A CARE farm and alpaca trekking centre at Oxenhope is finding new ways to connect with the public as it battles to survive the coronavirus crisis.

Before the pandemic, Thornwood Alpacas & Care Farm was sold out with trek bookings until June and new care farm day services were due to launch – with 15 people already signed-up.

But the business was forced to shut its farm when Covid-19 restrictions were introduced – and is faced with a funding fight.

Now a weekly Facebook Live session is run from the farm, which people can join in and meet the animals, ask questions and get involved in that day’s activities.

A YouTube channel has been launched, featuring videos shot around the farm.

Online animal care programmes have also been introduced, for children being home-educated during the pandemic.

Virtual alpaca experiences are being offered to care homes, schools, charities and vulnerable groups.

And it is planned to stage some virtual alpaca treks.

Lucy Thornton, owner and director of the business, said: “When we closed the farm down completely we lost our entire income, so we have been as creative as possible to think-up ways of bringing our service to people virtually and remotely.

“The online animal care programmes are award-based so certificates can be obtained. There is a fee for these as they are delivered by Zoom. Our first programme sold out and we plan to run more as required – for adults too.”

The alpaca trekking business was set-up in early 2016, since when it has gone from strength to strength.

With the growing realisation of the therapeutic effects the animals have, funds were invested into the care farm – a not-for-profit organisation launched at the end of 2018.

Lucy said: “Our care farm provision aims to work with adults and young people experiencing issues such as anxiety and depression, people with learning disabilities and autism, and those affected by loneliness and social isolation.

“When the Covid-19 crisis abates, the farm will be a place for people to recover from issues caused by this situation.”

But she adds that without urgent financial support, the business will struggle to survive. An online crowdfunding page has been set-up, at crowdfunder.co.uk/alpacas-against-covid, with a target of raising £2,500.