It was a lovely sunny morning when we assembled to get onto the coach for the ‘Parish Day Out’.  I was the official ‘bag lady’ that day as I think I brought everything except the kitchen sink with me for my little girl Daisy and myself. When all 35 parishioners, including 4 children, Archie, Daisy, Devon and Dylan were safely on board we set off to Sidmouth.

The journey was very scenic and as we were sitting at a much higher level than most other vehicles I took a sneaky peek into some very pretty gardens.  We knew we were near to our destination when we spotted the sea in the distance and it felt like summer had finally arrived as it was still sunny!

When we arrived at Sidmouth some of the group asked to be dropped off by the beach and the rest of us including myself, Daisy and my mum, stayed on and went up the hill to Connaught Gardens and the Clock Tower Café.  I had plenty of exercise that day as the coach driver had left Daisy’s pushchair off at the beach stop so I had to run down the hill to retrieve it before someone else took a fancy to it!

I hadn’t been to Sidmouth for a long time and had forgotten how pretty it is.  The views from the gardens overlooking the sea and Jacob’s Ladder beach are stunning, especially when the sun is shining.  We saw some of our group enjoying refreshments at the Clock Tower Café.

Daisy and I explored the gardens, she loved running in and out of all the different entrances then we made our way down to the beach.  There was just time to make a very quick sandcastle and dip our toes in the sea and it was time to get back to the coach again.  Time never goes this quickly at work!

The Donkey Sanctuary is only 20 minutes away from the seafront so we arrived in the swish of a donkey’s tail. There was only one thing on everyone’s mind, LUNCH! Some of our day trippers went to the picnic area and some to the café.  Daisy, Mum, Clare and myself sat on benches opposite the café which was a handy spot for drinks and ice creams.

There were plenty of donkeys to see, more than 100 in fact!  The sanctuary fields stretch as far as the eye can see and at one point lead down to the sea.  We stroked the convalescing donkeys who were very docile and patient (so to speak) with all of the visitors.

‘The Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys’ are based there and provide riding therapy for children with special needs.  There are 5 centres in England and 1 in Northern Ireland.  Visitors are given the option to ‘Adopt a Donkey’ which supports the Trust’s work.  Hundreds of children visit the centres each week for riding therapy, so it is very worthwhile.

My favourite section of the sanctuary was the ‘Donkey Yard’ where you could get up close to the donkeys.  Daisy really enjoyed this as it was the first time she had been so near to donkeys.  They were very tolerant and stood for some time whilst we stroked them and took photos for our albums (and our parish magazine). 

It was lovely to walk around and look out over fields full of contented donkeys.  When you see the number of donkeys there it is even more remarkable that the Trust survives on donations alone especially as there is no admission fee.

I ran out of time to visit the maze and yet more walks but we had thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  It is such a peaceful setting (apart from when the donkeys start braying) to enjoy the walks or just to sit back and enjoy the views.  My abiding memory is of Daisy running along what looks like a pavement of grass with donkeys and fields either side without a care in the world.