Jacobs Ridge – Final Day (28.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

My time at Jacobs Ridge had quickly approached its end. I had the most incredible time spent with some of the most inspirational and kind people, and beautiful animals.

Before leaving for the airport, I went on my final morning dog walk, changed the animals’ waters and spent quality time with them. Barney (one of the resident dogs) followed me around and I couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving him behind, yet, motivated to return to the ridge again in the future for more love and cuddles. 

I was driven to Murcia (RMU) airport at 5:45pm by Amie – Volunteer Coordinator. The drive was lovely, and very scenic along the way. We chatted about my time at the sanctuary, animals, family and uni.

I arrived at the airport, and prepared myself to say goodbye to Amie, who I had been lucky enough to spend a large proportion of time with throughout the week. We unloaded my luggage from the boot, hugged and then I wandered into the airport in preparation for check-in and security.

RMU airport opened in January 2019. I found it very Autism friendly! The staff were extremely kind and accommodating, and the airport itself was quiet and easy to navigate around as it was very small. Bliss!

I then waited by the gate ready to board the plane at 7:45pm. I went in first to reduce my anxiety-levels, and the staff were very understanding with regards to this.

I boarded the plane and was set to travel the 2.5 hour journey back home to Manchester. I sat comfortably and read my book whilst peering out of the window occasionally to take in some of the most stunning landscape views.

I arrived in Manchester and was quick to collect my luggage from arrivals, after showing my passport to the lovely men sitting at the arrival desk.

Following this, I was met outside of the arrival section of Terminal One by my Mum and Grandad, both of who kindly offered to pick me up from the airport to take me back home.

I sat and chatted about my time at Jacobs Ridge, talking about the wonderful people and the beautiful animal residents I met throughout. I’m extremely excited to begin planning my next overseas work experience adventure, and I’m glad I chose Jacobs Ridge to be my first placement abroad.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Seven (27.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

It was my final full day at the ridge. I was excited to fulfil another day in what set out to be a vegan paradise before venturing back to The UK.

7:30am commenced our usual morning dog walk. Julian, Rachael and I took the dogs and ventured nearby the peach trees before heading back to the sanctuary.

Julian and I then went kayaking at a venue located 30-minutes away from the ridge. Julian sailed solo, whereas I opted to paddle in the company of some lovely Spanish folk. The views were spectacular, the water was stunning and the sun was beaming down on what was proving to be another gorgeous day.

We returned back at the ridge an approximately 2pm. I got changed quickly and spent my afternoon siesta with the animals and by the pool, before heading onto the routine evening jobs.

We did the evening feeding and watering of the animals (today I fed the cats and Alfie, the lamb) before venturing on the evening dog walk. It was my final evening dog walk, emotions were running high, but I was excited to venture on my remaining one in the morning.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Three (20.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I woke up at precisely 6:30am after an excellent nights’ sleep, despite try significantly loud, yet joyful, Spanish music playing within close proximity and the horses’ vocalisations adding to that.

I got dressed quickly and headed to the house to freshen up before venturing on a morning dog walk.

We walked the dogs at 7am, around the local picturesque area and arrived back at the ridge at approximately 8am. I loved walking the dogs, it amazed me to witness ranges in their behaviours and their distinct walking patterns. Marley walked slowly, but could be incredibly strong if she felt threatened or if she became distracted by a sight or noise. Goaty on the other hand had a tendency to get tangled in the lead due to his noted inability to walk in a straight line.

After returning from the dog walk, I quickly changed out of my muddy, wet socks and shoes before heading down to the lower field to participate in the morning feeding and watering. The animals wandered around and vocalised eagerly as they awaited corn being scattered around their large, open enclosures.

Jade, Flora and I then cleaned the donkey’s enclosure. In the process, the donkeys wandered up to us curiously and sneakily tipped over the wheelbarrows which were situated at the other side of the fence. We completed this relatively quickly with the help of our trusty tools and many trips to the waste pile, which was scheduled to be taken away at some point.

Flora and I were kindly driven to a nearby, isolated lake by Amy. The drive took approximately 20 minutes, and we were soon mesmerised by our stunning, picturesque surroundings. I was in awe of the stunning crystal blue waters and the gorgeous surrounding cliff and greenery landscape. There wasn’t another person in sight, which made the experience increasingly more special.

The views were spectacular and the sun was blazing down on us heavily.

After spending time at the lake together, we drove to Murcia Castle, which was within close proximity of our current location at the lake. This was after quickly stopping at the pet shop in the town to collect extra dog food.

Unfortunately, the castle was closed off a short while ago due to a tragic accident involving a young girl. The castle could stay open to the public if somebody opted to live there to care for it, but instead, it was closed and is now surrounded by a tall, secure fence.

The views, however, were truly stunning! We could see a vast amount of different buildings ranging from older and newer, which could be distinguished by the roofing style. From the castle, we could also see a glimpse of Jacobs Ridge in the far distance.

We returned back to the ridge and it was time for siesta. Unsurprisingly, mine was spent with the resident goats.

I then had, always greatly appreciated, cuddles with Barney before heading for a solo walk to catch another glimpse of the beautiful surroundings close by.

The views were stunning. This was before almost landing my way in a prohibited area. Luckily, I gained more from my 2 years of Spanish at GCSE than I anticipated, and quickly moved away from the area to avoid unwanted trouble…

We then changed the animals’ waters and did the evening feeds for the final time of the day, before heading for an evening dog walk.

Following this, we sat outside on the sun loungers with pillows and blankets to avoid the slight winds and settled down with a film. We were all surrounded with fairy lights, the sound of nature and the fantastic company of each other. This was done by a projector connected to Netflix, where we watched a movie about a boy who’s life was filmed from the day he was born, and one day he found out and escaped the world that had been created for him. (The Truman Show).

Jacobs Ridge – Day Two (19.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I awoke at approximately 6:20am to the distinctive ringing of my iPhone alarm. It was time for my first full day at Jacobs Ridge, and I was excited about what the day would bring. I enjoyed my first night of tent living, it was extremely cosy and spacious.

I soon got dressed and headed to the house, after applying suncream as the weather was expected to reach conditions of up to 40°c.

Amy, Flora and I headed to the local secluded area to walk some of the gorgeous resident dogs. I opted to walk Goaty – a charismatic young being who was rescued from a terrible fate. His eyes were golden brown and his fur a pasty white. I’d been warned that he was a puller, but I appeared to have no issues with walking him around tall hills and through the murky surrounding waters.

Goaty was rescued from the side of the road by Julian around a year ago. He was in an incredibly bad condition and Julian stated “it’s the worst state I’ve seen an animal in before”. He’s now living a happier, and healthier, life at the sanctuary where he is constantly showered with love and affection.

The walk lasted for approximately an hour before we headed back to the sanctuary and went on to do the following jobs after putting the dogs away. Throughout the walking process, we also walked: Marley and Eyebrows, whilst Daisy and Django followed us all the way without the need of a lead.

We then changed the animals waters. This task is typically carried out 3 times a day at the sanctuary, since it easily evaporated due to the hot weather conditions, and to simply ensure that the animals have plenty of fresh water to drink throughout the duration of the day.

Then commenced the goat cleaning. I couldn’t wait to meet the resident goats, being a goat fanatic and all. Jacobs Ridge has 14 goats in total, who arrived at the sanctuary after being dropped off by a lady. The story being, she hoarded many animals and was forced by the local authorities to give them away, otherwise they ran the risk of being destroyed. In total, the lady had approximately 80 goats. Julian took 7, who quickly went on to reproduce.

I believe it’s incredibly easy to hoard animals. You can start off with the intentions of saving many different species, whilst focusing solely on the love aspect and not so much the costs and the commitment.

We cleaned our Star’s enclosure, walking in protected with sturdy helmets. Star wasn’t a known aggressive horse, but there stood a possibility that she may head butt us whilst we cleaned, which would’ve caused a serious injury. Prior to this, I had no experience with horses, so I was quite apprehensive about being surrounded by one for the first time. However, she had a calming nature and would only approach us for butt scratches, or curiosity.

Following this, we changed the animals waters for the second time. The animals’ waters were changed and refilled 3 times a day.

The dogs were then taken to the nearby river In the afternoon for a cool off. They loved it, and Marley stood in deep. This is an essential component of animal care, as animals can heat up extremely quickly and can become unwell, or start to show signs of heatstroke. Goaty remained hopeful as he searched eagerly for a toad he spotted over 3 weeks ago…

After the evening feed/water was carried out, we took the dogs on their regular evening dog walk. Again, in the local secluded area with lots of stunning scenery. The dogs were very well behaved.

The kittens (the sanctuary has 5) were let out in the evening for a run around, and we played with them as they climbed on our heads and clawed at our legs. They were adorable, and very mischievous!

Jacobs Ridge – Arrival (18.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

The day had finally approached. It was time for me to volunteer in Spain for a week, and emotions were running high. Especially for my Mum, who was very tearful given the challenge I was about to embrace. 

My first solo flight was a success. I wore my Autism lanyard with pride as I sailed through the anxiety-provoking security section of the airport and eagerly made my way to the gate a short while after.

I landed in Murcia at 7pm, following a 2.5 hour flight, the sun was still blazing at this point, and it already seemed much warmer than The UK! Luckily, I got off the plane quickly as I was seated right at the back, enabling me to avoid the typical busy rush. Yay!

Shortly after approaching RMU airport, which opened earlier in the year, I collected my suitcase, briefly checking I had collected the right one, and headed into the waiting area as I stood waiting to be collected by a member of staff from the animal sanctuary.

Following a short wait, I was soon greeted, and hugged, by Rachael – Owner of Jacobs Ridge with her partner Julian. We fitted my luggage carefully into the boot and drove our way to the sanctuary. This lasted approximately 30/40 minutes. Murcia castle was within looking distance and the views were astounding!

I stepped out of the car and shook hands with members of staff and other volunteers before heading into the house where I filled in liability forms with Amie and was then given a tour of the sanctuary, by Julian’s Daughter Megan. She introduced me to the animals and told me more about the ways of the sanctuary.

The team included – Julian, Rachael, Jade, Amie and Georgia. All of who seemed incredibly lovely, regardless of only knowing them for the shortest time.

Following on from this, we took Alfie (new lamb!) for a stroll whilst I was simulatenmlusly shown my tent. When I say tent, it felt more like home. It was very cosy! I was provided with a comfortable bed, pillows and a double duvet. There were also lights and rugs fitted as extra amenities.

I then wandered around the sanctuary alone to find my bearings and to further familiarise myself with my surroundings, before heading into the house to play with the adorable kittens. The sanctuary currently has 5 kittens, who’re all very mischievous and playful.

I then relaxed after a busy day and watched the stunning pink sunset extending beyond the ridge, extending beyond the mesmerising cliffs in the background before heading to bed. This was in preparation of a 7am start.

Autism spectrum – First solo travel experience & tips!

Autism

On the 18th July 2019, I travelled abroad alone for the first time to partake in more overseas work experience at an Animal Sanctuary in Murcia, Spain. And I plan to return home on Thursday 25th July.

Being Autistic, this can be challenging – Dissimilar surroundings, new people, loudness. Nightmare.

I used to be unable to use public transport alone. I walked miles to and back from college every day to save myself the unnecessary distress of stepping foot on a bus. I can now use buses easily, given lots of additional planning, and I have grown to love peaceful, delay-free train journeys!

Still, being on the spectrum shouldn’t be a barrier between our fears and what we wish to achieve. I simply refuse to be restricted by my Autism. My diagnosis has encouraged me to believe in myself more and to push myself beyond my comfort zone. (It’s worth it!) I believe it should push us even further, given lots of self care is followed too, as it’s all about finding a balance and recognising when we’ve reached our personal limits.

My Experience:

Overall, I loved my first experience as a solo flier and I cannot wait to plan future adventures. The staff at the airport were incredibly supportive and alert, and measures were put in place to help those in need. I was very anxious, but that’s understandable. The most important thing is that I managed to keep things under control and I made it to my destination. I believe informing the airport about my Autism made a significant difference, especially with regards to the risen anxiety levels I feel through airport security.

TIPS:

Understandably, the coping mechanisms I applied are personal to me and may be subject between those on the spectrum. Ie: What works for me may not work for others, and vice versa.

Don’t be afraid to approach the disability services available to you. Their purpose is to help and to assist you should you require it. There’s no shame in needing support, or a quiet place away from all the airport chaos.

Take note of what makes you anxious. I notice changes in myself, my thoughts and my actions when I’m anxious. I become quiet and withdrawn and will tend to feel as though I’m not “there” in the situation. Understanding your anxiety triggers is useful to enable you to put precautions in place to relieve the symptoms you experience. 

Lots of planning. Don’t be afraid to use a diary, or the notes app on your phone. Try to estimate where you expect yourself to be at given times. Ie: “I plan to be on the plane at 6pm, and I should land at approximately 8:15pm”. This helps with the fear of the unknown, and reduces anxiety levels. Try to make the estimates flexible, as it can cause distress if plans don’t go accordingly – Ie: unexpected delays, and luggage hold ups.

Take a familiar person to the airport with you. For me, this was extremely comforting and reassuring as I had somebody to confide in when I felt anxious/overwhelmed. My Mum got me through check in and then I was again a Lone Ranger, sailing through security.

Check in online. This helps to speed up the initial process slightly, and it helped to reduce anxiety for me, as you then have the barcode scanned and wait patiently for your luggage to enter the conveyer behind the desk. I checked in via the Jet2 app by filling in my details.

Inform the airline/airport staff of your Autism. Again, this is optional, and I understand that some people prefer to keep their Autism private. I opted to tell the staff about my condition to allow others to realise the reasons behind me appearing anxious, because I usually get stopped through security as I probably look “suspicious” when in reality I’m just extremely anxious about the process. I was handed with a lanyard which staff are trained to recognise, and it enables extra assistance if it’s required. I also had my pocket sized “Autism Alert” card.

Take plenty of distractions on the plane. If you’re alone, this gives you more time to dwell on your anxiety, and distractions can help to keep you occupied and give you an alternative focus. I like to take books, magazines and something digital (such as music or my Nintendo DS). Playing animal crossing thousands of miles in the air? Yes please.

If it’s possible, arrange for somebody familiar to meet you in the country you’re travelling to. The animal sanctuary owners kindly collected me, and dropped me off at the airport. This helped to reduce my anxiety, as I knew who to expect. This meant I could also avoid using an unfamiliar public transport service.

Keep in touch with family/friends. If you start to feel anxious, speak to somebody you know and trust. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you’re weak, it simply means that you’ve recognised that you’re in need of support/a distraction and that takes a considerate level of strength. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone (or to text) somebody if you feel the need to.

Remember to breathe and to be patient with yourself. If things don’t work out, or you need a little extra time to get yourself together, that’s perfectly okay too!

08.07.2019 – Woodlands

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Work experience/volunteering

With the sun blazing through my bedroom window and following the distinguished ringing of my alarm, it was time to wake up.

The time was 6:00am.

I got out of bed leisurely, in preparation for a long (yet enthralling) day ahead. Today was to commence the beginning of my work placement at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary. I had been pining to volunteer at the sanctuary for quite some time, but had always encountered problems along the way, including sudden transport alterations and exam commitments.

I was soon washed and ready, rearing to go. Dressed in my casual green t-shirt and black shorts, gladly ready to match my work (or hiking) shoes alongside.

I headed to the bus stop and approached Bolton ready for my first train to Preston at 8:25am. The journey lasted approximately 30 minutes, and I then caught a train to Rufford. A brisk 30 minute walk, where I was faced with extremely narrow pavements, from the station lead me to the animal sanctuary.

I was directed to the reception area, I rang the bell (which turned out to be louder than anticipated) And was welcomed by Louise – An animal career at the sanctuary. We had spoken a few times prior, she was even lovelier in person! I was guided to sign in and to hang up my limited belongings before heading back outside to meet the animals.

I began with cleaning out the stables, which house the resident goats and equines overnight. Throughout the day, the animals spend time outdoors – a necessary freedom to express natural behaviours.

This was a simple process of removing the old substrate, which was placed into large troughs and placed into the skip, and replacing it for new.

The afternoon feeds were then arranged, with the hay being placed into designated hay nets which were then placed outside the enclosure doors. Hay nets are an excellent way of encouraging natural feeding behaviours, they also help to enhance both mental and physical stimulation as the individuals have to work for their food.

The stables and their surroundings were cleaned. Alongside the stock room, which rooms a collection of tools, food and bedding materials. And situated on the wall was a feeding and medical rota tailored for each individual at the sanctuary. I was then tasked with cleaning out the resident hedgehogs. Woodlands take in injured hedgehogs throughout the year and nurse them back to health to enable them to be released back into the wild. Hedgehogs encounter all kinds of medical conditions, from weight loss, to dehydration and a loss of appetite. They’re housed in large plastic drawers (the most convenient material to disinfect) which are then filled with newspaper and hay, alongside food and water.

Rescue, Rehabilitate & Release.

Two of the larger, healthier hedgehogs were chosen and carried away into carriers ready to be released. All available drawers were prepared ready to house future hedgehogs, and the current hedgehogs underwent a full clean – The removal of wet newspaper in replacement for dry, and the providing of fresh hay, food and water.

I weighed and recorded the hedgehogs weights before placing them back into their temporary enclosures. This is essential to monitor any signs of drastic weight loss/gain to enable further measures to be implemented if necessary, to ensure that the individuals remain in good overall health.

Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals, and are therefore increasingly more active during nighttime hours. Some of the individuals were curiously wandering around the enclosures, while some opted to stay cornered into a tight, compacted “ball”. Fascinatingly, this behaviours helps to fend off predators in the wild as it acts as a protective armour. It also allows the individuals to feel safe.

I then cleaned the small chicken coop, refilled it with fresh substrate and replaced the old food and water for fresher alternatives. The sanctuary has a vast selection of resident poultry, ducks and a stunning, flamboyant peacock.

The rabbit enclosures were then cleaned to house current and future sanctuary residents and the underneath area was swept for general upkeep.

The goats (Bert, Ernie, Chips and Isaac) were then fed and fussed over admirably. They were highly inquisitive and played alongside Dolly the sheep.

The Goats are commonly taken around Rufford to aid fundraising efforts and have previously been taken into local schools to teach the children about animal care, welfare and management.

Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary (18.07.2019)

Jacobs Ridge, Work experience/volunteering

I’m going to Spain!

In just over 2 weeks time, on the 18th July, I will be flying to Murcia (JMU) Airport. And I will be staying in Murcia for the duration of 1 week. 

I’m embarking on my first solo venture, and I’m excited. I’ve never flown alone, and being Autistic this can be challenging: Busy airports, new people and dissimilar surroundings. The task isn’t impossible, though. Over the years, I’ve developed coping techniques and an abundance of strength to assist me in my journeys. And with a new mindset, “My Autism doesn’t define me, I define Autism”, I refuse to be restricted in life. I’m determined to achieve and to exceed my own expectations.

Jacobs Ridge is a Vegan Animal Sanctuary located in Murcia, Spain. It houses hundreds of animals rescued from slaughter, individuals branded as unwanted pets and those otherwise destined for short lived and torturous lives. Species including: Goats, sheep, donkeys and cats.

An essential component of the mission statement placed by the team at Jacobs:

We believe that every being has a right to live and to live life without fear. Thus, it is our mission to create a safe environment to last as a forever home to animals who need it, one where they don’t have to work or provide for us. One where they can just be what they are and do as they please. 

I stumbled upon the sanctuary following a Google search. The reviews were outstanding, the animals were the heart of the sanctuary and a clear compassionate side was viewed. After the completion of my Florida field course earlier on in the year, I quickly became encouraged to participate in more overseas work. I was eager to expand on my knowledge and experience within the animal care industry, yet, I wanted to work alongside people who share my beliefs – Veganism and compassion to ALL beings. Jacobs Ridge seemed perfect, and becoming involved in such an incredible cause issued me with happiness, fulfilment and joy.

I eagerly contacted the ridge and secured a place, ready to tackle my anxiety hands on. I’m excited for what the week will bring, to meet new animals and to broaden my horizons.

Here I will be documenting my time at Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary and sharing my first experience as a solo flier. Stay tuned! 

Volunteering – Idlewild Animal Sanctuary

Animals, Work experience/volunteering

Where:

Idlewild Animal Sanctuary, Conwy Valley. North Wales.

When?

September 2017 – Present.

I began volunteering at Idlewild Animal Sanctuary in September, 2017. I opted to partake in voluntary work alongside my university studies. I sent a message querying about volunteering, and was soon invited in for an induction.

Roles:

The sanctuary remains close to my heart as it follows a vegan lifestyle, similar to my own. My roles at the sanctuary include basic animal care and husbandry (Cleaning out, feeding, grooming), whilst working with a collection of wonderful animal species. Including: Small and large mammals (Goats, Sheep, Donkeys and Rabbits) And birds. I’ve made friends grown in confidence and expanded on both my knowledge and experience within the animal care industry. 

I also enjoy spending quality time with the animals and encouraging them to remain both mentally and physically stimulated through different forms of enrichment. Alongside ensuring they are content and healthy.