alpacas, moving them from field to field and halter training. The video (CBeebies Down on the farm – series 2 episode 4) of the shoot can be seen at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07bt3zl/down-on-the-farm-series-2-4-carrots-and-alpacas

Or there is an alpaca fact file on:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/watch/down-on-the-farm-alpaca-factfile

We really enjoyed having JB and the rest of his crew here and the alpacas were as good as gold. It would be nice to get them back when we have field full of baby alpacas (cria) but if you are interested in buying alpacas or booking an alpaca walk in the meantime, please get in touch.

CBeebies Down on the farm

Alpacas on CBeebies