“ Address: Sarson Lane / Weyhill / Andover / Hampshire / SP11 8DY / UK „
A superb day out for all the family. Friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff run a great operation based around an almost continuous schedule of impressive displays. Highly recommended
When the sun came out one day last May, me, the man and a picnic basket went out for the day and after a relaxing drive down the A303 we pulled into the vast free parking area of The Hawk Conservancy Trust (extra parking is also available on a busy day so no worries about leaving your car in the village and setting off for a long walk with your brood). Set down a quaint country lane in Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire just off said road; it's easy to find. Much to my delight, as a wheelchair user, the car park is part hard standing so no losing my already very dodgy footing on gravel. I'm happy and I've not even got inside yet...Yay!
On arrival there is a vast welcome notice giving you the entry time and prices etc; Time for a breakdown:
THCT (as it's fondly abbreviated) is open every day (inc Bank Holidays) mid Feb-end Oct from 10am-5.30pm. (The rest of the year they are open at weekends ONLY until 4.30pm).
As they are a charity every penny counts so gift aid is even more valuable, however they do have 2 brackets of costs (Gift Aid admission prices in bracket.):
Adults £9.09 (£10.00), Child £5.91 (£6.50), Students (age 16-18) £8 (£9.00), Seniors £8.41 (£9.25), Family Ticket (2 adults 2 children): £29.09 (£32) , extra child £5.64 (£6.20).
Please note last entry is 4pm and the above costs will be reduced by about 35-40%.
Please call 01264 773850 for information on group booking rates. They do offer the disabled/carer concession of the carer goes free if you need it and they also have several wheelchairs for public use (for a small fee) but again phone the main office for details.
So, armed with camera and sunglasses (no need to take your picnic if you have one as you can come and go to your car as long as you retain your entry reciept) and are heading towards the entry point. *Another big cheer*: 'level access' (just the smallest of small lip to overcome at the threshold) and a kind person who will get the door for you if it is closed and you are struggling with a pushchair or the like.
You enter via the gift shop which sells their own merchandise, local produce and art (including pencil drawings by one of my favourite Falconers Paul Betchley). They have a fantastic range of souveniers, from pocket money prices, books and dvd's aswell as selling high end Swarovski binoculars and other photograhic necessitites. There is something for everybody here.
On entry to the park you will find Duffy's the cafe which serves hot and cold food throughout the day and a blackboard with the days itenarary (although you would most likely have been given a map and itenarary on entry). A typical weekday looks like this:
11:00am Wild Red Kite and Heron Feed from the hides: These are situated at the top of the park and are accessed through 2 gates due the deers that graze in the area.
11.30am Vulture Restaurant which is held at the Vulture enclosure just a short stroll from the entrance:
Here one of the fantastic knowledgable staff will give a talk about the important Vulture conservation work the Trust are involved in around the world. The decline of Vulture population is heartbreaking; Vultures are incredibly close to being extinct; Hundreds of thousands of these intelligent birds have died in the last 20 years due to the ingestion of a veterinary drug called Diclofenac which poisonous to these intelligent creatures. This dedicated team are involved and are working hard to get this drug banned. The team also feed the vultures here to show how they interact. An eye opening 20 minutes not to be missed.
11.45am World of Raptors at the lower flying grounds (these are opposite the Vulture enclosure):
Here the team will fly a variety of birds of prey and give narration throughout, on recent visit's this has included Barn Owls, Vultures, Secretary Bird and Kestrels. You will most likely be told of another of the conservation projects THCT is involved in called Fund-a-bird; an organisation to help our plundering species of Owl by making and setting up Owl boxes on and around Salisbury Plain. You get the opportunity to hold a bird of prey after this demonstration so don't rush off.
2.00pm Valley of the Eagles at Reg's Meadow (Reg's meadow was planted in memory of and named after the man who set up the trust. His son, Ashley is now the top boss and he's incredibly lovely) which is up near the Hides:
A spectacular display where eagles, kites and vultures fill the sky. I love Othello the Osprey in this demonstration. Wild Kites often join the display which is a site to see. The finale of this display is a pair of Bald Eagles who fly in from the horizon, certainly one of the best spectacles you will ever see. They fly to the Falconer's fists and in pride they let out the most amazing call. You will be in awe of these birds.
NB: (During certain times during the season there will be the opportunity to walk the meadow or take a trip on the Raptor Safari tractor and trailor ride weather permitting).
3.00pm Adults fly a Harris Hawk (aged 16 or over only) See my account photo: That is Parsley flying to my fist. A brilliant thing to do and the falconer is happy to chat and answer all bird related questions.
3.30pm Woodland Hawks and Owls: This takes place in a woodland area of the park so you get to see the Owls and some other birds in their natural habitat. There will be another chance to hold a bird of prey after this demonstration.
4.30pm Red Kite and Heron feed again at the Hides.
Between demonstrations there is plenty of ground to cover and many beautiful species of bird to see aswell as the Bird Hospital where you can see birds that are recovering. Often members of the public bring in injured birds they find and the team, led by Mike Riley, will do all they can to nurse them well again. There is a childrens play area in grounds (and fun and games for your little ones on the weekends including Runner Duck racing) and toilet facilities for both the able and disabled.
THCT also offer a fantastic range of experience days such as: Photography days, Owls by Moonlight, Bird of Prey days/half days, Family Fun Days and many more fantastic options. They can cater for birthday parties and corporate events in their new Griffon Rooms complex.
I cannot praise the people enough for their dedication, hard word, knowledge and friendliness. I would happily live here and can often be found clinging to the doorjamb for just a "few-minutes-more" at 5.30pm. I am always exhilerated and humbled by this place and am looking forward to the next visit...because there will always be a next visit (you can become a member for £40 per person per year as I did after my first visit...I had to I was in loooooove). Give them your support and pay them a visit you'll want to go back over and over.
Have I waffled...ooops! Sooooooorry! ;o) xx
As yesterday was a bank holiday, we decided that it would be good to take the girls off somewhere different for the day, and although it was somewhat chilly we settled on the wonderful Hawk Conservancy in Hampshire. It is very easy to find as it is about 4 miles west of Andover, directly off the A303. It is a place that my husband and I have visited a few times over the years but we definitely had not been since having my youngest daughter (who is now 4) so it was interesting to see it in a different light.
The Hawk Conservancy Trust is very concerned with conservation and ensuring the continuation of endangered birds of prey. There are numerous projects that they are involved in such as The Nest Box Scheme which provide homeless birds of prey with somewhere to live, and The Great Bustard Aviary which is supporting the Great Bustatrd Group in their efforts to reintroduce the world's heaviest flying bird back to the UK. By opening up to visitors, the Trust raises much needed funds to help carry out this crucial work!
From the middle of February until the end of October, the park is open every day between 10 am and 5.30 pm. In the winter months it is open at weekends but closes at 4.30 pm on these days. There are various pricing options but for the four of us we paid £32 for a family ticket (including a gift aid donation) which compares very well with a lot of theme park attractions and zoos. It's also worth mentioning that there is ample parking.
Just wandering around the site, there is a lot to see and take in. You can see many different birds of prey from all over the world and some are quite amazing to look at. There is information to read about the different birds and maps to look at so you can see exactly where they are found. Children's interest is kept up too because when you pay to go in, they are each given a 'passport' which asks them to find stamps of ten different birds around the site. My girls really liked this activity and were well pleased when they had found all the birds. It also meant that when we left they would be rewarded with a small prize which was a lolly.
The main highlights of the trip though have to be the various feeding sessions, shows and demonstrations that are held throughout the day. You are provided with a timetable when you pay and it's definitely worth keeping an eye on this all day. This are so good due to the wonderful bird handlers who present all the events. I found them all to be intelligent, articulate and good humoured, ensuring that everyone got the most out of everything that was presented.
The first event is the wild red kite and heron feed which you can observe from two hides. This was not too spectacular yesterday because unfortunately no red kites bothered to turn up but as these are birds that live in the wild you would expect it to be a bit hit and miss. We did get to see a number of herons waiting for their breakfast though! Although we didn't stay until the end of the day, there is another feeding session at 4.30 pm which apparently is much more spectacular. This first feeding event was probably the only disappointement of the day though because everything else we watched and saw was superb!
At 11.30 you are invited to the 'vulture restaurant'! Here you can watch the vultures being fed and observe the pecking order that exisits. At the same time, one of the good natured guides will provide a highly entertaining and informative commentary.
After this it's straight over to the Lower Flying Grounds to watch the World of Raptors display at 11.45. This was a brilliant display lasting about half an hour and we were able to see barn owls, falcons, a secretary bird plus many more. The display is put together so very well and is presented by the bird handlers with a great deal of humour and knowledge. My daughters were absolutely enthralled by all the different birds, especially when they flew directly overhead. The show ended with a race between what I think were indian runner ducks and that was a lot of fun cheering for the duck you wanted to win.
The other display we went to was the highly impressive Valley of the Eagles display at 2 pm which took place over a large meadow and featured black kites, vultures and eagles. Again this was a well constructed display presented with humour and great knowledge as well as some quite stirring music. It was really quite moving watching these magnificent birds filling up the sky, as well as experiencing vultures almost skirting the top of your head! I was watching my daighters during this display and the looks on their faces was almost indescribable - a mixture of awe and excitement which meant that I knew that the entrance fee was money well spent!
Other events on the timetable included holding a bird of prey, flying a Harris Hawk (if you are over sixteen) and a Woodland Hawks and Owls display. We did not do any of these so I can only imagine that they were as good as everything else we experienced. All of the arenas for the displays have plenty of seating and in fact all of the grounds are extremely well laid out and attractive. There's also a lovely play area for children with swings and climbing frames all built on bark covered areas. There are also well kept toilets and the usual gift shop!
There is a small cafe on site called Duffys and this provides a good selection of food at reasonable prices. I had a lovely homemade sausage pie and my husband had a bacon baguette and salad. The girls both had sausage baps chosen from the children's menu. These along with four drinks came to less than £20 which I didn't think was too bad for the four of us! On eproblem about the cafe is that it is not ever so big and of course once any of the displays is over that's where everyone heads so you might need to be prepared for a long queue. It's not so bad at lunchtime as there is the option of an outdoor barbeque, but after the second display, which had been very cold, we wanted a cup of tea but gave up waiting because the queue waqs so long!
We absolutely loved our day out yesterday despite it being so much colder than expected. This can be a bit of a problem though as virtually everything there is to see and do is outdoors and is also quite exposed. I would definitely recommend having an extra layer with you just in case!
There is so much more that I could mention about the park but instead I recommend that you visit the website at:
Overall this is a fantastic family day out and I really do recommend a visit if you are near the area.
If you want an informative and thoroughly enjoyable day out with the family (or just yourself) then The Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover is the place to go. From the point you turn up you will be met by friendly, helpful and most importantly enthusiastic members of staff. During your visit you will be able to see a wide variety of raptors and birds of prey ranging from the tiny pygmy owl through to endangered vultures and bald eagles.
There are three demonstrations throughout the day which show you some of the beautiful birds in all their glory and teach you a bit about them too. Each demonstration is different so you will see something new at each display. If you only see one display then make it the 2pm Valley of the Eagles which takes place with a wonderful backdrop and culminates in two Bald Eagles being released a few miles away and flying back home to land majestically on the fist.
During your visit you can also hold a british owl, fly a Harris Hawk (over 16s) and watch a runner duck and a ferret race. There is a play area for the kids and competition for them to take part in (collect all the stamps dotted round the park for a small prize when you leave). If you need a break the coffee shop has sandwiches, hot meals and cakes on offer to tempt you and the well stocked gift shop awaits before you leave to find a memento of your day.
The Hawk Conservancy is only open weekends during the winter but although cold still makes for a great day out.
There are more than 250 birds of prey resident to this conservancy.