Alpaca escape shock

Having a tour of Outdoor Work on Monday with supremo, Peter Coates, and I can finally catch up on Saturday morning’s epic alpaca escape: Peter is taking a constitutional with our two Percheron horses in tow, the venerable (whiteish) Spartan and the youthful (blackish) Hector; accompanying also (and no doubt well to heel) is his fine, youthful labrador (black, of course), Otto – no doubt a great sight; however, when manoevering this band of creatures – however obedient and picturesque – through the gate to enter Lakeside (the large and scenic field between the theatre and Church Rd), an alpaca, under the pretence of offering a friendly greeting to human, dog and horses x 2 shows a clean pair of heels to all and dashes out to freedom. Much of the rest of Peter’s morning is then taken up with alpaca chasing and, eventually, herding. Both alpacas are now back in Lakeside.

But this isn’t the main purpose of my time with Peter: it is to see the full range of Outdoor Work’s activities and to talk with Peter about what he sees as the biggest successes of recent years and to discuss what might be the opportunities that we can help create over the next few years in this extraordinary facet of the school. I am having similar conversations at Dunannie and Dunhurst and will write something to capture it all and present some ideas for development next month. Outdoor Work covers an extraordinary spectrum – from animal husbandry to building, but here is a quick canter across some of what I saw yesterday:  Victorian glass house (mid-construction) made from re-cycled Steephurst windows; bug hotel; breeding caterpillars to encourage butterflies; polytunnels growing garlic, herbs, figs, tomatoes; pizza oven, now functioning; herb garden with 12 different kinds of herbs; ancient Land Rover restoration (third and final year); coracle building; apple crushing; bread-baking; black-smithing; coppicing; lambing; alpaca shelter building. Some projects to come – an elegant, compact clock tower to sit on top of the open barn and a revival of the old looms so that we can begin spinning our own Jacob’s wool again and of course Kadian’s observatory whose foundations we saw freshly laid by a proud group of Block 4 outdoor workers, with some expert 6.2 oversight. Meanwhile, back at Lakeside, the alpacas’ eyes are smiling…

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.