“Llama trekking. You can do that around here?”
It appeared that our waitress in the Royal Oak pub in Eydon was as surprised as us to learn that llama trekking wasn’t just confined to the Peruvian hills.
Yet this is exactly what you can do deep in the Northamptionshire countryside at Catanger Llamas.
Catanger Farm – Home of the Llama
16 years ago Mary Pyrse took out her first trek through the green countryside when its safe to say people thought she was crazy to be doing so.
Today she leads out between 800-900 people a year proving that a simple idea can lead to an enjoyable day out for everyone.
Catanger Farm is home to around 35 llamas used for the treks, their soft fine down hair and for breeding.
As we drove up the long driveway the paddock to our left was dotted with llamas each one interrupting their grass munching to pop their head in our direction curious of the new visitors.
We parked up next to a purpose built lodge with our fellow trekkers as Mary appeared from the nearby metal roofed barn to lead us into the lodge.
Inside she introduced us to her husband and daughter, the latter joining us on the trek, and to give us a brief history of both the farm and the llamas as a species.
You can tell Mary loves her animals as she speaks proudly of their trips to the streets of London and their starring role in the BBC’s Horrible Histories. They’ve even met Philip Schofield.
Meeting Grappa, our new best friend
With the introduction over it was off to meet the star attractions, the nine llamas that we’ll be taking out with us on our walk. Mary talked us through the best way to walk alongside your llama and as they would rather flee than flight there were very few danger. In fact the only possible hazard was in-abruptly walking into the back of one as it stopped for a toilet break. Something that did nearly happen to one girl on our trek.
Everyone was given their own llama ranging from the boisterous to the calm. We were to share one and were introduced to Grappa, a long haired white llama and very inquisitive. He instantly sniffed us out to check we were in fact human and, satisfied we were, off we set into the fields.
Over the next two hours we trekked across flat green fields with nothing but the sound of our own voices and the occasional snort from one of our four-legged companions. It took a few minutes to get used to the handling of Grappa but he gave us no trouble other than trying to grab a chunk of grass whenever we came to a stop.
The walk was taken at a gentle pace that allowed us to take in our surroundings and after a while it would take us by surprise that we turned to see that we had a llama beside us given their quiet demeanour.
With February at its mid-point the fields were muddy in parts which led to the joy of squelching through the trickier parts between fields but I think no matter what time of year you visit, it is the relaxing feeling you get from trekking around the English countryside with an animal not native to it that is the most rewarding.
Being part of a group made the occasion more enjoyable as you got to know your fellow de-stressed walkers. As llamas are particular about where they sit in the pack it’s easy for couples to be split given you the opportunity to strike up a conversation with others or with Mary who in particular made sure she spoke to every one of her guests. Our group ranged from a group of four university friends to couples enjoying a birthday treat.
A vow to discover the countryside
The trek passed swiftly and we were tinged with sadness when Mary announced we were back on her farms land and we began the final stretch back to the lodge and barn.
We led Grappa back into his enclosure and said our goodbyes. He’d been the perfect walking partner around the countryside, our weekend away from the busy paced life we’re used to, and we vowed that it won’t be long before we discover more of it.
The £95 half day llama trekking experience was kindly provided to us by Mary Pryse at Catanger Llamas, however as always the views are our own.