Where Donkeys Can Be Giants
Planting 'Chapel' at Manor Farm Charitable Trust
George is a huge donkey, and when I say huge, I mean MASSIVE! He’s from the Baudet de Poitou breed and carries an impressive rug of hair.
He’s also partial to thistles. Who knew that donkeys and ponies love thistles? Everyone but me it seems! So where better to plant ‘Chapel’ than by digging up some juicy (I’d say dangerously prickly) thistles for the donkeys at Manor Farm Charitable Trust, run by Di Slaney of Candlestick Press.
There’s a special kind of joy in visiting the ailing animals this hillside sanctuary cares for. I was cuddled by elderly sheep and hobbling goats. I watched as a newly blind mallard found her way around the barn by following two Indian runners, one of whom had such severe spinal damage from aggressive mating that she manoeuvres in a tricksy combination of upright wave and plopping down, only to rise again.
This place is like the best retirement home ever. Quality of life for these wonky animals is preciously guarded. They are lovingly served just what they like whether that’s porridge with fresh strawberry and banana from a particular spoon or exactly the right brand of oaty biscuit. The team personalise dishes so as to coax each animal to take their medicines — all from Di’s kitchen, where there is a frankly intimidating wall of organised meds and food. But for thistles, we foraged in the meadow area.
It was my pleasure to dig their prickly, fleshy bodies up for Charlie and the other ponies in the top field. All so that I could plant a poem and sow some seeds. For Manor Farm and for DIRT, tender and idealistic as it sounds, we believe in giving back to nature more than we take.
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There are also videos of George, Hugo and Buttons eating thistle treats, and me crooning about the ‘our soft parts’, all on our new DIRT Instagram.
Manor Farm Charitable Trust are running a poetry competition at the moment, closing date 30th April 2023, so if you have animal poems please send them in for a chance to be published in the upcoming Candlestick Poetry’s Ten Poems about Wonky Animals.
Keep Planting Poems! I hope you’re enjoying planting your copies of ‘Chapel’ in interesting places. I know of one copy planted as far away as southern Spain and another in China. Maybe you’ve planted yours somewhere closer to home? Do let us know, we love hearing from you.
The chapel at Manor Farm behind which our ‘Chapel’ poem will flower next year.