like using your caravan to do something a little
out-of-the-ordinary from time to time!
For many a caravan means an annual summer holiday, a couple of
other breaks and little else. But if you are able to make greater
use of a caravan during the year there are opportunities not only
to visit different areas but also to take part in unusual
We found one such 'unusual' activity - trekking with
llamas on the Dorset/Somerset border!
We first came across the idea when looking for a suitable gift
for one of our grown-up children. After learning a little about
it we decided that it was something we might try too, combining a
walk with the llamas and a few days with the caravan close to the
There are several possible locations from which to choose - our
trek was with Brit Valley Llamas, based a couple of miles outside
Beaminster. They offer several different options ranging from
time with the llamas at the farm through to a package combining
Bed-and-Breakfast with a Llama Trek.
We chose the latter, leaving our caravan unattended on site a few
miles away whilst staying with proprietors Jo and Chris at their
17th Century farmhouse the night before. The friendly atmosphere
of the farmhouse and opportunity to learn about the llamas
undoubtedly adds to the overall experience, but for those unable
to stop overnight it is possible to arrive in the morning. Make
sure you are there early enough to be able to help round up the
llamas for the day's excursion, though!
After breakfast Chris showed us round a small exhibition and
display that he has prepared in one of the outbuildings. Before
our visit we knew little about llamas; domesticated originally as
pack animals in their native South America (they are from the
camel family) their natural strength and agility comes in useful
over difficult terrain in extremes of climate. The fibre from
grooming their coats is very fine and strong, and can be used to
make clothing or rope. Even their dung (quaintly known as llama
beans) can be sold as a high-grade fertiliser.
But perhaps their strangest and most unexpected 'skill'
is the ability to protect groups of other animals from wild
predators. They have a natural inclination to mix with flocks of
sheep and protect them from foxes, coyotes and so on something we
saw a little of later in the day during our trek. At Beaminster
the llamas have taken on the role of guarding the ducks and
chickens that roam around the lake and grounds against the local
foxes, apparently with complete success.
Treks from the farm where Brit Valley is based take different
routes, partly to suit the abilities (and numbers) of the
visitors of the day, but also to introduce a little variation.
Several treks start from the farm itself, but most involve a
short journey by road either into the local countryside or to
paths closer to the sea. In our case we were to be taken north to
Ham Hill, around thirty minutes away.
Before the llamas could be loaded into the trailer for the
journey to the start of our trek there was work to be done. The
animals were rounded up and fitted with a halter.
'Saddles' were prepared for fitting to the older (and
therefore stronger) animals - saddles not to ride on, but
designed instead to carry the special bags that would hold our
picnic lunch. Packs were weighed to ensure that any load was
within acceptable limits, and well balanced.
After a journey that the llamas seemed to enjoy, alternately
resting on the floor of the trailer and peering out at their
surroundings, we reached Ham Hill. Once the saddles were fitted
and loaded up (not only with food, but also with lightweight
picnic table and chairs) we were able to lead the llamas through
undulating countryside, seeing some of their agility in
scrabbling up or down the terrain. No worries about their ability
to cope with rough ground - certainly much easier for them than
for those supposed to be leading them!
At one point we came across a few sheep, and that was
fascinating. The llamas began to make quiet humming noises, and
the sheep came towards us all for a closer look very different
from their more usual practice of scampering out of harms way!
Before leaving the farm we had been allocated a specific llama.
Even after a relatively short time it was possible to see that
each animal comes with a temperament and personality of its own -
mine was a serious, perhaps even slightly haughty, six year old
called Angus, reputed to be the 'leader of the pack'.
This turned out to mean not that he must lead the way, rather
that he clearly thought he was responsible for all his fellow
llamas, being the last to lie down and always keeping a watchful
eye for whatever dangers might be around the corner.
As we strolled along gravel paths and clambered up grassy slopes
to the summit of Ham Hill (from where there are views of the
beautiful Somerset and Dorset countryside) passers by stopped and
stared. Many came to ask questions it's not every day that
you come face to face with a group of llamas when strolling
through the English countryside!
At lunchtime Chris unloaded the table and chairs from the backs
of two of the llamas and we set up camp. We sat in a sheltered
hollow eating our picnic whilst the llamas were tethered close
by, grazing the grass and vegetation or lying down for a
All too soon it was time for the return walk back to the trailer,
and then the drive to the farm. It had been a different and very
enjoyable day out, easy going and not at all strenuous. As we
released the llamas back into their field we were sorry it had
come to an end. Leading the llamas proved to be a surprisingly
peaceful and relaxing experience. The animals are calm and
relatively unperturbed by their surroundings, whilst being alert
at all times to see what is going on around them.
Although llamas vary in size their heads are at roughly the same
height as our own so that it becomes natural to feel that you are
walking along with your own companion. Before long even the most
sceptical is chatting to his or her llama - small wonder that a
break with llamas is often considered to help reduce stress and
© GDS 2002
Where to try llama trekking
This is a relatively unknown pastime in Britain. It is possible
to try llama trekking at a number of locations, more details from
the British Llama and Alpaca Association, tel. 01372 458352 (www.llama.co.uk
Our outing was with Brit Valley Llamas at Mosterton, near
Beaminster in Dorset. (Tel. 01308 868674). (www.ukllamas.co.uk