Daisy May's Farm: Popular animal attraction seeks financial support after devastating floods
A huge clean-up operation is under way at a popular visitors' working farm in Elsenham after it was deluged by floodwater.
And with the threat of more heavy rain this week, Daisy May's Farm owner Rachel Berry said they were braced for further disruption, with measures in place to keep all their animals safe and dry.
"Because we're at the lowest level for miles around, all the water from the fields and rivers tends to end up here – this is the sixth time we've flooded since we've been here," said Rachel.
"It's so frustrating because we try to keep everything nice and clean and tidy and then the water sweeps through and leaves an awful lot of mess. But fortunately many lovely people have donated to our fundraising page and that will be a huge help to us."
Rachel said the financial impact of the flood would be "vast". Fortunately, this time all the animals were safe and well thanks to their team of "now very bedraggled" volunteers and the fact that many of their shelters were already raised off the ground. The problem going forward, however, was flooded pastures.
"Because this has happened before, we tend to lift the rabbit hutches and small animal cages off the ground onto straw bales in the winter, but with some of the money we hopefully raise now we'll look to get more houses on stilts. The concern is more for the farm animals, who have some very wet pasture.
"And, of course, the worry is that if we flood overnight we could end up losing animals – this time we were lucky."
The farm in Hall Road, which was established in 2011 and is run entirely by volunteers, has suffered hugely over the past year, losing valuable revenue from welcoming visitors through its gates due to lockdown and the implementation of other coronavirus restrictions.
It has had to launch several fundraising appeals in order to continue caring for the wide range of farm and rescue animals it keeps, including sheep, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits and guinea pigs. It relies heavily on its busy spring to autumn season to pay its winter feed and bedding bills.
Rachel said they had set up an online crowdfunding page with a £4,000 target and by 6pm on Monday (Jan 18) the total stood at £3,130 from 142 supporters.
"Once again we've found ourselves struggling – 2021 isn't looking to give us much more luck," she said.
"We're now looking to take other measures, like spreading awareness that we're still here and possibly to find some more winter grazing to help us out in the future. Are there any local landowners that might have spare grazing?"
The equine side of the business has particularly suffered. Rachel plans to launch an online adoption scheme to help support the ponies in their care.
"The horse side has had no income for 10 months. We usually run pony rides and have people with special needs who enjoy spending time with the ponies and we haven't been able to do anything because it's a close-contact sport," she said.
"My plan is to run a sponsorship scheme through our website set up predominantly for the horses. A lot of people will have met our ponies at fetes or parties and they're always very popular, so if people can continue to help us feed them, it would be great.
"Also, we'd all like to say thank you to everyone who's donated. The farm is struggling at the moment and every penny goes straight back to our animals so it's very much appreciated."
The Daisy May's team have been overwhelmed by generous donations of leftover food, which meant the animals had enjoyed a late festive feast.
"We did an appeal for food as there are only certain types we can feed and we can't take leftover domestic waste because of the risk of contamination, but the food banks have been amazing, bringing us their out-of-date bread, and we're trying to set up directly with the supermarkets as well," said Rachel.
"We have to be careful as we cannot feed domestic peelings, but we can take straight from the supermarkets or anything that's wrapped and hasn't been at risk of contamination."
And with the current bird flu epidemic adding to their woes, these deliveries were particularly useful for their poultry. "The birds are locked up so these donations are really valuable when they can't go out."
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/alison-thomson-920. To find out more about the farm, visit www.daisymaysfarm.org.