Wiltshire’s Caenhill Countryside Centre goes back to nature to raise funds for vital animal rescue.
Chloe Swift, 35, has been volunteering at the CCC for two years. Relying entirely on donations to fund ever growing projects, she would do whatever it took to encourage the community to dig deep, including stripping off and dunking into a freezing cold cow trough.
She says: ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time! I trudge across the field with a hose every day to fill up the cow trough and I used to think what a funny photograph it’d make if someone was using the trough as a bubble bath. As soon as I shared the idea with our rescue centre’s founder Chris, that ‘someone’ became me! I hadn’t realised how cold it would be.’
Founder and project director Chris Franklin was producing a calendar of animal photography for the centre and Chloe suggesting they up the ante and involve the volunteers too, turning it into a Calendar Girls themed collection.
Chloe says: ‘We’re all about nature here, so it was us going back to nature, going back to our birthday suits. The little ducklings had just hatched and I thought they’d like to join me for a dip.’
Caenhill Countryside Centre is located near the famous flight of locks to the west of the town of Devizes, Wiltshire.
From humble beginnings caring for a few rescued ducks and a lamb called Dottie, the farm soon expanded to home 186 pigs, goats, sheep, cows, peacocks, hens, turkeys, ducks and quails, all rescued or donated.
The project is dedicated to promoting animal welfare and countryside learning for the community, with a particular emphasis on helping children with specialist needs. Kids are given a unique hands-on opportunity to care for the animals, look after the land and learn about welfare.
Chloe says: ‘We aim to build a child’s self-confidence through the kind of therapeutic experiences we all benefit from when we spend time with animals. We also support vulnerable adults too, including soldiers suffering PTSD.’
As a small charity, the group of volunteers have to be creative with their fundraising and this is the latest in a line of unusual projects.
Chloe says: ‘On the day of my shoot, it was raining. I was chuffed to have found a bottle of Matey’s bubble bath in the village shop but it wasn’t exactly a luxurious soak – the water was ice cold.’
‘The trough had a thick layer of algae over it and who knows what all the sludge was at the bottom. I’m petrified of spiders as well, but I just kept thinking of the animals we love who need our help.’
Chris’s wife and co-founder Helie was on hand with a warm towel. But while Chloe couldn’t wait for the shoot to wrap, the ducklings were having a lovely time.
Chloe says: ‘It was nice weather for ducks! They were quacking away, having a merry old paddle around the bath. It was only supposed to be me and the ducks, but the cows were curious about what was going on and soon they joined in too. They’ve all been hand-reared from birth and are so friendly, one even came in for a kiss.’
The idea soon snowballed, with other volunteers mucking in too.
Next Christine climbed into Marlene’s pig sty. Marlene is super friendly, she didn’t bat an eyelid. She had eight piglets this year so she’s pretty pleased with herself and was happy to pose for a picture.
Stella posed with Goldie the rooster and Sarah posed with Peanut, a pea chick. Peanut has a claim to fame – his dad is called Duran and was donated by the John Taylor estate. John Taylor is the bass guitarist in Duran Duran. So Peanut is kind of a big deal!
Chloe says: ‘All the animals and all the human volunteers were so enthusiastic, it was so much fun to put together our tribute to Calendar Girls. And even though we all stripped off in the freezing cold, we were happy because we’d do anything to raise funds so we can keep on looking after our animal family. Next year though, I think I might volunteer to hold the towels instead!’
If sales go well, funds raised will help with an expansion project for the rescue centre. Chloe says: ‘Some of the animals we rescue have had an awful start to life. After they arrive here, they become happy, relaxed and content. If we can expand, we can help more animals and in turn, help educate more children about the importance of treating animals with compassion and respect.’
The Caenhill Countryside Centre calendar is £10, with all profits going to the rescue centre. It’s available to buy from www.caenhillcc.org.uk. You can also follow the charity’s projects on Facebook and Twitter.
About the author:
Kim Willis is a feature writer who graduated from the London School of Journalism and now writes for women’s magazines and national newspapers. She had her vegan epiphany in January after watching ‘Dairy is Scary’. The five minute and 41 second long YouTube video changed Kim’s life for the better. Now a proud member of the united nations of veganism, Kim enjoys writing about her vegan discoveries (and other adventures) on her blog: www.lunacyofink.com She also enjoys yoga, handstands, sunshine and travelling with her photographer husband, preferably all at once, because then her yoga-handstands in the sunshine can be documented in glorious technicolour by said husband.