The first ladies day kicked off at Frankie’s Farmshop, Staplehurst in Kent with 16 keen MG enthusiasts. The farmshop, it seems is a popular venue for clubs, with a Ferrari group pulling in alongside our cars. They were surprised to see all of our MG’s driven by women until we explained that it was a ladies only event.
With plants and other bits purchased and crammed into cars ranging from 1950’s MGA Twin Cam, 2 MGA’s, an MG RV8, MGF, MG ZS and a couple of unmentionables we headed off for the main venue of the day the Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden.
A short drive through the picturesque Kent countryside in all its splendour, took us to the Sanctuary, where our exclusive tour had been booked. The Big Cat Sanctuary is primarily open for corporate or wedding bookings as well as very expensive overnight stays in lodges coming in at an eye watering £750 per couple. We were treated to an amazing day. Starting off with a short talk outlining the work of the Sanctuary from taking in cats from zoos such as Windsor Safari Park, rescuing those poorly treated or abandoned cats and a full breeding programme of endangered species with the intention of being able to release some cubs back to their natural wild habitat in the future.
This was followed by a private tour of the 32 acres of beautifully landscaped and planted grounds; more like strolling around your own garden. The Centre currently has 50 wild cats with 15 different species and we were able to see most of these awesome creatures, with our guide offering a very comprehensive commentary as well as personal details of the individual cats and their temperaments. From a sumatran tiger (hand fed by Ursula and Pat – they were outside the cage at the time and assisted by the keeper) through to a pride of white lions, a hybrid white tiger, leopards, snow leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, as well as some smaller less well known cats such as the pallas cat and the very distinctive lynx, to name but a few. The welfare of the cats is paramount and great attention is paid to their care, reflected in the fact that they house a number of relatively old cats who continue to thrive and appear to be in excellent condition.
The ladies day offered a new dimension and gave us the opportunity to meet and make friends with others outside of our usual local groups (and of course gave the boys the opportunity to tinker in their garages unhindered!). It also provided a great drive in our cars along fantastic lanes free of the usual comments, enabling habitual navigators to have a chance of driving their MG. We all agreed that it was something that we will continue and so we are aiming to hold an annual event. We would of course welcome ladies from areas other than the South East if they are able to join us or are holidaying in the area.
– Jo Ruffels