Back in February we met a wonderful lady called Wenda at the Brighton Vegfest. Together with her partner Matthew they run the Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary in East Sussex. Hugletts are the only vegan farm in the UK to run a sanctuary. While chatting with Wenda my eye was drawn to a postcard of a seriously cute reddish-tawny brown cow called Chester, which I bought and we stuck up on the fridge later that day. I’ve been dreaming about the chance to visit the farm ever since… When Hugletts announced an open day, we rushed to buy tickets as soon as they went on sale. I then started crossing off the days in the calendar!

There has been a lot of great coverage about the Hugletts Animal Sanctuary, the lives they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do. In my view, there simply can’t be enough written about the farm to get the word out to more and more people calling for support so Wenda and Matthew can continue the work they do with these animals. The cost of feed, vets bills and basic equipment to help manage the fields and barns runs into thousands of pounds every month.

Hugletts cows sheep and geese togetherWhen we arrived and walked down the field-enclosed drive, I was immediately struck by the peace I felt. There were a few cows, sheep and geese grazing in a field nearby. I’d never seen geese cohabiting in a field like this before and was tickled pink by the sight.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and honestly I think a part of me thought as a vegan of a few years that I’d be more robust in my reaction to the tales of their treatment and how they came to be at Hugletts. As Wenda told us one tale after another of abuse and neglect, I found myself more than once shaken to the core and filled with a deep, gnawing sadness. But I could feel my resolve growing more enduring by the minute.

Further down the path was an enclosure of sheep and another of small, weeks-old lambs. Many in little overcoats to keep them warm, sporting some pretty funky designs. They were knee-deep in adults and kids alike lining up for a cuddle.

 

Hugletts Wood Rescued CalvesThe Calves and Brian the Bull

The next barn contained two delights – 5 recently rescued calves; Moon Willy, Boy Gregory, Judah, Tallulah and Sneha. Next door also housed a large two-ton bullock named Brian. He was one of the biggest bullocks I’d ever seen. We stood and watched the calves for a while as Wenda told us their background. There is a serenity to Wenda’s voice, and she has an aura of calm which drifts through the air calming the terrified rescued animals.

Later on in the day we also got to watch the calves been bottle-fed.  They sure were hungry, and needed to be hand suckled too which essentially involved them sucking about half the length of the fingers delivering their milk.  A very frothy experience indeed!

 

Hugletts Wood Brian the BullockI took a chance and clambered through the mud in my wellies (I had convinced myself that it must be mud and nothing else…) to meet Brian.

He was lying on his side, calmly chewing his cud as a rooster stood near him. It was almost as if the rooster was standing watch over Brian, or maybe I read Charlotte’s Web too many times as a kid. Wenda told us he was getting kept apart from the herd for a while, as he’s a rather amorous chap and his size can sometimes strain his hips in the process. The care and attention to detail at this animal sanctuary are fantastic, a clear reflection of the founders’ dedication.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cherry Orchard

Hugletts Wood Terrific TurkeyHugletts Wood vegan cupcakesWe then walked through to the lively cherry orchard where we were dumb-founded by the incredible spread of vegan cupcakes, sandwiches, quiche, salad, and many other delicious homemade goods. The prices were great and all proceeds were for Hugletts. I’m not ashamed to say there was a cherry-vanilla cupcake consumed at 11am…all for a good cause.

We sat amongst the chickens, geese and ducks eating our cupcakes, but the two turkeys stole the show. Everyone who approached (or got approached!) had the same look in their eyes…fascination and just a hint of fear. They were awesome, really curious and you could detect a sense of fun and cheekiness to them as they approached they admirers without a moments hesitation.

 

 

 

The Lambs

Hugletts Wood Lamb Smiles

Next we got a chance to interact with the sheep that were last year’s lambs. I was gobsmacked at how friendly they were – one little fella kept coming back for scratches behind the ears, and when you stopped there were many antics to get you scratching again, including head-butting your fingersHugletts Wood lamb puddle gently and running round the pen’s fence following you. My husband and the sheep made firm friends. We tried our luck again with the lamb pen, and this time were able to get a glimpse of the lambs at play. And if you’ve ever wondered if a sheep could smile…we took a photo of living proof. This lamb looked delighted to be alive and to be loved, enough to melt anyone’s heart.

Contrary to popular belief sheep are extremely intelligent animals, almost on a par with pigs.  And like cows, they are very caring mothers who show many visible signs of distress at having their lambs taken from them. We found out after visiting Hugletts that sheep can live more than 10 years left to a peaceful existence. They were captivating…

 

 

Cow Walk with Wenda and Matthew

Hugletts Wood Stroke White Cow

We then walked up to an emerald green field at the entrance to the animal sanctuary, with a herd of around 20 cows and bulls. Before we entered the field Wenda gave us a fascinating insight into the cows lives and personalities. They had recently lost the head of the heard and a new head had been appointed who is still finding his feet. The ceremony was for all of our group to be taken over to meet the head, stroke and speak to him softly, and from there we could wander through freely to meet, sit (and hug!) many of the other cows. We learned some interesting things on the day from Wenda:

  • Hugletts Wood Wenda with cowsCows can live more than 20 years when living their lives naturally, although some have been known to live longer
  • Cows don’t like being approached from the front head on as they feel challenged
  • Cows see things move much faster than humans (they also have panoramic vision) so when you’re in the field it’s important to move very slowly
  • Cows have very sensitive hearing so you need to speak softly around them

A couple of times I was drawn into an calm, almost meditative bubble watching Matthew as he held his head very close to the cows face, whispering to them. There was something so peaceful and inspiring about watching this exchange. My convictions on the intelligence of cows, and their ability to form social bonds were more firmly cemented then every before. Watching them interact with everyone, including a rather cheeky fella who tried to pull my t-shirt up, was one of the most grounding experiences I have ever, and perhaps will ever have.

 

Hugletts cherry orchard bird collageWe reluctantly headed back to the cherry orchard for a spot of vegan lunch. My dad (a hearty carnivore) managed to wolf down another Black Forest cupcake, claiming it was better than any other he’d ever had. And that’s saying something! At one point over lunch, my mom has a dog lying on her feet, we had 5 white ducks snuggling close by, and I had at any point 3-4 chickens right by my feet, looking at me with longing eyes as the crumbs dropped into the plate from my hummus, pepper and falafel roll. The food was great, the feathered company was even better.

We reluctantly called it a day so we could get back to our own pack of animals at home.  On our way out we bought a super cute Magpie espresso set, the pictures on which were inspired by animals at Hugletts Wood.

I am humbled by the work that Wenda and Matthew have been doing at Hugletts for many, many years. We will be supporting them and volunteering any help that we can for their animal sanctuary.

I would encourage everyone to get closer to animals, it brings a whole different perspective to things.

Simplifying (Very) Happy Choices!

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About Michelle

Michelle grew up in a culture where it was normal to eat meat at every meal. Watching close family suffer multiple health problems drove her to learn more about eating for health. After watching Food Inc Michelle took the plunge into veganism and hasn’t looked back since. She is now on a mission to bring vegan inspiration to everyone!