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24th Nov 2023
Pat and Neil Ripley with alpacas Gino left and Fergus 4MB

A skunk and a pair of alpacas were among some unusual visitors to a sheltered housing scheme in Worlingham near Beccles, when Shipmeadow-based Unicorn Alpaca Walks brought a number of animals for residents to meet, stroke and hold.

Alpacas Fergus and Gino joined Bear the skunk and a number of smaller animals including a rabbit and a pair of guinea pigs for a special visit to the scheme, which is run by Broadland Housing Association and provides 38 flats and bungalows offering independent living for the over-55s.

The morning was aimed at boosting the wellbeing of residents, something which contact with animals is proven to be very effective at achieving.

“We take our animals to all sorts of places and it always makes people glow,” said Kerry Nichols, owner of Unicorn Alpaca Walks, an organisation which runs a unique recreational farm resort at Shipmeadow.

“It is magical how meeting the animals really brings people out of themselves.  We take them into places such as care homes and schools, and it is very moving to see how everybody smiles when they come into contact with the animals.”

Among those meeting the animals were Samford Court residents Neil and Pat Ripley, who have lived at the scheme for 11 years.  The pair are animal lovers who have two cats in their home.

Retired coach driver Neil said, “We have never met alpacas before, and we have never even seen a skunk in real life, so to hold it was a real experience.

“There is a great sense of community here at Samford Court, and events like this really bring people together.”

Scheme manager Simon Fletcher said, “We try to offer all sorts of activities for our residents to build that sense of community and maintain their wellbeing, but this was something really out of the ordinary.

“It was lovely to see residents interacting with the animals – I don’t think any of them ever thought they would end up cuddling a skunk!  We are really grateful to Unicorn Alpaca Walks for bringing the animals to visit our residents – they will be talking about this for a long time to come.”

More details about Unicorn Alpaca Walks can be found at www.wilderley.com.