Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Easter and on

We have had a family time over Easter, the Daughter’s family stayed with us for a week. We had good weather, so we were able to do some of the usual local walks and days out.  We had our version of an Easter egg hunt for the Granddaughter. It has been up to Grandad (yours truly) to create a suitable set of clues which are not too hard. But grandchildren grow and she is getting altogether too smart for any ordinary egg hunt. It will need something quite different next Easter. 

One trip out was to Lydiard House and Park, a onetime stately home now open to the public, where we walked around the grounds. Many years ago when I first moved to the area, the interestingly named Lydiard Millicent and Lydiard Tregoze were two small villages near Swindon. Nowadays Swindon is about to engulf the whole area and housing estates are right up against the boundary of this once isolated parkland. The house contains family portraits dating back to Elizabethan times and has its own family church. On this occasion, we did not visit the house. 
On another day, we went to Mouldon Hill park, which is within the boundary of Swindon and only recently created as a public park. 

The River Ray runs through this park which is a tributry of the River Thames. The walks are gentle and there is no sign of any hill, but there is a lake which was teeming with birdlife. 

We saw several types of water fowl, swans, geese, ducks, coots and moorhens. We even saw a crested grebe, but it was too elusive for a decent photo, diving regularly and reappearing in an unexpected part of the lake. 
 Some coots deciding who has breeding rights on the lake 

After a compulsory game of Pooh Sticks on the small bridge across the river, (compulsury by order of the granddaughter that is,) we walked around the open space along the river bank and eventually came across this rather odd stone with a modern plaque. 

The use of English is unusual for something so recent. It would certainly have received severe criticism from the English teachers from my school days. 

An Experience

After the family had returned home things quietened down for a bit until we went for an ‘Experience’. This was one of those things that people can buy you for a present. It is then up to you to arrange a date you can attend. This one was for a falconry kind of experience with owls at the North Somerset Bird of Prey Centre and was The Better Half’s (TBH) Christmas present from a friend of ours. Although it was primarily for TBH, who has always been fascinated by owls, it was made out for both of us and TBH had been able to book it for a time which did not clash with the family’s visit. The venue is at a place not far south of Bristol, about an hour and a half away from us. We had an afternoon event booked and so we arrived early and had lunch at a local garden centre. The meal was not special but sustaining, I suppose you could say.

Once at the bird place, we were each equipped with a leather gauntlet and we were able to hold and stroke various birds and eventually fly one. Well land it really, it flew to us rewarded by a bit of raw chicken. My glove looked as if it had once belonged to Colonel Cody, having an ornamental leather tassel just like the pictures you see of him and other Western movie characters. It was also badly chewed on one side, no doubt by one of the birds. I do not think it was so difficult an experience that one of the participants would have chewed it quite that much.

This was the smallest of the owls and although it looks a bit worried here, he was perfectly at home with being passed around and that seemed to be his normal expression.
We were each able to hold five different birds whilst their trainers told everyone what breed they were and something of their characteristics and place in British history. We were told we could pet certain birds but not others who may take exception.

This one did not like being petted but was happy to perch on your glove and be admired

One of the trainers was the best friend of a particular owl and each time he took it from one of the participants, it cooed and snuggled up to him.

This sleepy looking fella is the trainer's friend

Altogether our time with the birds took about two hours and was a fascinating experience, I have never been that close to any bird of prey before and it was a really great experience.

All the participants were asked that if they posted anything about the experience on the internet, they would like a mention.  If you are interested, the web address is http://www.nsbopc.co.uk/