Covid-19: Protecting our visitors, staff and donkeys

The health, safety and wellbeing of our visitors, staff and donkeys is paramount at The Donkey Sanctuary and is the overriding factor in our decision making.

During these continuing unprecedented times we have introduced a range of measures that seek to reduce the risk associated with the presence of Covid-19 that are in line with government advice and the requirements of our local health authority.

Some of the measures set out below may be clearly visible to you across the sanctuary, others require consideration and cooperation before visiting to help ensure that everyone has an enjoyable but safe visit.

Before you arrive

  • Where possible, we are asking visitors to make payment using a 'contactless' bank card, rather than cash
  • Visitors will be required to wear a face covering indoors, including the Gift Shop, The Kitchen (not when seated at your table) and toilets, unless you are exempt from doing so
  • We politely request that you DO NOT visit the sanctuary should you start displaying any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 including a high temperature or a new, continuous cough
  • Please check our website and social media pages for the latest information and updates.

On arrival

Visitors will notice new information signage informing them of key safety messages and instructions - a one-way route will be in place in the heart of the sanctuary and The Kitchen to ensure social distancing is maintained. Please also wash/sanitise your hands on arrival.

We kindly ask that you adhere to and respect all the instructions given by our team members.

During your visit

Please make regular use of our hand washing and sanitiser stations situated throughout the sanctuary. As with our staff, we politely request that all visitors uphold the highest possible hygiene standards.

We have introduced new arrangements for the application of social distancing within queues. Clear markers or signage have been installed at the toilets and in dining queues to help visitors keep a safe distance from one another. Our staff will monitor the queues to ensure that social distancing is being maintained.

Tables, chairs and picnic benches have been arranged to ensure enough distance between seated parties for up to six. Please do not move tables or share tables with anyone not in your group.

Visitors can either choose to dine in at The Kitchen (subject to table availability) where table service has been introduced or purchase refreshments to takeaway and enjoy in our outdoor picnic areas. Only refreshments purchased from The Kitchen can be consumed inside the restaurant; please use the picnic areas if you wish to consume food and drink you have brought with you.

Daily menu

Choose to eat in or outside

We have also installed hygiene screens at our service counters in The Kitchen and Gift Shop.

We have introduced enhanced cleaning measures throughout the day, which seek to disinfect high-frequency touch points, such as tables and chairs, service counters, toilet flushes, door handles and taps. We have also introduced new deep-cleaning measures in the event that a person presents themselves with symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

Some facilities andareas remain closed to ensure that social distancing is suitably maintained.

Our team has participated in Covid-19 specific training programmes instructing how to keep you and our staff safe.

After your visit

We value all feedback which we will use to inform developments at the sanctuary, so please do let us know how we did during your visit. You can leave us a review in the following ways:

We hope these new measures provide you with the confidence to visit The Donkey Sanctuary. These are unprecedented times for everyone, and while every effort is being taken to protect the safety and wellbeing of our visitors, staff and donkeys, everyone should inform themselves of the risks, conditions and personal responsibilities before deciding to visit.

We thank you for your support and understanding and above all else, hope you have a great donkey day out.

Frequently asked questions

When will you be reopening?

The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth will reopen to the public on Monday 17 May 2021.

Do I need to pre-book my visit?

Not at this time, as we are confident we can provide a safe and enjoyable experience based on our capacity and the number of visitors we expect to have.

However, we may reinstate online booking if we consistently reach peak capacity and managing demand becomes difficult.

Also, a decision will be made post May half term as to how we approach the peak summer holiday period.

Please continue to check our website and social media pages for the latest information and updates ahead of your visit.

Are you restricting the numbers of visitors on site?

We will be monitoring and managing the number of visitors coming to the sanctuary on entry to the car parks, but with greater access to the wider sanctuary increasing our capacity, we are confident we can provide a safe and enjoyable experience based on the number of visitors we expect to have.

Procedures are in place to manage visitor flow and react if crowding becomes an issue. Please rest assured that your safety and the safety of our staff and donkeys is our priority.

Will you be taking visitors’ details on arrival?

We ask all visitors over the age of 16 to comply with the Government’s Test and Trace scheme, either by checking in using the NHS Covid-19 app or by scanning the NHS QR code displayed at all entry points. It is obligatory that you provide your contact details when dining at The Kitchen.

These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

How can I provide my details if I do not have a smartphone?

For visitors without smartphones, data may also be collected via The Kitchen restaurant’s till system. These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

What are your new opening hours?

The sanctuary is open every day from 9am – 5pm, with last entry into the car park at 4pm and 4.15pm into The Kitchen. The Kitchen, Gift Shop and Shelter’s walk close at 4.45pm.

All visitors are required to leave the sanctuary by 5pm, to allow our grooms time to complete their essential care of the donkeys. We appreciate in previous years’ visitors may have enjoyed staying later, however due to Covid-19 our grooms are now working early and late shifts to minimise contact with visitors. Thank you for your understanding.

Will I still be able to see the donkeys when I visit?

Yes, all the walkways around the sanctuary will be open providing plenty of opportunities to interact with the resident donkeys. Please DO NOT feed the donkeys, their diets are carefully managed by our staff to make sure they receive the appropriate food.

What are you doing to keep staff and visitors safe?

A one-way route will be in place in the heart of the sanctuary and The Kitchen to ensure social distancing is maintained. 1m floor markings will remain in queue areas. Please look out for the clear signage around the sanctuary and adhere to these measures.

We have introduced a number of new hand hygiene stations / sanitiser points. Our staff will be wearing appropriate PPE.

Tables in The Kitchen and picnic benches have been arranged to make sure distance between seated parties and are limited to 6 people. Please do not move tables or share tables with anyone not in your group.

We have installed hygiene screens at the tills in The Kitchen and gift shop.

We have introduced enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the day, which seek to disinfect high frequency touch points.

We have marked out parking bays so you can park and disembark safely.

From 17 May, government guidance states that the ‘rule of six’ or two households applies indoors and gatherings of under 30 people are permitted outdoors. We will continue to review our approach as and when further relaxations are made by the government.

Do I need to wear a face covering?

As per government regulations, you will be required to wear a face covering indoors, including the Gift Shop, The Kitchen (not when seated at your table), all indoor attractions and toilets, unless you are exempt from doing so. There are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, where people are not expected to wear face coverings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

Will I be able to visit my adoption donkey

Yes, all the walkways around the sanctuary will be open, allowing plenty of opportunities to visit your adoption donkey.

Can people catch coronavirus from donkeys?

There is no evidence that people can catch coronavirus from donkeys.

Can donkeys catch coronavirus from people?

There is no evidence that donkeys can catch coronavirus from people.

Is The Kitchen restaurant open?

Yes, The Kitchen will be open from 9am – 4.45pm (last entry 4.15pm), with breakfast served from 9am-10.45am, lunch from 11am-3pm and snacks, cakes and drinks available all day. We offer the option of dining in the restaurant or you can purchase food and drink to takeaway and enjoy in our outdoor picnic areas. Table service is provided for those dining in, with dogs and buggies now allowed at tables. Pre-booking is not required.

It is obligatory that you provide your contact details when dining at The Kitchen. These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

Do I need to pre-book a table at The Kitchen?

We do not require you to pre-book a table at The Kitchen.

Is the Gift Shop open?

Yes, the gift shop will be open from 9am - 4.45pm. You will be required to wear a face covering unless exempt from doing so and please avoid touching anything that you are not intending to buy.

Which indoor areas will be open?

In addition to The Kitchen, Gift Shop and toilets, the Visitor Centre, Exhibition Barn and Understanding Donkeys Zone will also be open. Main Barn, Dr Svendsen’s Hut and the Video Room will remain closed at this time as we are unable to provide a socially distanced solution in these areas. We will continue to review our approach as and when further relaxations are made by the government.

Which outdoor areas will be open?

All walkways around Slade House Farm and Trow Farm (not Trow Offices) will be open providing plenty of opportunities to interact with the resident donkeys. The Play Area will also be open, but The Maze and Hermitage Woods will remain closed at this time.

Why is The Maze closed?

The Maze remains closed at this time as we can’t provide a socially distanced solution in this area. We will continue to review our approach as and when further relaxations are made by the government

Why is Hermitage Woods and the Nature Centre closed?

Due to ash dieback. We will comply with Natural England best practices and treat 300 trees in this woodland. As part of our conservation strategy we will also be planting new trees at a number of our farms.

Can I visit the Field of Dreams?

Yes, the higher section is open for visitors to enjoy, but scattering of ashes is by appointment only. Please call us in advance on 01395 578222 to arrange this.

Can you show me the new map of the site?

Yes, please find our full map here.

Will you be running an activity trail for families?

Yes, our new trail, An Adorably Curious Adventure will run from 17 May – 30 September, providing lots of family fun while visiting. The full details are available here.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, dogs are welcome at the sanctuary but they must be kept on a lead at all times. Please note, dogs are welcome in the restaurant but please keep them under your table and out of the walkway at all times.

Will you be accepting cash?

Yes, although cards are the safest payment method for you and our staff

Are you accepting group visits?

As we re-open The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth following the national lockdown due to Covid-19, we have made the difficult decision to temporally suspend all bookings of large groups until the autumn. The coach lane will remain closed to allow visitors additional space to walk.

We will keep our website updated with details of when we’re in a position to welcome groups back to The Donkey Sanctuary.

Will you be resuming donkey experiences when you reopen?

Due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, we do not plan to resume donkey experiences for the foreseeable future. We understand this is disappointing, but the safety of our visitors, staff and donkeys is our top priority.

When will your other centres reopen to the public?

We will be providing an update on opening our other public-facing centres across the UK, Ireland and Europe soon, so please keep an eye on our website for updates.

Can you show me a risk assessment?