Enjoy Brentwood More visits the 'magical' Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:03 29 October 2018
I've always said that if I wasn't a writer, I would have worked with animals.
Every chance I get to spend time with any animal - whether it’s a friend’s pet or seeing lions at the zoo - I grab it with both hands.
If there’s ever a cute dog on the train, I’ll even manoeuvre myself to get on the same carriage just so I can be that little bit closer to it - and don’t worry, I’m already aware that’s kind of strange.
I am a self-confessed animal lover after all.
So when I was given the chance to spend the day volunteering at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, it’s fair to say that I jumped at the chance.
On my arrival, I was greeted by member of staff Hannah Marco who was going to be my guide throughout the day, showing me exactly what’s what when it comes to taking care of the 500 abused, neglected and unwanted animals that come to live at Hopefield.
Our first stop of the day was to the cow field.
Bread is said to be good for their digestive system so before visiting, me and Hannah went to collect piles of bread which had been donated by Sainsbury’s in Hornchurch from one of the storage rooms.
When we got there, it is by no means an exaggeration that the sanctuary’s cow Jude must be the biggest one I’ve seen in real life - and definitely the greediest.
Despite accidentally hitting a few of them in the head with bread rolls, they all seemed pretty happy with their breakfast having left with an empty wheelbarrow and hands covered in slobber.
We then went on to see the goats and while Hannah had to give one of them his medication, I had the task of distracting the others with even more bread, with one persistent goat called Dec stalking me around the field.
We paid a visit to their next door neighbours the alpacas as well where I fed William, who apparently gets offended if you look him in the eye.
So as I was holding his bucket of food and trying my hardest to avoid eye contact, Hannah tells me she used to work at Colchester Zoo before coming to Hopefield.
She said: “It was great there but because this place is smaller, you can make a real difference.
“If you didn’t love the animals you wouldn’t work here as it is hard but it’s worth it - it’s magical.”
And she wasn’t wrong.
After just a few hours of pushing a wheelbarrow around full of hay and feeding some of the animals, I was already starting to get tired which just goes to show how fit everyone here must be to do it day in day out.
Next up though was a slightly easier task - walking a ferret.
I didn’t have a clue that you could actually walk a ferret but as soon as Hannah placed the camouflage harness on my new furry friend Nobby, he was off, pulling me anywhere he wanted to go, obviously excited to be out exploring.
This cute relaxing moment however wasn’t to last long though as I was sent on my next task: the rabbits.
If you told me at the beginning of the day that cleaning out and giving the rabbits’ homes new hay would be the most tiring task, I would have thought you’ve gone mad.
But after shovelling hay into my trusty friend the wheelbarrow, desperately trying not to drop any on the floor while moving adorable yet irritating rabbits out of the way as they bounced around my feet, this was by far the most difficult/cutest challenge of the day.
Disposing of the dirty hay was also a mission in itself as I had to take a running start to get up this hill entirely made of hay - once again holding on to the wheelbarrow for dear life - before reaching the top and unloading its content.
I had to make this trip at least five times.
By the end of it all, I was exhausted and the day after, muscles I never knew could ache were doing nothing but.
But despite all the sweat and tiredness I felt afterwards, Hannah was right in saying that Hopefield is a magical place with hundreds of animals being given the care they need by the hard working staff and volunteers.
Visiting numbers are lower during the winter months but the sanctuary continually needs help from visitors in order to keep it up and running so if you can do one thing before the end of year, make a trip to Hopefield.
I promise it’s worth it.
For more information, visit hopefield.org.uk