Updated: Mar 16
It has been a very long time since I managed to go to a sanctuary. Thanks to various restrictions, lockdowns and a crappy personal life, I haven't visited a sanctuary since I went to Pear Tree Farm back in September.
Now, thanks to a fantastic new Facebook group called UK Animal Sanctuaries, I have been able to find and contact many new sanctuaries and rescues, so it's looking like it may be a busy year! One such sanctuary is The Smallest Flock Sheep Sanctuary.
This is a very small sanctuary, founded in 1997 by Charlotte Reynolds and currently based in Frome, Somerset. Here is the story in Charlotte's own words (taken from the Facebook group linked above):
March 1997. Norwood Farm, Norton-St-Philip nr Bath. Lambing time. Along comes a little ewe lamb in need of some TLC and guess who gets the job? I gave her the name Yizyouz. Well as you can probably guess, we became inseparable. She would be waiting for me as I started work every morning and spend the whole day hanging out with me walking by my side. Even standing outside the toilet waiting for me! We made the Bath Chronicle! Headlined "loving ewe".
Then one day my boss said the dreaded words! "Charlotte, you have to let her go and be a sheep now". The farm was shutting it's doors to the public for the season and I would be looking for another job for the winter months. Me and Yizyouz were apart for approximately four months. I missed her terribly. Before I finished up for the season I asked my boss where she was. I was told what field to go to. I looked across the large field full of Poll Dorset ewes. They all looked the same. I called her name. Nothing. I called again , and one head looked up.I knew she had reconised my voice so called her name again and she came running to where I was stood. It was at that point that I knew I had to claim her as my own.There was no way that she was going to the slaughter house. I found some land for her to live and brought a friend for her to live with. They had 4 beautiful lambs of their own that stayed with them.Yizyouz was euthanised at the age of 12 after going 90% blind. The hardest thing to have to do. But it proves that sheep are sentient beings that don't forget. And if I can save just a handful of sheep (or goats or pigs or cows) from going to the slaughter house in my lifetime then I've achieved something.
As I mentioned, I found out about this sanctuary through the Facebook group and knew that I had to get in touch. So I sent Charlotte a message and we arranged a visit. Naturally, I wanted to make use of Golden Hour and so we agreed on a weekend evening visit and I am so glad that we did. All week in the build up the weather had been horrendous, even Saturday itself, but it was forecast to clear up for the evening, just in time for my visit and, for once, the Weatherman didn't lie! It was a beautiful evening and I was really looking forward to the shoot as I drove through Somerset to Frome.
Charlotte was waiting for me at the gates and, after a quick change into waterproof trousers and wellies, we went into the field. As soon as they heard her voice, the two new lambs, Dodo and Thunderbolt, came running towards us. It was an absolutely adorable sight. The older ones were clearly too mature for such antics and came over at a more leaisurely pace. Immediately, I saw one of the sheep standing wearily at a distance, keeping an eye on me, but the sun was casting a beautiful light behind her, so I had to get on my knees and take the photo. I had been in the field for about 30 seconds and was already happy!
So I went about taking photos of as many of the sheep as possible (nine live here and another 20+ live somewhere else due to space issues, but more on that later), all while getting to know them and watching Charlotte interact with them. I had apparently made an impression on one called Rome, he would come over for cuddles and a fuss every time he saw me on or even near the floor!
Another resident, star of the show, is Arrow. A bit of a loner but, it really made for some wonderful photos, in several different spots and poses. I can't wait to finish editing them (I know I usually upload the photos and then blog but, there are a LOT to go through!).
Now, I mentioned that the flock is currently split in two, with these 9 in Frome, and another 20+ in another location. This is because Charlotte has been forced to relocate several times in the last few years. Even this space in Frome is only available for her to use until the end of May, so she is looking for a large, permanent home for the sanctuary. Somewhere that means she doesn't have to worry about the future, that allows her and the flock to grow by rescuing even more sheep destined for the slaughterhouse. Hopefully we can find a way to do some fundraising to get the space she needs. As a start, please remember that profits from each photo sold of one of these residents will be donated back to The Smallest Flock Sheep Sanctuary. It's not much, but it's a start. You can also join the Facebook group (linked above) for the latest news and updates on the sanctuary. Let's give Charlotte, and her flock, the safe retirement home they deserve!
As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm lining up a few sanctuaries at the moment (old & new) and working on a project, but more about that another time.