A retired Royal Navy Wren is enjoying a new role helping people through interaction with her herd of alpacas. Four years ago Kim Williams, 63, realised the power of the super-fluffy creatures to heal people. She saw the pleasure on people’s faces as they visited her little herd, and decided she would open that experience up to anyone who needed it. Cary Alpacas was born, offering two-hour experiences including the chance to walk them. Today the non-profit-making venture, based in Cary Fitzpaine, is host to adults with learning difficulties from Lufton College twice a week. Children taking some cleansing time out from radiation poisoning in Chernobyl enjoy taking care of the animals once a year, and there have been several ‘bucket list’ visits from people in their 30s and 40s. Kim said: “The adults with learning difficulties from Lufton do tasks around the farm. They are here about an hour and a half each day. They’re good to me and they get the pleasure of being here with the alpacas as well. “I’ve been involved for two years with Children of Chernobyl – their Sherborne branch raise money for 12 children to come to Somerset for three weeks to stay with local families and do various things around Somerset.
They come here, and they go to my neighbour who has rescued donkeys and they visit pigs and chickens kept by other neighbours. They are such lovely children, so gentle with animals. It’s lovely to see.” One of the most emotional visits Kim hosts are those of terminally ill young people. She said: “I get choked because I think how lucky am I. These 30 and 40-year-olds – they’re so lively and smiling and laughing. “I’m here at 63, having had a wonderful life.” Kim also caters for autistic visitors and can arrange private visits. And she does special hour-long visits for physically disabled visitors – they don’t do the trek, but spend time with the animals.
Kim spent her last two years in the Navy at Yeovilton as chief wren, radio supervisor. She was always a big animal lover, but couldn’t have animals due to her job. When she retired she was a consultant for seven years travelling round the UK to large businesses making redundancies, before becoming a PCSO in Yeovil, which she ‘absolutely loved’. After that she spent time as a prison officer in Shepton Mallet. Do you just really like uniform? I asked. “Oh, I love uniform,” she chuckled. “I even have uniform now – boots, leggings, sweatshirt and T-shirt…” When that prison closed and Kim transferred to Guys Marsh she learned of an alpaca farm near Shaftesbury, where prisoners were carrying out work experience and became intrigued. She did her research, visited the farm and soon after she acquitted her first five animals – three of whom were pregnant. She now has 21. “I got them as pets and for their fibre – it’s all about that luscious fibre,” she said. The fibre is used in duvets, which people can buy from the farm. Many baby alpacas, or ‘crias’ have been born since.
The farm is open April to November, with two treks a day seven days a week. They usually take a break in winter, but Kim is opening till Christmas this year. She said: “It’s lovely to sit here and watch them. They have all got shelters but mainly sleep outside. “Only if it’s howling with wind and torrential rain do they come in. Even in snow and frost they sit out – with that coat on they don’t care. After all South America has extreme hot and cold temperatures.” Apparently, alpaca tastes like chicken. Not that Kim would know, as she hasn’t eaten lamb for 12 years since starting to keep a few sheep and the thought of eating alpaca fills her with horror. But she said: “Apparently it’s very good for cholesterol.” I guess you can’t eat animals you know have characters, right? Kim said: “Every one is different. They all have distinct personalities.” She added: “I love people’s reactions when they meet them. People say it totally chills them out. That’s why I wanted to do this in the first place.”