H o p e f i e l d   A n i m a l   S a n c t u a r y


This wonderful haven for the neglected, mistreated and abandoned was the result of the hard work of Paula & Ernie Clark. Paula was lost to cancer in September 2009, Ernie suffered the same fate two years later, only a couple of weeks before our last visit to Hopefield. We would be off to Lancashire the following year and certainly wouldn't be able to run a stall at Open Days any more, but knowing the sanctuary would carry on without them and still need support, I thought the least I could do was a feature on the website. I've always felt that everybody should have a charity of choice. Realistically, you can't possibly give to every cause that needs your help, but it's nice to be able to do something, so choosing one to support makes sense. This became our and M&E's charity of choice, though it wasn't actually us that did the choosing, and there lies a tale. When you're sitting comfortably, I shall begin...

At the beginning of 1992, when we first announced what was then to be called "The Mmattrix Distribution Service", we were sent a number of master cassettes as a result. Those of them that we deemed worthy would go on to form the 41 releases that launched Music & Elsewhere in the April of that year. One of the contributors to that initial catalogue was The Trundley Experience, a sizeable mailorder distro / label in the north east of England, run by Kev Trundley, that had been selling Magic Moments At Twilight Time stuff for a while by then. And making himself a few bob in the process. I mention this because all three masters he sent us, were benefit compilations and OUR project wouldn't get to make a penny out of them. Yeah, but it was okay to visit our old Frimley base a couple of times and eat us out of house and home, wasn't it? Cheapskate. Anyway, let's not get into a public slanging match about which of us is tighter than a teddy boy's haircut (it's Kev), we're all friends, after all. We've stayed at his house to get our own back and I even interviewed Kev for this site a couple of years ago, which you can have a read of simply by clicking on this link: INTERVIEW WITH A TIGHTWAD. Anyway, one of these aforementioned benefit compilations, called "Norman The Hedgehog" (M&E 015), rather stood out from the other two. They were both for local Middlesbrough based charities, a Rape Crisis Centre and The Alzheimer's Disease Society, whereas "Norman" was for one in the southeast, where we then lived. Well, Essex, the opposite side of the M25 from the M3 that we lived off, but you get my drift. This, of course, was the Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, and as noble as those other causes are, Sam and I happen to be very fond of animals. As she'll often tell anyone who'll listen; "I married one."

Underground tape sales tend not to be in their thousands at the best of times, but this was right at the very beginning of setting up M&E, and I don't think poor "Norman" sold more than half a dozen copies in its first year. However, Sam and I also used to collect our small change in a jar and, between the two, we ended up with about 85 to give them. One of the sanctuary's most popular ways of fundraising was via their 'adoption' scheme. This doesn't mean you get to take the animal home, of course, but you did get a nice little card and a photo. We decided to spend our 85 on adopting a donkey called Amos, pictured here in one of Hopefield's newsletters. I seem to recall, though am not completely sure, he was the one that, seven years later, was rather famously put forward for the England manager's job by The Sun newspaper, following the team's disappointing performance at Euro 2000. I wonder if they have a donkey currently that fancies a go? If they have one called Turnip, he'll be a dead cert for the job.

Now on the mailing list, we began to find out much more about the excellent work they did and how the sanctuary came to be. The Winter of 1982/83 had been the longest and worst since the big freeze of '63, one I particularly remember from being a four year old who opened his back door to find the snow was taller than he was. A story was breaking in the national newspapers about horses being abandoned on Rainham Marshes, a story which resonated with Paula, an animal lover who was already raising money for another sanctuary. One word to Ernie and the two of them were heading for Rainham, armed with tanks of water, bales of hay, feed and a vet. That same year, following much work, fundraising and the acquisition of half an acre of land by the couple, Hopefield was born. The original plan was to get the horses back to good health, then seek to foster them out to loving carers, but having been rather badly let down by one of these 'loving carers' and seeing the horse suffer as a result of it, they vowed that any animal they took in would have a home for life. With them. They gave up their jobs and began to devote their lives to Hopefield, which continued to grow, moving to ever larger plots of land, until they came to rest at the sizeable Sawyers Hall Farm, where the sanctuary is today, alongside the M25 at Brentwood in Essex. 

A field of hope - Today's Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Brentwood, Essex.