Hollyoaks star Gemma Atkinson shares her delight as abandoned donkeys are given a warm new haven at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary


Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing star Gemma Atkinson shared her joy after a herd of abandoned donkeys facing a bleak winter was given a warm new shelter thanks to a fundraising campaign.

Donkeys Flash, Fergus, and their friends were facing a soggy and cold start to 2022 due to the asbestos-filled roof leaking at their shelter at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary.

Urgent repairs were needed to repair the roof of the Edenfield-based charity in Rossendale, which is home to hundreds of rescued dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and goats.

However, the bosses couldn’t afford the £50,000 bill, so sanctuary president Gemma launched an appeal to raise much-needed funds.

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Donations poured in after the story of the donkeys and their current plight featured in our sister title The Sunday People.

The success of the campaign means the sanctuary can provide the donkeys with the protected home they deserve so they can live the rest of their lives in luxury.

Former glamor model Gemma, 37, told People: “Everyone has been so generous in helping our donkeys at Bleakholt.

“The donkeys are all real characters and deserve to have the best lives, as many were abandoned or neglected in the past.

“For the people who have helped financially to make sure the barn is dry, weatherproof and comfortable for our donkeys, it means a lot.

“They live their lives at Bleakholt and now have updated conditions to continue to be well cared for.”

Animals at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary now have a warm home
Animals at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary now have a warm home

Sanctuary manager Karen Weed added: “Thanks to the Sunday People we exceeded our target and the donkeys are now living in a beautiful modernized rain free barn.

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“We have been able to completely finish the roof and are now looking to put in new doors and repair the floor as well.

“It was an old building so all the donations have been a big boost and the donkeys love it.

“We have donkeys and mules that have been abandoned but can now live out their lives in our sanctuary in an updated stable where they will be comfortable and content.”

The new barn is a real boost for Flash, who has barbed wire scars on his body from a past life.

Fergus was seen being beaten at a horse sale eight years ago and was bought by a kind person and given to Bleakholt.

Readers have raised money for a new roof at the Pictures is Molly the Mule sanctuary.
Readers have raised money for a new roof at the Pictures is Molly the Mule sanctuary.

“We love our donkeys and mules as they all have such different characters and personalities,” said Natalie Hill, joint director of the stables.

“We have Hughie, a miniature Mediterranean donkey, who loves Ana, the only donkey, and defends her honor

“There’s Marty the mule, who lived in a housing estate in Newcastle and was ridden by kids before they brought him here.

“We have just received two new mules, two females as we are overrun by males! They come from the Donkey Sanctuary: they are Dottie, who was abandoned at Appleby Fair, and Molly, who was abandoned due to a previous owner’s changed circumstances.

“They are settling in and we have ‘donkey social workers’ from the Donkey Sanctuary who come and check that their donkeys and mules are okay.”

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The sanctuary is always in need of donations to cover the cost of caring for all of its depleted animals.

To sponsor a Bleakholt donkey or mule, or any animal, go to https://www.bleakholt.org/help/sponsorship/

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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