Giant Derrick the donkey 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.
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.
"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..
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 was still growing.
The world record holder at the time was a fully grown Texan called Romulas at 17 hands high.
His mum, Miss Ellie, had also caused a stir when Radcliffe Donkey 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.
“We knew Derrick was going to be big so we had ‘Ellie Vision’ installed so we could watch her,” 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 - he’s had only the best food, 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.
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.."
They are not alone as each year hundreds of visitors head to the sanctuary to also give their support.
The Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary was opened in 1999 by Tracy and Steve Garton and is a non-profit making organisation, existing purely on donations by members of the public and fund-raising efforts by the helpers.
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 support 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 AND DONATIONS
You'll find Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary in Church Lane, Huttoft (LN139RB).
Gates opened at 10.30am every weekend and through the six weeks summer holidays.
Booking is not essential but visitors are asked to make a minimum £1 donation towards the upkeep of the donkeys. Dogs on leads are also welcome. There is a picnic area and McDonkey’s Diner serves refreshments.
As well as supporting the sanctuary by visiting the donkeys, there are other ways to help.
Donations for supplies can be made directly to Buckets of Louth on 01507 607787.
People can also consider Adopting a Donkey, which also makes a unique gift.
For more details visit the website at www.radcliffedonkeysanctuary.co.uk.
Alternatively call Tracey on 07940146330