Ann Harker and Barry Hambrook tell us how living on their alpaca stud located near Armidale also inspired them to open their alpaca shop, selling a range of alpaca products from fleece to fashion and bedding.
What prompted your tree change to Invergowrie?
We had lived in Queensland for many years, and in 2004 we saw alpacas at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. After many years as Primary School teachers for the Department of Education in QLD, we were both looking for a new adventure in life. After researching breeding alpacas, our venture began.
Our stud name is ‘Hilldale Park Alpacas’. This name was derived from the street I had lived in; the money from the house sale went largely into purchasing our first 7 alpacas.
Queensland at that time was experiencing severe drought, and our herd had grown to 30 alpacas on only 4 acres. We began looking for a fine fleece growing region that was also attractive as a place to live. We had friends here who also had alpacas, so Armidale was an easy choice.
We also wanted a city that valued education, so we had the opportunity to teach as well.
We moved to Invergowrie in early 2008 and have absolutely loved every minute of the country lifestyle. The alpacas are suited to the climate in Armidale and have thrived here, producing well conformed and quick growing cria (babies). Our herd displays improved fleece style and length of fleece.
Tell us about your new store …
Early this year I decided to open a market stall with some alpaca teddies, socks, gloves and scarves from Peru. Our first stall was beside the Alpaca Tent at Wool Expo. This progessed into having stalls at Centro Mall and the Armidale Markets.
Due to the success of our stalls, we decided to look into the possibility of a permanent location. Shop 9 in the Mall Arcade became available, and we secured the lease.
Selecting a name was a long process, but eventually we settled on ‘Alpaca Affinity’. Alpacas are such unique animals, we placed the word in the title. Affinity means to ‘spontaneously fall in love with something’ … just as we fell in love with alpacas and how everyone feels when they feel our alpaca products.
Do you breed alpacas locally?
Our alpaca farm is at Invergowrie. We bought a lovely property, which has a fantastic view to the north. It has basalt soil and Barry has seeded and fertilised recently, so we have plenty of feed now that it is raining. We sell alpacas from pets to quality breeding females and stud males.
Since becoming involved with alpacas, we have registered with the Australian Alpaca Association and also show our animals and their fleeces. In the last year we have received 4 Supreme Champion Alpaca awards, each one attained with a different alpaca. Our web site is www.hilldalepark.com.au
What is so special about alpacas’ fleece?
Alpaca is a dry fleece – soft, light and has great insulating properties. It has little to no prickle factor and is suitable for people with allergies. Products made from alpaca fleece are thin and light, rather than heavy and cumbersome.
Describe your product in store.
We aim to sell largely Australian Alpaca products, from fleece to accessories, knitting yarn and clothing. Our range is being extended to include alpaca rugs and bedding.
At times items we require aren’t available in Australia, so we import from Peru. Alpacas are native to Peru and have provided the Peruvian people with food and clothing for centuries. In our store we also stock some Peruvian knick knacks, which are hand-made and exquisite.
Plans for the future?
We hope to provide a range of products to suit local and interstate customers and to promote the use of alpaca for all seasons. We are endeavouring to stock our store with more quality Australian made alpaca products and to encourage locally made alpaca products from New England alpaca fleeces.