Users of the tennis courts in Cheam Park (Recreation) area will know only too well how wet and soggy the playing surface can become in inclement weather. After some 12 months of research, the Council has hit upon an idea that is used extensively in regions of South America – the alpaco-blanket. The fiber from the alpaca, of similar appearance to the llama, has long been known to be weather resistant and is used in scarves, jumpers, ponchos and in some villages and towns in South America where the summer rains often turn fields and play areas into quagmires, the local residents band together to knit large blankets that are then used to cover their important recreation areas. The wool is also given a final spray of a water-proofing agent.
So a band of knitting enthusiasts has come together in Cheam to “knit” their own version of the alpaco-blanket and are well into providing cover for at least one tennis court. Said one knitter, “it’s fun, we are working together, we can have a good chat and gossip and know that we are doing something that will be useful for the future”. Traditional covers for tennis courts are often made of a rubber silicon and are unwieldy and difficult to store. Alpaco-blankets can be used all year round, including for picnics and group gatherings and also look very colourful.
A Council spokesman confirmed that the idea “was still in its first stages and being closely monitored”. Commenting further he said “the difficult part of the process is securing sufficient quantities of the fiber (wool) which currently is imported from Peru” He continued “we do have an idea to create our own alpaca herd in the local area which would reduce our costs and allow us to develop the idea for use elsewhere in the community”.
Alpacas are normally kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, throughout the year, but a number of European countries including the UK have started to develop their own herds, Amazingly, one such herd resides on the Romney Marshes in Kent, but it is currently unable to provide the quantity of fiber (wool) required by this project.
The knitting group is keen to recruit more helpers so if you are into challenges, enjoy knitting and wish to assist please contact April in the first instance on the number above. She also hopes to be running an alpaco stall at the Cheam Charter Fair on Saturday 20th May 2017.