A visit to Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell

I love driving from Didcot to Wallingford and looking out for the Island Farm donkeys in their paddocks. If you’ve never popped in for a visit why not make the short detour next time you go past?

After you’ve parked take some time to read the information boards in the car park. These provide general details about donkeys along with pictures and potted histories of some of the residents. Afterwards pop into the Reception building to pick up a map of the grounds.

Information boards at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary
Information boards at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

History of the sanctuary

The sanctuary has its origins in the 1980s, initially as a home for a few donkeys rescued from horse sales. This progressed until 2000 when the sanctuary was registered with the Charity Commission and Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary became official. There are now over 120 residents at the sanctuary plus others who live at foster homes. Many of these have been neglected or given up by owners no longer able to care them. If you ever consider getting a donkey be aware they can live up to 50 years old!

Island Farm Donkey SanctuaryIsland Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Prior to this year my last visit to the sanctuary was about 10 years ago. Although the donkeys have always been well looked after some of the buildings on my previous visit were a bit tatty. A lot has changed in the intervening years. There’s now a new stable block, large concrete yard and a donkey hospital, built with the help of donations, volunteers and donkey adoptions.

New stables at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary
New stables at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Visiting the donkeys

Visitors are signposted on a one way walk around the paddocks. Although I often think of donkeys having a generic look it was amazing to see how many different shapes, sizes and colours they come in. Even spotty ones!

It was lovely to stop and watch the donkeys. Some were rolling in the dust, a couple cantered around after each other and one was behaving, um, amorously! It was funny, and incredibly noisy, when one of the donkeys started braying and others joined in from across the fields.

Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary
Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Many of the donkeys come up to the fence for a stroke. I think they’re probably looking for food but visitors aren’t allowed to feed them. This is because they are often on special diets, plus it may encourage some to bite visitors. However the sanctuary is always pleased to accept donations of carrots, apples or swede; these are mixed in with their regular meals and shared across donkeys.

Goat at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary
Goat at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Remember to visit the walkway beside the front paddocks too. These are the ones you can see when driving past. They’re also the only ones that dogs on leads can visit.

Back in the main yard area, and aside from the donkeys, several goats and noisy geese, you’ll also find a cafe, small visitor centre and gift shop, with lots of donkey themed merchandise. If you visit all of these I’d suggest a visit length of 1-2 hours.

Paddock at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary
Paddock at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Can you help?

As mentioned, Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary doesn’t receive any public funding. It is reliant on donations from the public, either in the boxes onsite or through other fundraising schemes. A popular option is to adopt a donkey for £25 per year; there are several to choose from and assuming you live close by it’s easy to visit them. Alternatively, the sanctuary welcomes volunteers; do get in touch with them if you can help in the shop, the yard or with fundraising activities.

Have you visited Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary? If so, do leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Exit through the gift shop
Exit through the gift shop

More information

Address: Old Didcot Rd, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Wallingford OX10 0SW.

Opening times: open every day except Christmas Day from 11am-1pm and 2-4pm. There is no entrance charge but please leave a donation if you can.

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