The two of us Michelle Andy Holidays Our sites

Lancs & Cornwall 06
Day 4 - Bird of Prey Centre - Settle, Devils Bridge - Kirby Lonsdale, Ambleside - Lake District.

Monday, 18 Sep. 2006 -  One thing that we both really wanted to do before going down to Cornwall was to stop in and see the Yorkshire Dales Falconry & Conservation Centre in Settle.  We made plans to try and go early in the week to ensure that if the weather was bad we would still have time to reschedule the trip.  Fortunately, we woke up to a nice bright, clear sunny day.  We got ready to leave fairly early in the morning and since Andy knew how to get there he decided that we wouldn't need to bring the sat-nav system with us. 

Driving along the A65 proved to be a lot of fun and I was really enjoying the twisty road.  This twisty road was a great way to get the feel of what the car and myself were capable of and I was slowly building up speed while going around the corners. I could definitely understand why this road was so popular with bikers as it would give anyone a nice challenge.   Things were going really well and I thought I had a good idea of how well I could drive the car going around some of these corners when I underestimated how sharp the next bend would prove to be.  I expected a nice corner similar to the ones I had been going around so I didn't slow down for the corner at all, instead I got a 160 sharp bend which almost proved more then I was able to handle. Fortunately with some gentle breaking and serious G's I was able to make it around the corner, but my heart was in my throat.  I'm not sure if Andy realized that I was almost in over my head, but fortunately he's a really good passenger and didn't say anything about it.  I learned my lesson though and prepared for corners in the future! 

While I was enjoying the drive, I was expecting Andy to be paying attention to where we going since he knew the place and I was simply following the road. Before I knew it Andy said , we're here, turn!  We were both surprised at how easy it was to find a parking spot close to the entrance as we were expecting there to be a fair amount of people there.  We went in and paid for our tickets to see the birds and found out that the first show was going to be in about half an hour.  This gave us time to wander around and look at all the different birds they had before the show. They had over twenty different types of birds of prey on display, most of which I had never seen before.

After a bit of confusion as to where the bird show was going to take place as we thought it was going to be down in the display area, but it ended up being halfway up the hill near where most of the birds were kept.  There were only four people there for the show so it was a lot easier to interact with the presenter and ask questions if we wanted.  The first bird that we saw was the Bateleur Eagle which was a nice looking bird which had a very graceful flight and could glide for a long time.  The second type of bird we saw was a pair of Hooded Vultures.   These were a lot bigger and a lot more interesting as you could see how alert they were and that all they really cared about was getting the food from their handler.  They even worked together as a team, one to distract the handler while the second one would sneak up behind and steal something from the food sack.  It wasn't very easy for the handler to get them to fly as they didn't see the point of it and even when they did fly it was as little as absolutely needed in order to get the food reward.  The third and final bird we saw was a barn owl.  The barn owl didn't seem to mind flying around for us and demonstrated how good owls were at flying very low to the ground and how quiet they were when passing us.  Once the owl got tired of flying it landed on the fence behind us where we were able to pet the bird and feel how incredibly soft it's feathers were.  You could also tell that it was still on alert and scanning the ground for any signs of movement.

After the presentation was over, Andy and I decided that it was time to have lunch and since they had a cafeteria at the centre we decided to eat there.  Unfortunately our lunch wasn't nearly as satisfying as we hoped it would be.  After ordering our food, we found a place to sit, but the seats were simply hard wooden benches and chairs which I didn't find to be the most comfortable.  When the food did come Andy and I were both concerned since the waitress wasn't sure which what each of the plates contained and had to go back to check the boxes to figure out what she was serving us.  This really didn't inspire confidence in the meal, even before taking the first bite! 

During our meal Andy and I debated whether we should stay for another presentation or if we should find something else to do.  We asked when the next presentation was and found out that it was going to happen shortly after we finished eating so we decided to stay for another demo, but we weren't going to stay for the third one which was going to happen a few hours after the second one. 

The second demonstration was down in the display area and after talking things over, we decided that Andy was going to stay up top and film the demonstration and the birds flying from a distance while I went down to the display area with a few other people who stopped in while we were having lunch.  Again it was as small group so the demonstration was a lot more personalized then it would have been with a larger group. This demonstration started off very quickly and I was surprised to have been clipped in the head by the first bird on display, a Lappet-faced Vulture, swooping down to buzz the crowd!  This still a young bird who was still learning to judge distances and learning to hunt properly but he had an amazing wing-span.

The next bird on display was a type of falcon (I can't remember the name of the bird) that didn't really want to co-operate very much.  The presenter tried to get it to catch a moving target, but it kept flying back to it's pen.  In the end it did catch the target once and was given it's reward but overall the performance wasn't the best, which was a little disappointing.

The final bird on display was another barn own.  Again the owl didn't want to fly very much but it was willing to fly from a perch to someone's waiting arm.  For me this was the highlight of the entire show.  Since there was such as small group of people and the previous display was a lot shorter then expected, the presenter allowed each of us to hold the owl.  When it came my turn I got so excited that I started dropping everything, including Andy's digital camera!  After a heart stopping moment to find out if the camera still worked, which thankfully it did do, I passed it on to another gentleman who offered to take a photo of me holding the owl.  I donned the thick leather glove to protect us from the birds sharp talon's and the presenter made the gesture to call the owl.  He quickly flew to my hand and I was amazed at how light the owl was and remembers how soft it's feathers were from the first demonstration.  I turned to the side to allow the gentleman to take a photo of the owl and I!  After he was done taking the photo with Andy's camera, he wanted to take another photo with his camera, however the presenter didn't hear that comment and started asking me to hand the owl back to which I replied "one more moment please!"  I'm not sure the presenter was overly pleased with this so I explained that I was awaiting another photo but he kept insisting I hand the owl back.  After the gentleman quickly took a photo on his camera I reluctantly handed the owl back to the presenter and he quickly took both the bird and glove from in, probably in fear that I would walk away with his charge or something! 
 

After the second demonstration, we decided that we had enough of the Falconry centre and after a brief discussion we decided to drive to Devils Bridge in Kirkby Longsdale; a popular destination for weekend biker parties.  Andy had many fond memories of the place and wanted to show it off to me.  I personally found one of the signs in the parking lot amusing as it stated that only bikes were allowed to park there on weekends.  We spend about an hour looking over the bridge and talking about some of the fun experiences that Andy had in his younger years.  Most of these stories are probably best left in the past so he doesn't get into any more trouble!

While there we got talking about some of the road trips that Andy used to take with Pete out to the Grizedale Forest Visitors Centre.  Since we still had a lot of daylight left and no other plans for the day we decided to head out towards the lake district in hopes of finding the Grizedale forest to see if it was still open since Andy hadn't been back in a long time.  As mentioned earlier, we decided not to bring the sat-nav system so again we were relying on Andy's memory to get us to our destination.  A large part of the drive was on a large highway system that my mom and I took on our way to Scotland the previous year.  I found driving on the highway much easier then the smaller roads and felt very comfortable. 

We made our way through the lake district and drove around Lake Windemere looking for any indication that we were approaching Grizedale Forest.  We went through the nice little towns of Windemere and Ambleside on the journey and stopped off to take a photo of the lake.  However during our travels we didn't see any signs pointing towards the Grizedale Forest, let alone any sort of visitors centre.  Andy insisted that we were close to it as things looked vaguely familiar but alas in the end we didn't find our destination and we decided it was time to head back towards Andy's since it was getting late and we put many more miles in the car then we initially intended to do.

Click here to see more of today's photos.

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