Alexandra's Animals: doing battle with the weather

PUBLISHED: 16:02 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:43 20 February 2013

Alexandra's Animals: doing battle with the weather

Alexandra's Animals: doing battle with the weather

Alexandra Bastedo, actress and custodian of the ABC Animal Sanctuary recalls rainy Open Days

Well, we survived just and no thanks to the eccentricity of the English weather. The forecast had been appalling all week but with so much work already done by our volunteers at the animal sanctuary for our June Open Days we decided to go ahead anyway.

This meant clearing out our hay barn and turning it into a hall festooned with bunting, and setting up the rest of the stalls in the lee of the barn instead of the open field. On the first day the wind gusted up to 50 mph, ripped a hole in one heavy weather marquee and lifted another heavy gazebo from its tethers altogether. Four volunteers clung on to it until it could be dismantled.

On the Saturday we were all there but would anyone else come? That was our main preoccupation and with our hearts in our mouths we were relieved when a steady trickle of people appeared at 11am and indeed continued until we started to get the animals in at 4 oclock.

What was there to do? Apart from the interesting stalls there was the talented Bastedo Band, Jeff Funnell at the piano, Franck Le Prince on the violin and an interview with Caroline Munro who told us about her time with Roger Moore starring in the Bond Film The Spy who Loved Me. She is still very attractive, and what a fascinating life she has had. Apart from that there was plenty for the children to do, from watching the pigs being fed, mini Shetland pony races, equines to groom, pygmy goats to pet and cats to cuddle. Then there was Thomas the Tank Engine, face painting, hook a duck, candy floss and animal quizzes. Most of all, they were mesmerised by Captain Jack Sparrow, Xena, Warrior Princess, Darth Vader and the Star Wars and Top Gun characters who had an entourage of children wherever they went.

There were home-barbecued burgers, vegetarian pasties, and Chinese noodles, not to mention a plethora of delicious cakes there was excellent adult fare as well which we all enjoyed. However at the end of that wind-battered Saturday all the volunteers were exhausted.

On the Sunday for the Outdoor Blessing of the Animals, conducted by the Reverend David Beal, the wind dropped and the sun came out. Animal poems were read by Virginia McKenna, Peter Egan, Lorraine Chase, Liza Goddard, Sue Jameson and me while the girl singers led by Alex Watson sang Amazing Grace and joined in the other hymns. With some of the poorly animals like Phoebe, the old donkey, Nutmeg the one-eyed pony, our diabetic Shetlands, and Bluebell the arthritic Clydesdale horse in attendance the service moved me to tears.

Lorraine Chase took advantage of the reflexology couch and Sue Jameson had her palm read by an expert palmist while a number of people bought signed copies of Simon Edens new book Animalian. There was something for everyone.

The good news is that we rehomed several cats and we raised the same amount as last year 10,000 before expenses, which considering the economic climate and the bad weather was a relief as there are still expensive vets bills to pay and hay to bring in for the winter, not to mention all the other animal feeds.

The bills for the animals keep coming, so we will be having two more Open Days on 26 and 27 August the Sunday and Monday Bank Holiday. Most of the same people have already said they will be coming, so all we will need is good weather is that too much to ask?!

For information about becoming an ABC Friend, adopting or sponsoring animals or volunteering, or about the Open Days please visit our website
Telephone: 01798 812508 or 01798 812081.
Address: Juggs Lane, West Chiltington
RH20 2JS.

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