Mudchute City Farm, an oasis set in 32 acres in East London, is now home to two Sanctuary donkeys, Harley and Skooby. A stone’s throw from Canary Wharf, centre of high finance, this amazing City Farm offers an opportunity to see and learn about a large variety of animals.
Harley and Skooby will be working with the Education Team at Mudchute, headed by Denise and Lorna. Their role will be to give people a better understanding of donkeys and their needs whilst offering children the opportunity to groom, muck out and handle the donkeys. As former working donkeys who gave rides at fairs and fetes, they are very good with children, including children with additional needs. The benefits of animal therapy are incredible and donkeys show a special affinity with people who have challenging behaviour and conditions such as autism, often producing a calming effect.
One visiting student with limited communication skills was taken into the donkey enclosure in his wheelchair. The interaction with Skooby was a magical experience to see, following which the student spoke a few sentences about being safe around donkeys, telling Lorna to be careful and another student to keep her fingers away from the donkeys' mouths. An emotional moment for all who saw the effect Skooby had on his young visitor.
Mudchute is an extremely popular farm with thousands of visitors every year and organised school groups throughout term times. City farms offer a unique opportunity for inner city children to learn where their food comes from and to develop a love and respect for animals. As many areas of London are multi ethnic, it is also an opportunity to break down cultural taboos about certain animals.
South of the River Thames, Ernest and Rick are donkey ambassadors with the great team at Vauxhall City Farm. Whilst Vauxhall is one of the smallest farms, the donkeys will lead stimulating, interesting lives and eventually join the mobile team visiting schools, special events and even the odd show! Most donkeys love to be ‘doing’; meeting and greeting one and all and especially interacting with children.
As life on a London City farm may well be full on, it is important that the donkeys stay happy mentally and we have discussed this with the farms in question. Chill out and play time are part of the donkey curriculum! All donkeys differ, like people, and some will positively thrive in such an environment whilst others may become a little jaded over time. The donkeys will be monitored by the staff and our Donkey Welfare Advisor and if we feel they would be happier elsewhere, then alternative donkeys will be found. Our donkeys come first, second and third and we only want what is best for them.
So whilst our four boys may not be earning millions, in their own way they are equally important City High Flyers - and possibly on their way to raising a million smiles!