First to be judged for the national best group of beach donkeys was Lenny, Alfie, Chico, Rueben, Neville and Max owned by Amanda Pickles on Filey beach in North Yorkshire.
After spending the night just outside York, we drove off to Filey and for the first time this week, the sun was shining!
Amanda's donkeys were waiting on the beach and were all looking their very best. The smell of the leather saddles was strong in the air as I started checking them. All of Amanda's donkeys were very much alert and while I was checking each of them, I was gently nudged by an inquisitive nose from behind from one of the donkeys waiting his turn.
As with previous years, there was a lot of mileage to cover, so after my final checks and goodbyes, Molly Lloyd drove me to Scarborough to meet Freddie a contender for the best individual donkey.
Scarborough beach was already busy with families enjoying the sunshine. It wasn't long before I found Freddie owned by Melanie Fisher coming back from a walk along the sandy beach. Freddie had attracted local press interest and a reporter from Scarborough Evening News interviewed Amanda and then ran a video interview with myself to be shown later that day.
As with all the donkeys in the competition, Freddie has a very nice personality. He's very calm and took everything in his stride. Part of the pleasure of judging this year's competition is getting to know a little bit about their characters.
It wasn't long before we began our 150 mile drive across country to Blackpool. We drove through sunshine, rain and fog before coming through the other side to more sunshine!
Blackpool beach must be one of the longest stretches of sand in the country. It took a couple of attempts to negotiate the one-way system before we managed to reach the promenade.
Terry and Christine Roebuck's donkeys were a very impressive group. The youngest was Tinsel at 6 years of age and the oldest was Molly, aged 14. Terry told me a little story about Tizer as I walked up the beach with him and the donkeys. You wouldn't know it, but Tizer was scared of water to begin with. Now he doesn't mind getting his feet wet at all!
Also on Blackpool beach I met Carl who was being judged for best individual donkey for this region. Carl's owner, Mark Ibson, kindly walked him up the beach for me to judge alongside Terry and Christine's group of donkeys.
Freddie's ears pricked up as a young child walked towards him which I imagine must be a very welcoming invitation. He dutifully took his young charge along the beach before he was thanked by her with a very big cuddle!
After final checks, we said our goodbyes again to drive the last leg of our journey today - a stop over night at Colwyn Bay in Wales, a drive of 110 miles.
Tomorrow it's a lie in for me. Driving to Colwyn Bay means I am on the doorstep to begin the judging of the donkeys at Rhyl before moving on to Barmouth and Aberdovey.
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