It's an early pick up this morning for the donkey weekers as many like to attend the service at Tedburn St Mary Parish Church, a 15th Century building standing alongside the entrance to Town Barton Farm set on the edge of Dartmoor.
Along with donkeys, the farm has a growing number of mules. In the welcome speech by Paul Carter, farm manager, Shrek, a mule, and his donkey friend, Jacko, made an appearance in front of the crowd. Both had been rescued in 2007 near Heathrow airport and were featured on Animal 24/7.
I joined a couple of friends enjoying the glorious sunshine as they sipped their teas and listened to a talk by Ivan Salvia, general farm manager, about the Sanctuary's work in Spain. Ladies from the local women's church group always spoil us with refreshments, homemade sandwiches, pasties, salads ... cakes galore!
Walking round, there were donkeys being groomed everywhere. Every last piece of straw or sawdust was being lovingly brushed away.
There were people of all ages taking donkeys for walks. Out of all the farms, I think Town Barton has provided the best donkey walking area this year because it's a circular walk. If anyone has ever owned a donkey, you'll know that they don't like turning round and going back!
In one of the barns, Colin Goldsworthy was doing a farrier demonstration on how to trim donkey hooves, which is always fascinating to watch. He also trimmed the hooves of a donkey called Snowy, taking us through the process of fitting special plastic shoes to give her extra hoof support.
Walking on, there was a mule behaviour demonstration. Chestnut had been found wandering the streets in County Cork. The Guardia (local police) had managed to capture him and he was taken to the Irish Sanctuary. Chestnut was turning out to be quite a handful, so he was transferred to the Sanctuary here in Devon 10 years ago. He's still a bit of a handful, but the demonstration using a technique similar to Monty Roberts, showed how a 'high spirited' mule could be calmed and be led around without a head collar or lead rope. How amazing!
Driving back home, today's visit reminded me of "a family day out with the kids on a Sunday". There were happy faces everywhere. Children were walking their donkeys, while parents and grandparents enjoyed time together, all sharing one thing in common ... their love of donkeys.
To finish off the day, both myself and my partner, Dave, enjoyed a meal at The Dolphin Hotel in Beer with our family of donkey weekers. There were 18 of us catching up with news and reminiscing of past Donkey Weeks. What better way to end the day!