PET llamas at a show farm which attracts thousands of visitors a year were victims of the foot-and-mouth epidemic this week.

More than 1,400 sheep, five cattle, two pigs, three llamas, 12 goats and three deer were among the pet animals destroyed by Maff officials at Hall Hill farm, near Lanchester.

But farm spokesman Ann Darlington has vowed to reopen the farm and spoke of her gratitude to the people of the area who had offered support.

She said: "We are all absolutely devastated by what has happened. The llamas were our family pets as well.

"Thankfully we still have our horses, donkeys, rabbits and ducks which are among the favourites of the children. Some children have been in touch and have been upset. Some of them had adopted the animals and we haven't been able to write to them yet.

"We have been overwhelmed by the kind responses we've had and it is helping us to look on the bright side. We definitely want to re-open but the advice we've had is so conflicting it is hard to know when we might be able to do that."

Hall Hill, which has been in the Gibson family for three generations, is run by David Gibson with help from his father Jack.

In 1981, Jack and Mrs Darlington, his daughter, opened the farm to the public and the number of visitors has grown to more than 50,000 last year.

The farm built up a collection of chickens, lambs, pigs, donkeys, ponies, rabbits, deer and Highland cattle, as well as the llamas which were big hits with the children.

Mrs Darlington said: "Two of the neighbouring farms had the disease and we were still hoping we cold avoid it. But on Tuesday morning the vets were called in and they confirmed the disease on the spot."

She explained that her parents were still confined to the farm.