Santa’s Christmas donkeys return to Swanage Pier

Swanage Pier has been busy putting the magic into Christmas with the help of Santa, his elves and some very special donkeys.

The four legged friends from Kelly’s Donkey Sanctuary in Somerset had proved so popular last year that they were invited back to spend another day with Father Christmas on Saturday 16th December 2023.


Santa has taken up residence in his grotto on Swanage Pier and has a busy schedule ahead ably assisted by his elves

Return trip to Swanage Pier for the rescue animals of Kelly’s Donkeys, with handler Elaine


Lighting Up Lives is back at Swanage Pier, remembering loved ones and making festive evenings bright

“Wonderful to welcome our visitors”

The donkeys, Dougal, Samson and Romeo drew in and delighted crowds of young visitors, who also enjoyed visiting Santa in his grotto, listening to Christmas stories and live music, and taking lots of selfies with the elfies.

Amanda Bowden, events co-ordinator at Swanage Pier, said:

“We have been really busy since we started our Christmas programme of events with the arrival of Santa at the pier on the Swanage Lifeboat. It is wonderful to welcome so many visitors here.

“Our Christmas Lighting Up Lives is back, and more popular than ever – over the last two years this magical event, brightening up the pier with colourful lights, has made it possible for hundreds of people to fondly remember loved ones and celebrate those around them.”

The Barnet Tree and a moving collection of baubles to the memory of loved ones

Personalised and meaningful decorations make the Memory Tree a poignant addition to the pier

The Barnet memory tree is back

Amanda added:

“The Barnet Christmas tree is also back for the third year, donated by Julie and Natalie Terry and Joanne Avery, in memory of their mum and grandmother, Jean Holman.

“Jean, whose nickname was Barnet because she always had immaculate hair, sadly passed away suddenly at Christmas, a time of year she loved so much.

“The family found Christmas especially hard without her and when they noticed the pier did not have a Christmas tree a few years ago, they decided to donate a tree and make it a memory tree, for people to come along and hang a bauble on.

“This is now an annual tradition and a beautiful way to pay tribute to those who meant, and still mean so much to us. Every year we love seeing how full the tree gets with so many different baubles from Swanage families.”

Santa’s elves welcome visitors to Swanage Pier with a smile and a laugh

The tallest elf at the North Pole – wait, wasn’t there a film about that?

Come and join the selfie elfies on Santa’s sleigh for an unforgettable photo

Book online to meet Santa at the pier

Music was provided on Saturday by Karen Grant, Local Vocals and Kelp and although they and the donkeys were appearing for one day only, the pier is now open every day until 2 pm on Christmas Eve 2023.

Father Christmas and his elves are in attendance every day until 5 pm on Saturday 23rd December 2023 and bookings to meet Santa can still be made on the Swanage Pier website.

For the donkeys, it was one of many Christmas events they have attended this year, and loved meeting their visitors on Swanage Pier.


Sid has been given a starring role in a music video set in a pub

Romeo is one of the newest rescue donkeys and is already proving a favourite with crowds


Flora brought a lot of joy to patients at a Bournemouth nursing home this Christmas

Another busy year for the donkeys

The donkey’s handler, Elaine, said:

“This year has been very busy for our donkeys – some were at a Nativity play in Oxford yesterday, while others today are at events in Bristol and London, and we really enjoy our visits to Swanage Pier.

“One of our donkeys, Sid, has starred in a music video set in a pub, while others went to a country and western TV show, and we have visited a lot of nursing homes this year – it makes the patients so happy when they get a visit from our rescue animals.

“Samson is our gentle giant who was rescued from Ireland as a baby. He is a sensitive chap who doesn’t like people to be loud around him, but if you are quiet and gentle to him, he will give you cuddles all day long, in return for an ear scratch.

“Dougal is a real character – he thinks it’s hilarious to go tearing around his field with his head in the air and his tail stuck out, whilst we stagger around after him trying to catch him!

“And Romeo is one of our newest rescues, so we are still getting to know him well, but although he’s only a tiny donkey we already know he has a huge personality!”


Santa arrived on Swanage Pier by lifeboat earlier in December thanks to the RNLI


The illuminated pier is bringing a lot of joy to Swanage once again

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