Today must have been our Indian Summer. Gone was the heavy rain and howling winds of the past few days and instead the day was warm and summery and perfect for spending time with the donkeys.
Our first view of donkeys as we walked towards the Visitors' Centre this morning were the New Barn donkeys out on the hill. Almost all were standing stock still, heads up, enjoying the warmth of the the early morning sunshine on their faces. The Donkey Sanctuary was a peaceful place this morning. But not for long!
Shelter 2 is where Ashley, Zena, Mr Khan, Skippy, Ravelin and Mars, the six little donkeys, live. Although they can be quite boisterous and playful, there was no way that they could be the source of the sudden hullaballoo of increasingly loud brays that emanated from that direction! Of course Phil and I had to go and investigate.
As we passed Shelter 1 we couldn't help but immediately notice a large number of donkeys and a strikingly handsome mule called Muffin were all ensconced in Shelter 2's main paddock! They were trotting up and down, braying at each other and at any other donkey or human they could clap eyes on! What on earth were they doing there? And more to the point - where were our little donks?
The mystery was soon solved once we'd spoken to one of the grooms. Muffin and his gang of young show donkeys had been flooded out of their usual field due to all the torrential rain we'd had over the past week and had been moved into half of Shelter 2 on a temporary basis. Ashley and co were in the other half and were using the paddock at the back.
So that's where Phil and I headed next. Five of the little donkeys were right at the far end of the paddock and were trying to ignore their incredibly noisy new neighbours. Zena however, being ever curious as usual, was pressed against the fence, her little eyes and ears taking in all the antics of the donkeys showing off on the other side. She stayed there fascinated for some considerable time.
Meanwhile back with the others Phil and I were being entertained by Ashley and Ravelin, who were play-fighting with each other. Round One was dominated by Ashley who went for the classic mane-hold. No matter where Rav went, or how much he twisted and turned, Ashley hung on determinedly and refused to let go.
Round Two and Rav reared up boxing Ashley on the nose. Ashley responded by trying to bite Rav's leg, but Rav spun out of harm's way. Rav reared up again and this time Ashley managed to dodge his hooves, before running off and hiding behind Mr Khan, who ignored him and sensibly continued munching grass with Mars and Skippy.
Round Three was very evenly matched with both Rav and Ashley going for the mane-hold. Rav got Ashley in a vice-like grip but Ashley, never one to give up easily, went for the leg-nip manoeuvre forcing Rav to release his mane-hold. Both little donkeys then chased wildly round and round in ever decreasing circles before they both simultaneously stopped and proceeded to congenially nibble grass together. The play-fighting was over...
Zena finds her voice!
And so was the loud braying next door, peace and tranquility descended once more upon The Donkey Sanctuary. Phil and I were just about to walk away, when a solitary, initially rather squeaky, then more confident and surprisingly loud bray echoed across the paddock breaking the silence. Phil, myself, Ashley, Mr Khan, Skippy, Mars, Rav and almost all of Muffin's gang all turned to stare at the source of this unexpected braying. In all the excitement little Zena had suddenly found her voice and I think, to her surprise as well as ours, was having a high old time at the far end of the paddock, braying her little head off!
I think our little donkeys are growing up fast!