Giant Derrick is big softy for his mum

One of the largest donkeys in the world nuzzles in close to a sanctuary volunteer after enjoying the attention of a small crowd of onlookers.

There are more than 40 donkeys, five horses, two zeedonks, a few mules and some chickens and ducks at the sanctuary.

It's been a quiet winter for nine-year-old Derrick - but today he is looking especially subdued.

In an adjoining paddock are two donkeys resting in the sunshine away from the buzz of the visitors - and one of them is Derrick's mum, Miss Ellie.

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"Derrick won't leave her far - she hasn't been well and we have had to have the vet for her," explained Ross Clarke, who has been a volunteer at Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary in Huttoft for eight years..

Volunteers have a variety of roles, including general maintenance

There was great excitement in 2019 when Derrick - an American Mammoth Jackstock donkey - was reported to have reached 5ft 7ins tall (16.36 hands high) and still growing.

The world record holder at the time was a fully grown Texan called Romulas at 17 hands high.

Derrick’s mum, Miss Ellie, had also caused a stir when the sanctuary rescued her in 2012 because no-one had seen a donkey as tall as a Shire Horse before.

She quickly took a liking to a donkey called Louis and, as a result, Derrick was born.

The donkeys are always pleased to welcome visitors, who are vital to the sanctuary's existence.

“We knew Derrick was going to be big,” said Ross. “He was born in the stable behind where we cut the carrots which are the donkeys’ favourite treat.

“He’s always loved them and has never wanted for anything, which has probably helped him grow so big.”

Derrick ended up just one-inch short of the world record - but along with the rest of the residents he is still a massive attraction at the sanctuary.

The beginning of the visitor season is a tough time for any animal sanctuary dependent on income from donations.

The sanctuary was grateful to receive a cheque for £476 from the 50+ Fitness group from Mablethorpe.

Supplies alone including haylage cost £300 a week - and there is the added pressure when faced with vet bills.

Today is a good day, though, as the sanctuary has opened specially for the presentation of a cheque for £476 from the 50+ Fitness group from Mablethorpe.

"We raised the money with raffles and chose the sanctuary because it is local and needs it," explained one of the members, Lynne Hughes. "We all love the donkeys.."

Fortunately, they are not alone as each year hundreds of visitors head to the sanctuary to also give their support.

Derrick the donkey with volunteer Ross Clarke at Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary in HGuttoft..

The Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary was opened in 1999 by Tracy and Steve Garton and is a non-profit making organisation.

Many of the donkeys at the sanctuary have been rescued from cruelty and the sanctuary enables them to enjoy their remaining years comfortably.

With more than 40 donkeys, five horses, two zeedonks, a few mules and some chickens and ducks there is plenty to see - and after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on visitor numbers the sanctuary is relying on donations more than ever.

"We are all really looking forward to welcoming visitors and would like to thank our supporters who have kept us going through the winter," added Ross. "We are more than ever in need of their kindness and support - we couldn't do without them."

OPENING TIMES

You'll find Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary in Church Lane, Huttoft (LN139RB).

A sick donkey rests in the sunshine.

Gates opened at 10.30am every weekend and through the six weeks summer holidays.

For details visit www.radcliffedonkeysanctuary.co.uk.

Derrick - one of the largest donkeys in the world.
Derrick's mum Miss Ellie has been sick which means more vets bills for the sanctuary.