After a sunny start to the judging yesterday, both Amber and myself set off on a very grey and wet morning to meet Lionel Ford, regional welfare officer for South West England and South Wales to start with a group of donkeys contending for Best Trimmed Feet in this year's Best Beach Donkey Competition.
The four donkeys were Billy, Polo, Bella and Smartie owned by Emma Gardner. Today they weren't working, so Lionel had arranged to see them at their stables. While Amber carried out her judging, I spotted a couple of other donkeys grazing nearby and wandered over to see them. Tucked behind one of them was an adorable little foal who trotted over to see what all the fuss was about. Her own feet were so tiny.
The next stop was at Paington Green for Amber to judge Nosey, Rocky, Bambi and Paddy for the best group for this region. It wasn't long before she was taking a closer look at them all and while I took some photos, I was gently nudged in the back by Nosey as if to say 'don't forget me'! It turns out that Nosey, Jack and Tim are three brothers. Their mother, Snowy, now lives at The Donkey Sanctuary having retired from the beach herself a few years ago.
I was beginning to think that my quest to find a postcard with a donkey on from each resort we visit was going to fail on only the second day but Julie Julie Wibrow, the donkeys' owner, came to the rescue as she sold her own postcards with six of her donkeys stood in front of a very colourful merry-go-round at the fair with the caption "I've seen the donkeys on Paington Green".
It was then a long drive to Llanelli in South Wales to meet Mike Thomas and Dennis, who has won the competition for best individual beach donkey in previous years. As we drove over the Severn Bridge, we caught a glimpse of the sun for the very first time today and the grey sky turned blue. At last a chance to take photos of donkeys in the sunshine. Sadly this was short-lived - within 5 minutes of arriving at Llanelli the heavens opened. In between the showers Amber managed to take Dennis for a walk up the beach, while the rest of us huddled by the side of Mike's lorry protecting ourselves from the rain.
And would you believe it, after climbing back into the car and heading off to the hotel for the night, the sun came back out!
Tomorrow we'll be driving with Molly Lloyd, regional welfare officer for North and Mid-Wales, Midlands, Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cleveland to see Del Boy at Aberdovey before heading east to the other side of the country to Blackpool. Those of you who follow the competition may remember that Del Boy was the winner last year. Having chosen him myself, I'm really looking forward to seeing Del Boy again and wonder how he will fair in this year's competition.
Day two Brixham, Paignton and Llanelli (325 miles)