Bray for me! Donkeys to join St Paul’s Cathedral Palm Sunday procession

Sarah Jayne Lawson from Scratby Garden Centre with two donkeys Pancake and Fred.Both are taking part

Sarah Jayne Lawson from Scratby Garden Centre with two donkeys Pancake and Fred.Both are taking part in the St Paul's Cathedral Palm Sunday parade in London.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Two donkeys are preparing for their big moment when they star in the Palm Sunday procession into St Paul's Cathedral in London.

For Fred, a veteran of the parade, it will be business as usual as the 16-year-old with an especially pronounced cross on his back, takes a leading role in the action.

It means showing Pancake, aged eight, the ropes - including mastering the tricky ascent of the cathedral steps.

Both donkeys spend the summers offering rides to children at parties and fetes and are used to travelling.

But St Paul's is still the biggest gig for the lucky two selected from the Scratby-based collection, numbering around 30 animals.

Their owner Sarah Jayne Lawson said only the sturdiest and most reliable steeds were selected for the difficult role, and always in pairs because they didn't like being on their own.

Because donkeys startled easily, especially when they heard noises from behind, it was important to select only those that could be relied upon to behave perfectly and not suddenly decide they didn't want to do something.

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The parade in London saw the animals walk around a mile and half accompanied by choirs, banging drums and ringing bells before making their way to the back of the church.

Miss Lawson said donkeys were incredibly sociable and liked nothing better than mingling with people and enjoying the attention.

Fred had been going for eight years but first had to learn to scale a flight of steps by negotiating any they found around the villages.

Pancake's mother had also been scheduled to go on that maiden trip but surprised everyone by going into labour the night before.

The Scratby donkeys are the only ones included in the religious event which marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before his death and resurrection.

The link came about when a capital rector on holiday in Hemsby saw the donkeys on the beach.

One was walked regularly, helping Miss Lawson's father in his recovery from heart surgery, and the suggestion was made to bring them to London.

Eight years later they have been going ever since.

Miss Lawson said it was a lovely event connected to the real meaning of Easter.

The parade starts at St Giles in Cripplegate and finishes at St Paul's on Sunday March 20, the start of holy week.

The donkeys will also be making appearances in Southend, Attleborough and Bungay this year.

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