West Sussex rescue centre owner caught in flooded stream

SHAKEN Irene Clarke
SHAKEN Irene Clarke
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A TIRELESS animal carer from Portsmouth faced a terrifying ordeal when a rescue centre’s stream flooded.

Irene Clarke, 50, who runs the Old Gardens Animal Rescue centre near Chichester, was up to her neck in water after she slipped into the stream.

The stream is home to the ducks and geese at the sanctuary in Highleigh, near Sidlesham, and regularly floods after heavy rain.

Irene, a grandmother from Wymering, said the ordeal shook her up.

She added: ‘Luckily the stream has gone down now.

‘I’ve got a bit of a chill, but other than that I’m alright.

‘I got my foot caught while I was feeding the animals and ended up neck-deep in the water.

‘All the roads around the area were blocked with floodwater.’

As reported, Mrs Clarke and her late brother Johnny Warlow set up The Old Gardens Animal Rescue Centre 15 years ago, not knowing how big it would become.

There are now close to 1,000 animals, including a miniature Shetland pony called Pixie, Pork Chop the Vietnamese pot belly pig, dogs, cats, terrapins, goats, and hundreds of ducks and chickens.

Mrs Clarke gets up at 4am every day to travel to Chichester to take care of the animals.

Colleagues at fellow animal sanctuary Paws, near Worthing, said it was a close call and Mrs Clarke’s rescue centre is in desperate need of support.

A spokesman from Paws said: ‘With all the rain lately the river was at its highest when Irene Clarke fell in and she almost drowned.

‘The bad weather caused a crisis for the animals at the centre.

‘The future of the rescue centre is now at risk because Irene badly needs help.

‘Irene relies on the sale of her eggs to keep the centre open.

‘With the bad weather and lack of customers the centre cannot continue much longer.’

The centre is open to the public every day except Tuesday, from 9am to 4pm. Entry is free and a bag of animal feed is 50p,

There are animals available for rehoming for a small donation.

To make a donation send a cheque made payable to The Old Gardens Animal Rescue Centre, Sidlesham, West Sussex PO20 7NN.

Go to theoldgardens.co.uk.