Could donkey rides be returning to Southwold beach?

Traditional donkey rides could soon return to one of Suffolk's most famous seafronts.

A seaside past-time dating back to Victorian times, donkey rides were once considered part and parcel of Britain's 'bucket and spade' holidays. They were reintroduced to Cromer last year - but only after public outcry convinced North Norfolk District Council who originally refused permission to change its mind, and remain popular on the beaches of Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, and Lowestoft during the summer months.

Now Suffolk donkey-owner Lydia Ward, who operates the donkey rides in Lowestoft, is applying for a licence to offer rides in Southwold.

Southwold is one of Suffolk's most famous seafronts and already boasts a traditional pier where visitors can play ironic arcade games such as 'Whack-a-Banker' and use classic penny pusher machines, but the town has not seen donkey rides in years. Ms Ward first contacted Southwold Town Council in 2010.

She said: 'I was expecting a resounding no, but got quite the opposite reaction.

'They agreed to it, but unfortunately it all came about too late to secure a licence and it was decided that I could try again next year.'

Ms Ward did exactly that and is now waiting to hear back from the town council which is due to discuss the reintroduction of donkey rides at a meeting tonight.

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'It's dependant on what they say, but I would love to see donkeys on Southwold beach,' added Ms Ward.

'We hope to run a feature day where we advertise a day where families come especially to see us and see what kind of reaction we get.'

It is all dependant on the council decision, licensing and space available, but Ms Ward hopes to have between two and four donkeys working on the beach at Southwold.

She owns six in total, but hinted that if licencing was granted she could expand the herd.

It is estimated that about 900 donkeys work on UK beaches each year. In May the annual licensing of beach donkey operators takes place. The process is overseen by the Donkey Sanctuary, an organisation that ensures all donkeys are cared for and fit to carry out the work expected of them.

While it is local councils who are responsible for regulating beach donkeys, many work in co-operation with the Donkey Sanctuary to provide an identification scheme for the animals. The Sanctuary also helps and supports beach donkey operators and council representatives through the provision of high quality, professional advice, training and support on donkey welfare.

Southwold Town Council will make a decision on donkey rides tonight.