An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
Tel: 0870 040 0033
Email: [email protected]
Hands-on horse and pony interaction from grooming sessions to walk and talk tours, plus nature trails, play area, cafe & gift shop – a first class charity & excellent free family day out!
Where to find it
There are four Redwings visitor centres: Oxhill in Warwickshire, Ada Cole in Essex and two in Norfolk itself. Caldecott is near Great Yarmouth (look out for a review coming in the spring) and their newest centre, in Aylsham (12 miles from Norwich) which opened its doors in April 2013. There’s a large car park as you drive in and beautifully maintained paddocks as far as the eye can see. The scenery is idyllic, the countryside picturesque and the animals all look happy and cared for – it’s a horse lover’s paradise.
What to expect
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year (2014) the completely public funded organisation, with the continued support of its visitors and donors, has gone from strength to strength now offering lifelong homes to 1300 rescued horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. Rescuing neglected and abandoned horses from all over the country, Redwings provides veterinary care, rehabilitation, and rehoming if appropriate through their guardianship programme. Most importantly though, any horse they rescue is guaranteed a home at the sanctuary for life.
A day out here is an enjoyable affair; you can spend a couple of hours strolling around the paddocks petting the characters you meet – all are friendly and suitable for child interaction – as well as reading the stories of how these animals came to be at Redwings. There’s a nature trail in the making too involving a beautiful route through the scenic countryside and lakes. There’s an area for bring-your-own picnics or grab a light bite and hot drink in the cafe while the kids enjoy the playground. There’s also a lovely gift shop with much variety – from home ware and food to toys and clothing - and a lot of lower priced goodies for the little ones to spend their pocket money. Several of the horses have their own stationary ranges too. Every single penny you spend is put back into the care of their horses.
Walking around the paddocks you’re bound to meet an animal or two that melts your heart; a favourite you know you’ll be back to see again soon. That’s why the Redwings Adoption Club is such a great idea. For just £12.50 a year you can sponsor your chosen horse or donkey, and make a special friend. This is brilliant for children who’d love their own pony or horse, and great for adults who want to feel involved in the care and progress of a particular horse. On the list of adoptees is Wiggins & Wacko – two adorable donkeys who were depressed until they found companionship in each other, a group of cheeky miniature Shetlands known as the Gangsters, a beautiful thoroughbred cross called Gulliver who was found abandoned with his mother just a few days old, and Redwings very own Black Beauty, Maya. Adoption club membership includes an A5 photograph and certificate plus information and updates about your horse along with online access to their diary, an invitation to their birthday party and the opportunity to visit them frequently and even groom them. There’s also a Young Redwings club to join for 5-12 years olds.
Redwings Aylsham is a fantastic charity that rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of abused and neglected animals, offers welfare advice and gives talks and demonstrations on animal care. By visiting their centres and getting involved, a fun family day out can become a lifelong interest. Educational, enjoyable and such a good cause, I recommend Redwings as a year round attraction. With frequent events and seasonal activities, be sure to check out our What’s On pages for the latest that’s happening here each month.
Redwings Aylsham are open 10am to 4pm Friday to Monday all year round. The paddocks are accessible for all although may be difficult to navigate in adverse weather conditions. Grooming sessions are available for £3 as well as various events, demonstrations, talks and tours.