Since ‘the big trip’ has had to be delayed, my housemates and I have started focusing on the adventures we can have closer to home. As country kids at heart, Sheffield can be the perfect city in which to have the best of both worlds: a place with a vibrant music, theatre, and nightlife scene, whilst still being only a few minutes drive away from the Peak District.
Alpaca my Coat
Mayfield Alpacas is a working farm and visitor’s centre/coffee shop just on the outskirts of Sheffield, to the North of Ringinglow Village. It took us about 15 minutes to get there by car from Crookes, but there are regular bus links (the 240 and 241 from Sheffield both stop there), and winding up the tree-lined hills and out of Sheffield is a gently stunning drive, whichever form of transport you take.
Even so, it is the middle of January. Snow warnings have been issued, the temperature is consistently below freezing, and the northern wind is biting. So pack a coat if you’re planning to head there in the colder months, and as with any visit to a farm or rural area, bring appropriate footwear for the inevitable clods of squelching mud and sodden ground – we did, although it was still pretty freezing.
To hell with the cold and the mud though, because Mayfield Alpacas is a quaint, wonderful little place for a family day out, a solo trip into the country, or an easy and cheap afternoon with some friends. The farm is around 45 acres, and although its primary use is for breeding alpacas they also keep ponies and horses, goats and sheep, pigs, a prehistoric-ostrich-like Rhea, llamas, and their own family of meerkats.
Rumour has it that the farm’s also home to reindeer and wallabies, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of these on our trip. Common sense would suggest that it’s out of season for reindeer, and far too cold for wallabies, so maybe when we go back in the summer we’ll see something new. That would be nice.
For a bargain £3.50 adult entry though, we did get to walk around the farm for the afternoon and make friends with all kinds of funny animals.
Feeding time on the farm
Anyone who grew up in the country, or who even had a school trip to a farm as a child, knows how exciting feeding the animals is. For 50p each for a bag of feed from the visitor’s centre you can spend as long as you like feeding the animals, including the Rhea, goats, sheep, alpacas, and llamas. There are also horses and ponies that you’re advised not to feed, just in case you’re not confident around animals because they may very well bite. Since Liz and I both rode horses when we were young though, we were a bit cheeky and fed them as well. Ssh!
Around the farm are information boards about all of the animals: for instance, I now know that a group of meerkats is called a mob, and that they have developed an immunity to some kinds of scorpion venom as they eat them so regularly in the wild. Who knew?!
Animal facts are great.
I have to admit that we got a bit too carried away feeding all of the animals and stomping through the mud as though we were six again, so we didn’t actually get to sample any of the coffee shop fare. From a cursory glance the cakes and pastries looked like proper, home-cooked farm shop food, and they also sold hand-painted teapots and mugs alongside bags of alpaca fleece and locally-produced cuddly toys.
At the end of our farm circuit, we stopped off for one more bag of feed for the three alpacas that were housed just outside the shop, and were calmly watching from over the fence as they nursed their young ‘cria’.
This was where I made friends with Archie the baby alpaca, and I’m still pretty certain that I left a little bit of my heart there with his velvety nose.
All in all, we had a great afternoon out for the cheap, cheap price of £4.25, including a bag and a half of feed each and unlimited alpaca-induced laughter.
But aside from the odd day out, Mayfield Alpacas are open for school trips; they run day-long animal first-aid courses with a qualified veterinary nurse for £25 a head; they are available to give advice for anyone thinking about farming alpacas (part of me is considering this as a viable career choice – but only if I can buy Archie!); and they run a rehabilitation service, breeding consultancy, and animal adoption service too.
Mostly, I’m just giddy about getting to feed lots of funny-looking animals and pretend I was a child again, whilst spending less then I’d spend on a large glass of wine in some pubs for the privilege.
My big travel plans might have been delayed, but it’s definitely still possible to have fun and go on a little bit of an adventure outside of the city, without having to go too far or spend too much.
Next Weekend: Bakewell!