From summer sands to Santa’s sidekicks

Picture by 'Real Donkeys'
Picture by 'Real Donkeys'
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They’re a welcome sight in the summer, strolling up and down between Blackpool’s famous piers – but where do our donkeys go during the winter months?

Some 22 of Blackpool’s beach donkeys have swapped sandy shores for trips to Santa’s grotto and supporting roles in Nativity plays.

Blackpool donkey owner Mark Ineson’s four-legged friends are carrying out their festive duties all over Lancashire and Yorkshire. By night, they are housed at nearby farms. He said: “I’m originally from Yorkshire, so a lot of my donkeys have gone back there where they will do Christmas events. We do switch-ons, nativities and Christmas markets.

“After that they go to various places, like farms, which are family-orientated.

“It’s like the kids there have grown up with the donkeys and look forward to the same ones coming back each year.

“The donkeys have the fields to roam in and stables is it’s cold and they get spoiled.”

The donkeys are set to return to their Blackpool stables in April.

Mark said: “The question is always whether they like it. Donkeys love attention; they are very social animals. You’d be surprised in the shops how many people offer them apples and carrots.

“Donkeys can be stubborn so if they don’t want to do something they will refuse to do it. Obviously they have to be comfortable with the work.

“All my donkeys are laid-back, but because they all have different personalities there are certain ones better suited for different things.

“I know every single one of them, so I know which donkeys to choose for each event.

“We have a risk assessment obviously before we go to events, and we make sure that the ground is level with no steps, that it’s well-lit and if there are loud-speakers that they are kept well away from us.”

“I believe that the donkeys do enjoy it. Once they have got their saddles on they’re dressed and ready to go. A lot of people think donkeys always have a very dull expression on their face, but we can see a sparkle in their eyes.”