Donkeying Around – Meet our Island Donkeys

The Isle of Wight is a great place for donkeying around with lots of four legged local residents who you can come and meet.

Voted ‘Best Place to Meet A Furry Friend’ at the My Isle of Wight awards 2016, the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary has had a big upgrade recently and is still completely FREE to visit. Plus there’s a small herd of lovely donkeys to meet at Carisbrooke Castle, who have a really important job to do.

Royal Donkeys

At Carisbrooke Castle they have a stable of donkeys that are there to ‘walk the wheel’ in the well wheel house, to bring the bucket of water up from the 150 foot well.

Walking the 16th century wheel is not difficult for the little donkeys who happily (mostly!) enter the huge wooden wheel and begin to walk. Gradually the bucket comes into view as it rises from the murky depths below. Those donkeys on duty are in the stables to the side of the wheelhouse if you want to meet them. The others are happily grazing in nearby fields until it’s their turn to walk the wheel.

All of the donkeys have names beginning with ‘J’. This tradition was started when Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke because when he wrote letters, or was planning his escape route, he always signed his letters with a ‘J’. So, for 150 years all the donkeys at the castle have had a name beginning with ‘J’.

Herds of Donkeys

There were 91 donkeys to see at the Donkey Sanctuary when we visited, plus retired ponies and horses, and the sanctuary has over 60 acres of grasslands to house them. There’s a huge free car park too, although you’re encouraged to give a donation at the little hut you encounter on your way as you walk into the farm. The volunteer/s there will tell you all about the donkeys, horses, Shetland ponies and even sheep and lambs that may be there in the Spring. And they will supply you with a small guide and map. So keep a few coins to drop in the bucket if you can.

Then you are free to roam wherever you want, with brand new fenced pathways leading you around the paddocks and information boards telling you exactly who is in each field. Each donkey has a colour coded collar with their name – red for boys and yellow for girls.

Close to the farmhouse are Frosty and Coffee, a couple of donkeys who like to be together. Next to them are a mother donkey and her baby – the mum came in as a rescue and was discovered to be pregnant. A week later she gave birth to the pretty donkey that now shares her life.

Further around the farm you will encounter all of the other animals. Donkeys fill the paddocks on either side of the driveway into the farm and there are now new pathways to the outlying fields. Plus there are handy benches dotted around the farm for donkey watching.

In the farm courtyard are ‘Dillon’s’ café and shop, named after the very first donkey. It now has a large white clearspan tent outside that serves as an overspill to the café. You can get light meals, along with teas, coffees and soft drinks with lovely homemade cakes and scones. Plus there’s a donkey gift shop where you can get loads of really top grade donkey-themed merchandise.

Next door is ‘Doris’s Department Store’ named after another donkey, full of reasonably priced bric a brac and books donated by supporters of the Donkey Sanctuary. In both of these buildings you can ask for an adoption pack to Adopt A Donkey and see who is up for adoption.

Adopting a Donkey is the way that the Donkey Sanctuary make money to look after these donkeys so it’s really important. For a very small annual fee you get to adopt one of the donkeys here and in return you get an ‘adoption pack’ (which makes a lovely gift) and includes a certificate, a picture of your donkey and twice yearly newsletters, which you can opt to have delivered for you via email in high-resolution.

Donkey adoption is a great thing for families, as the kids can come back and see their donkey as they grow – donkeys can live for up to 50 years so they might even be bringing back their own families! Plus it’s a great thing to do if you’re a young married couple – one day you’ll bring your own children to meet the donkey you both adopted before they were born. Romantic eh?

Jo Macaulay

1 May 2017

By Jo Macaulay in Articles