The wonder of woollies . . .

For the past six months Whitwell Station in Reepham has been a hotly contested battleground as residents resisted plans to create a travellers' camp. But all that looks ready to change as new owner Lesley Wyatt snuggles into the furry coat of an alpaca and describes her plans establish a colony of the South American animals on the site.

For the past six months Whitwell Station in Reepham has been a hotly contested battleground as residents resisted plans to create a travellers' camp.

But all that looks ready to change as new owner Lesley Wyatt snuggles into the furry coat of an alpaca and describes her plans establish a colony of the South American animals on the site.

Together with her husband, Lee, she hopes to increase their fledgling herd of six alpacas - a smaller, more docile relative of the llama - to about 40 animals.

Tapestry maker and embroiderer Lesley wants to learn how to spin the wool from the animals and open a centre where visitors can learn about the animals and how to make clothing from their coats.

Alpacas are valued for their wool, which comes in 22 natural colours and is used for making blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, ponchos and a wide variety of textiles in South America.

The couple hope the centre would become a tourist attraction and plan to erect information boards on the history of Whitwell Station, Marriott's Way and the alpacas.

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Broadland District Council had indicated an interest in using the site as a travellers' camp but it was sold to the Wyatts in November last year.

The couple says they bought the former Victorian railway station because of the rural setting of the 7.78-acre site and their love of period features that lie behind the station's ivy-strewn, red-brick facade.

Lesley has already painstakingly restored a barn at their home in Bradenham, near Dereham, and plans to renovate the station using historic materials reclaimed from Victorian properties.

Lesley said: “We think this land is spot on for what we want.

“I would like to set it up so people can come in and learn about the animals. Alpacas are very friendly, they are just like little walking teddy bears.

“I would also focus on everything they can produce - teaching skills like weaving and tapestry-making.

“I think the history in these buildings is amazing and without a doubt we will be using as much of the reclaimed bricks and tiles as possible.

“Ideally we will have it open by this time next year.”

The couple have applied to the council for permission to restore the station as a home and a goods shed as a storage and workshop. Their plans to restore the historic features of the building have received support from conservation charity SAVE Britain's Heritage.

Both the Reepham Society and Reepham Town Council have strongly supported the proposals.

The Wyatts' plans for the site will be decided by Broadland District Council at a future meeting - with its next planning meeting taking place on January 31.