Despite the name, rescued animals of all shapes and sizes find a home at Hillside Shire Horse Sanctuary at West Runton, Norfolk.
The handsome shire horses are some of the first creatures that you encounter, as they peer out of stable doors watching the visitors. A path around the side of the stable block leads to open fields and small enclosures hosting horses and ponies of all sizes, and also deer, alpacas, sheep, goats, pigs, birds and other creatures.
The large flock of goats initially appear quiet sitting in their field, presumably reflecting with relief on the troubles now behind them. Then a couple of goats lock horns with a loud slam, and the illusion of peace is shattered. The alpacas had recently been shorn when I visited, giving them a comical appearance, as if they had received a budget haircut.
All the enclosures have signage, recounting sad stories of how the animals were mistreated and ended up grazing the gentle slopes of Hillside. Information is also provided on how these individual stories link to the wider suffering of animals in the food and medical industries. It can be uncomfortable reading for those of us who take pleasure in visiting these animals and who are upset by the stories of neglect, but who still enjoy a cup of tea or ice cream made with milk.
There is a quirky museum of horse-drawn vehicles, including a horse-drawn omnibus and an example of a vehicle used to transport wealthy holidaymakers from the train station to their hotels, both dating from the 1880s. The sanctuary also offers a second-hand shop and a playground.
After visiting a wide variety of rescued animals, we enjoyed ice cream from the café. Naturally, all the ice creams sold were vegan, so could be enjoyed in front of the animals without guilt. Hillside has two sites, the other sanctuary is in Frettenham, 20 miles south, and is open selected Sunday afternoons in summer.
The West Runton sanctuary is located just off the A419 between Sheringham and Cromer on the North Norfolk coast. The village also has a quiet beach, which is a great place to stop at before heading home.