Living the dream after donkey’s years

Filey Bird ,Garden and Animal Park.Matthew feeds the Donkeys..Picture Richard Ponter 134511d

Filey Bird ,Garden and Animal Park.Matthew feeds the Donkeys..Picture Richard Ponter 134511d

Sharing your back garden with visitors might not be everyone’s cup of tea - but for one Filey family it’s a dream come true.

But not only do the Holah clan share their five-acre plot with thousands of people every year, they also share it with an array of animals and birds.

Filey Bird Garden and Animal Park has now closed for the winter, so you would think this would afford the Holahs some peace and quiet.

But Fran, husband Ian and their son Matthew have plenty of plans to keep them busy - along with daily feeding, cleaning out duties of course.

Fran explained that it was always her dream to run a business from home and having lived in Filey or Hunmanby ever since her and Ian have been together, they weren’t looking to move far.

Their other son, Chris, also lives just down the road in Hunmanby.

When they saw the former farmhouse and land that has now become their home and livelihood, they decided they couldn’t afford it.

But Fran was determined not to give up without a fight.

She said: “There was just something about it. I knew we couldn’t afford it, but I just kept thinking about the land.

“We were planning the site out before we’d even bought it.”

After negotiating a price, which was right at the top of their mortgage, the family moved in - and never looked back.

Fran explained: “It was a completely empty field, but the layout of the land gave us the idea for the design of it.

“The cafe and shop building was there, but it was very ramshackle. So one of the first jobs we did was to renovate it.”

Working as a team, the family, set about building enclosures, aviaries and planting up a huge garden.

Fran said: “When we opened, which was Spring Bank Holiday 2008, we had done everything we could afford.

“We did as much as we could because I thought, if we’re not careful, people will just think we’re opening up our back garden with a few animals in!

“We had professionals in to do the paddock fences and car park, along with the electrics and plumbing, but we did everything else ourselves - we even designed our own leaflet.”

She continued: “It was massively hard work and when we opened it was absolutely terrifying.

“I didn’t know whether it was good enough and if people would come.”

But come they did, and the family were encouraged by the feedback they received.

The layout has changed very little, but the menagerie has grown.

Fur and feathered members of the family now include ducks, sheep, donkeys, alpacas, goats, pigs, ponies, rabbits, turkeys, parrots and much more.

The park also has a secret garden, woodland trail, wildflower meadow and sensory garden, among other attractions.

During visitor season, from March to the end of October, the park is open every day and animal feeding duties start at 6.30am.

But on an evening, with the visitors gone, the family do get to enjoy the last rays of the sun in their amazing surroundings.

Fran said: “It’s wonderful living and working here. It’s lovely in summer when you can sit out and relax, and it’s also great in winter when we can have the pleasure of all this in our back garden.”

With the park having scooped a number of awards, such as the Discover Yorkshire Coast Attraction of the Year 2010, the family are thrilled that others enjoy the park as much as they do.

But they haven’t rested on their laurels, with additions each year and an ideas list, according to Fran, that stretches to four sides of A4 paper.

And with the park having been the priority for the past five years, the Holahs have turned their attention to the old farmhouse that has become their home.

A two-storey extension is being built, which will house new rooms including a much-needed office, ensuite bedroom and utility room.

Fran said: “People think the house is much bigger than it actually is! But it’s what we wanted. I think this property was meant to be.”




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