Jacob’s Ridge is an Animal Sanctuary located in Murcia, Spain. Alison Stone talks about her experiences volunteering there
Having been veggie for eight years, I became vegan towards the end of last year, so when the time came to think of holidays I realised it was going to be a bit harder to find somewhere suitable. I wanted sunshine and good food but also somewhere with people that would understand my food and life choices. I really didn’t want to be spending all my time looking for a restaurant that could provide decent vegan meals. Whilst mulling this over my friend added me to the Southend Vegan facebook page, and within hours Pig Village at Jacobs Ridge had put up a post about volunteering at their place in Murcia, Spain. I clicked on the link to their website and as I read all about the animals and the fact that it is completely vegan I knew instantly that this was the place for me. By the end of the day I had exchanged emails with them and booked my place and flights.
As the time got closer I got more and more excited, I was so looking forward to meeting the owners Lynn and Julian Nicholson. They were happy for me to choose whichever airport and arrival day suited me, and they collected me at the airport for the hour drive to their home at Jacob’s Ridge. We chatted like old friends on the journey and I felt at home and very welcomed right from the beginning.
I arrived quite late in the evening but there was a delicious meal, freshly prepared, waiting for me when I arrived and, as I was there on my own, I ate all my meals with the family. All the food was included in the cost of the holiday, and every meal was terrific – there was always plenty to eat and wine to have with dinner. If I wanted anything in particular they would get it in for me and before I arrived Lynn had asked if there was anything I disliked or wanted food-wise. Food shopping is done pretty much daily so there was always wonderful fresh bread.
My tent was lovely, and it was more like glamping than camping; large and with a proper bed and lots of cushions, making it a comfy place to retire to. Lynn had filled it with lots of little extra touches to make it cosy and homely. The fairy lights and pretend candles added a special feel to the place.
The grounds are beautiful with an impressive ridge to one side and hill to the other giving a secure secluded feel to the area. The tents are in amongst the lemon groves which give shelter from the hot sun and privacy from the rest of the grounds, So you can spend time on your own without feeling watched or obligated to join in, not that you are but it’s nice to have that extra bit of privacy.
That first morning Lynn took me round and introduced me to the animals, telling me their names and all about their personalities and where they had come from. I instantly took a liking to Nero, a beautiful brown donkey who, the night before, made such a loud noise that it had woken me with a start. The noises at night are very different to those at home but it didn’t take long to get used to them, and to wake in the morning to so many different kinds of birdsong you cannot count them is wonderful.
I spent my days feeding the animals and grooming the horses and donkeys. Nero would stamp his foot every time I tried to stop and would have let me continue all day if I had let him. We built a new pig run for the pigs and had great fun herding them into it. Elvis and Winnie, two inseparable pigs, would always look up at me as I walked past in the hope that I might have an apple or two for them in my pocket. On one particularly sunny afternoon we took the Poppy the goat; the dogs Maddie, Barney and Marley; Nero, and Little Red the pony for a long walk. I lead Little Red as he is easier to handle. I wasn’t expected to work hard, just join in where I felt comfortable, and if I wanted to wander around and chat to the animals I was welcome to – human interaction is important for their wellbeing. Just getting attention from compassionate people is good for them. James, a beautiful soft ginger, the friendliest of the cats, was often at the house to meet you in the hope of some fussing, and Barney the dog would often walk me down to my tent.
They have a pool but it was too early in the season for it to be open, not quite warm enough for swimming. There are volcanic baths just a short drive away and we went there one afternoon. The water is straight from the ground and like a lovely hot bath blissfully relaxing. They have a bar so you can take a soft or alcoholic drink in with you, perhaps not a choice for the height of summer but definitely on my list of recommended places to visit.
The whole environment is so relaxed and welcoming it didn’t take long for me to wind down from my usual stressed state. I stopped looking at my watch and just went with the flow – something I never do at home. I was very sad to leave so I will definitely be going back, hopefully later this year. I have never been anywhere that has made me feel so welcome.
For more info visit: www.jacobsridge.com