Eastender whose heart is in North

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A Peak District charity is saying thank-you on September 1 to a supporter who is a real star – Dot Cotton of Eastenders.

Actress June Brown, who plays the tough-talking, chain-smoking character, is marking two decades of being the President and Patron of the trust which runs the Freshfields Donkey Sanctuary in Peak Forest.

The milestone is being marked with Dot Cotton’s Garden Party on Sunday, September 4, from noon to 4pm.

Admission is free, and entertainment includes a steel orchestra, magic and vocal acts, strawberry cream teas and stalls.

June said the aims of the Michael Elliott Trust were very close to her heart – as Freshfields combines animal welfare with adventure holidays for children with special needs who receive a therapeutic boost from caring for the donkeys.

“As a grandmother of five children, I have always valued my family and it wasn’t until I met John and Annie Stirling, who run Freshfields, that it brought home to me how difficult life can be for some families,” said June.

“Freshfields brought me face to face with both the problems attached to children with special needs and the agonising cruelty suffered by some donkeys.

“How these two things came together is a wonder to me but, through the dedication of this work we have all been able to build Freshfields – the most original and unique charity that exists today.

“On my frequent weekends here I do so enjoy the company of both children and animals and, to welcome back parents who have had some much-needed respite while their children were in our care, has given me both strength and awareness of what Freshfields means to so many,” said June.

Invariably, child and donkey form a close relationship of trust and affection which is of great therapeutic value to them both.

“When I first arrived, I didn’t know much about donkeys,” added June.

“I never thought that I would ever get so attached to an animal as I have with these friendly and forgiving creatures. I have made many life-long friends among this herd.”