MEMBERS of a Women’s Institution have been raising money for an NHS Trust appeal - by posing topless with strategically placed alpacas.

Earlier this year, Heighington WI celebrated their centenary making it one of the oldest branches of the Women's Institution in the region.

To commemorate the anniversary, the women have organised events, activities and performances in the village over the course of a year.

They used a part of the money raised to finance their latest feat - the production of a charity calendar called 'Alpacas and Us', where around 18 members are posed topless with live alpacas.

Karin Allison, chair of the Heighington WI, said the idea for the calendar was sparked by a visit and talk from Carole Burn, who runs Prince Bishops Alpacas in Headlam, Darlington.

She said: “We all enjoyed the night and Carol got back in touch with us to see if we would like to do a kind of calendar shoot with the alpacas.

“I took the idea to the ladies of the WI thinking that they wouldn’t want to do it but they thought it was a great idea.

“We took three or four days in August to go down to the alpaca farm to decide on what to do and Shelly Newnham, one of the sisters of the WI, offered to take the photographs for us. It all just snowballed from there.

"We got there and a few ladies were a bit unsure of what to do, but once you got into it, it was quite good. There’s some quite interesting shots.”

Each month of the calendar features the alpacas and a different theme in keeping with the time of year, including an afternoon tea themed photograph, a summer holiday, and a Christmas shot for December.

September’s photograph captures the women holding a banner to mark their 100-year centenary celebrations.

Copies of the calendar will be sold at a minimum donation price of £5 in the hope of raising at least £1,000 in its first print run.

This money will be donated alongside the funds raised throughout the year to the MRI Scanner Appeal.

The appeal is ran by the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust who are aiming to raise £2.5m to purchase two new MRI scanners for Bishop Auckland and Darlington hospitals.

Dr Elizabeth Loney, Clinical Director for Radiology at the trust, said: "MRI scans are so useful we're doing more of them each year.

"In the past, some patients have been unable to tolerate the noise or have felt claustrophobic during the scan which can result in it being abandoned.

"Modern scanners have a choice of music the patient can listen to - they can even bring their own.

"An MRI scanner is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment a hospital will ever purchase and with the NHS facing huge financial challenges we need to seek public help in buying them."

The calendars will be available to purchase through Mrs Allison and the WI either by emailing or calling 01325 307 040