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Hopefield Animal Sanctuary: In crisis

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 January 2016

Horses from the sanctuary

Horses from the sanctuary


The animal sanctuary in Essex Hopefield Animal Sanctuary looks after mistreated animals but the sanctuary is in need itself

In 2014, the RSPCA answered 29,770 call-outs to abandoned animals – an increase of 33% compared to 2009. Many of these animals end up in re-homing centres and sanctuaries, totally dependent on the care and love of charitable people who do their utmost to secure a peaceful and safe life for the animals in their care.

One sanctuary that takes its fair share of abandoned animals is Hopefield Animal Sanctuary based in Brentwood. The sanctuary was founded by Ernie and Paula Clark in 1983, prompted by the suffering of horses and ponies on Rainham Marshes deserted by their owners.

In one of the coldest winters on record, several horses had perished and the remaining animals were starving and without water. Paula, who was already an active fundraiser for animal sanctuaries, read about their plight and persuaded her husband, Ernie, to help her do something. Armed with tanks of water, straw and feed, they headed to the marshes to save as many as they could. They both set about raising money to buy the ponies and re-home them in sanctuaries.

They then put out a plea for some land and a lady came forward with half an acre so that Paula and Ernie started their dream of fostering ponies and nursing them back to health before finding them good homes. Sadly, they later discovered that the first horse they re-homed had been sold, but — following an expensive court case — they got the horse back and vowed never to re-home the animals again. Any animal coming to them would have a safe home for life.

Horses from the sanctuary feeding Horses from the sanctuary feeding

As Hopefield grew, they needed more space. The two also gave up their jobs to care for the animals full time. They found a base in Langdon Hills, where they stayed for three years, but, when they outgrew that, another plea for help led them to where they are now.

The two worked tirelessly for the welfare of the animals coming to Hopefield, work for which they were both recognised with an MBE. Sadly, Paula passed away in 2009 and Ernie died in 2011, but Hopefield and their legacy live on.

Today the sanctuary is home to almost 400 animals, which include horses, donkeys, goats, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens and cats. The visitor centre now houses reptiles too, including a snake, iguanas and bearded dragons. Hopefield is a small charity and relies completely on donations along with the hard work of dedicated volunteers to keep going.

Lianne Angliss has been working at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary for ten years and has seen the recession take its toll.

Please support Please support

‘Animals come to us by many different means,’ says Lianne. ‘Some people get in touch with us directly to say that they are no longer able to financially care for their pets. Others are left literally on the doorstep and we accept some that have been handed in to the vet. We run an adoption scheme which is £15 per animal for the year and is an ideal way for the public to support us and contribute towards the care of an animal which, of course, they can come and visit whenever they like.’

Lianne estimates there to be in the region of 50 volunteers who help right across the board, from the physical daily care of the animals to helping with fundraising events. Fundraising is vital to ensuring the future that Hopefield provides for the animals that are in desperate need of a safe haven for life, where they are given medical care, kindness and a life free from abuse and neglect.

‘We run events throughout the year and we are also fortunate to have Leonna Lewis as one of our patrons. When she’s not busy with recording and performing, she is happy to get involved and offer her support, which is great for us,’ adds Lianne.

Leona’s words on the website sum up her commitment. She comments: ‘My mission at Hopefield is to make sure these animals can continue to live here, that they can live comfortably and safely, that we can build Hopefield into a sanctuary that will educate people on animal welfare and continue to save more animals in need.’

The Hopefield Animal Sanctuary adoption certificate The Hopefield Animal Sanctuary adoption certificate

Another patron is famous actor and animal lover Brian Blessed, who is well known for raising awareness for animals in need.

Among some major projects in the pipeline are an education centre and a designated exotic mammal centre, but while the volunteers hope that the future is secure, Lianne recognises that the sanctuary’s prospects are a little uncertain.

‘The land we are on at the moment is constantly under threat and has been for many years. The land is not up for sale to us. However, it would be nice to have a certain future and security,’ says Lianne. ‘We are working with Tesco, the landowners and the council to find a solution.’

Whatever the future, the more people who visit the sanctuary, the better. Hopefield makes the perfect family outing, with an opportunity for children to view the animals and learn about their needs and care. There are also opportunities to adopt the animals and animal experiences, such as Pony Mornings (available from spring), which make a great hands-on gift for the horse-mad child.

Find out more

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, CM15 9BZ

The public can visit the sanctuary daily from 1pm to 4pm. Those wanting to make a donation or adopt one of the animals at Hopefield can do so via the website or by calling the sanctuary directly on 01277 201110

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