Open Day at Barby Keel animal sanctuary

"One in a million - that's Barby Keel." No-one would say any different, certainly not visitors to the animal sanctuary on Sunday when Barby held her annual fundraising open day.

Having postponed the event the week before because heavy rain made the car park field impossible to use, Barby was determined the open day would be a success.

She was helped by an army of volunteers who worked all afternoon on the stalls, games, tombola and raffles that filled the sanctuary grounds, not far from the animals and birds currently under her care.

She has come a long way since she first set up camp at Freezeland Lane in 1970, living in a caravan with rescued animals around her.

Volunteer Diane Fenner, busy selling books during the afternoon, has been with Barby for 28 years.

She said: "Barby works so hard. We were working until midnight last night and up again at six this morning - she just puts everything into it. She gets everything organised, it is all her idea basically which we just carry out for her. But try to get her to have a rest...

"This is her life. She is one in a million...she deserves every good thing that comes her way. In her world, Barby comes last, and the animals always come first. We get animals brought in - there was a dog tied to the gate just before midnight a while back, and there is an influx of seagulls at the moment - another one today with a broken wing. We have had mice come in recently, geese and a couple of peacocks, and there are some Norfolk Turkeys - one was found wandering down Sidley High Street so we thought he had escaped from the turkey farm. And all this is down to Barby - if it was not for her, it would not get off the ground."

The lady herself was much in evidence and attending to every detail - organising cover for helpers who needed a break, finding extra loo rolls, and making sure the afternoon passed without a hitch.

She said: "It is going very well, I am feeling very proud. It is hard work, but we enjoy it. At the end of the day, it is lovely to see lots of people here and we have had an excellent reaction."

She was disappointed to delay the open day the week before and apologised to people who didn't realise the event had been held over, some of whom had queued in Town Hall Square for the minibus up to Freezeland Lane.

"It is just so difficult when you have to postpone, but there was no way we could get in the field.

"But today it never stops. It is peaceful until about 9.30am and from then on bedlam, but I love it. I would not have it any different - and thanks to all my motley crew, I think they are all wonderful."

Jean Alexander came from Hastings to visit the animal sanctuary and

said: "I come most years because I am very fond of cats and animals.

She does a fantastic job looking after all these animals and it is all on donations really, I don't think she gets any help from anywhere. I head someone saying how much the vets' bills are, so she needs a lot of money."

Fiona Carrick, of Manor Road, came with daughters Tessa and Violet, and

commented: "We have had a lovely time. She has taken in a lot more animals there, and we thought it was bigger than it was last time.

Barby lived in a caravan here when she first started. She has a bungalow now, but at the start she had nothing. We heard that she needs 420 tins of cat food every week. I think she is a really nice lady and she deserves all the money she gets today."