Combine the love of the great outdoors of the Lincolnshire Wolds area with a love of animals and it appears you have the perfect business model.
That is what one Middle Rasen woman discovered when she decided to rehome some alpacas.
Marion Sellars has been amazed by the reaction to taking in the alpacas, which started at just five but has now grown to around 50 - including a couple of llamas.
She said: “All the animals are rescued - I just wanted to give them a little bit of heaven to live out the rest of their lives - but I admit it has all gone a bit crazy.”
To begin with, Marion was happy just to have them in her field near Legsby, but then, as the pack grew, it became obvious they needed to earn their keep.
Marion said: “I wanted to just earn enough to feed them with, so I decided to open ‘Walking with Alpacas’.
“It does what it says - you go for a walk with an alpaca.”
She started two years ago, April 2019 and things were a little rocky to start with. She said: “It was a bit of a kick in the teeth as just as we wanted to start, the license requirements changed and we needed a different licence - a performance licence.
“There were a few hiccups along the way, as the council weren’t used to dealing with alpacas, but they have been very helpful, trying to apply rules from other businesses to us - it has been a learning curve for both sides.
“We got there though.”
Marion stated small, just offering walks on a Tuesday and Saturday - then lockdown hit and everything stopped.
However, when the lockdown ended, Marion became busier than ever.
She said: “People just wanted to get out in the fresh air so we fitted people in as and when.
“We started going out with eight alpacas - as they are pack animals - but it then started to go crazy and we now take out 10.”
The alpacas are all trained to walk, but Marion is keen that they only walk if they want to.
When the animals arrive, after they are settled in, training begins.
With every alpaca having its own character, you never know how long it will take - some are just an hour or two, while others can take months before they are ready to go out.
Marion said: “I never force them to walk - and some of them just don’t want to do it and that is fine.
“Others are well up for it and they enjoy going out together and getting their exercise.”
Each of the alpacas is given a collared collar - to identify the walkers and none-walkers.
Marion continued: “When we got out for the walk, we just lolop along at their pace.
“I rely on volunteers to help on the walks- we have a fabulous band who really care about the animals. All our visitors fall in love with them too.”
The walk heads out for about 90 minutes, covering around three-miles of the luscious Lincolnshire countryside.
Each alpaca has a head collar and lead, which is taken by a person.
Under 13s are welcome, but will have to share on a double lead.
Marion added: “We are in an ideal place as the Lindsey Way is near us, which is ideal for walking the alpacas on.
“I belong to the British Alpaca Trekking Society, so everything is done properly and safely.”
However, Marion is keen not to make this a big commercial enterprise.
She said: “I just want to make enough to get by.
“In an ideal world, I would like to earn enough so the animals want for nothing.”
Marion has been delighted with the support she has received - and none more so than during the winter lockdown.
She said: “It was a very lean winter.
“The grass wasn’t growing and then it started to snow.
“I decided to put a call out for anyone who would like to ‘adopt’ one of the alpacas.
“The cost was £20 to cover the food and I expected maybe five or so takers - but I ended up with more than 40 sponsors.
“Each sponsor gets info on the animal and when allowed I will invite them all along for tea with the alpacas as a big thank you.
“I really have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people.
“Some said ‘here’s an extra tenner - just because’.
“It is really nice to know people care about what we are doing.”
Marion admits the alpacas are now taking over her life, but she believes the benefits of walking with them has wide benefits.
She said: “ I spend a lot of time with them, but they are shy animals and are ‘head wary’ so people need to learn how to approach them.
“Just to put something right - alpacas don’t spit at people, but they will spit at each other if food is involved.
“We have done a couple of walks aimed at those living with autism and we have seen how the animals can have a real calming effect.
Sometimes the parents are anxious about how the person will react - but it doesn’t matter if they have a meltdown, we just deal with it.
“However, more often than not, they are amazed at how the interaction with animals has a good effect.”
Marion is looking to develop this side of things - more specialised walks and maybe even a bit of yoga with alpacas, so if there are any tutors out there who are interested just get in touch.
Bookings are already coming in for the summer - with walking every day.
A couple of the alpacas will be in Market Rasen this Saturday at the pop-up market, so go long and say hello.
• More information on the walks and bookings can be made through the ‘Walking with Alpacas’ Facebook page.