Meet the Hartlepool donkey business with plans to expand

A business built around a team of donkeys who visit schools for educational talks and well-being sessions is looking to continue its growth as its approaches its fifth birthday.

By Nic Marko
Friday, 6th May 2022, 3:35 pm

Blackberry Donkeys, based in Hartlepool and run by owner Marie Bates, carry out activities such as educational visits, special events and trips to hospices in the region.

Plans have been submitted by the business to build a new barn and a residential mobile chalet, to ensure someone is present to care for the donkeys, south west of Dalton Back Lane.

Mrs Bates said the proposals will ensure they can continue to grow following a tough two years with Covid-19 as well as enabling them to keep their five-star caring licence.

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Blackberry Donkeys owner Marie Bates is hoping to expand her donkey hire business.

She said: “I know the positive impact the donkeys can bring to people, I really do think it will benefit everybody in the community, beyond Hartlepool as well, but I love to get involved in local projects.

“The learning side of it is really, really important and I think adults, young people and children get so much out of it.

“It’s really important we maintain that five star licence so that people know the donkeys have the very best of care and the very best of everything, as they should.”

The new barn would contain facilities to house the team of licensed therapy, well-being and riding donkeys, with the business receiving “an average of ten new enquiries per week”.

The proposals would allow groups to make appointments to visit the donkeys at their new home, with no activities allowed at their current base near Dalton Piercy.

Mrs Bates, a former primary school teacher, added: “At the moment we don’t have premises of our own.

“We’re absolutely going to keep up with all of the community events, visits that we do, the donkeys love it, I love it, it’s just fabulous.

“There isn’t anything that I’m aware of like us, possibly even in the whole of the North East.”

Ahead of its birthday this month, things are going “better than ever”, according to Mrs Bates.

They started off with a team of four donkeys, which has risen to seven, and they have visited more than 400 different events to date.

A decision is expected to be made on the proposals this month by the council planning department.

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