Remembering Monique Turk October 1952 – December 2022

Monique had always loved animals, her whole life revolved around them and their welfare.

From a very early age Monique wanted to take care of animals, her family had a selection of pets, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, budgies, tortoises and 2 cats called Dinky and Cindy, Monique’s older sisters were tasked with cleaning them out but their interest soon faded and even though Monique was very young she took on these duties.

At the age of about 8 Monique and a friend were late coming back for tea and when they did return she informed her family that they had found a pig in the nearby woods, it was in the process of giving birth so she decided to help, as each little one popped out she cleaned it up and ‘attached’ it to a teat so it could get milk.

As well as family pets Monique had a keen interest in horses and started to learn to ride when she was 8, over the years she owned many horses, the first one was called Oliver when she was 15, then came Timpani, Chevron and Uncle Toby to name but a few. While still living at home Monique would often turn up with her pony, bring it into the family garden and tether it while having Sunday lunch.  In her early 20’s Monique started her own riding stables.

In 1976 Monique moved into her first house with 2 cats, Katy and Susie, and very soon after a further 17 rescue cats followed, they came from a bungalow where the owner had gone into a home, little did Monique know that she would end up buying the very same bungalow a few years later and that rescuing these cats would be the start of something big,

Monique became friendly with a lady called Min who rescued animals, Monique helped out by fostering some at her bungalow in Clanfield in Hampshire, and with her Dad’s help she built 2 pens with a shed in her garden, one of her early rescues was a rabbit called Trifle who had been destined for the pot but happily with Monique’s help that didn’t happen.

In 1982 Monique met Nigel, he had moved into the area and lived next door to her parents, soon they were a couple and in December 1986 and with the sole purpose of rescuing cats and rabbits they bought and moved (along with Monique’s beloved pony Jasper) into Holborow Lodge in Sidlesham, Holborow Lodge had 4 acres of land, enough to rescue and care for many animals.

Monique and Nigel both worked full time so their evenings and weekends were spent, with the help of family and friends, building rabbit (and fox proof) enclosures and turning old buildings including a chicken shed and caravan into cat accommodation.  In the very early years there were no full time staff and only a few volunteers.

In 1991 the Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre became a registered Charity, with Monique at its helm as the Founder, she was always very proud to see the registered Charity number as 1010000.

With the dedication and hard work of Monique and Nigel the Charity began to grow, cats and rabbit’s (and later on guinea pigs) in need of care and new homes arrived regularly.  Past and present full and part-time staff as well as volunteers played a vital part in this growth and this very much continues today.  Not all the animals that came to the Centre could be re-homed, some had long term health issues and some were elderly but they were still taken in and cared for, no animal was ever put to sleep unless it was terminally ill and in pain.

Feral cat colonies in farms, disused warehouses, housing estates and Hospital’s like Graylingwell in Chichester were also in need of help so Monique, Nigel and volunteers would spend hours with a long piece of string attached to a trap patiently waiting for a cat to walk in following the smell of sardines in tomato sauce. Monique did not like them to be unloved, homeless and sometimes poorly or about to have yet another litter of kittens.

If the feral cats were going to be returned to the area that they came from or being rehomed in a new area then Monique always ensured they were neutered and that they would be fed and cared for.  Holborow Lodge became home to quite a few ferals but as those numbers grew Monique decided to take on even more work and set-up another rescue centre.

(Monique hard at work digging foundations even before the old building had been demolished!)
(Monique showing how to use a cat trap, I think there is a (un)willing tester behind to her left!)

The new rescue was called Feline Care, they named the site Feralands and it was based in Norfolk, here the ferals and elderly cats would live out their days in safety and contentment.  Monique and Nigel would take turns living there to look after the animals but as the Charity in Sidlesham grew they decided to employ a live-in manager and in 2006 they found a lovely lady called Molly. In 2011 Feline Care became a Charity and Molly took over 100% control, today it is a very successful Charity in its own right.

To run a rescue you need an income and in the mid 1990’s the first of many (yearly) Open Days or Fete’s at the Rescue Centre began, they were always held on the 2nd Sunday in August, Monique and by now a growing number of volunteers and staff worked tirelessly to make the event successful and every year their goal was to have more visitors and exceed the previous year’s total raised.

(Open Day 13th August 2017, we always (well almost) seemed to have the weather on our side)

In 1999 the first Charity Shop opened in Shore Road, East Wittering, Monique was the driving force that made the shop what it is today – successful, you would often find her at the shop on Christmas day or late into the evening sorting goods ready for sale, during the summer the shop would be open all week round even on Sundays, today the Charity has 6 shops in West Sussex and the income they provide helps to secure the future of the Charity.

During the 30 years that Monique and Nigel ran the rescue the number of buildings to house the animals increased, the original buildings damaged in the Great Storm of 1987 were demolished and replaced with new buildings, specially designed to care for the animals, a new barn was built to house the rabbits and guinea pigs over the winter, it was an overflow for the cats and stored the hay for the animals. The original chicken shed was long gone and in its place another building was built with pens for the cats, Monique called this area Diamond quarters (named after a cat that had donated blood to save another cats life), and The MBU (Mother and Baby unit, for kittens and cat mothers).

The original and very large market garden sized greenhouse was ‘remodelled’ and it became Stacy (after one of the first elderly resident cats) Lodge – a ‘temporary’ building for the cats, in later years it was replaced by a new building – Viv Eadon Lodge, it not only housed the cat’s and occasionally rabbits, it had storage and staff facilities and its own vet room, which was very rare for an independent Charity, here animals could be treated and operated on by an excellent veterinary team led by Mark Elliott (BVSc VetFFHom MRCVS FIPsiMed PCH DSH RSHom) whose vets came in once or twice a week, this meant that the animals could be treated without having to travel and the Charity saved thousands on their vet bills. The last building project was the ‘Annex’ in 2017, it included a multipurpose wet weather/ open day/ Christmas fair room, a food storeroom, office and reception area.

Monique’s love and care for animals didn’t stop at Holborow Lodge she was also known for picking up any stray or injured animal that she found by the roadside and making sure that it received the care and attention it needed. Monique also supported other rescues and personally took-on the permanent fostering at Holborow Lodge of other animals, this included several ponies, Lady, Honey, Holly and Daisy and goats including Sharon, Hyacinth and Fuchsia.

We would like to share this message from Councillor Julian Joy, the Mayor of Chichester, sadly Monique never got to see it:

Dear Monique

I am writing to formally recognise and acknowledge all the hard work and dedication you have given to the Cat and Rabbit Rescue in Sidlesham for the last 38 years. I would like to thank you very much on behalf of the City Council and the Chichester community for the hours and hours of time you have given selflessly to offer veterinary treatment, and care for the animals until you are able to re-home them.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

Julian Joy

When Monique started the Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre 1987 her vision was to save and rehome cats and rabbits, it has grown from a few ramshackle buildings and volunteers to a Charity that, today has 32 staff, 75 volunteers, purpose built accommodation, an on-site vet facility and over 25,000 animals have found their ‘forever’ home – I think we can safely say that Monique’s vision was achieved and the legacy she has left is immeasurable

In December 2018, after 30+ years of unfaltering dedication to the Charity, Monique and Nigel finally retired and moved to Worcestershire with Fuchsia the goat, ponies Holly and Daisy and cats Muffin and Dee.  Unsurprisingly there were two stray cats already waiting for them when they arrived, Martha and Lady who eventually moved in.  Martha is deaf and spends all her time in the snug and sits on Nigel’s lap when he is reading or watching tv.  Lady became a constant fury companion to Monique and was by her side in her final days.

(Fuchsia - Monique’s goat at her new home in Worcestershire)

It was Monique’s wish not to have a funeral or memorial service and if anyone would like to make a donation in her memory, then please donate to a small rescue that Monique had recently started supporting, it’s called Goats Galore! they are based in Herefordshire, not too far from where she and Nigel moved to. Visit their webpage here.

Please visit their Just Giving to make a donation – Click Here