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Lotus Heart Sanctuary

Lynn Jolly is on a mission to save male calves and other innocent creatures - here, she tells us why her work is so important

Nestled amongst 76 acres of beautiful croft land in the aptly named village of Dunvegan, on the gorgeous Isle of Skye, you'll find Lotus Heart Sanctuary. Its aim is to become a haven for both non-human animals and people, with an on-site rescue shelter for animals, as well as glamping pods and a holistic healing centre.

Lotus Heart also has its own online clothing and merchandise shop. We talk to founder, Lynn Jolly, about why she started the sanctuary and accompanying businesses, and how they have fared throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

How, when and why was Lotus Heart sanctuary set up?

Lotus became a vision in 2010 following a retreat with Zen Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. It started to become more of a reality when I began rescuing farm animals in 2016 - the meeting of Nipper (Jack Russell dog) and Prince (Holstein Friesian bullock) really set the Lotus wheels in motion.

I was doing a lot of vegan advocacy and activism at that time, and then I began to rescue these bigger animals - animals who are either used in the food chain or are unwanted companion animals etc.

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Tell us a little bit about what you do.

We are more than a sanctuary. The Lotus Clothing and Merch on our website has been 100 per cent non-profit since 2015, when it was originally set up as Bohemian Hippy. It is still 100 per cent non-profit today and always will be.

The products in the store are about sending out messages and starting conversations due to the pictures or text they carry. Our most popular design was one of our first back in 2016, it is of Nipper and Prince - I brought both their heads together in one design to make people understand there is no difference between species such as dogs and cows.

The other projects under the Lotus Heart Sanctuary umbrella like Lotus Camping Pods and Lotus Holistic Healing will help to sustain the sanctuary, the land and care for all who live there.

What facilities do you have?

We have 76 acres of croft land in the village of Dunvegan on the stunning Isle of Skye. We are half an hour from Portree; half an hour to the
world-famous Fairy Pools and the stunningly breath-taking Neist Point, and 40 mins to the Cuillin Mountain Range.

On the sanctuary itself we have a purpose built animal barn called - not the 'bee's knees' - but The Cow's Knees (I had an obsession with cows' knees from childhood). We have four glamping pods, which were also purpose-built. The pods are individually named - The Cow Shed, The Pigsty, The Dog House and The Chicken Coop.

Each pod has a comfy double bed, toilet, shower, sofa bed, table and chairs, fridge/freezer and microwave - so they really are glamping not camping. The pods have beautiful views as they have the world-famous Skye Cuillin Mountain Range to their left, Macleod's Table in front, and Lotus Animal Sanctuary and Loch Dunvegan off to the right.

How have you fared as a sanctuary throughout the pandemic?

Well, even before Covid, we had already been hit by severe delays when buying the land due to boundary issues. Buying croft land is not like buying regular land, it's a law unto itself… literally.

So, from the offer being accepted on the croft to getting the keys it was over 10 months alone. Then trying to secure tradespeople on the island to make the land habitable for the animals was unbelievably difficult.

Getting regular jobs done on Skye is very different to getting regular jobs done on the mainland… 'Skye time' really is a thing and it's very different to 'mainland time'. The tradespeople here are all in such demand and are incredibly busy.

When we got the keys, it felt like we were finally making progress after all the legal delays, then we hit COVID-19 and it held us up massively. That then meant all these jobs which had been booked in just got cancelled…

So as a result, I personally and the sanctuary have been without any income at all since Spring 2020. No grants, no furlough, no nothing; because the pods would be a new business about to open but hadn't yet opened when we went into lockdown, we just fell through every loophole imaginable.

We should have been trading from spring 2020, but it'll be nearing summer 2021 before we are allowed to finally open to the public. The pandemic affected me personally, too, as both my very elderly parents were taken into hospital in August last year and put on COVID wards (even though neither had COVID).

This meant I had to return to the central belt to care for them. They had decided by then to move to Skye to be beside me, as they realised at 88 and 91, they'd not do too well without me being there.

Luckily, there was a house on the sanctuary croft land for sale, so they put an offer in for the house and it was accepted.

After weeks of fighting, we finally got Dad out the hospital in October, but sadly, after just nine days at home he passed away. It breaks my heart that he never got the chance to live on the sanctuary with us. My Mum moved up in January.

Group of young people practicing yoga In the prayer position at gym, Concept of relaxation and meditation

\"I found I was really struggling for anywhere to send the cows/bullocks I was rescuing\"

What are some of your greatest achievements as an organisation?

I see myself as a mere vehicle for this work, and I often have a vision of myself as a wee ball of tumbleweed that the Universe is blowing along in its desired direction to serve other beings.

I can explain one of our main focuses though. Back in 2016, when I began to rescue boys from the dairy industry, I soon realised that there wasn't anywhere in Scotland willing to take Friesians (at that time).

Breeds other than Highland cows will not stand up to being outdoors in winter, especially not in Scotland's harsh winters and especially not Friesians.

Holstein Friesians are bred for milk production and genetically they are now a very bony breed. They have to be kept indoors during winter but doing this is costly and very time-consuming.

I found I was really struggling for anywhere to send the cows/bullocks I was rescuing, and most were having to make long journeys South to sanctuaries down in England. So, I began to deal more with cows/bullocks than any other species, and especially boys from the dairy industry.

Some people seem to truly perceive that we have no dairy industry in Scotland, but anyone who knows Scottish farming in any way at all, will know that's a very wrong perception.

There are around 840 dairy farms in Scotland, and their cows give birth to male calves just the same way as cows on English dairy farms give birth to male calves.

Many in England and Scotland are sadly shot because they're surplus to requirements. There are farmers who will allow their males to be rescued rather than being shot in both England and Scotland.

So, our focus has become cows/bullocks/calves mainly from the dairy industry. Lotus is totally male dominated, other than two female sheep, Tara and Calla!

Group of young people practicing yoga In the prayer position at gym, Concept of relaxation and meditation

Can people volunteer with you?

Absolutely. We are always looking for people to get involved. If people can truly commit to volunteer some time each week or month, we do require help with things like admin, T-shirt design, T-shirt/merch printing, social media, guest blogs, seeking out collaborations and fundraising personnel to organise events such as auctions etc.

There are endless jobs that can be done from afar online, so don't let our remote location put you off; if there's something you would like to do, please get in touch.

Here on the sanctuary itself we desperately need trees and hedging and help with planting, and we need more fencing and gates erected. We do have a large area of land, so there really are endless jobs to be done on the sanctuary itself.

What's in store for the future of Lotus Heart?

Our focus right now is getting all the animals here and settled. We have five new lambs coming and three more calves (shout out to Jon @BrinsleyAnimalRescue and Selena @AnandaAnimalSanctuary for assisting with these rescue - they are both diamonds).

We possibly also another have another cow or two coming soon. Then we must get our pods finally open to the public. We have received so many enquiries from people wanting to stay with us; but I am sure everyone appreciates why the delays have occurred!

Once we have achieved that and hopefully get through a busy summer on Skye, we will be looking at other areas around the other work involved in our vision such as therapies, meditation and mindfulness and mental health - I am qualified in various therapies and hope to practice them soon here on the sanctuary.

Lotus was always going to be a place for humans as well as non-human animals to come together and be as one in peace and harmony.

 

 

 

For more from Lotus Heart and Lynn, visit lotusheartsanctuary.com and follow @lotusheartsanctuary on IG

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