Wonkey Donkey sanctuary benefits from A19 investment

This story was published 28 June 2021

Survivors of the Manchester Arena bombing attack have received a generous donation for their much-loved donkey sanctuary courtesy of the A19 rebuilding project.


The Wonkey Donkey Visitors Centre in Cridling Stubbs has become a safe haven for Jenny Howarth, 23, who attended the Ariana Grande concert in 2017 with her cousin. Her aunts were seriously injured while picking up the girls, standing only 10ft away from the detonated bomb.

“After the event I was suffering with PTSD and the donkeys were key to my recovery,” said Jenny, who runs the sanctuary. “Caring for the animals gave me something different to focus on and were a really calming influence.”

When awarding the contract to Balfour Beatty for the rebuilding project of the A19 at Chapel Haddlesey, part of the promise was for them to give something back to the local community.

One venture it supported is the donkey sanctuary, where much-needed disabled car parking bays have been funded and are to be installed in the next few weeks. Brown direction signs have also been donated.

Jenny runs the sanctuary alongside her mother Jackie Howarth, her auntie Andrea Howarth, and her uncle John. 

Jenny said: “The disabled parking bays are something we have wanted for a long time as we are trying to improve our disabled facilities so anybody needing them can have a better experience. We have also seen a big difference after the brown signs were installed as so many people headed into the village and missed our turn-off.

“We have been closed for 15 months so we can’t wait to welcome people back through our doors on July 5. We have still been putting in very long shifts looking after the animals and getting ready for the reopening.”

At the age of 10, Jenny was diagnosed with conversion syndrome and she lost the ability to read and write. Her family bought a rescue donkey called Buttons, who helped with the recovery.

On leaving school the mother-daughter duo opened the sanctuary in August 2015 and have since rescued 31 donkeys, five goats and four Dartmoor ponies.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “The owners of the Wonkey Donkey have bounced back from such adversity to create what is a much-loved tourist attraction for locals and visitors to the area.

“It is one of the chosen organisations we have invested in as part of the A19 contract which has been a great example of collective working between our highways teams, the contractors and those at the Visitors Centre.

“We have now reopened the A19 which will be a huge benefit for local businesses such as the Wonkey Donkey as they prepare to welcome visitors back to the centre. We wish them good luck for the future.”