ACTRESS Gemma Atkinson wowed crowds at the weekend by taking the lead and opening a brand new set of dog kennels.

The former Hollyoaks star, who now presents Hits Radio Breakfast Show, was at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary’s Open Day on Sunday to help cut the ribbon and open nine new state of the art kennels.

The new improved sleeping quarters have under floor heating and glass doors to help keep the dogs safe and warm while they wait to be rehomed.

Former I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here and Strictly Come Dancing star Gemma, who is president of the Edenfield sanctuary, came along to the open day with her two dogs, Ollie and Norman.

She said: “I’ve been president for about two years now and I used to come to Bleakholt all the time as a kid so this is something that’s very close to my heart.

“These kennel blocks couldn’t be built without the generous donations from the public and it’s an honour to open them.

“I have two dogs of my own who live in luxury and I look at them on my bed and feel so upset for the dogs who don’t have homes.

“Obviously we would like these to be empty as it would mean every dog has a home but, while waiting, these new kennels will make a difference to the lives of the dogs housed here.

“The staff and volunteers work tirelessly to give all the animals the best lives while they are at Bleakholt and these kennels take it to another level.”

Sanctuary manager Karen Weed said: “The new kennels are fantastic, they will make such a difference to the dogs here.

“We want the dogs to have the best time while they are here – and hopefully it’s just a short time for them.”

Bleakholt’s open day brought in the crowds on Sunday and as well as getting to watch Gemma open the kennel block, visitors were able to have a look around at all the other animals housed by the sanctuary.

There was even entertainment on offer in the form of a Santa on stilts, food and drinks stalls, and a raffle.

Isabelle Healey, nine, who was there with her brother, Oliver, two of her aunties, and her dog, Chewy, said the open day was great.

She said: “We got two of our dogs from Bleakholt and we got Chewy from here when he was seven weeks old.

“The new kennels are amazing and they look really posh.”

The kennel block is the first phase of exciting plans to modernise Bleakholt with more redevelopment coming in the future.

Bleakholt is funded solely by volunteers and animal lovers and the sanctuary is always on the look-out for people wanting to lend a hand.

To find out more about volunteering at Bleakholt, visit their website