Carrying out running repairs to pigeons, hedgehogs and looking after all types of animal makes Angela Serino seem like a modern day Doctor Dolittle. She’s the first to admit she’s not there yet but her long-term goal is to have her own wildlife hospital with a specialism in swifts and swallows.
Earlier this year she achieved part one of her two-fold ambition when opening Beetle Bank Open Farm set in 28 acres of grassland in Murton near York. It has been an instant hit during summer with mums and tots especially and has a menagerie of sheep, pigs, goats, llamas, cattle, rheas, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, rare breed hens, turkeys and more.
“I fixed my first pigeon when I was 12. It had been attacked by a magpie and had been thrown out of its nest as a chick. Ever since people have always brought me hedgehogs or birds they have found knocked out on their front doorstep. I became renowned as one of those who stick things back together again.
“My granddad Cecil (Dunford) was my inspiration. I spent all my summers with him and we’d go on long bike rides together. He loved wildlife and my passion went the same way. I’ve always had a house full of horses, dogs, cats and birds.”
The catalyst for Angela’s open farm came when she visited something similar in Penrith with her then much younger children Frankie and Lewis. Angela had lived with her parents Brenda and Clive Watson in York where they ran the Newington Hotel before swapping sides of the country when they took on the Burnside Hotel in Windermere when Angela was 15.
“I didn’t want to go but spent 25 years there and it was a quite exciting sector to work in. You actually made some money in that, but you certainly don’t in farming. I brought my two children back over to York with the view to buying a farm having seen the one in Penrith.
“I thought it would be ideal for me because this way I’d get to work with animals, get to work outside and be involved with people. I had always enjoyed that with the catering industry.”
Having purchased the land that is now Beetle Bank Open Farm in 2010 Angela immediately set about making her vision come to pass.
“I bought two pet lambs, both Texel X and one of them, Sophie, I’ve just retired this year. I’m now at 25 breeding ewes with a combination of Texel X and Hampshire X.
“We usually lamb in March but it’s looking as though it will go into the first couple of weeks of April this coming year. I could do with the first lambs around March 30 as that’s the start of Easter weekend. Every spring I bring in pet lambs that are offered from other farmers, so we will definitely have some for the children to bottle feed. It’s all very much part of the hands-on experience that parents and grandparents look forward to with their children and grandchildren.”
The rheas, South American animals from the ostrich and emu family, were charging around the paddock while Angela and I talked. The best description of their pace and grace was rather like the Road Runner Looney Tunes character.
“Tuesday is their day for a run around,” says Angela. “We have five. They’re really very naughty and inquisitive. We have signs up telling visitors to be careful around them.
“We also have Lana and Lenny the llamas; Alice and Amy the alpacas; Molly and Dolly our two Limousin X Simmental calves that came from farmer Andrew Catton of Hornsea. They were born in April and their mother had died.
“Everything has a story here. Someone threw a cockerel over a fence when we moved in, but you can’t keep everything that is offered or indeed launched upon you as we need to keep disease at bay.
“Our micro pigs, sometimes called a teacup pig, prove really popular. Everyone loves pigs and we have two bottle feeding pigs at present, Gilbert and Paula. We already have a lady called Colette who is buying Gilbert and Paula looks like she’s going to live in Edinburgh.”
Goats are always well loved at petting farms, which is how Angela best describes Beetle Bank, and she has three Boers and 12 Pigmy goats with a new nanny goat born just three weeks ago.
Naming the animals is a constant source of amusement and involvement for those visiting.
“That’s how Molly and Dolly’s names came about. We ran a competition for anyone to enter and we’re doing the same with our latest addition to the goat herd.”
Beetle Bank has turned out as Angela had intended, but not without great personal effort. She intends to add to the farm with two large ponds and webcams when she can afford to do so. She’s not one to be put off her stride no matter what is put in her way.
“I’ve poured everything into this and I’ve worked as a cleaner for the past seven years, but it’s been worth it.”