Wanted: a new home for Carla Lane and her animal sanctuary

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The Independent Online

If you have a house near a main road, with acres of grounds, including stables, lakes and aviaries, it could be the perfect time to sell – because Carla Lane is looking for a new home for her animal sanctuary.

The Liverpudlian who created The Liver Birds and Bread currently lives with about 1,000 birds and animals down a private lane deep in West Sussex.

Broadhurst Manor, a few miles from Horsted Keynes, is so remote that Lane says she needs to move to somewhere more accessible so she can afford the upkeep of the sparrows, chickens, sheep and shire horses, who share her home.

Her sanctuary, Animaline, has hit hard times because almost its only source of income is what Lane makes from her writing. Although she is working on a new series for the BBC, it is not anough to pay the four full-time employees, feed 1,000 animals, and run its small animal hospital.

What it needs is sponsors and visitors. "The sanctuary is buried. Nobody knows it's here," Lane said. "It's at the bottom of a private lane, which begins in a road nobody goes on. We can't put a board up saying 'welcome – come to the sanctuary'. So nobody knows we are here, and consequently very little money comes in."

"The sanctuary needs to go somewhere where at least we have a main road running alongside it – as long as we have got the land that we need beyond and away from the main road."

And so, rather than lose the sanctuary, she has decided to move house. And despite the daunting problems of resettling 1,000 creatures, she is taking the animals with her. She is putting Broadhurst Manor up for sale, hoping it will fetch £4m.

Lane had the idea of creating an animal sanctuary soon after she bought the house in 1993. "I didn't buy the house with that idea," she said, "but as soon as I looked out of one of the many windows of this place I thought 'Wow! Four lakes. All that land.' I thought 'I know what I'll do'.

"It all happened overnight really: the lorries started coming with unwanted animals. It just lent itself perfectly to my dreams." Lane says she hopes she can find somewhere similar, albeit smaller, where visitors can come and bring their children.

"The house is too big for me. It is so big there are places I only go and look at now and then. And we need more grazing ground for the horses. We have 10 or 12 now.

"We have found temporary homes for smaller animals so we can build as we move. I'm not going to find anywhere with enough aviaries – that's for sure."

Those aviaries are necessary since her animal collection incorporates a huge menagerie.

"We take everything from a sparrow to a shire horse. We have got sheep, and goats, and emus, and everything. In the house, I have dogs, cats, parrots, a tortoise – you name it..

"The wildlife have become friends with us, and the thing I am going to be so sad to leave is the heron coming on my doorstep every day. He comes twice a day and just stands there, waiting for me to give him some food. Also the fox – he goes down to the sanctuary and sits among all the chickens waiting for his food. Every single thing you can think of wanders free. It is a place where wildlife comes and they mix together with our animals. It is a very, very unusual place."