When I told my friend Caroline that my daughter Sophie and I were going llama trekking in the National Forest she looked at me as if I’d gone slightly mad.

“You do know that llamas spit, don’t you? Horrible, great big blobs of spit. I’ve heard about llamas …”

Sophie, on the other hand, had heard how friendly and inquisitive they were. Indeed, Anna Otton, aka the ‘llama lady’, went so far as to say: “You feel calmer when you walk with a llama”.

Walk is the key word here since anyone weighing over 50lbs can’t ride a llama. You see, llamas literally don’t have the backbone for it.

Anna keeps seven lovely llamas, all males. We were so keen to meet these boys that by the time we got to National Forest Llama Treks at Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire, my friend’s warning had been long forgotten. That is until Dave Butler, Anna’s partner, started introducing us to Kazoo, Oscar, Mustard, Rufus, Bob, Ande and Moses.

He told us how llamas have different types of spit for each of their three stomachs. Did he say spit? Caroline’s words came flooding back.

“And did you know that llamas can spit as far as three metres?” he asked. Surely he couldn’t have been talking about these sweet-looking creatures? So how do we avoid getting spat at? I asked.

“Learn to duck,” said Dave, and that was that.

Our destination was the parkland of Catton Hall near Walton upon Trent. Bob and Rufus were going to be our companions. Rufus loved being stroked around his neck and chin. In fact, he was so soft that I wanted to bury my face in his fur.

However, I wasn’t sure about the ‘calmer’ bit after I’d also read that these llamas were ‘fully paid-up members of the Hedgerow Cafe’. I have had previous experience, you see, albeit with ponies, where trusty steeds have paid far too much attention to the grass than in keeping up with the party.

Rufus especially liked dead oak leaves and there plenty of these where we’re going.

Pleasingly, our trek became a biology lesson with Dave showing us the different flora and fauna along the way.

And Rufus must have had his fill of food since he really did turn turn out to be an easy-going soul.

True, the Midlands isn’t as glamorous as the Andes from which llamas originate, but it is peaceful and pretty and, above all, safe and easy.

There are no sheer drops or nerve-wracking mountain passes. A slight upwards slope to a ridge where the Trent Valley spread before us was as high as it got.

I asked Anna if the llamas ever took a dislike to customers. Apparently yes - they don’t like fluorescent yellow jackets and have a particular aversion I gathered to those teenage lads who drench themselves in a well-advertised brand of body spray.

But did we get spat at?

Certainly not.

Our ‘boys’ were on their best behaviour!



National Forest Llama Treks, 260 Lichfield Road, Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire DE13 8ED 01283 711702 07970 601373 nationalforest llamatreks.co.uk National Forest Llama Treks have won a gold nutrition award for food. As well as the half day trek there are Introduction To Llamas sessions, including ‘mini’ trek. Also children’s parties.

The eco-friendly YHA Youth Hostel in Bath Lane, Moira, is open to non members.

0845 371 9672 yha.org.uk For other types of accommodation visit enjoystaffordshire .com