Wildlife has thrived under lockdown at our sanctuary in Sidmouth as paths, walkways and verges have become a riot of pinks, purples, blues and yellows after wildflowers reaped the benefit while we remain temporarily closed.

We normally welcome around 400,000 visitors a year through our gates, but having remained temporarily closed due to Covid-19, grass cutting along many of the access paths, verges and walkways has been reduced, allowing nature to bloom.

The abundance of wildflowers, such as chamomile, ox-eye daisy, vetch, cornflower and poppy has provided pollinating insects such as bees, moths and hoverflies with a spring and summertime boost, as well as a notable increase in a whole host of other insects. This in turn, has attracted more birds and bats who devour many of the biting insects that cause much irritation to our resident donkeys at this time of year.

We've been amazed to find out that more than 30 wildflower species have been seen by our Conservation and Ecology team when they were allowed back on site after government restrictions were lifted enabling staff to start returning to work.

Haven for wildlife

Not only does the display of abundant wildflowers make the sanctuary look beautiful at this time of year, but it also provides a haven for wildlife. At a time of widespread biodiversity crisis, a simple habitat improvement is hugely important, not only to the thriving plants and animals, but in providing a sense of well-being to both people and the resident donkeys who benefit from the enriched environment.

The relaxed management since March has meant wild flowers have been able to flower and seed, and grasses have been left long enough for them to support the entire life cycles of a range of invertebrates.

Donkey in paddock
Butterfly on thistle in meadow
Cricket on meadow grass
Donkeys co-habiting alongside our beautiful wildlife.

It's been really interesting for us to see how much wildlife and diversity our walkways can support following just a few months of less disturbance.

As restrictions start to ease, we'll be looking at ways for both wildlife and visitors to enjoy these walkways when we re-open our gates to visitors again.

When will we be open?

The safety of visitors and staff is extremely important to us. With so many different ways to enter, we are looking at how to safely manage the number of visitors coming in and to encourage responsible social distancing before we can re-open.

Although we remain closed, our grooms are still ensuring the resident donkeys and mules continue to receive the highest level of care.

Missing our donkeys?

Don't forget, you can still see our donkeys though one of our livestreaming webcams. Why not share with your family and friends to brighten their day!