Friday, 8 November 2013

Burnt Fen Alpaca's

Monday 4th November 2013 saw me visiting Ann of Burnt Fen Alpacas and what a lovely couple of hours it was, despite me turning up on the wrong day (Sorry again Ann!).

Now Alpacas are endearing creatures that have fascinated me for a while.  I say fascinated, I probably mean intrigued rather.  They are not your typical farm livestock, or weren't at one time, but I do think they are becoming more so now, especially with smallholders.  They are shy but trusting creatures once they get to know you, which is obvious when we enter the nursery field; Ann claps her hands, shouts and they all came running; she then felt immediately guilty as she had no treats for them.

Smiling for the camera!

Their distrust of me, the stranger, was obvious by the looks they were giving me but Ann soon put them at ease. The vast array of fleece colours is gorgeous from white's to fawn's, brown's through to black, one of the reasons Ann decided to keep them.  They are not strictly speaking a meat animal, it's all about the fibre and the quality of which is paramount.

The key to Alpaca's is to use the fibre and to find an outlet for said fibre, which Ann had to do when the co-operative she was using closed a number of years ago.  She now uses all the fibre herself in a number of ways - selling to hand spinners, spinning some herself to turn into gorgeous knitted garments.  She also felts the lesser quality fibre and turns this into scarves and hats, including a gorgeous trilby I was rather taken with.

She teaches courses on Nuno felting, a process which turns the fibre into silk, from her purpose built Yurt in her back garden!

Ann in the Yurt

The scarves that she has made by this process would grace any woman's neck up and down the land.

At the moment she is struggling to produce enough garments to be able to sell at craft fairs etc.  She has two ladies who knit for her and she knits herself, namely waistcoats, scarves, wrist warmers, hats and the like.

She does sell some animals occasionally but only to people who will appreciate them for what they are - lovable creatures with great characters and personalities.

She also does Alpaca walking sessions, where you can literally take an alpaca for a walk around the farm and past the edge of the private Burnt Fen Broad.  An endearing experience loved by young and old, male and female.

The gorgeous and private Burnt Fen Broad

Apart from the NSTG show (Norfolk Smallholders Training Group), she has given up showing due to current Tuberculosis (TB) regulations, or lack of in camelids currently.  Alpacas are susceptible to TB and the current DEFRA regulations mean that Alpacas are not registered and no specific tracking is in place. Plus there is no specific camelid test at the moment.  So if you'd like to experience these delightful creatures then get in touch with Ann at Burnt Fen direct.

So have I changed my opinion of Alpaca's?  Yes, but I believe that you must have an outlet for the fibre, which means entering a whole new world of spinning, knitting etc, which needs careful consideration to get the full benefit of the enterprise.  There is no doubt though that the enterprise of Alpaca fibre is truly fabulous and luxurious.

White fibre

Ann knows where all her fibre comes from, even named!

Bagged fibre, waiting to be used

Thank you Ann for letting me visit you and your delightful Alpacas, it was a lovely way to spend a few hours in the sunshine.


  1. We went on a Norfolk Smallholders "Starting with Alpacas" course last year at Burnt Fen and had a wonderful day. Would love to keep Alpacas but need to learn how to knit first!

  2. I know that feeling. There is a lady in Norwich who teaches people to knit for £10 an hour see - This is her shop on St Giles street, lovely lady, got talking to her and her daughter when I went in there last week. No excuse now! Burnt Fen was a wonderful morning out, would quite happily go back there