One theory as to the origin of the village name of Cherington is that it was named after a cherry tree orchard.   There is no trace of any such orchard now but I liked the idea, so I’m going to be planting a small cherry orchard of my own.  With that it mind for the future I’ve carried the name on for my herd of Alpacas.

Alpacas are members of the camelid family, which includes the Bactrian (2 humps) and Dromedary (1 hump) Camels from Asia and the Vicuna, Guanaco and Llama from South America.  Alpacas and Llamas are not found in the wild, they were domesticated from the wild Vicunas and Guanacos some 6,000 years ago by a series of Andean cultures.  The Alpacas were bred for their fibre and the Llamas as pack animals.

In 1536 the breeding programmes abruptly ended when the Inca Empire fell to the Spanish.  Over the next century the Alpaca and Llama numbers fell by 90%, to be replaced by the Spanish sheep and horses.  The Vicuna and the Guanaco numbers also fell by some 80% through hunting.  The fleece quality of the Alpaca fell considerably.  In the 19th century Alpaca yarn began to be processed in Europe and the first Alpacas appeared in our zoos.  English investors founded mills in Peru, where commercial production is still a major industry.  It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the first Alpacas were being bred by private owners in the UK.  These were all surplus zoo stock and were of a very poor quality.  In 1995 a herd of 300 high quality Alpacas were imported from Chile and this was the true beginning of the UK breeding programme. Since then the quality and number of Alpacas in the UK has gone from strength to strength.  By 2010 there were around 25,000 alpacas in the UK.  In recent times a few thousand year old mummified Alpacas have been found and tests on these show that they have finer and more uniform fleeces than any present day Alpacas. One day we hope to be back where the Incas were 500 years ago.  Vicunas and Guanacos remain in the wild and are both protected species. 

There are two breeds of Alpaca; Huacaya and Suri.  Huacayas have a fleece similar in appearance to a sheep.  It is however very different.  It is much softer, finer, denser, warmer, longer, lighter, stronger, it has a crimp and is far less irritant.  It is used throughout the high end of the textile industry.  Suris fleece looks like an Angora Goats’, it hangs down in long locks, it is very lustrous and is mainly used for lace making and woven cloth.  Huacayas are sheared once a year, whereas Suris are normally only sheared once every two years. Both breeds come in 22 recognized colours, from White, Fawn, Grey, Brown to Black and all the shades in-between.  There are also those that are two colours or more, these are collectively known as Fancy.

Cherry Alpacas
Cherry Alpacas are Huacayas, as are most of the Alpacas in the UK.  We are concentrating on the darker colours and will be producing our own yarn in these natural colours.  We are as organic as possible and none of our animals will ever enter the food chain.  All our stock are registered with the British Alpaca Society and are micro-chipped.

Thurlyans is the oldest surviving house in the village, built in the early 1500s.  It has changed its name many times over the years;  Thurlyans, Lower House, Dickins Dairy, Home Farm and now back to Thurlyans.  Anthony Dickins, a cavalier who fought at the battle of Edgehill in 1642 lived here and it was his son William who had Cherington House built.  For the last ninety years Thurlyans has been a Warwickshire County Council smallholding.

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