Address: Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 8DY
Price Band: £££
In October half term we were lucky enough to have a trip to the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover. One of my fondest memories of my childhood was visiting this place with my grandparents and little sister when I was about 9 years old and so I was really looking forward to taking my own children there to see how it had changed.
The HCT is home to over 150 birds of prey and includes a hospital building which treats up to 200 birds of prey per year, so it is a very busy place. They conduct lots of research, breeding programs and conservation work both in the UK and abroad so its a hugely important place and the passion of each and every member of staff we met is infectious.
On arrival at the visitor centre we were given our wrist bands, information booklet (with map) and kids trail passports. We were directed by the receptionist round to the vulture enclosure where the keeper talk and vulture feeding was about to begin. Now I’m not going to lie – I’m not the biggest fan of vultures. Lets face it – who is???! I have to admit though that by the time we had listened to the keeper’s talk I had grown a lot fonder of them. The guy clearly loved his birds and knew not only about the species and various breeds but the birds as individuals as well. He introduced us to them all by name and told us about their personalities and their backgrounds and also how endangered they are in the wild. It was really fascinating and his enthusiasm and knowledge captured everyone. Big thumbs up to him (If you ever read this – I apologise that I didn’t get your name!).
Our next stop was the World Of Birds Of Prey flying display in the Savannah arena. Here we got to met a number of beautiful birds and again the enthusiasm of the staff was fantastic. They really do love what they do and you can see so much passion in them. Their knowledge of the birds was second to none and we loved seeing so much variety in the display.
After the display had finished we had a wander round the grounds and did the kid’s trail passports. There are stamps around the grounds to find and golden eggs hidden in the trees with pictures of an animal and a number on them to match up in your passport. Hand them in to reception on your way out and the kids got a lollipop each!
The grounds themselves are lovely to explore, especially at this time of year with the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves. The bird’s enclosures are well kept and spacious with information boards in front of each one about the breed and the individual living there. As well as birds there are also 2 donkeys and some ferrets in residence. The donkeys were very cute and loved having a fuss.
Later in the afternoon we made our way to Reg’s Wildflower Meadow at the top of the grounds for the Valley of The Eagles flying demonstration. Now at this point I have a confession to make. I missed most of the show. Yep, pretty much the whole thing. Why you ask? Well lets just say its great fun when your 3 year old decides to play the ‘I need a wee’, ‘Actually no i dont’ game. And so I spent most of the time back at the visitor centre in the toilets. From what I did get to see though and from what Danny and the girl’s told me it was fantastic. They have up to 14 birds out flying at one time which is a really incredible experience. The wingspan on some of them is absolutely huge! There are certainly a few occasions when ducking is essential!
At this point we had been at the Hawk Conservancy Trust for around 4 hours and I’m afraid to say that was our limit with a very grumpy 3 year old in tow so we headed home. For the rest of the afternoon’s entertainment there was an opportunity for adults to handle and fly a hawk, ferret racing, woodland owls flying demonstration and wild heron and raptor feeding so you can easily spend the entire day there and I hope we will return at some point to do the bits we missed.
On the whole we had a fantastic day out at the Hawk Conservancy Trust and I would highly recommend it, especially for families with children over 5. Younger ones do enjoy it but we found it was hard for a 3 year old to sit through the flying displays without wanting to get up and run around (which I wouldn’t recommend with vultures, etc flying around!). You can easily spend the entire day there and the displays are all completely different and in different arenas so it doesn’t feel at all repetitive if you watch them all. Price wise it isn’t the cheapest family day out, however, remember a large chunk of your admission is going towards important conservation work and the upkeep of these beautiful birds so its a well worthy cause. There are plenty of picnic areas in the grounds if you want to take your own lunch or there is a lovely restaurant onsite. The shop is full of beautiful wildlife themed gifts and you also have the opportunity to adopt one of the bird residents if you wish. There are toilets and baby changing facilities in the restaurant and just outside the visitor centre and the whole site is buggy/wheelchair friendly with reserved wheelchair spaces at the front of each of the display arenas as well.
Disclaimer: The Hawk Conservancy Trust have had no involvement in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂
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