Mr. Crusty 1991 – 2017

It is with extreme sadness that we have to announce that despite the successful removal of the growth on his leg Mr. Crusty did not recover from the anaesthetic and passed away peacefully. As many of you know this was Mr. Crusty’s third operation to remove a growth on his left front leg but despite a concerted effort by the veterinary surgeon, his nurse and the assisting sanctuary staff he did not regain consciousness.

He was such a gentle and kind soul and he will be in donkey heaven with all our other donkeys and Billie the goat. We are all sad beyond words and you can imagine that the mood at Island Farm is very sombre at this time. Mr Crusty lived at Island Farm for 23 years coming here when he was 3 years old so he is very much missed by us all. Monty, his friend, is being given special care at the moment and we will make sure he has another friend when he is ready. We did all we could for Mr Crusty and will miss him deeply.

Mr Crusty 1991 - 2017
Mr Crusty 1991 – 2017

Mr Crusty 2

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


Christmas Shopping

When you go down to the shops today you might be in for a surprise, at least if you shop at certain supermarkets near Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary.

Some Iasland Farm donkeys outside Tesco's Abingdon store.
Some Island Farm donkeys outside Tesco’s Abingdon store.

We’re pleased to be able to bring a couple of donkeys to meet Christmas shoppers at super stores in South Oxfordshire. Here we are in Abingdon. Just a few days ago we visited the Tesco store in Didcot. All contributions including the proceeds from sales of Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary products help to keep the rescued donkeys safe, healthy and happy.

Here’s a huge thank-you to everyone who has helped us or just paused to say hello to the donkeys.

Donkeys at the National Pet Show, Birmingham

Some of our donkeys will be at the National Pet Show in Birmingham this weekend. The event takes place at the NEC Birmingham this weekend, 7-8 November 2015. There is a huge variety of animals here including dogs, cats, alpacas, rabbits and, of course, some very special donkeys.  There will be talks by experts in different types of animals, even crocodiles! Other attractions include rabbit show jumping and duck herding.

Island Farm Donkeys
Island Farm Donkeys

With well over 100 donkeys living at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary at the moment, only a few representatives travel to any one event. This time our little group includes Monty, Chocolate (who is an adoption donkey, by the way), Charlie (you can also adopt Charlie) and Charlie ‘North’.

When they aren’t busy eating the donkeys take an interest in what is going on.

"What's going on over there?"
“What’s happening over there? … Looks interesting …”

IFDS Donkeys at the Royal Berkshire Show

A big busy county show is a great day out even if you’re not competing.

Did you know that some of our donkeys have won awards at shows up and down the country ?

Monty and Mr Crusty at the Royal Berkshire Show
Monty and Mr Crusty at the Royal Berkshire Show

This weekend, 19th-20th September, some of the Island Farm donkeys (and people) are at the Royal Berkshire Show at Newbury Showground. Show opening times are 8am to 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday. If you’re in the area please do come along to our stand where you can meet donkeys Monty and Mr Crusty. We’ll also be glad to talk about our work at the sanctuary and accept any donations – large or small. We are looking forward to meeting new and existing supporters during the weekend.

Now that we’ve had time to settle in here are a few photos of Monty and Mr. Crusty making themselves ‘at home’

Remembering those commemorated on our Memorial Wall

At 7.30pm on Thursday 10th September a short memorial service was held for all commemorated on our Memorial Walls.

The service, which was led by Rev Janice Chilton was much appreciated by everyone. There will be another service in September in 2016. We will be making this remembrance an annual event.

Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary Memorial Wall Service, September 2015
Poster invitation to the short Memorial Service here on Thurs. 10th Sept 2015

Visitors to Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary (IFDS) will be familiar with the memorial wall opposite the barn on the left-hand side when walking towards the yard. The metal plaques commemorate much-loved friends, including pets and other animals, who have passed from physical life but live on in the affections of those who knew them. Friends and supporters of the sanctuary have had these plaques added to the wall both as a lasting tribute to their loved ones and to support the donkeys via payment for inclusion here. In addition to maintaining the memorial wall itself, IFDS holds regular short services that take place about once a year.

If you are interested in purchasing a plaque to commemorate a friend, relative or pet (minimum donation £100) you can download an application form or e-mail us at with details of your request. Alternatively, and if you have any further questions about this, you can call the sanctuary on 01491 833938.

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.

In Hand & Ridden Pony Show, 7th June 2015

An In-Hand and Ridden Pony Show took place at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary on Sunday 7th June. Competitors and visitors were greeting by clear blue skies and pleasant weather in addition to the warm welcome from the staff and volunteers and donkeys here at the sanctuary.

Jason Light with 'Bonnie Boy' winning of Reserve Supreme Champion
Jason Light with ‘Bonnie Boy’ winner of Reserve Supreme Champion on 7th June 2015

Many beautifully turned-out ponies competed for rosettes in 40 different classes held in 3 show rings. Some of the classes at this event included:

Best Condition & turnout (ridden), Family pony (ridden), Shetland pony classes, Welsh pony classes, Exmoor / Dartmoor pony classes, Dales / Fell / New Forest/ Highland / Connemara pony classes, Coloured / Piebald / Skewbald ponies, a class for Roans, Duns, Palomino, Appaloosa ponies, Prettiest mare, and even a “Thelwell Pony” class.

Below are a couple more photographs from this Pony Show at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary.

Above, Catherine Keogh with ‘Rosy’ winning second in the Veteran class

Above, Right: Gavina Semonella on ‘Burnside Larra’, winner of the Supreme Championship