A woman who was raised in wealth revealed how she left everything to move to Greece because she disliked the UK class system, and now looks after 50 rescue animals.
Sandy, 76, was born in the UK, but moved to Greece when she was 21, more than four decades ago. With her inheritance, she opened the Magic Mountain Animal Shelter when she was in her 60s.
When Ben Fogle visited her for tonight’s episode of New Lives in the Wild at 9pm on Channel 5, he discovered that all of Sandy’s time and money goes into looking after 25 dogs, 20 cats, eight donkeys, and a horse that live with her on the 300-year-old farm she bought with her savings.
Even though money poured into the shelter has started to run out, Sandy, who spends £3,000 a month on the animals’ care, told Ben she hopes to find a solution for the project’s future.
The 76-year-old admitted her upbringing was very different from her current life. Her father was an officer in the British army, and the family owned a pile in Norfolk, and were financially well-off.
But Sandy, who told Ben her brother took his own life, said she disliked the class system because her parents would not allow her to speak to just anyone, which is why she moved to Greece, where she lived off her art before starting the shelter.
Sandy, 76, right, welcomed Ben Fogle in her Magic Mountain Animal Shelter on the Greek island of Andros, for tonight’s episode of New Lives in the Wild, airing on Chanel 5 at 9pm
Sandy’s father line of work meant the family had to move to Australia when she was three, and stayed there for three years.
She told Ben her older brother was sent to boarding school in Britain from Australia by boat, and said the lenghty journey had taken a toll on him.
‘It’s mind blowing. I’m quite sure it was quite damaging for him,’ she said.
‘And now, I think about it and I’m kind of sad for me that it happened to him. Actually my brother committed suicide in the end.
Sandy used her inheritance to buy a 300-year-old farm house, and started the shelter when she was in her 60s. She looks after 25 dogs, some pictured, 20 cats, eight donkeys, one horse and one mule
‘It affects me now. At the time I didn’t really understand it. But later on in life I did.
Sandy herself went to boarding school in Surrey when she was nine. after her family travelled back to the UK and bought a house in Norfolk.
She said she had no problem with boarding school life, but said she thinks it is for ‘survivors.’
She said her life was ‘okay,’ growing up, but was ‘regimented and strict.’
Pressed by Ben, she added: ‘There were parts of it when I kind of wanted to break out of it, but actually I couldn’t.
The dogs rescued by Sandy, some pictured, are often thrown over her fence or tied to her gate Some were rescued from bins
‘Sometimes I actually think the reason I came to Greece was because it was a way of breaking away from a class system I didn’t really want to fit into.
‘There were certain people that I could go out with, but not others. So I think coming here, looking back on it, was because I feel completely free.
‘And I’m relating to Greek people who know nothing about my background. You’re just a person, I’m just Sandy,’ she added.
Speaking of her Magical Mountain rescue, Sandy admitted she was at first a bit ‘nervous’ to live on the 300-year-old farm she bought with her inheritance.
She explained she was moved by Greece’s beauty after a visit when she was in her early 20s.
Sandy spends most of her time looking after the animal ,feeding, bathing and grooming the dogs who are awaiting adoption, like this foursome
‘The beauty. I was absolutely overwhelmed by it. I’m a visual person, it is what makes me happy, I was bowled over by the whole place,
‘It was a big decision, it’s a huge place and it’s an isolated area, coming here alone, trying to deal with everything here,’ she added.
‘I was a little bit nervous about it. Actually I didn’t come here for the first six months. I bought it and then kinda just sat there, thinking about it.
‘And finally I came, and slowly, slowly I got used to how to run it, learned many, many things which I didn’t know how to do. I just watched whoever came here doing things, I watched and learned and now here we are.’
She told Ben that she does not regret her decision forty years on.
‘I couldn’t have imagined that I could be with these animals and doing what I’m doing now,’ she told him.
Ben said Sandy was ‘selfless’ to let the dog sleep wherever they want in her house while she sleeps in a bunk bed
‘And also having lived this amazing life that I’ve lived on this island.
‘It’s the old story, money enables you to do things, but the happiness has come from helping these animals. But now I have to think about other ways of raising my money to keep it going, but it don’t regret what I did.
‘I hope that I keep in good health so that I can continue. My plan is that I keep the place where I’m living and someone continues to run it and live in the house.’
Ben was immediately struck by the huge number of dogs living in the house with Sandy.
‘I can barely hear myself talk,’ he told the camera, while the dogs howled in the background.
Ben found it remarkable that at the age of 76, Sandy sleeps in a bunk bed to make space for more dogs in her room. Seven pups sleep with her on the floor, while the others bed down in the lounge, kitchen and the other rooms on the 300-year-old farm.
‘I don’t quite know how she keeps on top of all of that,’ he told the camera.
‘She is passionate about having animals, it’s quite selfless, eccentric, a woman in her 70s sleeping in a bunk bed so that the dogs can sleep wherever they want.’
Sandy spends her day feeding, training, grooming and bathing the dogs, who are awaiting adoption from families either from Greece or abroad. She proudly told Ben one of the pups she rescued has found anew home in Canada.
She does not charge adoptive families for the pets they rescue, and relies on donation and fundraising.
‘Everything that I have inherited has gone towards the animals basically,’ she said.
‘The cost of running the shelter, the cost of the house… But actually, right now, it’s starting to run out.’
Ben and Sandy, pictured with some of the shelter’s dogs. Sandy said she did not want to fit into the UK’s class system when she was younger, which prompted her to move to Greece
Sandy explained to Ben she used to paint portraits of the animal and sell them to fund the shelter, but she does not have time to paint anymore, which means funds have been scarce.
During Ben’s visit, Sandy revealed she was looking after a litter of three week-old puppies who had been thrown into a bin.
‘It’s horrifying, one of the worst crimes, in my mind, that you can commit,’ she told Ben.
The puppies had be fed every two hours, which was a massive task for Sandy and her volunteers.
She said she ‘definitely’ believed dogs were a substitute for human friends.
‘Small talk, I’m not really versed in that, I’d rather be doing something,’ she told Ben.
‘I’ve had lots of relationshipz, I don’t think anybody would want me now,’ she continued, adding living with 50 animals made romantic encounters complicated.
Ben asked her if she’d ever swap dogs for a relationship, to which she replied ‘definitely not.’
She added she did not buy the farm with the idea of turning it into a shelter, but decided to do it because she had the time, the money and the space to look after the animals.
She added that people usually leave unwanted dogs tied at her gate, or throw them over her fence.
In the show, a nervous Ben also watched as Sandy visited a family after receiving a tip their dog was being mistreated.
She found the dog look very unhealthy and malnourished, so took him with her on the pretense of taking the animal to the vet, but told Ben she planned to keep it at the shelter while it recovered.
Ben Fogle: new Lives In the Wild airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.