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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Walking with alpacas

It was May Day bank holiday weekend here in the UK last weekend, a holiday weekend that always coincides with the first Monday in May.  For the first time in a long time on a bank holiday, the sun shone and it was wonderful to be outside and feel the sun on our faces.

Early on Saturday morning, the girls and I were up and out to Walton Hall Gardens, a hall and gardens (as you'd expect from the name!) on the other side of Warrington.  They've got huge gardens to wander around, a crazy golf course, children's play area and a children's zoo.  The zoo has been there for years; it's not very big but has quite a range of animals there including red squirrels, donkeys, goats, Herdwick sheep, a whole flock of peacocks and alpacas.  Big daughter spotted an advertisement on social media for their alpaca walks and I didn't take much persuading for us to go - and, of course, I wore my New Leaf alpaca socks! :) 

There are three alpacas at the zoo who all go out to walk together and as one of them, Jim, can be a bit temperamental he walks with the zoo ranger, there were just two spaces to book - one space had already been taken so we were lucky to get the other one.  They were waiting for us at the zoo ...




Before we set off, there were some things that we needed to know.  We learnt that they like to walk in a particular order and to stay away from their back legs as alpacas don't like to be crowded and will kick.  We also learnt that they don't like dogs and would be on high alert for them, which would sometimes involve vertical take-offs and general skittishness.  They don't like to be hugged (which is such a shame as their coats are sooo soft!) and they don't like you to touch their faces - but when they decide that you are allowed to, you can stroke their necks.  It felt like quite an honour when that moment arrived!

These are the alpacas at Walton Hall:  Topaz, who likes to walk first ...


Walton Hall Zoo alpacas - Topaz

Jim, who likes to go in the middle and sometimes a bit too close to Topaz (he has an allergy to flies which is why his eye is sore; he's being treated by the vet for it) ...


Walton Hall zoo alpacas - Jim

and Mally (Malbeck) who is happy to bring up the rear ...


Walton Hall zoo alpacas - Mally

He is definitely my favourite, he has such a smiley face!

The walk starts at 9.30am when the park is mostly empty and we had the place to ourselves.  The alpacas are much happier walking at that time of day, and we set off in formation with Peter, the zoo ranger, who told us more about Topaz, Jim and Mally as we walked.



The whole walk lasts for about an hour and takes in a long loop of the gardens, with regular stops for photos ...


and also when the alpacas decided that certain bushes were just too tasty to pass without a quick snack.  They can't eat evergreens because they make them ill, but everything else seemed to be fair game!

Walton Hall zoo alpaca walks


I'm not big on selfies but couldn't resist this one! :)


By the time we made our way back to the zoo, the gardens and children's play area were much busier and we were certainly something to see as we walked around the pond!  The alpacas were less interested in tadpoles than we were, but perhaps that's just as well as the water looked deep!

Walton Hall zoo alpaca walks

We were sorry to say goodbye to Topaz, Jim and Mally but we thoroughly enjoyed our walk with them.  We felt very calm afterwards, there's definitely something about walking with an animal that gives that fresh air magic an extra boost. 

We consoled ourselves with a last quick look around the zoo where the peacocks were in full mating plumage and full voice to match (what a strange noise they make!) ...


Walton Hall zoo peacock

and where Mrs Red Squirrel was zooming about her pen, apparently on super-speed because she has just had kittens and this is what red squirrels do when they've just had kittens.  She was actually very good at coming over to say hello, but my phone camera couldn't cope with her speed so she's a bit blurry.  So beautiful, though, red squirrels have such pretty tufty ears (anyone else remember the Tufty Club from the 1970s?  I was a member!).  She's part of a breeding programme in association with the Welsh Mountain Zoo as there are so few red squirrels around, and there have been 30 baby red squirrels born at Walton Park Zoo since 2006 ...



and then we had an ice cream (I can't remember the last time I had ice cream with a flake, sprinkles, sherbet and raspberry sauce - it was fab!) ...



Yes, we did have the "can we have alpacas?" conversation on the way home, and no, we are not having any alpacas.  We have a dog, for a start, and I think he'd probably have a meltdown if a herd of alpacas moved into our garden, they'd probably have a meltdown when they saw him and I'd have a meltdown when they trampled over everything and ate all the flowers.  Plus, we're short of a few acres to keep them in :)


What I have done, though, is sponsored the alpacas through the zoo.  Walton Hall Gardens and the Children's Zoo is owned by Warrington Borough Council and as we all know, councils are constantly hard-pressed to monitor their budgets and find ways of reducing them.  Sponsoring the alpacas (you can sponsor other animals too, including the squirrels) means that the money goes directly to the zoo, and we'll get another chance to visit them on a special "sponsors' evening" too.  It feels like a good compromise to me, and I don't need to find anyone to feed them when we go away on holiday :)

The alpaca walks are advertised every month through the zoo's Facebook page and on the website, and they sell out quickly so if you're interested, you'll need to keep your eye out for the next dates.  I'd definitely recommend it!



Don't forget that it's Yarn Shop Day on Saturday (12 May)!  I'll be at Black Sheep Wools in Culcheth, Warrington from 9.30am till 2.30pm so do come and say hello, and bring your questions and your socks (both on and off the needles) as I love to see them all!  

Finally, don't worry if you didn't get the GDPR email (a few people have told me that they didn't) - you'll only have got one if you signed up to the newsletter via Mailchimp either from the form in the left hand side bar or the pop up form.  Other blog updates are sent via Feedburner and they have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email so if you don't want the emails any more, you can unsubscribe there.  For the Mailchimp emails (and you'll be able to tell as the Mailchimp link is at the bottom of the email), all you need to do to update your preferences is click the link at the bottom of any blog update email from Winwick Mum and you can confirm that you still want to receive emails from me :)


12 comments:

  1. Looks like a fun day out. I think Mally is my favourite too - such a cheeky face, and that gorgeous colour wool would make a lovely pair of socks!

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    1. Wouldn't it just?! I did make a point of showing my socks off but they are use the fleece to make bracelets to sell to raise money for the zoo so I don't think there will be any Walton Hall socks soon :) xx

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  2. Oh they do look like proper characters. What a nice, different day out. The weather has been glorious. I really hope we get some more sunshine xxx

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  3. Alpacas! <3 This looks like such fun. Something we'll have to look at next time we're down that area. :)

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  4. What a lovely day out!

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  5. We have something similar to us Christine and just this week myself and a friend have been talking about going, the place we have looked does gift vouchers and i’m Thinking this would be great for my daughter and her boyfriend

    Mitzi x

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  6. Mally looks adorable, he gets my vote too.

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  7. What a lovely fun thing to do and a great idea to sponser them too. I only had sheep an goats on my farm in Devon, I think having some alpacas would have been interesting. xcx

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  8. my son spent some time over the holiday weekend in Scone Scotland and saw red squirrels there. He said that there are pinemartens also that keep the greys away.

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  9. The alpacas are lovely! What a fun thing to do. We were really lucky to have lived in Scotland for 15 years where there are quite a lot of red squirrels in the wild. We had one which often visited our garden to eat the food on the bird table. They are beautiful too. Best wishes, Pauline (now in Lincolnshire)

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  10. It was lovely to see your lovely day out with your family and the alpacas.

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  11. I have walked with llamas - very similar I think but llamas spit if upset!! Loved it though.

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