Days Out For Animal Lovers: Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

(AD) What happens if you find a pig wandering down the street and nobody claims it as theirs? What about if a horse is found malnourished and injured?  It’s a sad truth that there are a lot of animals who are abandoned or unwanted and they either need a new home or they will be put to sleep. Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Brentwood, Essex is home to over 600 abandoned or unwanted animals. While they can only accept a percentage of the animals they are offered, those they take will live out the rest of the lives being cared for.  

Rescued Red Iguana at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Brentwood
Red Iguana at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

Looking after animals and paying vets bills for previously mistreated and uncared for animals isn’t cheap though and Hopefield are entirely reliant on donations, fundraising, sponsorships and visitors to the Sanctuary to support their work. They haven’t had it easy in recent years either. The rules around keeping animals in captivity don’t always make a lot of sense. Thanks to a change in rules around animals in captivity, since 2023 some of their animals can no longer be on display apart from on 6 exotic animal days each year. These include: raccoons, meerkats, reindeer, marmosets and more.  In 2024 you can only see the Exotic Animals on 4th/5th May, 3rd/4th August and 5th/6th October. 

These changes have resulted in enclosures being moved around a bit and some are covered up which isn’t ideal, but there isn’t really an alternative. They looked into getting a zoo license and you can see their reasons for not doing this here. 

So what animals can you see? 

The animals Hopefield Animal Sanctuary has on permanent display are: sheep, cows, horses, pigs, birds like chickens, ducks and turkeys, alpaca, tortoises, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, cats some reptiles, creepy crawlies and fish.

The entrance to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary with a sign showing entry prices and times
A visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary will help support their work

What Is There to Do At Hopefield Animal Sanctuary?

  • If you are visiting on one of their non-event days you can see the native animals mentioned above. They may be in fields or smaller enclosures depending on the animal and time of year.
  • Near the entrance is a lovely playground which has a good selection of play equipment including a play frame for younger and older children (both with slides), a seesaw, bucket swing and more. 
  • At peak times the Activities Barn is often open with activities like colouring, painting and sand art (the last 2 are paid for).

View from the corner of Hopefield Animal Sanctuary Play Area
The playground has a good range of play equipment

The focus is very much on the animals, but this does have a knock on effect in that the appearance of some areas of the site are a bit tired and neglected. Hopefield Animal Sanctuary are making regular improvements, but ensuring the animals are safe and comfortable is a priority. In the last month they have had a tree blow down onto one enclosure and the roof blown off a stable. It must feel like one step forwards, two steps back and it shows just how important supporting places like this is for animal lovers.

Eating at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

The Café

Max’s cafe serves hot and cold drinks, snacks and light meals. What I love is that it is all plant based, so for once my dairy free children and I can have whatever they want including doughnuts, hot chocolate and shakes. I noticed some gluten free products, but it’s worth noting their standard milk is oat milk (although soya is available on request) so the contamination risk is going to high. 

The decision to be plant based is due to the types of animals they have at the sanctuary and their history. They feel it would be hypocritical to serve meat and dairy products. This is understandable and after my son spent 20 minutes talking to Peggy the pig he said he didn’t want to eat pig for dinner. While no one will miss the animal products in their delicious cakes and doughnuts, I suspect it puts some people off having a coffee. The decision to put principles over finances is typical of the sanctuary and I applaud it.

Bringing Your Own Food 

You are welcome to bring your own food and there are picnic tables you can eat at. They ask you avoid bringing animal products if possible. 

What You Need To Know Before Visiting Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

  • On normal days prebooking is not required, but you will save money if you buy online in advance. Event days are busier and prebooking is recommended.
  • The site can get very muddy and wellies will definitely be needed if it has been raining a lot, especially if you want to walk around the paddocks.
  • It doesn’t take long to get around and unless it’s an event day you are unlikely to stay more than a few hours. 
  • None of the animals should be fed by the public, this is because as rescue animals many of them have special diets.
  • On most days the exotic animals aren’t on display so don’t get confused by the animals on the website or map as they can’t all be seen on a normal visit.
  • Although the look after the animals all year round they have seasonal opening to the public and are normally open Friday to Monday, but check their website for updates.

A collection of birds sitting on branches in an enclosure
Hanging out at the animal sanctuary

Rescued pigs snuffling in mud for food
See happy pigs, sheep, horses, donkeys and more

2 highland, 2 jersey and a dexter cow sitting in a field
Highland, Jersey and a Dexter Cattle

Cabinets containing reptiles and snakes at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
The reptile room

Is It Dog Friendly?

Yes! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary is one of the few farms and zoos in Essex where dogs are welcome. They ask that dogs are well behaved and kept on a lead. Remember that some of the animals may be nervous so ensure your dog is calm around other animals if you plan to bring them.

Is It Suitable For Pushchairs?

Many of the pathways are grass so if it has been raining it might be hard to get around with a pushchair.

Why Visit Hopefield Animal Sanctuary?

  • Visitors provide essential financial support to look after all the rescued animals and will enable them to continue to save animals in the future.
  • The café has great plant-based vegan food, but if you want to bring a picnic there are picnic tables and an undercover area to eat.
  • There is a lovely play area.
  • It has cute animals, my favourites are probably their rabbits (they have about 20!).

Special Animals To Look Out For On Your Visit

Look out for:

  • Jet the black cat who is missing a paw. This kitty was found when 7 weeks old tied in a carrier bag (by the way the cat’s aren’t free roaming as they have shown too much interest in some of the other residents, but they have plenty of space both in and outside). 
  • Rio the peacock who is full embracing the peacock show off reputation despite the lack of interest shown by his mate. Don’t worry Rio we think your plumage looks great. 
  • Millie the sheep that was born without eyes.
  • Sven the Hebridean Black sheep who is the only one of his herd to have the 4 horns this breed can grow.
  • Belle and Jasmine, the horsey best friends who refuse to be separated.
  • Rocky, this cockerel has recently been rescued and is currently refusing to hang out with any other birds. 
  • The super friendly dairy cows who will cover you in dribble if you give them a chance. As they have to be hand fed their medication they are happy to come see you.

A rescued friesian cow at the animal sanctuary
Watch out for the cow dribble from these friendly cows

How To Get To Hopefield Animal Sanctuary and Where To Park

Address: Sawyer's Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, CM15 9BZ

The Animal Sanctuary is at the end of Sawyers Hall Lane with parking on either side before the entrance.

Parking: There is a good amount of parking across a few car parks

What else Is There To Do Nearby Hopefield Animal Sanctuary?

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary is on the outskirts of Brentwood which has a range of shops and restaurants.

Disclosure: We were recently invited to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary to hear more about their work and have been invited to return to see the animal's journeys.

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