Animal crackers Audrey is a real charity champ

Champion fund raiser Audrey Bates with the stray cat Macho who visits her everyday.

Champion fund raiser Audrey Bates with the stray cat Macho who visits her everyday.

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What does a caring grandmother from Burnley have in common with celebrities Joanna Lumley, Bryan Adams, John Cleese, Amanda Holden and Peter Andre?

They are all supporters of the Born Free Foundation, an international charity that campaigns to stop suffering and keep wildlife in the wild.

Audrey Bates with a selection of the knitted toys she makes to sell to raise money for animal charities.

Audrey Bates with a selection of the knitted toys she makes to sell to raise money for animal charities.

It is a cause close to the heart of Audrey Bates (81) as it is one of the many animal charities she has spent years raising money for.

The Born Free Foundation was launched in 1984 by actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, and their son, Will Travers. It has become a global force for wildlife and taking pride of place at Audrey's Harle Syke home is an inscribed glass she received from the Foundation in recognition of her work for it.

Next to it is a photograph of Virginia McKenna, beside the grave of Elsa the lion, the first animal the couple saved.

Audrey said: "I wrote and asked Virginia if she would send me a photograph so I was thrilled when I received it."

Audrey was even invited out to Kenya, the home of the charity, but ill health prevented her from making the trip, something she would have loved to do.

After suffering a series of heart attacks and strokes, Audrey's doctor has told her to slow down a bit but that seems unlikely as she thrives on keeping busy.

She said: "I love all animals and raising money for all the different charities that do so much good work is what keeps me going."

A mother of five with several grandchildren and great grandchildren, Audrey holds an annual fund raising event at the Woodman Inn pub selling a variety of items, from crafts, ornaments, jewellery and books to the beautiful hand knitted animals she makes herself.

And the proceeds are donated to the many animal charities she supports.

Audrey said: "I am grateful for the many people who come along to support my events and also for the donation of items to sell, my home is always brimming with items."

Until his death two years ago Audrey's husband Ron shared her passion and would drive her to events all over so she could set up stall and fund raise.

So it has been hard sometimes for Audrey to carry on alone but her sprightliness and positive attitude has got her through.

Her care and compassion for animals is evident as she shares her home with a rescue cat called Baby who is her constant companion. Audrey has owned pets all her life, including Higgy, a cat she delivered herself and looked after her for 21 years until he died.

A collection of neighbourhood cats visit Audrey's home regularly for treats and her favourite is Macho, a large black feral cat who visits her everyday.

If you want to support Audrey she will be having a sale at the Woodman Inn, Todmorden Road, Burnley, from noon to 4pm. There will be stalls, a raffle and tombola.