If you live in the South West, you’ll know that Dartmoor is a special place. Spanning 400 square miles, it is defined by its rugged moorland and is one of few locations where you can explore deep valleys, steep tors, dense forests and discover rare wildlife, all in one place.
What could make this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty even more spectacular? How about exploring the moor with a llama or alpaca in tow! That’s what the Positive People project did this July. Teaming up with Dartmoor Llama Walks, Positive People organised a day for students of the DRLC (Devon Recovery Learning Community) to explore Dartmoor through this truly unique experience.
The DRLC works to support the wellbeing of those with lived experience of mental health difficulties. They run courses to help in the process of recovery, by offering experiences that promote positive health. The Positive People team have worked with the DRLC on several such courses over the past 18 months and they had the pleasure of working with them again on this Llama Walk.
Much research has been done into the impact of animals on mental health for humans. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018), “Not only are people happier in the presence of animals, they’re also healthier… Specifically, pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions”. For this reason, the Walking with Llamas event offers both a chance to connect with another creature, and the physical and social benefits of being outdoors and with other like-minded people.
Dartmoor Llama Walks have been running since 2006, taking people on guided treks of Dartmoor in the company of their small herd of alpacas and llamas. During this event, the tour guides took the group of 12 across the moor and allowed each of them to walk with a llama or alpaca by their side. Along the way, the group learned about the history of the moor, as well as information about caring for llamas and alpacas. A highlight for many was experiencing the different personalities of each animal. Some were charming, some were cheeky, and all of them were very gentle. Half way through the walk, the group stopped for cream teas, which were being kindly transported on the backs of two helpful llamas. Sitting close to the Devon/Cornwall border, this was a great time to debate whether jam or cream should come first on your scone! Apparently, the Devon way is cream first, and the Cornish way is jam first.
During the walk, one student from the DRLC remarked: “When I’m with the llama I feel so calm. They all just have such a calm energy about them, and you are in such a beautiful place, it is hard not to smile”. As the student said this, a wild horse and her young foal galloped straight past us and paused for a moment to pose against the stunning backdrop of the Dartmoor scenery. It doesn’t get wilder than that (at least not in Devon)!
If you would like to find out more about the Dartmoor Llama Walks, you can visit their website here: https://www.dartmoorllamawalks.co.uk/llama-walks-on-dartmoor-devon.
Positive People offers a lifeline to people who are not in work to build hope, confidence and skills. Positive People is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.