In 2012 The Donkey Sanctuary worked in collaboration with Seaton Tramway and Pecorama to come up with a Passport to Lyme Bay. At each attraction there is a little booklet which offers savings for visitors to enjoy and encourages them to visit the other places. We promote each other throughout the year, and one way of doing this is attending each other’s Open Days.
On 7 June this year, Dean Hancock, Visitor Centre Manager, and myself, Jenny Lowe, a groom at Slade House Farm, took two miniature donkeys to Seaton Tramway on their Open Day to promote The Donkey Sanctuary and encourage new supporters.
We took William and Harry as they have a lot of experience of going out and about and our donkey assisted therapy centre often take them out on their Outreach visits to nursing homes. Although small, they definitely call the shots! Did you know.. to qualify as a miniature donkey, they must be no taller than 36 inches.
The day dawned bright and sunny with a slight breeze. Before we could load the donkeys into their luxury transport, we had to pack all the essential bits we would need for the day which included: smart head collars and lead ropes, treats, water and buckets, hurdles, gazebo, leaflets and promotional stand. The boys also had new name collars made up for them. Every donkey that comes into the Sanctuary has a collar that they wear which gives their name, admittance number and at Slade Farm we put their age on too. Female donkeys wear yellow collars and male donkeys wear red collars.
After loading William and Harry, who seemed excited at the chance of a trip out, we set off for Seaton Tramway. It was quite a short journey, only seven miles away, so we arrived in good time.
We set up the donkeys' pen with the hurdles and gazebo, tied up a hay net for them both and filled their water bucket up. We had a pitch on the grass area right next to the tram lines and a bouncy castle! Once unloaded, we took William and Harry for a leg stretch and to get them used to their surroundings. At 10am, when the Open Day was due to start, we put them back in their pen, whereupon they promptly put their heads down to graze not caring for the bouncy castle or the trams.
William and Harry were given a good groom and I put their new name collars and head collars on so they looked smart. Dean and I were also dressed smartly as we were representing the Charity and it was important to give a good impression to people.
It was quite quiet down by the tramway, as the classic cars were parked up on the Esplanade so we decided to walk the donkeys up to the Esplanade to meet and greet the public. William and Harry seemed delighted at the prospect of going for a walk and trotted happily alongside.
Becca, Dean's daughter, had come with us for the day and she bought the collection tin and some leaflets to hand out. The donkeys drew a lot of attention and they really enjoyed the fuss. We explained that we were from The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. Most people had visited us with their children and grandchildren, one of the attractions being it's free to visit and park. I spoke to one local couple who had lived in Devon for years but had never visited us. To inspire them to visit, I gave them a leaflet which has a voucher inside that gives 10% off when you spend £15 or more in either the Hayloft Restaurant or the Gift Shop. I also explained a bit about our work:
- The Donkey Sanctuary actively supports operations and collaborates in 30 countries;
- We have taken in 18,000 equines since 1969;
- We currently have 4,725 equines on our farms in the UK and Europe;
- 1,575 equines currently rehomed on our rehoming scheme;
- The Donkey Sanctuary employs 650 people through our worldwide operations and 1,600 quality time volunteer give us the gift of their time.
After chatting to several people, we took William and Harry back to their pen for some grass and water. The bouncy castle was proving very popular but our donkeys were totally unfazed by all the activity down by the tram station. We made a couple more trips up and down the Esplanade during the day and our collection tin soon filled up thanks to the generosity of the people we spoke to. Some of the more common questions asked were; how old are William and Harry, how many donkeys do we own and how long do donkeys live for. It surprised me that many people think The Donkey Sanctuary is just the place on top of the hill in Sidmouth, they are unaware of our work worldwide.
I really enjoyed the day and talking to members of the public about all the work that the Sanctuary does. It made me feel very proud that I work for The Donkey Sanctuary.