“What do you think of when you envisage The Donkey Sanctuary?”
That was the first question asked when I took part in a recent volunteer day in Sidmouth.
Some people thought of “cute and fluffy donkeys”, others thought about “a small farm in Devon”, while for others it was the idea of rescuing donkeys and rehoming them.
But The Donkey Sanctuary has taken care of thousands of donkeys over the years and this volunteer day offered a glimpse into the ‘other side’ and the inner workings of the Sanctuary as an operating farm.
Always keen to spend some time away from the desktop, I didn’t need to be asked twice to go along to help out with the chopping of the many Willow trees flourishing here in Sidmouth.
I grabbed my boots and camera and made my way to meet Rolo the mule, who would lead us to our destination for the day.
With a quick stop off to see the popular Poitou donkeys Aramis and Dartanyan, we went trudging up to Trow Farm lead by the regal Rolo decked out in his traditional attire.
The ten minute march took us away from the Heart of the Sanctuary and to a massive pile of muck… well, with all of our donkeys it’s got to go somewhere!
The manure sits on a giant concrete pad, but when it rains the dirty run-off water streams into a couple of massive underground tanks – but where can it go from there?
Well, our teams have come up with a plan that seems to be working brilliantly.
The dirty run-off water is sprinkled onto six plots of thirsty Willow trees which are annually harvested in turn.
This Willow can then be sold on as carving wood or turned into charcoal, while providing the perfect environment of getting rid of the dirty water.
Having organised the day, Wildlife and Conservation Co-ordinator Ruth Angell told me: “We have got lots of crucial, practical tasks to carry out and we are keen to encourage people to come and help out with those, particularly so they can get a feel for types of things that we do to up keep the Sanctuary – not many people get to see that different side of things.”
Whether you are an individual, part of a volunteer group, or part of a business or organisation looking to take part in a ‘green’ day, then you can get in touch with Ruth on 01395 573162.