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Llama Drama…

 Life with Llynda’s Llamas

A decade ago the only place you were likely to spot a llama was in a zoo. These days, however, they are to be found grazing in paddocks and fields all over the UK, and now that even includes … the fields of Ambridge in Borsetshire! Fans of Radio 4’s “The Archers” will have recently learned that the indefatigable Lynda Snell has bought a pair of llamas for her husband Robert’s birthday*.

 So why, one would be forgiven for wondering, have llamas become such a success story?

“Llamas are immensely hardy, versatile and pleasurable to own” enthuses Paul Rose, one of the driving forces behind the growth in popularity of these imposing and graceful animals. Owner of the Roseland Llama Farm in mid-Devon, Paul began farming llamas some fifteen years ago and has been advising the Ambridge production team on all things llama-ish!

"I had contacted The Archers production team on and off over the past ten years in the hope that I could persuade them in some way to reflect the growing trend to introduce llamas into farm and village life. I first wrote to Peggy Archer (now Woolley) about ten years ago when she was looking for ideas when organising visits for the local W.I; I suggested she visit a llama farm! June Spencer wrote back (as Peggy) saying she would bear it in mind... Various other themes presented themselves over the years that encouraged me to put pen to paper, and then more recently when David Archer was having trouble with dogs chasing his sheep I wrote suggesting he use a llama to protect the sheep! I hoped that the occasional letter - like every couple of years - would not have the reverse effect and put them off!

Then just before last Christmas I got an email saying they were going with it - llamas would come to Ambridge! The following four months brought a fun exchange of emails back and forth as I filled in background husbandry details and suggested possible story lines, some of which are being used. At one point their sound engineer and producer came down to record the sound of llamas humming - great fun persuading them (the llamas that is, not the production team) to sing on demand. They also recorded me brushing the llamas, so when you hear the llamas being brushed - that's me on The Archers!!!"

 But why llamas?

“We breed llamas to sell to a very varied cross-section of society. They are finding increasing favour among farmers, for example, to keep foxes from attacking their lambs and free-range poultry. The llama is unlikely to kill the fox but will chase it out of the flock and the fox will look for easier pickings elsewhere!

There is also a burgeoning interest among the public for trekking with llamas and several new ventures have started up around the country to cater for this growing leisure market. The llamas are not ridden but are used for carrying anything from picnics on half-day leisure walks to camping gear for longer mountain hikes. 

We have helped ventures set up in Dorset where they trek along the Heritage coastline, in Snowdonia, in the Forest of Dean and soon the Pennine Way. Many customers seem to just love the experience of being with the llamas.”

 Llamas have fine, soft fibre similar in quality to cashmere and some owners are producing their own hand knitted garments from the wool. “Though after shearing,” Paul admits “the previously magnificent looking beast suddenly looks rather like a cat that has just had a bath: before, splendid and fluffy - after, skimpy and scrawny!”

Farmers are also buying Paul’s llamas to diversify and set up their own breeding herds, but Paul’s main market for these woolly wonders over the years has been the field pet market.

 “We sell all over the UK. Apart from many sales here in the South West, we have sent llamas up to Scotland, across to Kent, over to Ireland and just recently down to the Channel Islands. Llamas can be taken for walks, be taught to pull a cart and even give children rides. They make ideal companions for a lone horse, as they bond well and hardly impact at all on the owner’s workload or cost of keep. But what is especially nice is that you do not have to exercise llamas or put them away at night. You can have fun with them or just leave them to eat down your grass and look magnificent whilst they are doing it.” 

And it is for just these sorts of leisure activities that Lynda Snell, often first in the village of Ambridge with new ideas, has acquired her llamas. But whilst llamas are generally quiet and content animals, Ambridge life is rarely uneventful… so, as Paul says, "llisten out"! Life with Lynda’s llamas is unlikely to be without a certain amount of llama drama.

* 4th April 2003

 ·   Visit for more llama information.
·   Visit Trekking Centres for more information about trekking along the Dorset Heritage coast and elsewhere
    Roseland Llamas can be contacted on 01363 866056.

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