Are alapacas REALLY scary?

Jo Dell of Abbotts View Farm with her alpacas
Jo Dell of Abbotts View Farm with her alpacas

Jo Dell of Abbotts View Farm is one of those capable women who’ll try their hand at anything.

She and her husband James bought the smallholding four years ago after she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

They’d always been townies but they threw themselves into making a success of country living and today they and their three children couldn’t be happier.

They’ve built an off-grid eco farmhouse, have a herd of alpacas, various rare breeds of domestic animals and offer all sorts of exciting experiences for local groups.

So it’s no surpise that the former Vandyke Upper schoolgirl has now put pen to paper and written a rhyming illustrated children’s story called ‘And . . . are alpacas REALLY scary?’

Jo, 43, said: “Well of course they aren’t – most of the time. I’ve met a few who like to give that impression, particularly when you want to shear them.

“But if you’re a little four, five or six-year-old who has a fear of animals then yes, actually, alpacas are REALLY scary.”

She says the book was inspired by young visitors who arrrived at Abbots View Farm feeling anxious about the prospect of encounters with lifestock, but left elated because they had overcome their fears.

She explained: “It’s about a little girl who bottle-feeds our orphaned alpacas and it’s based on real events here at the farm.”

The illustrations were done by her brother-in-law Kristian Hewitt, who is headteacher at Mary Bassett School. They were painted from specially staged photographs and feature various family members.

Jo credits Dolly and Dot – two orphaned crias (young alpacas) – with helping in her mission.

She explained: “Dolly’s mother died unexpectedly and Dot’s didn’t seem to realise she was a mum so both babies were bottle fed.

“They’d run over whenever we approached the paddock and we timed visits to the farm around feeding times. “This, and their size, meant they were less intimidating for children to meet, which worked perfectly in allaying their fears.

“We also explained how careful were were not to ‘tame’ them by overhandling and fussing, although it was a huge temptation.”

> More information about Abbotts View Farm and the book can be found at www.abbottsviewalpacas.co.uk