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Free day out at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Kids & adults cannot help but want to stroke the gentle residents of Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary & no visit is complete without saying "hello" to the donkeys.
One of Devon’s top-ranking attractions is the well-run Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary at Slade House Farm. As well as having plenty of donkeys to pat and pet, there are a range of activities for young and older children. With free admission it is a great place to take the family, and if you do choose to leave a donation, support the shop or even adopt a donkey you know your cash is going to a very worthwhile cause.

This well-established Donkey Sanctuary is just east of Sidmouth, signposted off the A3052. It’s a great place to bring a picnic or support the well-priced café. There are hundreds of donkeys and mules that live out their final days at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary covers a large acreage so you need to wear good shoes suitable for walking over the uneven grass and stony ground. This is definitely not a place to model your new beach sandals!

Indoor and outdoor activities at the donkey sanctuary

The has several different areas to explore, both indoors and out, making it a good place to visit whatever the weather. The Yard Area is the place most visitors begin their visit. This is an enclosed area with several of the gentle and affectionate residents enjoying the fresh air and looking for plenty of pats, strokes and fuss.

There is an indoor ménage where you may be lucky enough to see groups of disabled kids riding the donkeys. There is also a shop selling donkey-themed cuddly toys, candles, cards and even wrapping paper, all raising money for this very good cause.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a great place to drop in for lunch with an excellent café which is particularly family-friendly. The only downside is you will probably be drawn in to seeing the residents, so there’s no such thing as a quick lunch here!

History of the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth was founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE in 1969. She bought the former Salston Hotel in Ottery St Mary and used the stables to start her mission of rescuing needy donkeys.

She started small, rescuing the neediest donkeys she came across, but one day in 1974 she received a telephone call telling her she had been left a legacy. It was 204 donkeys! That was the start of her much broader vision for the task ahead of saving as many donkeys as possible.

Her devotion and hard work led to the sanctuary becoming a highly regarded international charity. Sadly she passed away in 2011, aged 81, but her legacy lives on. The sanctuary provides former working donkeys and those rescued from cruelty and neglect with a well-earned retirement. They have all the shelter, food and veterinary care they deserve. To date the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary has given a home to over 15,500 donkeys and mules.

Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children

What is less well known is the work the Donkey Sanctuary does with disabled children. The gives disabled children the chance to ride donkeys, supported by many volunteers to keep them safe as they ride. Riding therapy is known to have positively impacted many thousands of disabled children through their contact with these gentle animals.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a fitting tribute to the work of many volunteers and makes a fun yet thought provoking place to visit. Who knows, you may come away with an adoption certificate for a new “virtual” pet that you can visit every time you return to Sidmouth!

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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