AN ‘overwhelming’ community effort has helped restore normality to a North-East animal sanctuary devastated by last week’s storm.

Gale-force winds on Wednesday (December 4) night into Thursday morning brought down recently-erected fences and pens at the Kays Hill sanctuary, near West Auckland, County Durham.

Volunteers had spent three months putting up the fences and pens to get the site ready for winter, only for their good work to be undone in the space of just a few hours.

Leanne Wensley, a volunteer at the sanctuary, said agony turned to ecstasy when news of the damage was posted on social media and quickly resulted in offers of help flooding in from friends and strangers.

On Saturday, volunteers were making a start on making good the damage, after donations of materials from individuals and hardware businesses.

Miss Wensley said: “It was devastating to see all that hard work completely destroyed. People might think it’s just a few fences, but to have put that much work in and then see it destroyed, it felt horrible.

“What has happened since gives you faith in humanity – running an animal sanctuary means you often see the other side of the coin, but this has given us all a reason to keep going.”

Kate Umpleby, landlady of the Foresters Arms pub, in Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, first got involved with the sanctuary 18 months ago.

The pub is a drop-off point for people wanting to make donations and Ms Umpleby was among the first to swing into action following the storm.

She rang round Darlington businesses and received donations from Homebase, Wickes, Morrisons, MKM Building Supplies, Pets at Home, Darlington Timber Supplies and Wheelers hardware, in Cockerton.

She said: “The amount of support people have given has been amazing - very emotional, totally overwhelming.

“We have made a start, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

“The companies that have donated have surpassed my expectations - I cannot thank them enough.”

No animals were hurt in the storm.

Miss Wensley added her thanks to Ms Umpleby and everyone that has helped.

She said: “Just saying thank you isn’t enough, it’s like thank you in the biggest capital letters you can imagine.”

:: The sanctuary is holding a fundraising event tonight (Tuesday, December 10), at Shildon Working Men’s Club, at 5.30pm. There will be entertainment, a raffle and tombola. Entry is by way of donations of loose change or pet food.