Report - The Seventh Year
As I write this we are well into our seventh year and I am ashamed to say that my original intention to write a summary every year has been a dismal failure. The years have simply shot past. It seems like only yesterday that we were loading up our trailer with the original Llamas and I can still clearly remember that first paying trek.
So what has happened since? The business has gone from strength to strength and we have diversified into other fields. Camels, Yak, Donkeys and Mules have joined our trekking enterprise. The planned introduction of Reindeer is on hold as we were unable to obtain suitable stock, but they will hopefully be with us before long.
They have been a tremendous success, but not in the way we had envisaged. Originally it was intended to only use them for trekking in the Forest Of Dean, but such was the interest shown in them by the media that it was not long before they were appearing in virtually every national newspaper and were seen regularly on TV. The climax was when Jasmine starred with the Household Cavalry on Horseguards Parade in front of the Queen to commemorate their valiant attempt to rescue General Gordon. She is now an honorary member of the Camel Corps and is a regular at various military re-enactments.
In addition the camels appear at weddings, Arabian Nights, Agricultural Shows, Nativity and Christmas events across the country. Venues range from Golders Green to Tonypandy and we have even taken camels to Camelford!
The three camels are Vera and Jasmine the dromedaries (one hump) and the latest is Clanna the Bactrian (two humps) who came to us from Whipsnade.
He is called Tensing and at present we are training him to pull a cart, just as he would do in China or Tibet. His horns are very impressive!
We bought a donkey called Ruby as company for Moira’s horse Topaz, a beautiful black thoroughbred cross shire. Now Topaz is not a beginner’s horse but she does like company. Ruby was trained to ride and drive a cart and very quickly became a regular part of our Llama treks as she carried young children and not so fit adults on her trap. Geoffrey followed a year later and he is also trained to pull a cart.
For some time we had been trying to obtain mules for our trekking operation. We had long known about their sure footed, bomb proof temperaments and dare we say it stubborn temperament. At a military show I was very impressed with a mule called Meg and her owner Andy Smerdon told me that he knew of three that may be for sale. Their owner Mike Poxon had been using them in a Wild West Show and he assured me that they were all trained to ride, pack and drive. What Mike didn’t do was exaggerate their ability, they are quite simply fabulous. Bess at 16.1 hands is the largest working Mule in UK and pulls a lovely six seat carriage.
In 2004 we bought Smallbrook Farm, so named because of the small brook at the entrance. It is a wild life paradise and the meadows are said to be two hundred years old and we know for certain that it has never been cultivated since the last war as the last owners were all born there. We regularly see King Fishers, three types of Woodpeckers, Jays, Herons, Geese, Ducks, of all types, Pheasants, Partridge, Buzzards and other Birds Of Prey. All existing in relative harmony with our Llamas, Camels, Equines, Yak, Goats, Rheas, Peacocks, Giant Rabbits, African Grey Parrot, Budgies, Quail, Guinea Fowl, Hens, Ducks and Chinchillas.
Future plans for Smallbrook will see the collection increasing quite rapidly with the addition of small rodents, wallabies and small primates.