It’s Donkey Time!

If you have ever wanted to be up close and personal with a donkey to call your own then Donkey Time is an experience you will love and never forget. We are holding morning sessions where you will be working closely with founder John McLaren and sanctuary staff. Learn about donkey care and have a one-to-one experience with a donkey with grooming, taking them for a walk and more. There will be a tour of the sanctuary with John and of course lots of donkey cuddles. Makes an ideal gift for any donkey lover you may know.


The sessions cost £75 per person and are from 9.30am to 1.30pm. They are being held on the following Tuesdays: 13th August (fully booked), 10th September and 8th October. Places are limited to six per session.  For more details or an application form please contact the sanctuary or click on the ‘Events’ tab above.

Donkey Hospital Official Opening

Ed Vaizey MP cutting the ribbon with John McLaren and Heather Lawrence. Picture: Christian Sinkinson at More Than Images.

After four years of planning, fundraising and hard work we were delighted to see the day when our Donkey Hospital was officially opened by Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP on Sunday 14th October 2018.  As a charity dedicated to the welfare of mistreated and neglected donkeys we wanted to give them the very best care we could by having an onsite facility to operate indoors and to be able to minimise the risk of infection. 



Ed Vaizey with staff, trustees and some of our wonderful volunteers. Picture: Christian Sinkinson at More Than Images.









To find out how the Donkey Hospital became a reality please continue to read below.

Keith Lawrence and his family had been supporters of Island Farm for a number of years. Keith was a Knight in the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes and wanted to help the sanctuary with something special. In 2014, after discussions with co-founder of Island Farm, John McLaren, it was agreed that a safe, sterile facility to treat donkeys was desperately needed and so the Donkey Hospital project began.

The build gets underway
First load of concrete for the foundations is delivered



After obtaining planning permission, drawings and costings were produced and fundraising began to meet the cost of the project. The groundworks included the installation of services and a special sealed underground waste tank. This first phase cost £17,500. Each phase of the project would only be able to proceed as funds allowed which meant a four year wait before completion.

Phase two was the purchasing and erection of the hospital building, blockwork for the interior walls and recovery stables and the installing of the fencing and gates for the outside excercise yards which cost a further £19,500.

The framework begins to be assembled
Fully galvanised steel construction for long life





The outer cladding soon has it looking like a purposeful building
Almost weathertight






The interior walls start to go up

Phase three involved the installation of a special cushioned rubber floor and wall covering in the operating room, kitting out the vets preparation room and all the other fixtures and fittings needed to provide a fully functioning hospital. Including equipment this phase cost £26,000. The trustees and staff are grateful to local building companies and suppliers for donating various items to the Donkey Hospital. Without this support the total figure of £63,000 would have been higher.

Sadly, Keith Lawrence passed away suddenly in August 2015 but his wife Heather and the family courageously continued with fundraising for the project as a tribute to Keith.


Operating room showing the rubberised floor & walls and some equipment. Picture: Christian Sinkinson at More Than Images.
Vet’s preparation room







Looking to the future fundraising will continue for phase four which will allow the Hospital to purchase new surgical and diagnostic equipment.

Donkey Show and Fun Dog Show 2018

The 30th September saw our Donkey Show and Fun Dog Show take place after the event scheduled for June was postponed due to heavy rain causing the show site to flood. Although the In-Hand classes were slightly down on last year the Driving Classes were good with both single and paired donkey turnouts. The Show Drive, where the competitors go out for a two mile road run through the village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell made for an impressive sight

Tiggy Lavender (left) winning the In-Hand Championship with Downland Democrat. Judge was Mrs. B. Evans


Tiggy Lavender did very well, coming away with both In-Hand Champion and Reserve Champion awards while Claire Strang won the Driving Championship with Clare Humphries as Reserve Driving Champion. In the Junior Section the Champion award went to Jessica Barnett with Charlotte Porter as Junior Reserve Champion

To download a full list of the class placings please click here: Donkey Show 2018 Results 

We would like to thank our In-Hand Judge Mrs. B. Evans and Driving Judge Mr. R. Sims and all the stewards and volunteers for helping to make the show a success.




Tilly Lavender with Downland Debutante being presented with the In-Hand Reserve Champion trophy by Mrs. Evans
Two very nice turnouts returning from the Show Drive







A fine trio of turnouts in the Driving section
Driving Judge Mr. R. Sims presenting Claire Strang and donkey ‘Bobby’ the Driving Champion trophy.


Lady Melville with George Benning, our Dog Show judge

The Fun Dog Show was very well supported with all classes having entries of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Our thanks go to George Benning, our Judge and to Heather and Annie for stewarding.   

Wanda on the mic doing a great job of announcing the winners
An interesting line up for the Dog Show Judge










You may have heard about the new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), that comes into effect on 25th May 2018. To comply with GDPR requirements, we have updated our Privacy Statement. To learn more please click on “Privacy” at the bottom of the page.

When you wish upon a donkey…

Last year, leading up to Christmas, several of our wonderful supporters asked if there was anything special they could get the donkeys and from that developed our Amazon Wish List. The response was amazing and we have been asked if the same thing was going to be done again this year.

We are always very grateful for all the help and donations we receive, it really does make a difference and seeing as the donkeys now believe in Father Christmas we have created a new Wishlist which you can see by clicking on this link:

A popular item last year was some new feed bowls which, as you can see, the donkeys really enjoyed using.


Thank you again to all of you lovely people who continue to help us look after the donkeys in our care. Whether by donating, adopting a donkey, volunteering or just by spreading the word Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary will always be a safe and secure home for these wonderful animals. 

Oxford Town and Gown Run

We are always grateful when people put in time and effort to support the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary. Tommy Greenwood has taken a real interest in our Equine Hospital Appeal and has decided that he would like to help.

Tommy is running the 10k Oxford Town and Gown Run on Sunday 15th May to raise funds for the Hospital Appeal and he needs YOUR support.

Mable meets Tommy Greenwood

He has been training hard and is determined to do well to help the sanctuary so please sponsor Tommy by clicking on this link:

There is also sponsor forms at the sanctuary for visitors wishing to support Tommy.

Mable gives Tommy a thank you kiss!
Mable gives Tommy a thank you kiss!

Everyone at the sanctuary wish Tommy all the very best and are grateful for all his efforts for the hospital appeal.

Pollyanne wins an award!

Everyone at the Island Farm was delighted to learn that Pollyanne, the Sanctuary’s famous opera donkey, was recently awarded the Donkey Breed Society Western Region Special Donkey Cup.

The Donkey Breed Society (DBS) is a national organisation dedicated to improving knowledge and welfare of all donkeys. It aims to promote the care and management and to highlight the versatility of donkeys.

Claire Harper, Area Representative for the DBS, chose Pollyanne for all the public appearances she does, notably the many times she has appeared on stage at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London since 2006. Pollyanne has taken part in photoshoots, Church Services, visited schools, children’s hospices and care homes and has even been invited to weddings!

One of her most interesting experiences was when she was the subject of a magic trick for the BBC series ‘The Magicians’ which involved her disappearing and then reappearing hundreds of yards away.

Pollyanne with John McLaren receiving the trophy from Angela Scales
Pollyanne with John McLaren receiving the trophy from Angela Scales

The trophy was presented by Angela Scales who, with her husband Peter, work tirelessly for the DBS and helped to introduce donkey driving classes at the Island Farm Donkey Show in 2015.

Also in the photos is Tracy who has been Pollyanne’s understudy if ever she was not able to appear at an event.


Linda Chilton brings Tracy to join the presentation
Linda Chilton brings Tracy to join the presentation

 The Donkey Breed Society Western Region

The Special Donkey Cup

Don and Jean Grant from Worcester shared a love of animals and would never ignore any creature in need. They would offer the use of their stables and fields as a home for any donkeys and they loved to help care for them.

Don and Jean’s support of the Donkey Breed Society continued with them helping at Donkey Days, Sponsored Walks and were always spreading the word about donkeys, their welfare,  care and needs.

Following Don’s retirement as a Silversmith he and Jean kindly donated a trophy which was to be awarded to a donkey that has helped to promote the welfare and public awareness of donkeys in need.

Polly seems to take a great interest in her award
Pollyanne seems to take a great interest in her award


Equine Hospital Build Begins

We are pleased to announce that the building work for the first phase of a new ‘Equine Hospital’ facility at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary in Brightwell-Cum-Sotwell began recently.

The purpose built hospital comprising of a treatment and convalescent area, two holding pens and a veterinary and staff hygiene area will provide facilities for essential veterinary treatment, in a warm, sterile environment. Donkeys at the sanctuary are  currently having to be treated in a clean stable on site or taken to the vets. The new hospital will reduce the stress of travel to and from the vets and save the sanctuary money.

John McLaren, founder of the sanctuary said “we are very pleased to be embarking on this new development for the sanctuary.  We rescue around 30 donkeys every year, most needing immediate treatment and this facility means the sanctuary vet can help us help them at a critical time.”

The proposed site for the Equine Hospital needed clearing first of all!
The proposed site for the Equine Hospital needed clearing first of all!
Once that was done, it was time to call in Building Inspector Pollyanne (L) and Health and Safety Inspector Tracy.
Anyone seen the plans?

The start of this project has however been tinged with sadness after the sudden passing of one of it’s main fundraisers, Keith Lawrence, who became unwell while on holiday in Minehead. Keith, who lived in Grove with his wife Heather, was regularly seen at the sanctuary manning his Equine Hospital stall. He also helped run fun dog shows at the sanctuary with his daughters Jackie and Michelle.

Judy Gibbons, Chair of Trustees said ”We were all very shocked and saddened to hear of Keith’s passing. He had been instrumental in getting the project off the ground. Everyone at the sanctuary, staff and fellow volunteers, extend our sincere condolences to Heather and the family.”

The rescue centre is still actively fundraising to complete the works on the hospital.  To donate please call the sanctuary on 01491 833938 or visit

Equine Hospital Illustration 1
Proposed layout of the Equine Hospital

Donkey Show and Fun Dog Show July 2015

Perfect weather greeted our annual Donkey Show and Fun Dog Show on the 5th July when 38 donkeys from as far afield as Bristol, Huntingford and Crawley were entered in classes such as Best Condition and Turnout, Best Stallion, Best Mare, etc.

New for this year were Driving Classes with beautifully turned out donkeys in harness pulling equally impressive carts. We would like to thank Angela and Peter Scales for arranging such a fantastic addition to the show. Feedback has been very positive and it is something we would definitely like to continue in 2016. The Show Drive through the picturesque village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was well supported with Ros Lester, the Deputy Mayor of Wallingford, in attendance. Ros also judged the Concours d’Elegance class.

The results for all the In Hand and Driving Classes are below:  Donkey Show 2015 Results2-page-001Donkey Show 2015 Results2-page-002Donkey Show 2015 Results2-page-003


Please go to our Gallery page for images from the day including some from our Fun Dog Show. Thank you to Rachel Philo Photography for the photos of the In Hand and Miniature Champion donkeys. Check out for more great photographs.

Judy Gibbons (left), Chair of Trustees, with the In Hand Champion donkey Gamlingay the Alchemist and handler Jade Weaver
Judy Gibbons (left), Chair of Trustees, with the In Hand Champion donkey Gamlingay the Alchemist and handler Jade Weaver


Miniature Champion donkey Lil Angels Texas Tease took a real interest in the trophy presented by Mrs. Jean Fooks
Miniature Champion donkey Lil Angels Texas Tease took a real interest in the trophy presented by Mrs. Jean Fooks


We would like to extend our thanks to Mr. Alec Horn, the In Hand Judge and the Driving Judge, Mr. Richard Wiggins plus all the stewards, volunteers and sponsors for making the show possible.

Country Show 2014

Our two day Country Show on the weekend of the 24th and 25th May was a good example of how the changeable British weather can make such a difference to an outdoor event. Early Saturday morning saw grey skies and a steady rain which affected the number of exhibitors and prompted a few last minute change of plans.

Traction engine with trailer and living van
Traction engine with trailer and living van
Stationary engine driving a water pump
Stationary engine driving a water pump

Lunchtime saw the clouds clear and the sun shining through but the wet conditions had already affected the show attendance. This was a pity as we had some outstanding dance displays from the Viv O’Gara School of Irish Dance and ‘Ashnah’, a fusion of Eastern, African and Spanish Flamenco dancing.

Mr. Muddles Magical Mayhem
Mr. Muddles Magical Mayhem

Mr. Muddles Magical Mayhem provided some excellent entertainment for young and old alike and several children were seen clutching their balloon animals tightly (but not too tight!). Also appearing in the show marquee were folk based ‘The Potting Shed Band’.

Bird of Prey from Hawk Walk
Bird of Prey from Hawk Walk
Owl from Wheatley Birds of Prey
Owl from Wheatley Birds of Prey
Vintage cars
Vintage cars
More cars and yes, that is a road legal boat!
More cars and yes, that is a road legal boat!

The Saturday evening lifted everyone’s spirits with a few games of bingo and we were delighted when both the Irish dancers and Ashnah were able to give another fantastic display on the stage. This was something new for this year’s show and was a real hit. Live music was provided by ‘Ridgeway’, a local duo with a great sound.

An advantage to having a two day show is that you get another chance and the forecast for a better Sunday was spot on. The sun was out early and it’s warmth dried the ground so well that it was hard to believe that 24 hours can be so different. With many more exhibitors, dancing, demonstrations and arena displays it was a great day.

Up close and personal with an otter
Up close and personal with an otter
Miniature steam traction engine
Miniature steam traction engine
H-Bar-C Wild West camp
H-Bar-C Wild West camp
Kennesaw Confederates
Kennesaw Confederates
Mark Cottrell with his Cob Pony 'Hattie'
Mark Cottrell with his Cob Pony ‘Hattie’
Mark winning the award for Best Exhibit, presented by Flo Galliford
Mark winning the award for Best Exhibit, presented by Flo Galliford

Also during the two days were the fun dog show, craft stalls & demonstrations and model displays in The Barn where visitors could take a welcome break for refreshments.

Martin Claridge's 20 Key Organ
Martin Claridge’s 20 Key Organ
Julia Biddle from Waitrose with Show Committee member Brian Hayter at the prize draw. Waitrose kindly donated a wonderful gift basket as First Prize.
Julia Biddle from Waitrose with Show Committee member Brian Hayter at the prize draw. Waitrose kindly donated a wonderful gift basket as First Prize.

The Show Committee are very grateful to Waitrose, Warmington Estate Agents. Fugro and Arthur Marsh Insurance for their sponsorship of the show and to our band of volunteers for giving up their time to help make our 2014 Country Show so enjoyable.