As a motley crew of 20-somethings ascended a mountainous fells on a crisp, bright January day, one fellow hiker stopped in her tracks in shock and awe.
She exclaimed, ‘Well, I never expected to see this on top of a mountain’. But the unexpected sight she referred to was not the pack of millennial UNILAD employees braving the outdoors pre-noon on a Monday morning.
Instead, the hiker’s attention was drawn to the flock of nine fluffy alpacas pacing up to the peak of Cat Bells in the Lake District.
Little did Boo, Hobbs, Johnny Psycho and the rest of the herd know, they were making history, as the first alpacas to ever hike a fell in the UK.
As their human, Terry Barlow, tweed cap in hand, told UNILAD, the alpacas were simply there to enjoy a nice winter walk, admire the view and experience their own very special Alpacaly Ever After.
Pics or it didn’t happen? Here’s a video:
Behind the scenic vistas, Terry works tirelessly to make a good life for his 58 alpacas, who live in the Lake District, after being rescued by Barlow and his wife, Emma.
Barlow - a former soldier in the British Army - offered to take on alpacas who'd outgrown their herds and whose owners could no longer look after them properly.
Often, Emma explained, owners preferred to keep a family group together 'in the knowledge they would be going to (annoyingly) keen new owners, who would do their absolute best to make sure the alpacas had a marvellous new home and far too much attention'.
So, 'after four years of quizzical looks', Emma said:
We now have a herd of over fifty delightfully funny-looking alpacas - and one Llama called Ming - who is growing all the time.
Thus, Alpacaly Ever After was born on the banks of Lake Bassenthwaite, where Terry and Emma found homes for their growing herd at The Lakes Distillery and the Lingholm Estate - where Beatrix Potter used to summer - on the shores of Derwent Water in Keswick, 'very close to the little barn' where they live.
After hours of research on alpaca care, gallons of de-wormer and countless days spent covered in mud, drenched by rain and battered by howling wind, Terry is now the proudest dad in all the land.
He was right to assume, as his wife recalls, 'alpacas are funny-looking and would therefore, logically, be fun to look after'.
Barlow now has the job of sharing his herd with the Great British public, who are invited to go on alpaca walks around the Lake District and take all the selfies they wish with these gentle giants.
Likewise, Emma spends her days building shelters, rope-making, amassing an impressive collection of buckets, crafting knitted goodies from her alpacas' lush coats and writing about their adventures in a series of children's books.
However it's not all fun and games for the pair of alpaca entrepreneurs.
Terry, who grew up in inner-city Manchester, told UNILAD how the alpacas have been working with visitors who have special needs, physical and mental health issues and those suffering from bereavement as part of Alpacaly Ever After's burgeoning animal therapy programme.
He's also taken the alpacas to visit schools and hospices and is currently in talks with Cumbria Foster care services in the hope of working with foster care families and groups in Cumbria.
As part of a wider mission to bring joy to one and all, Terry and Emma have started a social enterprise mission and are hoping to work particularly with at-risk young people from urban areas.
Emma told UNILAD what you can expect from an alpaca walk:
Walkers get to know our wonderful alpacas up close, take them for a paddle in the lake, meet the herd, take part in feeding time and ask as many alpaca questions as they can think of!
...Not to mention the selfies:
She also explained why alpacas are 'such wonderful therapy animals', saying
Their physical appeal and comedy expressions are combined with some excellent life lessons - as in order to interact with them in the most successful way, you need calm, unthreatening, confident body language and behaviour.
There really is nothing quite so delightful as watching an alpaca take a bath in a lake, it should be recommend as a cure for all cases of melancholy and world weariness.
Covered in mud and lake water, Terry spoke to UNILAD about his hopes and alpaca-filled dreams:
Terry is now looking to develop his registered social enterprise, which you can find more about online, where you can also book to meet his gang on an alpaca walk.
You can also follow the #AlpacasOfInstagram on social media - because, why wouldn't you?
In conclusion, by warning us 'world domination' is in his sights, Terry quoted his herd's tagline, saying:
Our numbers are growing and we are mobilising.
...And they all lived Alpacaly Ever After.