Saturday, July 30, 2016

Day 30 -- Rookhope

Exactly five years and seven days ago, Dr. George and I stopped for lunch at a bus shelter in the little village of Rookhope – Day 53 of My 1200 Mile Summer. Today, at the same bus shelter, we stopped for a picture. Make no mistake. Lunch is always better than a picture – especially a picture of two old men sitting on a bench wishing the photographer would hurry up because it’s time to head for the pub.

It wasn’t the bus shelter that brought us to Rookhope today. In the five years since Dr. George and I passed through Rookhope, Iain and Shayne have established a farm here, raising championship alpacas, sheep, highland cattle, ducks, chickens, and a truckload of dogs squeezed into two dog bodies. In their spare time Iain and Shayne also run a bunk house for coast-to-coast cyclists. But it was the farming operation I was brought here to see – especially their award winning Fellside Alpacas.

Alpacas are members of the camel family, which makes them especially suited to endure the hot, dry climate of Northern England, where literally hours can pass between rainfalls. It seems that Iain and Shayne started with just a few alpacas not very long ago. They now have seven – soon to be eight. Or nine. Or maybe ten. All you have to do is get a couple of alpacas, shoosh them off to a secluded field (perhaps with a bottle of champagne and some soft music), and before you can say “E-I-E-I-O” you’ve got lots of little alpacas running around. It works the same way with their sheep. “E-I-E-I-O.” And ducks. “E-I-E-I…” And chickens. “E-I-E…” And… well you get the idea. E-I-E-I-O.

Highland Cattle

Then you get a truck load of dogs, and squeeze them all together until you’ve got two, weighing maybe a million pounds each. “E-I-E-I – Yikes.”

As we strolled around the farm, I admired the view while Iain gathered chicken eggs, laid here and there by their ranging chickens. “They could be anywhere,” said Iain. “You just have to know where to look.” I think I’ll look in the bus shelter.