Moel Famau family overwhelmed at response to new donkey walk business
A Moel Famau family have told how they have been overwhelmed by interest in their new donkey walk business, aimed at supporting people’s mental health and the countryside.
Polly, Rosie, Nansi, Bess, Tilly and Blod are happily settled in their new home in this picturesque and popular beauty spot in the Clwydian Range after being rescued from a donkey sanctuary. They have already attracted visitors from North Wales and beyond to experience walking with them in this area of outstanding natural beauty.
Mathew and Sioned Davies set up Moel Famau Donkeys in partnership with Mathew’s parents Gareth and Margaret Davies. They say that lockdown gave them a chance to reflect on what was important to them and they decided that they wanted to do something to support the countryside and to help people’s mental health.
The donkeys arrived at the former dairy farm in Llanferres in July 2021 and the family’s new venture started in June this year, with trained guides accompanying people going out for walks with the donkeys, who are on a lead rope. The family are also working in partnership with North Wales Wildlife Trust and those going out on the walks also get to learn more about the nature and wildlife all around them.
And it’s a real family affair, with the couple’s children Orla, five, and Efa, two, enjoying spending time with the donkeys. The family are certainly being kept busy, juggling the new business alongside their day jobs. Sioned, who works as a directorate manager at the Countess of Chester Hospital, is also due to give birth to the couple’s third child in November.
The business has now closed for the autumn and winter but it will reopen in April, and the family have already received booking requests for next year.
Mathew, who also works at a family business on site called the Larch Cladding Company, said: “We used to walk around the fields and look at the views and think ‘wow, we’ve got this on our doorstep and we’d like to share it with somebody else’. We started looking at different animals like alpacas and llamas but we decided on miniature donkeys.
“We then contacted a donkey sanctuary and they said they had four available down in Oxford. We travelled down there and there were two other donkeys and so six were rehomed with us.
“We have a sawmill here and were able to produce timber for shelters for the field and to kit out the stables that were previously empty and derelict. It’s making good use of the land and the scenery here.
“I studied psychology at university and I am interested in mental health and mindfulness and how we operate as humans and I knew I wanted to pursue that really. I wanted to do my bit to maybe contribute to people”s wellbeing and not only humans but animals as well.
“There’s a huge link between donkeys and mental health and also between walks in the countryside and the benefits that gives us. Donkeys go into places like nursing homes and hospitals because of the connection people have with them.
“Another benefit of doing this is that we are also helping to look after six donkeys as well as improving the wellbeing of people who come to walk with our animals. They are a calm, quiet and lovely natured animal.
“We’ve already had interest from schools and colleges and organisations supporting people living with autism. Donkeys are a very calming animal.”
He added that the children absolutely loved the donkeys, who currently spend much of their time outdoors making the most of the milder weather.
Mathew added that the business had only opened in June of this year for a three month period to see how it would work out, but it had already proved popular. Visitors have flocked to Moel Famau from across North Wales, Chester and the Wirral. The business is based at Mathew’s family’s dairy farm, which has been a working farm since the 1970s and has been in Mathew’s family since 1992, before they diversified by opening a saw mill.
He said: “We set up a Facebook page and within weeks we had 1000 followers. Now we have just under 2000 followers. We are now planning on taking some quiet time over the winter to keep training the donkeys and to improve the experience for visitors coming along next year. We are going to open again next April and we have already had people wanting to book in for then.
“We’ve got some exciting ideas. People have given us feedback that they really loved the views and the donkeys and how quiet and tame they are. We had a lady trained in animal management come in and train the donkeys over 12 months and she spent some time with them each week, getting them used to walking and to things like mobile phones going off.
“People who have been on walks with us this year have really loved the experience of being out in the countryside. We walk up a gradual incline to the top of the field, which is about 1000 metres above sea level. The furthest point you can see from there is the Pennines.
“The guides are talking to people about the views and the area, as well as the wildlife and nature here. The North Wales Wildlife Trust have kindly donated trees and wild flowers and they have also built a little pond to attract birds, bees and butterflies. The pond has the added advantage of helping to minimise flooding. We have plans to put more ponds in here.”
For more information about Moel Famau Donkeys visit moelfamaudonkeys.co.uk.
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com