There isn’t much opportunity for the residents of Broccoli HQ to do anything spontaneous these days.
Well, discounting stuff like spontaneously falling down, impulsively throwing yourself backwards with your eyes closed, biting and other generally hazardous shenanigans (btw, I’m referring to Hannah here, not me after chugging a few gin and tonics, just so we’re clear!).
No. Referring to spur-of-the-moment stuff; I mean going to new places and/or doing new things. Because, going ‘off piste’ (so to speak) can throw up all kinds of bother for a child, like Hannah, who lives with a rare genetic syndrome, autism and other profound additional needs.
So, seeing as we were about to embark on an adventure by going to a new place and doing a new thing *gulps*, I’d literally been preparing our girl for a few weeks…looking on you tube, showing her photographs, saying the word, signing the word, blah blah blah (you get my drift, hopefully).
Oooh, I was REALLY excited about this!
…I had everything crossed that it wouldn’t be too much for Hannah; that she’d not shut down, zone out and find it all too much to cope with!
Still, the deed was done; all was booked and organised and we were on our way.
There was no going back! *gulps again*
(Well, we could’ve gone back, if we’d have needed to. That sounded a bit too dramatic. But this was either going to be a really, really, disastrously bad idea…or a magical experience!)
So where did we go then?
Well, we went to the Lingholm Estate; about a mile away from Keswick in the Lake District to take a couple of alpacas for a walk…you know, like you do on a Sunday morning.
(For our friends across the globe *waves* the Lake District is a truly beautiful place, now a world heritage site; home of…well, erm…lakes (obvs!) and mountains, quaint villages, kendal mint cake and so forth)
(…and sometimes some rain)
So, given the inclement weather predicted, we packed the Broccoli HQ jalopy to the hilt with waterproofs and off we went to meet Annie (not me…I wouldn’t meet myself, would I?) – Our very lovely guide from Alpacaly Ever After.
I’d already given the ‘heads up’ about some of Hannah’s needs, so Annie knew which alpacas to match us up with. And after a very informative and interesting briefing (including only stroke the neck…very important!), it was time to meet our first walking companion.
…and, for me, it was love at first sight!
Here was Ziggy; the Alpha male of his tribe. A light haired 4 year old, blue eyed beaut. And I fell in love with him even more when Annie told me he was completely deaf, partly because Hannah has moderate hearing loss…oh, and blue eyes. (That’s just about where the comparison stops though as Hannah can’t run up to 30mph or kick foxes like he can. Erm…actually, she’d give it a try!).
And then came Inca. He’s twelve years old, smaller than Ziggy with dark hair, but equally scrumptious.
We had to walk with two alpacas because they don’t like walking on their own. And most parents of children with additional needs who use wheelchairs and buggies know that that could’ve been a bit of a logistical nightmare – with two alpacas on a lead and having to push Hannah around too. However, for Annie, that wasn’t a problem at all and she very kindly stepped in and helped out. Thanks Annie *blows kisses*.
Harnesses and leads on (for the alpacas, not us), Hannah tucked up in her special buggy, off we went around the estate where Beatrix Potter spent many a holiday…and where she was inspired to write some of her wonderful stories…and I can understand why! What an enchanting place it is along the banks of Derwent Water, where there’s all kinds of lovely vegetation and fairy-tale-like fungi and wildlife.
…and the sun even came out for us. BOOM!
Annie advised that, naturally, Ziggy and Inca would need to get used to us, but a good indication to them feeling comfortable, would be that they’d start to eat (they have three stomachs…yes, THREE!…so they eat a lot. Actually, I know of some humans that probably have 3 stomachs too!). I’d guesstimate that Ziggy took a couple of minutes, Inca followed suit seconds later. So that was a relief.
…and although Hannah didn’t join them by chomping on the grass and beautiful vegetation around us, it was evident by her eye contact and fascination and squeals of delight that she was entirely comfortable and a bit smitten too.
Phew! (all that preparatory work did pay off in the end)
And throughout our (totally accessible in a special buggy) journey, Ziggy and Inca had a good old chomp and scratched their undercarriages on their preferred trees (oh, and me…thanks Inca!). Our boy Ziggy didn’t even flinch when Hannah stroked him and sneaked in a bit of a nip or two (actually, if Hannah ever nips you, take it as a compliment. Once you’ve got over the excruciating pain). Ziggy and Inca (and Annie) were very patient and made our experience a rather emotional (observing Hannah engage and connect so well with them) and a truly magical one.
An hour and a half later, we were back where we started and it was time to give Ziggy and Inca some special supplemental alpaca food and with a little support and encouragement Hannah also participated in feeding time…although some of it went in her mouth (no surprise there then!) and much of it landed in her special buggy…but that didn’t deter Ziggy from hoovering it up.
Some more chats and strokes and photos later, it was time to say adios. And so, with a heavy heart, we said farewell to our new furry friends who returned to their field to have a good old tustle with their other pals.
There’s much published about the various therapeutic benefits of animals for children (and adults) with additional needs. And after observing Hannah with Ziggy and Inca, I’ve no doubt whatsoever that she’d benefit from being around these utterly glorious animals. So will we be visiting again? Oh, try and stop us!
…it’s just a shame Ziggy and Inca can’t come over to Broccoli HQ for a sleepover sometime. I’m sure Hannah wouldn’t mind at all if they bunked up in her room!
So, I guess that’s all for now my people.
Until next time
This post is dedicated to Ziggy and Inca.
Oh, and if you’d like to know more about Alpacaly Ever After, here’s the link. Go check them out: