It's Saturday morning and the sun is shining brightly as I wave the guests staying at the Ryton Guest House off on their trip to Paccombe Farm where I will join them later after picking up my partner, Dave, and our dog, Olma ... both on their eighth Donkey Week!.
I am proud to wear my red sweatshirt today as a fellow donkey weeker and meet up with my family of friends I have grown up with over the past 13 years.
On arrival at the farm, I joined a large group of donkeys and waited for an inquisitive donkey to come and nudge me. The first to arrive was Thyme. She gently nuzzled my face and rested her head on my shoulder. Naturally, I gave her a cuddle and we shared a moment of time. After spending an hour together, Thyme was thoroughly groomed and I was covered in donkey hair!
During Donkey Week, you always make friends. Over the past couple of days I have got to know Jackie and Brian Taylor, both Londoners who met when they were 7 years of age and have been together ever since. Both have a fascinating past. Jackie is a Pearly Princess and hopes one day to be a Pearly Queen. Brian's family used to run donkey rides on Hampstead Heath. As a boy, he would go and help his dad offering rides at "sixpence a go". He has many stories to tell, so watch this space!
Trailer rides at Paccombe Farm are very popular as the farm is set in beautiful countryside with at least 90 acres of woodland. At this time of year, it is a mass of bluebells and wild garlic, with the odd glimpse of early purple orchids. The rhododendron buds are almost ready to burst open.
The trailer ride took us up to the top of Paccombe Hill where a field of donkeys were happily grazing. We stopped for half an hour and joined them. There is something magical about sitting with donkeys. I watched their heads slowly turn towards me. Their ears pricked up and alert. One by one, they walked towards me until I was surrounded. For half an hour, I was in heaven.
After the trailer ride back back down to the farm, it was time for those donkey weekers who have been coming for 10 years plus to join Dr Svendsen for Devon cream teas in the marquee back at Slade Farm House.
Before sitting down, a group photo was taken of all of us and Mo Flenley was awarded her 'silver' sweatshirt for 25 years as a donkey weeker.