A fresh start for the Freshfields donkeys

John Stirling, who ran the Freshfields Donkey Sanctuary.
John Stirling, who ran the Freshfields Donkey Sanctuary.

The owners of a Peak donkey sanctuary which closed last year have successfully moved the animals to a charity which helps vulnerable adults and children.

Freshfields Donkey Village, which was based in Peak Forest, closed on September 6, 2014 after its founders John and Annie Stirling retired.

Part of the Michael Elliot Trust charity, which was founded in 1991, the facility provided a home for hundreds of abused, neglected or abandoned donkeys.

It also gave disabled children the unique opportunity to adopt the animals.

Over the years, thousands of youngsters benefited from the experiences of grooming, feeding and making friends with the loving creatures.

Following the closure of Freshfields Donkey Village, the animals have now been transferred to the Flicka Foundation in Cornwall where they will continue to benefit children and adults with special needs.

Mr Stirling, of High Lane, said: “Annie and I reached the ages of 70 and took the difficult decision to retire, which resulted in the sad closure of Freshfields Donkey Village.

“We were unable to face another harsh winter in this remote part of the Peak District.

“The Flicka Foundation phoned me and I visited them to find out more about the wonderful work they do and we decided that they should care for the donkeys.

“The Flicka Foundation mirrors the work of the Freshfields Donkey Village in rescuing neglected and abused animals while helping disadvantaged children and adults.”

Mr Stirling said the 36 donkeys were moved over the period of a month.

He added: “It was a very successful move.

“The donkeys are very happy in their new home and they’re benefiting lots of children and adults with special needs.

“What we were doing up here is still being done down there.

“As they say, all’s well that ends well.”

Mr Stirling said £500,000 of donations for Freshfields Donkey Village were also transferred to the Flicka Foundation in a much-needed boost.

And celebrities including June Brown, Dame Judi Dench and Martin Shaw – who were patrons of the Freshfields Donkey Village – have now pledged their support for the Flicka Foundation.

For more information about the Flicka Foundation, visit www.flickafoundation.org.uk.