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Holly and Eric blaze holy trail


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ALPACAS who hum in tune, a lamb saved from the freezer, and a donkey equally at home in the church and the pub are all part of a living nativity in rural Suffolk this Christmas.

The animals all reside in the walled garden of Canon Peter Macleod-Miller's rectory in Barrow. The three alpacas are named after the three kings, and the three Hebridean lambs are called Jacob, Rachel, and Eric - the latter named after the local butcher. "He was originally going to contribute to the meat industry, but he's been so lovely I couldn't possibly put him in the freezer," Canon Macleod-Miller confessed on Tuesday.

Since the construction of a portable stable, they have, with Holly Berry the donkey (top left, with Canon Macleod-Miller), become the stars of a roadshow. Nearby farmers supply hay and straw, builders have made the stable, an artist has painted the Bethlehem backdrop, and a sewing bee at the rectory has produced costumes so that all ages can join in ( as shown above right).

The stable has been at the heart of the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, a three-day market held next to the Cathedral and attracting 10,000 visitors. The animals slept in a horsebox, while Canon Macleod-Miller slept in the Cathedral 's carpenter's shop.

The nativity has visited schools, and the stable will be set up outside All Saints', Barrow, on Christmas Eve when the animals will join the service with their own carol. On Christmas Day, they'll be at Great Saxham. "The Lord of the Manor is picking them up in his very smart horsebox. I really appreciate it. It's fabulous," said Canon Macleod-Miller.

Caspar, Melchoir and Balthasar can be heard with the children of Cherry Trees School in a recording from St Giles's, Risby, on Christmas morning on BBC Radio 4.

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