West Dorset volunteers lend a helping hand at The Donkey Sanctuary


A group of people from West Dorset helped the international animal welfare charity repair several of its antique woodland.

Volunteers and staff from The Donkey Sanctuary as well as the people from EuCAN or  European Conservation Action Network joined together on a project in East Devon near its international headquarters to develop the 90-acre antique semi-natural woodland’s biodiversity.

The volunteers took the time to clear rhododendron plants in Paccombe woods of East Devon, and the move helped in vacating some portions of the woodland permitting native fauna and flora to bloom.

At The Donkey’s East Axnoller Farm near Beaminster, people have also been busy since they helped clearing intrusive Himalayan balsam and rebuilt convenient habitats for water voles at two ponds.

Conservation officer at the sanctuary, Rob Johns, said: “Rhodedenron is a dominant and dense plant that often out-competes the native species. Removing it manually is physically demanding, but eliminates the risk of damage to native trees, ground flora and soil structure that heavy machinery can cause.”

Treasurer for EuCAN’s Dorset mid-weekers, Mike Durham, said: “The denser part of the area was more like the Amazonian rain forest, but our volunteers liked getting stuck in.”

Dave Searle, EuCAN’s team leader, says: “The plan at Paccombe, is to clear the non-native rhododendron to reopen the natural woodland floor, while at the Axnoller site, we’ve been felling and clearing around two large ponds to encourage the local water vole population to recover.”

In Devon and Dorset, The Donkey Sanctuary holds more than 1,200 acres of land. This offers the resident donkeys haylage for the winter season and summer grazing grass, including advocating semi-natural dwelling and wildlife.

The Donkey Sanctuary is continually looking for ways and means to combine the benefit and health of the donkeys, and also with the natural environment and the people. The sanctuary helps to enhance the resident donkeys’ life, protect the longevity of the wildlife and provide people with the chance to connect with donkeys and with nature in general

Mr Johns also said: “We are really grateful to our volunteers who help us with our conservation projects. It is through their hard work and enthusiasm which makes improvements to our sites possible.”