By Mary Walker Lakeland Llama Treks.
I met my first llama 25 years ago when we bought Charlie as a pet/therapist. Developing and running what was the fore runner to today’s Care Farms, I had an inherent love of all animals, especially horses, that led me to develop a Centre of Therapy and Education using a wide variety of animals to make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. Charlie fitted right in and had a donkey as a friend. At one time we had 30 horses, 600 animals including 38 llamas and four alpacas and over 30 students with learning disabilities.
I was very naïve at the time and being a first time llama keeper didn’t realise llamas needed other camelids for company but Charlie didn’t seem to mind and loved Harriet and they were inseparable. You live and learn and no harm was done fortunately. We soon got him some more llama friends but he still spent all his time with Harriet – true llama love.
When we were offered two trained trekking llamas from a lovely lady who was retiring from trekking we jumped at the chance to add to our collection and William and Bilby joined us 17 years ago. Teaching us about the joy of walking with a llama came easily to the two boys and we have never looked back. Bilby is now possibly one of the oldest llamas in the UK at 29 and is still trekking almost daily and still out front as herd leader leaving everyone for dust. His latest escapades include going up in the lift in care homes to visit dementia patients in their rooms. It’s a good job he observes the strict toilet rules or we would be in breach of several Health and Safety rules I am sure.
Lakeland Llama Treks was born in 2004 and by default we needed to look for a suitable site to run our trekking centre that could incorporate my wacky idea of combining trekking with tea rooms.
When we moved up to the Lake District in 2008 it was to develop our passion for llama trekking full time and we were lucky to find an old derelict transport café right on the A66. By this time we had already secured a contract with the local Center Parcs, a mile up the road, to trek on their site with their guests and so the natural progression was to set up a permanent base close by. The whole site stood in an acre of overgrown land and soon the café was demolished and a fantastic and quirky building replaced the old café and Llama Karma Kafe was our new venture. Peruvian in style, eclectic and with vibrant colours and gifts for sale imported from Peru, it became a must see stop for travellers and to this day has a huge regular following much to our shock and surprise. Popularity meant we had to extend the kitchen and develop a Bistro style menu now having three full time chefs and 12 staff.
The Llamas Pyjamas 5 star Boutique bed and breakfast hotel was another natural progression as people were starting to travel from all over the country and indeed the world to visit us.