THE sun shone down on the centre of Malvern for the last-ever May Day donkey parade and blessing.

The event, which has been held annually since 2009, attracted up to 300 people to the town centre on Sunday, after they turned out to see rescue donkeys Bluebell and Daisy for the last time.

Organiser Rev Val Needham, who founded the event, is retiring, which is why this year’s parade is set to be the last.

She said: “Considering how many other events were on [the same day], we are thrilled with the results and couldn’t have asked to go out on more of a high.”

As donkey guardian Don Russell and his helper led the donkeys forward, Grace Giudicotti-Poplawska and Rose Tanner-Gray, Poppy Mason, Athena Watson, Naiya Harborne, Neve Baddeley, Lois and Ellen England and other children threw rose petals before them.

Members of the public brought their pets forward to be blessed by Rev Needham, Rev Sheila Simmonds, Brother Peter Coombes and Rev David Wetton.

Then it was time for battle to commence as Thomas Coombes, aged 16, as the young Oak King, challenged the Winter King to concede power so new shoots of green could herald the spring.

Young magicians performed a display of magic tricks, and the music included a traditional song, A Branch of May, during which sprigs of may were handed out to the crowd.

Chesterton’s The Donkey was performed by Rev Coombes, after which musicians Liz Pearman and Garry Low led the team in a rendition of All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir.

The event then concluded with a final blessing at the Malvhina Spring on Belle Vue Island.

This was followed by a farewell procession down Church Street, before the donkeys were taken back to their home.

The team held a celebratory lunch before retiring to Rev Needham’s home, where their costumes were handed over ready for donation to the charity Everybody Dance, based at Whitbourne, near Bromyard.

Rev Needham chose this charity, which promotes dancing, because of its ethos of inclusivity.

The collection was for two charities, the Malvern-based Penny Ha’Penny Horse and Pony Rescue Centre and Malvern Spa Association, with £430.43 to be shared equally between the two causes.