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Our Story

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary was founded in 1983 by Paula and Ernie Clark. It had been the coldest winter for twenty years and the story of ponies and cobs being abandoned by their owners on Rainham marshes were hitting the headlines. Paula, a Doctor's receptionist, was already raising money for other sanctuaries, and at home in tears over the story of these poor horses. When Ernie returned home from work Paula showed him what was happening and it was from this moment on that they vowed to take action and help the animals that needed them. A decision that would change the lives of so many animals forever.

Paula and Ernie went down to the marshes where sixteen horses were already dead and the others were starving. They took tanks of water to them, bales of hay and feed. They even got the vet to examine some of them. Paula and Ernie started to raise money to buy the horses and move them to other sanctuaries and helped them to raise funds.

They then decided to put a call out for some land to start up their own sanctuary. A lady from Pitsea had half an acre to offer so Paula and Ernie started their dream, Hopefield. They started taking horses with the intention to foster. They would bring the horses back to health and then find them nice homes. The first horse they fostered out was Pye, soon after they heard that the fosterers were trying to sell him so Ernie took them to court which cost £4,000. Ernie Finally got Pye back and he was in a terrible state so both Paula and Ernie promised they would never rehome again and the animals had a home for life.

As the sanctuary grew Ernie and Paula both gave up their jobs to look after the animals that so badly needed them. They soon moved to a piece of land in Langdon Hills and were there for three years. Hopefield was still growing so they knew it wouldn’t be too long until they had to move to an even bigger piece of land.

Paula put another call out for land and they came across the land that Hopefield sits on today which is owned by Tesco who kindly let us use it for a peppercorn rent. Through the years Paula and Ernie have had their ups and downs but have never given up. Their hard work has been recognised by a number of awards including both receiving a MBE and has inspired many people and saved hundreds of animals lives.

Paula lost her battle with cancer on September 19th 2009 and Ernie kept his promise to her to continue their work at Hopefield, which he did until he passed away of cancer, September 11th 2011.

Since their passing the work has passionately continued with 3 new trustees Nicola Carson, Leona Lewis, Lee Clark (Paula and Ernies son), Dave Schlaich, CEO and Lianne Angliss, Manager.

Hopefield has continued to rescue horses and farm animals of all kinds and over the years the type of animals we are having to help has greatly changed, we are now home to many types of animals including small animals, alpacas, reindeer, exotic animals and more! We have opened a reptile room and also taken in many exotic mammals including Raccoons, Tanuki, Marmosets, a skunk and many more as well as birds of prey.

The sanctuary is open to the public which is generating funds that go directly to the animals, making Hopefield's future more secure so they have a home for life.

Hopefield is a proud member of the Essex community.