Thursday, 5 August 2010

Making friends with long ears

In which we visit The Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth, Devon.

The Donkey Sanctuary believes that supporters should be able to come and see how the money they donate helps them to care for their large family of donkeys, so they don't charge an entry fee to their headquarters at Slade House Farm. Instead you can turn up and amble happily around the farm's rolling acres cuddling all the donkeys - currently 483 - as you go.

We began with a visit to the older residents who live in the barn nearest the yard. Some of these donkeys are over 40, so they require extra special care and love (as all over 40s do!). We began by giving this pretty donkey a gentle scratch. When I stopped scratching he gently took my fingers in his lips and tried to make me scratch him again. Adorable. 

After lunch at the Hayloft restaurant - where they make the most delicious paninis (HUGE portions, very reasonable, so take a big appetite) - we headed off on Walk C. This took us on a lovely trek around the farm and its hayfields, meeting hundreds of donkeys along the way. Our aim was to visit the mighty Poitou donkeys - a big, hairy French breed - but we spotted a huddle of other donkeys by a fence and missed the turn to their yard.

This is the world's most beautiful donkey.

I think I've bored it to sleep. One donkey can only take so much of being told how beautiful it is. We really wanted to take this one home with us. We've probably got the room here too, with 22 acres and a nice warm barn or two. The sanctuary does encourage fostering of their donkeys in pairs, but not to homes where there are already other equines. This rules us out as we already have three Welsh ponies - although we have the space to manage the donkeys separately... I'm talking myself into this... a possibility for the future, perhaps.

When the first ones get tired of being patted, other friendly donkeys come on over for their turn. These donkeys have a steady stream of visitors but they never tire of human interaction.

The biggest, shaggiest (and most stubborn) donkey I have ever seen. When we had finished Walk C, we had an ice cream and then went back to the beginning of the same walk again to find the big donkeys. We met a pair of them going for a walk - or trying to. This one looks half donkey, half woolly mammoth and I think his name was Hercule, or something equally French. He was busy reminding everyone that a donkey of his size can generally choose where he goes and when.

We found Hercule's friends and, like the others, they were delighted to have visitors. The yard was empty when we arrived but the all donkeys came out to see who had turned up to pat them.

The biggest donkeys have the longest ears.

If one were to adopt a pair of donkeys, how on earth would you decide which ones? We fell in love all over again, this time with Fudge and his friends. 


  1. Hi Maggie,

    Brilliant blog, thanks for telling everyone about your visit to The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon where I work :-)

    The world's most beautiful donkey you mentioned is called Flora who came into our care in July 2009. Do you remember Zena the little foal? Flora is her mother.

  2. I am so, so glad that you and your girls took along the camera. Your words and all the pictures have brought me up close to such beautiful animals. The donkey farm surely does provide a marvelous service!

    Thank you!

  3. I amused to seeing Donkeys as workign animals from my time living and travelling overseas these look wonderfully pamapered in comparission!What a spelndid charity!

  4. What a wonderful story, complete with delightful pictures.

    These are truly lovely creatures.

    Thanks you for sharing this, Mags.

  5. Have spent many happy hours there with the children when they were young, did you go to Pecorama at Beer too ? Was in Budleigh the other week, such beautiful countryside.

  6. The donkeys look wonderful, very cossetted. I love them, I think theres something special about donkeys.

    Just read your previous blog too. The pebbles are stunning aren't they and the poor wee sprats! I love pebbles, but ours here are much larger and not so colouful, although beautiful in their own way.

  7. Smashing post. Reminded me of the time (about 28 years ago) when we took a dinky Madette to see the donkeys at a local sanctuary. They had one very gentle old soul who just wandered in the yard and was friends with everyone. Well not quite. He took one look at my husband, eee-orrrred very loudly and bit the poor man. Then went back to being the same gentle donkey ...

    How we laughed. Well, not all of us, you understand!

    Go on. Have some donkeys. You know you want to.

    Mad x

  8. I like the fact that you can even think about adopting donkeys. I've seen some donkeys here in India totally weighed down with loads, although as a live in a big city, not for a very long time. Must look out for some and click a picture!

  9. I was directed to come and visit you by Gaelicaa...... as I had just posted about The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary as well. In fact we were probably there at the same time! You filled in many things we missed with your account of things so I was most interested.

    Funny that we also missed the poitou donkeys as we also took a wrong turning! We also enjoyed the huge panninis!
    Did you go in the maze?

    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  10. Beautiful animals. We encountered some here on a visit to G8's birth town - I'm giving them a plug as they are a small charity set up to help young adults with learning difficulties in the West Wiltshire area. They rely heavily on donations. I have wonderful memories of Sidmouth as when I was little we always had our summer holiday's there. When I visit again I will put it on my list of places to go. Thank you for the wonderful blog.


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