It's day 2 of my trip around the country judging the national Best Beach Donkey Competition and Best Individual Beach Donkey. Today's journey took me to Great Yarmouth and Skegness before stopping over for the night in North Yorkshire ready to go on to the next resort early tomorrow.
Sheelagh Steel, regional welfare officer for the East of England picked me up from my parents in Essex at 8 o'clock sharp this morning and we started our 100 mile journey to Great Yarmouth to meet Parker's Donkeys who had come through winners of the regional competion for both the best group and best individual donkey.
Ben, Cracker, Dinky, Noddy, Pinky, Tommy, Trigger and Vinnie were already on the beach and giving rides to a queue of children when we arrived. Local reporters were waiting for our arrival to chat with myself and Shelagh and we were both interviewed by BBC Norfolk to be broadcast at 4 o'clock.
Among this group of donkeys, Vinnie was the one being judged best individual for the area. The judging involved looking at the general welfare of the donkeys such as checking their teeth and coat as well as their feet and saddles. I was also looking at how they were around young children and how the children themselves reacted around the donkeys.
All these donkeys were all turned out very well and with ears pricked forward they took their young charges along the beach and back. At 11 o'clock four of the donkeys headed off for their morning break while the other four carried on giving rides to the young children.
After all the judging, we said our goodbyes and set off on our 115 mile journey up north to meet Nuttall's donkeys at Skegness. We made good time and managed to get on the beach about an hour earlier than originally planned.
For an overcast day, there were quite a few holiday-makers on the sands and there was no having to guess where the donkeys were as a huge crowd of families with their young children were all waiting for donkey rides.
Alfie, Bentley, Cracker, Doodles, Lofty, Noddy, Pedro and Sooty were already on their way down the beach. These donkeys are amazing to watch. None of them are led but walk together in formation. They know when to turn around and make their way back to the other children waiting for their turn!
Among this group was Lofty who had also come through as a finalist for Best Individual Beach Donkey. He was smartly presented and just as his name suggests, he is quite a bit taller than the other donkeys in the group.
It turned out to be quite a busy time with the press at Skegness too with Shelagh and myself taking the calls as well as meeting some of the local newspaper reporters down on the beach.
One of my challenges during the week, is to get a postcard from each of the resorts I visit (preferably with a donkey on) and in Skegness I bought a card with a donkey on called Rodders. It turned out that Rodders himself used to be one of the Nuttall's donkeys until here retired a few years ago. He now lives in the home where he used to spend the winter months while not working on the beach.
While at Skegness, Shelagh had arranged for Julie Crane, area welfare officer, to take me on the next leg of my journey. Before heading off, we treated ourselves to an ice cream on the beach!
It's now 9.30 pm and we've arrived at our hotel just outside York where Molly Lloyd, the regional welfare officer for North and Mid-Wales, Midlands, Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cleveland will take me to Scarborough to judge the best individual donkey and then on to Filey to judge the best group of donkeys for her area.
I would have loved to have heard my interview on Radio Norfolk earlier in the day, but by that time, we were well on our way up country to Skegness when it was being aired. I hope it sounded OK to those who heard!
Again my thanks to Shelagh and Julie for driving me up country and getting me to the resorts on time.