Pembrokeshire Llamas is run by Matt & Alexandria and is based in Rhydwilym, a numinous wooded valley concealed just south of the Preseli mountains. The land we and the llamas live on is known as Glanrhydwilym (‘the bank of Wilym’s ford’). We dwell in a former manse, built in the middle of the 19th century and linked historically to the venerable Rhydwilym Baptist Chapel which lies further down the valley. Rhydwilym was the first Baptist chapel in West Wales and remains the oldest active Baptist chapel in the world. One of the two main Pembrokeshire rivers – the Black Cleddau – rushes along the shores of the chapel.
We moved to Glanrhydwilym in January 2016 to be closer to family and with the aim of living a quieter more healthy existence – and of course to pursue a long held dream to live with llamas. We do not recall how or why this desire came about – but in 2015 we concluded that it was time to carve out a new destiny after Matt lost all vision in one eye for half the year, experiencing severe head pains to the point of being completely incapacitated. Fortunately Matt recovered some of his sight later in the year – but with the symptoms being so heavily linked with an uncureable condition that could potentially remanifest at any point in the future, the situation inevitably led to a question that everyone must ask themselves sooner or later:
If you are going to do one thing with your life before it is too late – so that you can look back on your life with absolutely no regrets – one thing that you really want to do above all else – one aim that will make you happy regardless of the cost or likely impossibility of being able to achieve it – what would it be?
The answer of course is to live with llamas.
As previously mentioned, the house at Glanrhydwilym was built in the 1800s. However, the ruins of the original house – built much earlier in time – can still be seen on the land.
The land itself has been harnessed for many purposes over the years – growing organic vegetables, as a forest garden, growing Christmas trees, bio-dynamic farming, and keeping goats and cows (the cows lived in the house during the early 80s). It is presently the home of our llamas, our two Toulouse geese (Gustava and Gertrude) and a whole pride of feral cats that we adopted upon taking up residence (or perhaps they adopted us – they were here first after all). We are surrounded by many species of native trees – ash, oak, hazel, holly, beech, blackthorn and hawthorn. The prolific sycamore also makes an inevitable appearance.
In addition to the ‘outside’ animals, we also house an indoor menagerie – Bowser the horsfield tortoise, Deryn the African grey parrot, and eleven guinea pigs (down from twenty one several years ago – at which point they were divided into three herds, across two bedrooms). The attic is home to swathes of Pipistrelle bats, who can be seen acrobatically dropping from the eaves of the house every evening in the Spring and Summer. We frequently retire to bed at night to find our bathroom and bedroom already occupied by some of these amazing creatures – it is not uncommon to find the bats snoozing in the curtains, flying around the landing, or occasionally clutching to the back of our jumpers.
We went live with Pembrokeshire Llamas a few years ago – much sooner than we had originally planned (long story short: word spread quickly and we had a lot of interest!) Consequently we are still evolving. A visitor centre and shop are both in production, in addition to a few other exciting top secret llama projects currently underway that we hope to announce in the next year or so!
On a more personal level, we are busy restoring the house and land at Glanrhydwilym and see this as a life long project. In the medium term, we hope to expand our llama herd, and perhaps one day be in a position to have baby llamas (crias). We are continuing to restore the fencing on the land, much of which needs upgrading. Although llamas will not generally challenge a barrier (unless hungry), we hope to bring some goats on to the land in the next few years – several pygmies and Nubians – and these will require Alcatraz levels of security. We are also continuing to perform upgrades to Glanrhydwilym’s outbuildings and have several ambitious terraforming projects in mind for the future.
Follow us on twitter, facebook and instagram for the latest dramas at Pembrokeshire Llamas!
Matt & Alex