Friday, 16 November 2012

An afternoon with the owls (and the falcons!)

Last weekend was without doubt one of the most memorable and enjoyable that we have spent as a family - better than centre parcs, more thrilling than bowling, more exciting than steam trains, this really was a magical time for us.  So what was it, I hear you ask that made this weekend sit above all others in the history of Richardson family outings?  The answer may seem surprising but this wonderful weekend revolved around getting up close and personal with some of natures most magnificent and awe inspiring creatures. 

On Saturday afternoon we were treated to an owl and falcon experience at a private falconry centre near Oxenhope (about 5 miles from Hewenden).  Owners Sandra and Roger have been running the centre from this stunning location, high on the Bronte moors, for around 4 years and, after a welcoming cup of tea and biscuit, they introduced us to the birds.  Although we have been to falconry centres before (my son is very keen on all birds of prey) this was a completely different and exhilarating experience.  To my children's delight, each bird was taken from it's cage and encouraged (with bits of meat) to land on their arms (protected, of course, with sturdy leather gloves).  They quickly decided on their favourites, Cleo's being a small Tropical Screech owl named Bubbles and Max's, an American Kestral named Muppet.  

Cleo's fur trim on her coat caused much confusion and consternation among the owls who clearly wondered whether this was lunch and, if so, what it might taste like?  Bubbles kept having a sneaky nibble but didn't seem too impressed!
Muppet was very protective of it's food and ate the scraps of meat under the cover of it's wings - there was really no need - falcon food is pretty unappealing to your average human family of four.

This really was a fantastic once in a lifetime experience creating memories that we will treasure forever.  We are very grateful to Sandra and Roger for giving us the benefit of their expertise and the opportunity to handle their beautiful birds.  If you would like more information about SMJ Falconry you can visit their website at or email them on  All sessions are booked by private appointment as they are not open to the public.

As if this wonderful day at Oxenhope with the owls wasn't enough - on Sunday we were lucky enough to follow it up with another 'once in a lifetime experience' when we visited Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales.  Having been tipped off by a friend that the Salmon were leaping in this area we made the hour long journey in the hope of witnessing this awe inspiring display of tenacity and strength - we were not disappointed!  Although I'd spent the morning watching u-tube footage of this phenomena it did nothing to capture the drama and excitement that exists when you see these fish first hand trying, against the odds, to jump up the waterfall and swim upstream.  We were captivated for over an hour - whooping and cheering every time a salmon leapt from the water and groaning with despair when their efforts were dashed.  What a weekend!

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