Adorable alpacas set to put smiles on children’s faces

Published Thursday, 4th January 2018
Alpaca Teddy with a looked after child
Alpaca Teddy with a looked after child

Children in care in Rotherham have been given an extra special present this festive season – to trek with alpacas.

Sheffield-based Holly Hagg Community Farm has offered Rotherham Council a series of special walks with the South American animals, which are closely related to camels.

The treks will be carried out across the year as part of the farm’s service to the community.

Up to 25 children and young people, who are part of the Council’s Intensive Intervention Programme which helps looked after children who have experienced a lot of instability and uncertainty, will benefit from the gift. 

The treks offer the opportunity for the children and their carers to take advantage of animal assisted therapy to help improve their overall emotional well-being. 

The farm, which sits deep in the heart of Sheffield’s picturesque Rivelin Valley, has been offering walking tours with their small herd of alpacas for the past couple of years. Volunteers are on hand to ensure the experience is enjoyable both for the alpacas and the public.

Community farm manager Claire Gregory said: “Alpacas are extremely gentle creatures and so are ideally suited to walking – especially with young children. That is why we are delighted that we are able to offer the gift of these treks to children in care in Rotherham.

“If our animals can help these children overcome some of the issues they have already experienced in their short lives then the team at Holly Hagg will feel really privileged to have been able to help.”

She added their walks are recommended for families with children aged around seven and over, though younger ones are welcome if they can manage the walk. Each session starts with guides introducing the herd, demonstrating how to feed them by hand and giving a safety briefing. Trained guides then lead small groups with up to seven alpacas, on a trek through the beautiful scenery and woodlands.

The alpacas arrived at Holly Hagg as part of a permaculture land management system. Their grazing helps keep the grass in check while their manure fertilises the crops. Alpacas were chosen due to their hardy nature and gentle temperament.

Specialist officers working within children’s services at the Council will select the children who are most likely to benefit from the intensive intervention being offered.

Cllr Gordon Watson, Rotherham Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services at Rotherham Council added: “What a lovely gift for our looked after children to have and thank you to Holly Hagg farm for being so generous.

"The children will be delighted with this offer I am sure and if it can go some way to helping them to deal with past issues that will be great. Some of these children have experienced issues in their lives that no child should ever have to, so we welcome anything which will help to improve their situation.”