Although we are part of the large international organisation in which The Donkey Sanctuary has become, we are still over 170 miles away from our main offices and farms in Devon. And for us a visit to the main offices can be just as exciting as it is for a member of the public. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend the day surrounded by hundreds of donkeys!
This wasn’t my first time visiting Sidmouth and I have made this journey many times before, but this time I was taking Tracey and Valerie for their first time. We set off at 7am to miss the morning traffic and hopefully arrive at the Sanctuary as early as possible. The atmosphere in the vehicle was exciting with lots of discussions about the charity and how it has made its journey to become this fantastic organisation.
On arrival both Val and Tracey could not believe the acres of land covered with our four-legged friends and the sound of donkeys braying filled the air on what was a pretty miserable day weather-wise. We first visited Brookfield Farm (not open to the public except during Donkey Week) where we were lucky enough to meet baby Jamie who was born on Easter Sunday. Nestled inside one of the barns, out of the rain, was Buttercup and beside her was the most beautiful foal. For the staff at Sidmouth seeing a foal is not uncommon, although The Donkey Sanctuary has a no breeding policy, donkeys may come into the Sanctuary already in foal. If you are lucky enough to meet one all I can say is wow! Out came this super excited playful young foal, bouncing around the stable for our attention. I looked across at Val and Tracey and saw their faces light up and why wouldn’t they? He was gorgeous. He had the tiniest, daintiest feet and big fluffy ears with a velvety soft nose. We were all completely smitten.
We had a lot to pack into one day so unfortunately we had to drag ourselves away from playing with Jamie (although I did grab a quick photo with him) and take a tour around Trow Farm itself. The staff were fantastic and gave us an in-depth tour showing Val and Tracey the day-to-day routines of a working farm which houses just over 300 donkeys. As a charity, we have seven farms altogether in Devon and Dorset with just Slade House Farm open to the general public.
We then headed back to Slade House Farm and managed to visit some of the offices within different departments. Due to today’s technology we often send so many emails it’s actually quite nice to catch up with our fellow work colleagues and see each other face-to-face. It’s nice to see their impressive display of donkey memorabilia dotted around their desks just showing that we all really do have that passion for donkeys no matter what department we work in.
After lunch (which was a pretty impressive sandwich from the Hayloft Restaurant) we collected the stock which we needed for our centre and delivered our letters and parcels. Once all our jobs were done we took a walk up to visit the Poitou donkeys. Walking the grounds of The Donkey Sanctuary is so peaceful with little sparks of donkey magic nestled in different paddocks and our walk up to the Poitous did not disappoint. It’s so nice to see so many donkeys happy and grazing in the fields, clearly looking content within their wonderful home. As we walked down the drive towards the Poitous I could instantly feel myself smile. I have always had a soft spot for these gentle giants. Again once more I looked at Tracey and Val and they were both smiling and looking a little startled at their impressive size.
By now we had completely overrun our departure time by visiting the different departments within the organisation but do you know what? We didn’t mind, we were having a great time. Once we managed to get back on the road home and battle our way through the evening traffic, the three of us chatted and laughed about our visit and the 170 mile drive seemed so much quicker than it did that morning. It was plain to see we were all slightly tired from our long and exciting day and we all settled in silence as we approached the hustle and bustle of Birmingham.
Amber Brennan, Riding Instructor
The Donkey Sanctuary, Birmingham