Many holiday makers and day-trippers coming to Weston-super-Mare look forward to seeing the famous donkeys on the beach. They are brought each morning in horse boxes which drive down onto the sand and then they are unloaded with bales of hay and buckets of water for the children to come for rides. Some donkeys, and ponies, pull little carts and carriages; in the summer if we’re going to the shop or on some other mission it is quite common to be slowed down behind a donkey or pony and carriage, trotting down to the beach.
Donkeys have been here on the beach of what is now Weston Bay, what was Glentworth Bay, for over two hundred years. They weren’t always just for riding, in early times thy would leave the beach with their carriages and take visitors on a ride round the burgeoning town and out to the local villages. This was decades before the first railways came to Weston in 1841; the first trains on that railway left their engines outside the town and the carriages were pulled in by horses as the townsfolk objected to the noise!
Obviously donkey rides are summer activities, but if there is pleasant weather over the winter, at weekends a few donkeys might be brought to the beach for the day-trippers who mostly come from south Wales, the Black Country and the Midlands. In the past, donkeys were valuable animals, and used as pack beasts when they weren’t on the beach. Some were taken to the coast of south Somerset and Devon to carry seaweed harvested from the beaches.
As you enter our village, Uphill, south of Weston, there is a lovely meadow which is full of spring flowers from January onwards; it is called the Bluebell Field, but also the Donkey Field. Local legends say that the beach donkeys lived there during the winter, however it is more likely that there was a single pet donkey who lived there, and was buried there when he died.