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Couple hope to attract tourists to Dry Doddington alpaca farm

A unique family-friendly tourism experience is planned to the north of Grantham.

Farming couple Martin and Clare Stanger hope to create an Alpaca Centre on the site of Meadow Farm, Clensey Lane, Dry Doddington.

The venture, which they hope to open by the year end, stems from their success with alpacas over the past dozen or so years.

Martin and Clare took their first alpacas in 2005 as an attempt to diversify their farming business.

They specialise in coloured alpacas, with an age range from eight months to 21 years old. There are 22 recognised colours including black, white, fawn, greys and various multi-colours.

The herd grew from four to 85 and is now one of the largest in the country.

Martin said: "They are all named and micro-chipped and registered pedigrees through the British Alpaca Society."

For 11 years, the couple who trade as JandJ Alpacas have attended various shows, ploughing matches and other events.

Martin continued: "Last year we had the champion black female at the Northumberland Show and a reserve champion black male at the Great Yorkshire Show."

There have been many other awards at national show level, something which has helped drive demand for their alpacas and related woollen products.

JandJ also run a growing knitwear business created using the fleeces from their breeding herd. The knitwear sales derive from attending weekly events from August to Christmas and online sales throughout the year.

Clare said: "It's a big part of our living. We create knitwear. It's a big part of our diversification."

Attending these weekly events led to people saying they wanted to visit their farm, which in turn led to the application for a shop, cafe and alpaca centre.

Already, Meadow Farm hosts 'Alpaca Chats' and Alpaca Husbandry Courses. The chats consists of a 1-2 hour tour of the farm where people meet the alpacas and learn about the wool process. The husbandry course last half a day and aims to educate potential alpaca owners on how to care for their animals. Later this summer, they also plan alpaca treks around the farm.

A dedicated alpaca centre, explains the planning application to South Kesteven District Council, would "provide a commercial diversification of the farm, enabling visitors to learn and meet the alpacas whilst being able to provide refreshments through providing the service of a shop and cafe."

A more formal 'classroom' and shop would help them showcase their products, something they do already, but in a more professional setting.

The centre would be built from two shipping containers and designed to blend in with the rest of the farm. The cafe would feature six tables and would allow 32 covers. There would be parking for 21 cars.

The application says school groups have already expressed interest in calling and the centre could host evening courses, such as mosaic making, jewellery, wreaths, adding the knitting and crochet guild has been hosted already.

With nothing like it locally, the alpaca centre would be a unique attraction that would help support some 28 tourist accommodation providers within six miles of the farm. And with their competitors in far away Sussex, Derbyshire and the Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire would benefit from the growth of this enterprise.

Just 32 cars a day are expected down Clensey Lane, which is so rural, there will be no noise nuisance to any neighbours.

Clare said: "This is something different. People want to see them. They are desperate to come and look at them. We are lucky to own them and people want to see them."

The application is expected to take eight weeks to determine, which would allow for work to start by the end of summer. If successful, the couple plan to do much of the construction themselves to keep costs down.

Martin added: "I would like to think we will have the centre open by late 2018, with the shop and everything all ready by Christmas."

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