FIVE little donkeys will be offering youngsters in south Essex a taste of traditional seaside fun, but not on the seaside.

Jayne Johns wanted to offer donkey rides on Southend seafront, but was told by the council she wasn’t allowed.

But she has been given permission by Rochford District Council to start the rides in the car park and play area of Hockley Woods.

Tom, Rupert, Barney, Robbie and Joseph, aged between four and 14, have just returned from giving rides in Clacton.

Mrs Johns, 49, of Daws Heath Road, Rayleigh, said: “They love giving rides. A donkey who gives rides is always far healthier than one who is stuck in a field all the time.

“I gave up working them at Clacton because we were so far from the pier. You need to be where all the action is and it just wasn’t working out. It was costing me £25 in fuel to get there and back.

“Ideally, I would love to do the rides on Southend’s beaches, but years of talks with the council have come to nothing.

“Southend West MP David Amess has taken up the fight for me and has said he will write to the council. It would be a lovely thing to have on Jubilee Beach.”

The donkeys, some of which have been rescued, usually work for four hours with breaks in between or for eight hours with an additional longer break. They will start on Sunday May, 23, with a four-minute ride costing £2.

Mrs Johns added: “I work with the support of the Devon Donkey Sanctuary and adhere to the donkey charter, which protects their welfare.

“Tom was given to me by my husband for my 40th birthday. Robbie was rescued after being shut in a shed for three years. He is a beautiful donkey, but cheeky. Barney was owned by travellers and used to be frightened of his own shadow, but he’s really lovely now.”

John Lamb, Southend councillor responsible for tourism and regeneration, explained why the donkeys were not allowed on the beach.

He said: “The problem we have is we have Blue Flag and Coastal Award beaches, which restrict what we can and can’t do.

“They might say they will pick up the donkey mess but they can’t pick up urine. We need to safeguard the water quality and keep the beaches clean to get the awards which attract visitors.

“I love donkeys and remember having rides as a child but times have changed.”