Nestled in the heart of Berkshire sits a rescue centre giving animals big and small a second chance.

Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue in Hurst takes in dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rabbits for rehoming - with dozens of volunteers helping to keep the charity organisation afloat amid rising pressures resulting from pandemic pets.

Now the festive season is upon us and many rescues will be spending Christmas in kennels.

With this in mind, I ventured down to give a helping hand and see what went on behind the scenes at rescue centres, getting stuck in with the average day's activities.

On arrival, I was welcomed in by the friendly team leading the rescue, with Tom Gray and Julie Scott introducing me to my first task of the day: getting the three 10-month-old Collie-Spaniel puppies into the playpen and ready for breakfast.

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Bounding their way to their playpen where they were divided up for breakfast, the three were a joy to be around.

From there Julie took the dogs to get a wash and prepare them for their vet visit and vaccination later that day.

Many of the dogs enter Diana Brimblecombe’s care from Ireland, arriving on a Friday.

A local vet visits the rescue each Wednesday, with other appointments made as needed.

As I made my way to the dog kennel, nothing could have prepared me for the 13 dogs, each with their own personalities and charms, that I would be walking over the next hour and a half with volunteer Tanya Smith.

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At the rescue, once the vet gives the all-clear of any diseases, dogs can be walked in a large secure field on the rescue site, which Trixe the Collie Cross loved as she bounded after balls.

Dogs who are awaiting their check-up are taken to designated playpens where they are stimulated in a smaller space with toys - although many just ended up wanting cuddles.

Meanwhile, other volunteers worked on cleaning out the kennels, issuing fresh blankets and breakfast.

While the kennels take up a lot of the time from volunteers - of which there are 35 to 40 - a cattery, rabbit hutches and Guinea pig enclosures house other rescues on site.

The cattery was a serene space for the rescues, with their own cat flaps, beds, litter trays and toys.

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On my visit on December 6, there were 10 cats residing in the space, with one heavily pregnant cat which had been handed in at the local vet.

Cats are cleaned out in the morning and given breakfast, similar to the dogs. 

The afternoon brings time for human interaction, with volunteers sitting with the animals and coaxing them out of their shells.

Fraggle, a five-year-old female cat was a particular favourite of mine and would make the perfect lap cat with her companion Peanut. 

The centre is also home to a schnauzer rescue, which came about after Meg, who was used for breeding in a puppy farm, was not suitable for rehoming due to her traumatic background. 

By midday, the vet had arrived and the three collie-spaniel pups were ushered into the clinic room for their checkups and vaccinations, which found no pressing issues. 

The three have been put up on the rescue's website for adoption.

Other dogs were seen to before the cats were checked over and the vet went on her way.

Before leaving the rescue I caught up with Julie Scott, assistant manager, on the charity's background.

She provided background on Diana Brimblecombe and how the rehoming and rescue centre began over 50 years ago by Mrs Brimblecombe who was awarded an MBE in 2001 for services to animal rescue.

Talking about recent challenges, Julie said: "We have noticed a huge difference since Covid. We are seeing so many more animals with more injuries, illnesses, things that have not been treated. It has become a huge financial burden on us. We are struggling a bit and we work with our vets a lot - our bills are enormous.

"Cats are one of our biggest challenges this year. Lots of pregnant cats and kittens."

Speaking about Christmas, Julie said: "This time of year is completely different, everything is going to slow down. People won't want a new dog for Christmas and we are very careful about putting dogs in homes ahead of any chaotic Christmas gatherings.

"Getting a pet is always a great idea but you have to make sure it works and fits your life - it is a big commitment."

Members of the public can help the charity through fundraising, donations and via a shop on site selling pet care equipment and toys.

Julie added: "We sometimes also need vegetables for our Guinea Pigs, newspaper, towels and blankets."

Find out more about Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre at