IT’S A WINDY, RAINY day so we’re delighted to find that the South American Tapir, Tapirus terrestris, here at the Ponderosa Rare Breeds Farm, Heckmondwike, has ventured out of his shelter. He immediately ambles over to snuffle at us when we arrive. On a summer visit 18 months ago, he stayed in the shade of his shelter all afternoon and I didn’t get chance to draw him so I make a few quick sketches in the drizzle adding the colour later from a Googled photograph, and from memory, as the photograph didn’t quite coincide with the browny grey or ‘dull chestnut’ that I’d made a mental note of.
There’s also time to draw one of the busy band of Meerkats, Suricata suricata, which are chattering and burbling in their enclosure.
I get the opportunity in the Reptile House to hold a North American Corn Snake, also known as the Red Ratsnake, Pantherophis guttatus, (from its grey-brown colour, I guess that this was the Midwestern subspecies Elaphe guttata emoryi). Its scales are softer than I expected, despite being cold-blooded its warmer than the ambient temperature (it has probably been in a warm spot in its vivarium) and it feels stoutly muscular when it pushes itself into my armpit. It gives the impression of being completely relaxed and confident as I support it; it’s used to being handled. I also briefly have a female Australian Bearded Lizard, a.k.a. Central Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, resting on my shoulder. She appears briefly in a marker pen sketch on my page on the Animated Yorkshire workshop that I took part in here in 2010.
We’ll be back at the Ponderosa in May for the wedding reception of one of our god-daughters, otherwise we might never have thought of heading out here for our coffee/extended to lunch break.
We’ll certainly be coming back, hopefully on a drier when we’ve got a bit more time but even on a day like today, it’s a change from the coffee shops and restaurants in shopping centres, garden centres and farm shops that we so often find ourselves at on our errands and book deliveries.
You wouldn’t expect to meet a Meerkat in the White Rose Centre or a Reindeer at the Redbrick Mill.