Amanda Ball's Shropshire Home
PUBLISHED: 20:56 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013
Amanda Ball's first donkey ride ended in a fall. But it left her with a love for the animals that has consumed her life. Sue Corfield visited the sanctuary she has set up at her Shropshire home
When Amanda Ball was notified about the plight of four French donkeys destined for the slaughterhouses of Italy she didn't hesitate, she sprung into action and set the ball rolling in an effort to raise the 2,000 needed to bring the donkeys over from France to her safe haven in Shropshire.
A week later and the donkeys' fate was secured thanks to the generosity of Shropshire people who had donated the necessary funds.
These neglected donkeys have joined others already taken in and rehabilitated by Amanda at the Shropshire Donkey Rescue at Billingsley close to Bridgnorth.
The eight acre rescue centre is actually the family home which nestles into the hillside and provides ideal accommodation for the rescued donkeys, with purpose-built shelters, hard-standing, stables and paddocks.
Amanda's passion has ultimately involved the entire family, with mother Sue taking on additional child care duties of Amanda's son, 21-month-old Thomas; sister Melanie handling administration and with all thoughts of a garden discarded as all potential grazing is turned over to the donkeys.
For 29-year-old Amanda, what started as a hobby has become an all-consuming passion with donkeys young and old taking up her entire day, every day, It was over 20 years ago when Amanda's love for donkeys was ignited. She was seven-years-old and did what lots of other children do on holiday - made straight for the donkeys on the beach. She reminisces: "I was so precocious at that age. I think I was having riding lessons at home and saw the donkeys as a very easy number. I remember telling the man handling the donkeys that it was okay for me to ride on my own because I rode ponies. He must have thought I was stuck up because he smacked the donkey I was riding on the rear, it bucked and I landed thump on the sand. I got what I deserved that day and my brothers never let me live it down. It was mortifying and I have always felt sorry for beach donkeys ever since."
Several years later Amanda encountered more beach donkeys on holiday and was horrified to see a huge lady astride a very small donkey. "I couldn't believe that the handler would allow his donkey to carry such a large load. I couldn't hold back. I went up and said: 'Isn't it time you got off and let the donkey have a go?' "
The arrival of her first donkey, Jack, a chocolate brown ball of fun followed shortly afterwards. Amanda says: "I'd always been mad about donkeys but my parents tried to fob me off with stuffed toys or Buckaroo until finally they gave in and Jack came into my life. We'd always taken in rescue animals. I was 17 when I brought Bonny, the pony, home. I reassured my parents that she would only be staying for a few weeks while I schooled her on. Some 12 years later and she's still here."
Last year saw the formal launch of Shropshire Donkey Rescue a not-for-profit organisation and with it came more unwanted and neglected donkeys. There is Roony, an unwanted and neglected former pet. Mike, a donkey who lived wild in the New Forest for 13 years until he was rounded up and sent for slaughter, Tiny Tim a donkey foal, initially very timid but now mellow and confident and his mother, Ruby, who was terrified of ropes and sticks for obvious reasons.
One-eyed Jack, a 14-month-old was rescued from a patch of waste ground in Coventry following a call from a concerned passer-by. When Amanda went to rescue him, she found Jack had lost an eye, had overgrown hooves and matted fur, was infested with lice and worms and was severely malnourished. It cost almost 2,000 in vet's bills to bring Jack back to health.
Already the Shropshire Donkey Rescue has established itself within the community with growing numbers of local people helping to raise vital funds to keep the rescue going. Now, the rescue is taking the donkeys out to meet elderly people in nursing homes and terminally ill children in local hospices. The donkeys are available for children's birthday parties, school fetes and other celebrations.
Amanda has lots of ideas for the centre. She said: "I'd like to expand the area to include a visitor centre where disabled youngsters can visit, perhaps with an education centre and facilities which will enable the donkeys to touch more lives. I have seen first hand how children can benefit from a connection with animals."
For now, the future of the French Four is secure, they, like many others at the Shropshire Donkey Rescue, have found a safe haven thanks to the energy and commitment of a dedicated young woman who refused to give up on them and fought to bring their plight to the notice of kind-hearted Shropshire people who responded with donations.
For more information about the work of Shropshire Donkey Rescue visit www.shropshiredonkeyrescue.co.uk