Over the last three weeks Phil and I have been accompanying two of our elderly donkeys on a morning walk. Mr Nedd and Hector live in the Salston Boxes right in the centre of the Sanctuary, where they enjoy a peaceful life comprising of munching food, greeting the occasional visitor who discovers their quiet little corner of the Sanctuary and dozing whenever the mood takes them – which is quite often.
Phil and I regularly visit these two donkeys to groom them, as we have known them since they shared a paddock with Freddie, Eros and Hugo last summer. Recently though we had noticed that Hector in particular would often stand at the gate staring out at the rest of the world as it passed by. We remembered how he would love to rush over to the fence and greet people when he lived at Shelter 5, and was always the first to muzzle in whenever anything interesting was going on. We thought Hector might be missing being part of the action so to speak, so we decided to talk to the grooms about our plan!
With full approval from the grooms, and as long as the boys were wrapped up in their rugs, the walks around the Sanctuary began! Our first outing was around Walk A, where Hector and Mr Nedd met up with many old friends. Hector spent a lot of time with his nose stuck through the fences of the various yards and paddocks belonging to all his donkey friends – obviously keen to catch up on gossip.
Mr Nedd has always been a shy donkey who takes a while to get to know both donkeys and people, so he was a little more reserved. He’s always preferred living with small groups of donkeys as he gets quite worried in large groups. Still, he certainly seemed to enjoy his walk and was partial to some hedgerow-snacking along the route!
The next time we went out for a walk it was raining – but nothing could have prevented the boys from going out for their walk! Ensuring they were both tucked into warm waterproof rugs – off we went to visit the Poitou donkeys! This time both Mr Nedd and Hector broke into a little trot of excitement as we headed past the maze on our way to Buffalo Barn.
Today was a warm and sunny day and as we approached Salston Boxes, there was Hector waiting expectantly at the gate, while Mr Nedd was half-braying with excitement in the doorway of the shelter! No sooner had we lifted the headcollars off their hooks, the two donkeys were thrusting their heads into them, eager to be out and about! Just time for a quick check on their rugs before we set off on our longest walk yet!
This time we went up through the rose garden, across the road and up past the Isolation Unit where donkeys stay for several weeks when they first arrive at the Sanctuary. Mr Nedd was the first to break into a trot, followed by little Hector – although they soon slowed back to a steady walking pace again. Both donkeys were very interested in all the sights and smells of this new walk which took us all the way up to the back of Oakley Barn, across towards Garmston Barn, before winding back down towards the maze and the main part of the Sanctuary again. En route we had several rest stops, took a few pictures and the boys sampled some of the greenery. In short – a sunny, warm day in February is a rare treat and needs to be savoured at a leisurely pace!
As Phil and I headed towards the main yard at the end of the afternoon today, we glanced over to the Salston Boxes where we could see Hector and Mr Nedd standing side by side. We can only guess at what they may have been saying to each other, but Phil and I are clear about one thing – walking with this pair of gentle old donkeys is probably one of the best parts of our week!