Neil Payne – March 29th 2022
The Challenges of running an alpaca farm on an Island
For all of you Grockles or North Islanders I thought I would share, just a few of, the challenges of living on an Island while running an alpaca farm. The Isle of Wight is a beautiful place to live, it’s a County in its own right with around 130,000 residents which makes it the biggest parliamentary constituency in the country. Large swathes of it are an AONB and for me the chilled-out lifestyle, great food scene and slightly better weather than the rest of the UK make it pretty idyllic, not forgetting the odd bit of sailing when I am allowed. PO40, our postcode, is one of the top 10 most desirable postcodes for people to live in the UK and the Island, which once had quite depressed property prices, has become super desirable since the advent of home working and lots of people have swapped their main London address for an Isle of Wight address.
We do face a few problems, chief among them the strip of water between us and the mainland and how to get backwards and forwards particularly with our animals. The distance between us and the mainland varies between half a mile through Hurst narrows up to 6 miles. We have the choice of three car ferry routes and three passenger ferry routes owned by Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel. These vary in time taken from 10 minutes on the Hovercraft in Ryde to 1 hour on the Red Funnel Cowes car ferry.
We are based five minutes from the Yarmouth to Lymington Wightlink ferry so that is always my preferred route, although the Wightlink Portsmouth ferry runs through the night and often when transporting animals, the 4am crossing is my “go to”, meaning I can get well up the country before rush hour actually starts. If we leave from Yarmouth then it takes us five minutes to get there and we need to arrive 20 minutes before the sailing to guarantee our booked crossing, it then takes thirty minutes to cross so actually only adds an hour to our journey time.
We have an account with the ferry company, its much more expensive if you don’t. A car and passengers generally costs us about £55 return with a car and trailer costing around £100 to £150. You may well see me at shows trying to get out as soon as we are able because we are often racing for a ferry to get our animals back asap, leaving the National on Sunday at around 4pm meant we comfortably caught the 8pm home. It just means a bit more organisation when travelling than normal and while there are nice views on the Yarmouth/Lymington route, and I sometimes get a few emails answered on the ferry it tends to be a bit of a chore. The benefit versus those that live around London is that we have great roads North, and we rarely have to go around the M25 and I can regularly leave home and arrive at shows before our friends from Springfarm alpacas Chris and Vicki.
The big thing for me is that actually we are very much in touch, although people seem to think we are in the middle of nowhere, and we really are easy to get to, so if you ever happen to be anywhere near, please do drop in and see Michelle and me.”