Alexandra's Animals

This month Alexandra Bastedo, actress and custodian of the ABC Animal Sanctuary near Pulborough, tells us what her work with her band of waifs and strays entails...

Alexandra’s Animals

This month Alexandra Bastedo, actress and custodian of the ABC Animal Sanctuary near Pulborough, tells us what her work with her band of waifs and strays entails.

What a transformation: Gretel the donkey when she arrived at the sanctuary and, above, as she is today

When people write to me for advice on setting up an animal sanctuary I suggest that they volunteer for a week to get a true understanding of all the hard work that it entails.

It was never my intention to run an animal sanctuary, but as the requests came in so the volume of animals grew. At the beginning I didn’t even know the difference between hay and straw (hay is eaten, straw is for bedding) and had absolute nightmares before the arrival of Henry, our first donkey – how would I ever be able to cope with something that big?Since we moved to West Chiltington, to a property with more land, the sanctuary has been filled to capacity with rescued cats, birds, goats, pigs, donkeys, Shetland ponies and horses. We try to rehome but often the animal that people don’t want have problems or are too old so they become permanent residents. It is a long time since I was able to cope on my own and it was necessary to become a charity in order to fund the sanctuary.

We now have an average of 55 volunteers a week helping.  So what does it entail? The day starts at 7am with the alarm going off and one or four Persian cats landing on the bed.

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Then I head outside, whatever the weather, to be met by one of the supervisors. Together we do the early morning round, which unfortunately isn’t that simple – some of the animals eat hay, some eat haylage, and the older equines need herbal supplements and extra oils in their feed. At this time of year there are fly sprays and fly fringes to be added to stop them being plagued by insects. The cats, from kittens to geriatrics, require different diets. Then there are the goats, pigs and birds to feed, all with their separate menus. We finish around 10 when the rest of the volunteers arrive to clean the fields, pens and catteries and to groom the animals and help with repairs.

The coffee break is around 11.30, during which time I return phone calls and then I am usually off to the feed merchants to pick up something that is not on the weekly order.

Around 4pm the animals are clamouring to come back in for the night for their last feed. You cannot forget anybody – they won’t let you as the cacophony of sound is too great! Hopefully I am back by 6pm if there have not been any extras like a veterinary visit or indeed “farrier’s day” which is a long day with 100 hoofs to be done and Gretel, the donkey’s remedial shoes to be fitted!

Back at home there are more aged house cats and the dogs to be fed before a spot of dinner with my husband. It is around midnight before my day is over and the next day is pretty much the same!There are things I have missed out, like the trustee meetings, visits to schools and retirement homes, stalls at fetes, the list is endless! Would I have embarked upon this path instead of sunning myself on foreign beaches had I known what it entailed? Of course I would. But to anyone starting up an animal rescue I would say the animals desperately need you but it is hard work!

If you feel you can help the sanctuary with donations, sponsorship or volunteering please contact us at or PO Box 2195, Pulborough RH20 2XB. 

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