Sir Keith.jpg


This is my walking companion once again, Sir Keith


Suri Brian and friends.jpg


Brian the Suri alpaca and his huacaya friends

getting in the festive mood 




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The Christmas-themed walks had been mentioned to me during my visit to Abbotts View Alpacas in July 2017.  So, when advertised in August, I booked a second walk, for Saturday 16 December.  This clashed with Cheltenham’s December meeting but, as I wasn’t attending that fixture, I would be able to watch the action on RUK replay.  And, fortunately, it didn’t clash with a visit to Jamie Snowden’s yard which was scheduled for Saturday 09 December although, as that was an early morning visit, I could have done both in one day if necessary. 

Being December, the nights were drawing in; in fact the shortest day was less than a week away.  This being the case, the walk was scheduled to begin at 13:30, with attendees asked not to arrive before 13:15.  From home, it would take around 55 minutes to get there and, wanting to leave a little bit of ‘wiggle time’ in case of unforeseen delays, I set off at 12:10. 

Despite the early morning being very frosty, it had begun to cloud over by lunchtime; I’d popped down to the petrol station before 07:30 to fill the car’s fuel tank.  By lunchtime the main City thoroughfares were quite busy with traffic, and on a couple of occasions I had to wait in long queues through a number of traffic light phases.  However, around 15 to 20 minutes later I’d finally escaped into the open countryside as I headed towards Harpenden.  There were now spots of rain on the windscreen.

My route took me to Harpenden Common, through Hatching Green and onwards to the Redbourn bypass.  I turned right in order to continue my journey beneath junction 9 of the M1, before heading along the Markyate bypass to Dunstable.  The temperature had now dropped to 2 degrees and it was sleeting!  Having reached the Bedfordshire town, I headed through the housing estate at the prescribed speed limit of 20 mph and onwards to Tottenhoe.  At the far end of the village I turned right and arrived at the Leighton Buzzard bypass a few metres further on.

Having turned left, I continued along the prescribed route until I reached the A418 in order to head to Wing and subsequently onwards towards Aylesbury.  Prior to Rowsham, I took a right-hand turn in order to drive the short distance into Aston Abbotts.  I turned left at The Green and then took another left to drive along Moat Lane; the driveway entrance is situated on the right, just before a sharp left-hand bend.

The driveway was pot-holed, and I waited for a car heading in the opposite direction to pass by.  Another car followed me in.  The entrance gate to Abbotts View Farm is on the right, further along; I drove into the car park at around 13:20, perfect timing!  I was one of the last to arrive, however.  I pulled into a parking space on the left, facing the Owners’ cattery, between a horse-box ... or was it an alpaca box ... and another car.

Jo Dell, the owner of Abbotts View Farm along with her husband James, was touring the vehicles in order to check everyone in.  Having ticked my name off, I changed into my snow-boots; they were countryside boots once more, having spent a number of days the previous week having actually been snow-boots when the ‘white-stuff’ arrived on 10 December, much to everyone’s surprise!  Most of the snow had now melted although, where piled-up or made into snowmen, it still remained.     

I’d also brought my black M & S ankle boots to change into and my moccasins as a second backup.  I wore my dark blue jeggings, with tights underneath and socks.  A blue/grey/black thermal polo-neck T-shirt, dark blue thermal T-shirt, Prussian blue thermal T-shirt, grey M & S jumper, neon blue fleece, black fleece gillet, the burgundy jacket I wear when I attend stable visits, plus one of my Gypsy yarn snoods (I believe my dark blue appropriately named ‘Winter’ one), together with a red Big Fab knitted hat with a white pom pom.  Fortunately the sleet had stopped and, in the main, the rain too. 

Visitors headed into the barn/workshop/shop area whilst waiting for two or three latecomers to arrive.  Jo gave everyone a briefing on what to expect from the alpacas and the walk, before we headed out to the field where the ‘boys’ were kept.  We were instructed to step in the disinfectant tray before entering the area; the track was muddier than usual because a barn was being constructed at the far end thereof.  We also waved hello to a guy who was in the process of installing a wind turbine.  The farm is eco-friendly.

James had ‘tacked up’ the alpacas.  Many were wearing antlers in celebration of the festive season, others just sparkly ‘bits’ attached to their halters.  I asked if I could walk Sir Keith again, so James went to fetch him from the enclosure; my alpaca wasn’t wearing antlers, just a gold sparkly thing.  The Dells have two Suri alpacas, Chewbacca and Brian; Brian had been feeling the cold during the snowy weather so he’d got a coat on today, but was still shivering.  Bless him.

There was one alpaca remaining once the others had been handed out to their walkers; James decided to lead him – it was a dark brown alpaca named Charlie and he was the naughtiest!  We set off on our walk, in an anti-clockwise direction today, it was slippery underfoot initially. 

There’s a horse livery facility at the Farm and a lady was lunging a young Shire horse in an enclosure close to the new barn.  There are a number of alpacas which like to lead or be at the head of the group, and others which are happy to follow along behind.  Keith was quite keen to be near the front.  It didn’t take long before all bar one of the alpacas had lost their antlers; only one of the Suris retained them and he was a novice walker!  The human participants had been asked to pick up the antlers if they fell off.

After a few stops and starts, when the alpacas were able to enjoy a graze, we arrived back at their field once more.  I’d put my camera around my neck prior to the walk, so was able to take photos during it; it’s so easy to startle an alpaca if one rummages in a rucksack!  We took the ‘boys’ into their enclosure in two groups to be released; I released Keith in the first lot.

The boy alpacas having been fed, we headed over to see the sheep and the ‘girl’ alpacas. This included this year’s babies, Fran, Freddie, Fiona and Freckle.  Fran had been born prior to my walk in July, the others afterwards.  Sadly, the fifth baby, Faith had been lost not many days after her birth due to a defect.     

Although I’d not joined in with the feeding of the sheep, I did feed the alpacas; their teeth scratched the palm of my hand.  They have teeth in their bottom jaw, but a pad in their top jaw; they are a member of the camelids family.  We then went to see the pigs, this included a boar and sow and youngsters too.  Plus four pigmy goats – two goats had horns, the older ones did not, as their horns had been removed by their previous owners.      

We passed an enclosure containing rabbits and guinea pigs, and then we fed the ducks.  James subsequently put food inside their enclosure to encourage them inside so that he could lock them in for the night.   

Having washed my hands, I headed to the barn/shop for refreshments; I changed into my ankle boots at this stage as my snow-boots were a little muddy.  Some of the visitors were already well ensconced, having foregone the animal feeding opportunity.  I didn’t partake in the mulled wine, as I was due to drive home, but did eat a mini mince-pie, plus a couple of small stollen squares.  I also purchased a large alpaca design mug before departing.  

It was dusk when I set off; 15:53.  I headed out of the yard and along the bumpy driveway.  However, upon reaching Moat Lane, I decided to turn right, rather than left.  Having passed through a gateway upon the lane, I headed along The Lines and then down Lines Hill.  It was pretty bleak.  I suppose I should have known what to expect, having undertaken a ramble or two out of the nearby Quainton during my rambling days.  Whitchurch and Oving, in the same area, have also been referenced as places where a number of my ancestors lived.

I continued past Lines Hill Farm, situated to the left of the road, and along the now designated Aston Abbotts Road to reach the village of Weedon.  The road winds through the village before continuing as New Road; it’s new and straight and reduces the travel distance between the village and Aylesbury.

Having arrived at the A413, I turned left to head into Aylesbury.  I encountered a large roundabout at the edge of a new housing estate, traffic lights, a smaller roundabout and then the so very familiar ring-road; I turned left and headed around said ring-road to reach the A41.  Having been fairly dry for much of the walk, before raining once more whilst everyone was enjoying refreshments in the barn, and then clearing again, the dampness returned with a vengeance as I headed out of Aylesbury towards the A41 bypass.  

The newly constructed traffic light controlled junction with New Road, beside the Holiday Inn, was now up and running.  I was following an Arla lorry by this stage so I knew it would leave the A41 at the first junction as there is a huge Arla plant nearby.  I love their Skyr yoghurt!  The spray from passing vehicles on the dual carriageway was bad as I sped past Tring and Berkhamsted on my way to the Hemel Hempstead exit.  I also had to contend with vehicles pulling out from entry slip-roads at various points; the visibility wasn’t great.

Having left the bypass I headed down the steep hill, stopping briefly at the traffic lights, before continuing along Two Waters Road to reach the ‘Magic Roundabout’.  Having negotiated the infamous traffic islands, with ease I hasten to add, I then headed up the steep St Albans Road hill whilst taking care to remain within the 40mph speed limit; there’s a speed camera situated close to the top thereof.

I subsequently turned right at the roundabout adjacent to the Industrial Estate and headed through Leverstock Green.  The road beyond the village is limited to a 40mph speed limit, with two speed cameras waiting to catch out careless motorists.  I negotiated this section safely and headed over the M1 and under the A414; this was probably where visibility was poorest – a combination of the rain and my deteriorating night vision! 

I survived and headed down Bluehouse Hill in order to join the ring-road at the Batchwood Roundabout.  As it was dark, the display of Christmas lights were in full swing outside a house in Beech Road; the occupiers do this annually to raise money for charity.  I continued on my journey and arrived home at around 16:55. 

After eating a meal of spaghetti on toast I settled down to watch the Final of Strictly Come Dancing 2017.  I voted for Debbie McGee eight times ... it obviously wasn’t enough to clinch the title for her, as Joe McFadden won.  He was very good, but I felt Debbie represented women of a certain age ... women like me in fact!  



PHOTOS – Christmas-themed visit to Abbotts View Alpacas (walking an alpaca)




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