Address: Old Didcot Road, Brightwell-Cum-Sotwell, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 0SW
Price: FREE! (Please leave a donation in the box on your way out!)
We live literally about 10 minutes away from Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary and I am ashamed to say we have never been there to visit. I often drive past and see all the lovely donkeys out in their fields and remind myself that I must take the kids there but we have never been – until now!
We finally got round to it last week and I’m glad we did. There are so many donkeys to meet I was amazed! I hadn’t realised when I drove past that as well as the large fields facing the road there are yet more fields out the back and so many donkeys it was like donkey heaven! On arrival we went to reception first where a lovely lady gave us a leaflet and told us about the sanctuary. We then went through the gates into the main courtyard area that links the fields to the stables and met 2 donkeys who were happily wondering around in amongst the visitors. This is also where the visitor centre can be found. In there you can have something to eat (they sell cakes, drinks and ice creams from 20p upwards or you are welcome to take your own picnic). There are also toys to play with, some souvenir gifts for sale and a TV screen showing the history of the sanctuary.
After a quick picnic in the visitor centre as we’d arrived at lunch time, we went outside to meet a male group of donkeys whom we were told were being kept in from the fields temporarily as the farrier was due to arrive to do their feet. They were all very friendly and were more than happy to be stroked by visitors. They were also very vocal whenever staff walked past, clearly wanting to make it known that they weren’t happy about being kept in! What struck me was that even within a few minutes you could see each donkey had its own personality and it was lovely to get to know some of them.
There were lots of staff and volunteers around mucking out stables and brushing the donkeys and everyone we met was very friendly and happy to talk to us. One thing that really stands out here is the love that every one of those people has for these 4 legged friends and the level of passion and care that keeps this wonderful sanctuary going. They rely totally on donations from the public and also hold fundraisers such as table top sales, craft fairs and collectors fairs in their fields. As well as making a donation during your visit you can also adopt a donkey for just £15 a year which will go towards helping with their upkeep.
We adopted a donkey called Chocolate from here 2 years ago for Lois’s preschool class as a Xmas gift instead of staff presents and it went down a storm. Imagine the children’s excitement at having their very own adopted Christmas nativity donkey! We were thrilled to be able to meet Chocolate (see pic below with Lois!) during our visit and he is still available to adopt, as well as some of his friends. You can read more about donkey adoptions here: http://www.donkeyrescue.co.uk/adopt-a-donkey/.
We really enjoyed our visit to Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary and the children have already asked to go back and visit again. I love the fact that its free to enter and if you are able to make a donation then you are free to donate as little or as much as you can afford. There is no pressure. The donkeys are clearly very well looked after and are the main focus of all fundraising. The current fundraising appeal is to build an equine hospital at the site.
As a result of all fundraising going towards the care of the donkeys the site itself is a little rough and ready and is not geared towards being an all singing and dancing visitor attraction. The visitor centre is basic but has everything you could need including toilets and snacks on sale as well as disabled access. In total we spent just over an hour at the sanctuary including time to eat our picnic, although we could have happily stayed longer if we hadn’t had to get back in time for swimming lessons. We will most certainly be going back again (probably later on this week!) and I have a feeling it will become a regular thing if the kids have anything to do with it! Huge respect to all the staff and volunteers for all the hard work they put in to caring for so many lovely donkeys. Keep up the great work!
Disclaimer: Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary staff and volunteers had no involvement in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂