Yesterday, we popped over to Trow Farm to take this picture of Hannah Sykes with one of our lovely donkeys, Cocoa. She’s written a lovely blog for you all... enjoy!
Hi my name’s Hannah and I’ve been a farm worker/groom at the Sanctuary's Derbyshire Centre for two years, but as we are 250 miles away, we are quite isolated from the main Sanctuary in Devon so I’ve come down to work at Trow Farm for six months to gain experience on a bigger farm that care for even more donkeys!
This blog gives you a personal account of how I’m finding it and the differences I can see between the two farms.
First let me tell you what I’m used to. Our Derbyshire Centre is a 21-acre holding base for The Donkey Sanctuary, which means we take in donkeys that are too old or sick to make the long journey down to Devon. They spend six weeks in our little isolation stables and then either join our residential group or travel down to Devon when they are fit enough, to be put with other donkeys similar to them. We have room for a maximum of 50 donkeys and have six staff, four full-time (including our manager Chris Pile) and two part-time.
Trow Farm, where I am working while I’m down here, has 261 acres (not much bigger then!) and is situated next to the main farm, Slade House, which is open to the public. At the moment, Trow is home to around 288 donkeys with, on average, 40 in a group. They have three groups of elderly donkeys on the main yard area that is known as Rennies Trow and one group of younger donkeys who have ongoing medical problems such as bad breathing or poor feet. They then have a few groups across the road, which is called Hurfords, with the young fit and healthy donkeys that are able to climb the hills surrounding that part of the farm. The team, led by Alan Brown, consists of eight full-time staff, who have been extremely welcoming and friendly; I feel part of the team already.
Some of the differences between the farms are very slight but some are HUGE!
The weather is a big difference! A few weeks ago, I had a call from Joy up at Derbyshire saying it was snowing heavily and they'd had eight-inches, whilst we were enjoying seven degrees of sunny weather!
As the Derbyshire Centre is much smaller, I have more involvement in every aspect of the donkeys’ care, whereas there are specialist areas in Devon for new arrivals, young donkeys, older donkeys, donkeys with health problems, etc; we get to see the sorry states some of them are in, such as Laurel, Hardy and Tim. We have to gain their trust back to bring them back to full health. It is by far the most rewarding part of the job. Whereas in Sidmouth there is a dedicated team of staff and a separate area of the farm to Isolate the new arrivals where they spend their first six weeks, once they have completed their isolation period the most appropriate farm and a group of similar donkeys is chosen for them.
Mucking out is very different as there are groups at Trow that have more donkeys in them than the whole of Derbyshire put together (I’ve struggled to get my head around that!). Mucking out with a wheel barrow would take forever at Trow so it’s all done with the tractors and scraped into a muck heap. This does make it very hard to keep the farm clean but the staff work extremely hard to make sure it is using brooms, leaf blowers and pressure washers. At the Derbyshire Centre we all muck out the stables and barns by hand which is hard work at times, especially in the winter! Try pushing a wheel barrow through a foot of snow!
There are more differences but if I keep going you’ll be here all day reading this! Look out for my next blog where I will write down a few more differences and fill you in on what experiences I’ve had!