Over the past 11 years, Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre has been the go to place to spend time with family and friends, were people can fall in love with our beautiful birds of prey, whether it be on one of our experiences sessions or just to see the birds in a visit to the centre. The core value of the centre is always environmental education and passionate love for birds using a range of stunning British species such as the Kestrel and Barn Owl. To us the birds are family and over the years individual characters have become part of our friends and followers family too, falling in love with our wonderful matriarchal European Eagle Owl Billie Jean and Acer our Peregrine falcon is a memorable high-speed chap on a half-day session and many many people have stood in awe and wonder as Norman our rescue owl Hoots back at you!!
Covid-19 had a massive impact on everyone including ourselves. We lost all our group bookings such as brownies and scouts, along with all the school booking through until Christmas. However, I was very proud that we were able to keep going and manage through the first lockdown. To ensure that the birds were flown and everyone kept in top condition we kept our full-time member of staff on all through lockdown and invested time and money improving the falcons mews, the footpath, we repainted EVERYTHING!!!, purchased new signage and banners, bought and sorted the plants and started to invest in stock for a new shop and really just ensured that when we opened to the public again we were in the best possible condition we could be. All without any help, just using our savings and our own money. It was worth it, when we opened, people came and just enjoyed being outside and we were so busy it was wonderful and we were very very happy.
But then…….the worse news we have ever received as a business came at the beginning of September.
Ladds Garden Village, the site we have called home for 11 years had been taken over by an investment company and we were served notice. We were given 3 months to finish our experiences sessions, and then we had to leave. For 11 years, 7 days a week, I worked to create a centre that people love to visit and now we were been told to tear down all of the aviaries, rip out all the fencing and get rid of all the beautiful plants we have worked so hard to shape into a beautiful home for our feathered family.
After an amazing response to our call for help in locating a new site, we were so happy to be invited to Moss End Garden Village, with Schyde Investments. The Falconry Centre site is larger than Ladds and not spread out. But we had to start from scratch. The site was an old scaffolders yard and simply made of mud and rubbish. Mens pants, beer bottle, an old mattress and so much rubbish and weeds. We worked for 3 weeks just clearing the site. Then we had to start building. We needed 5 new aviaries to give us room to move birds from the Ladds site to allow us space to lift 4 of the smaller aviaries with a crane and trailer. We built our gift shop over Christmas day, poured concrete, dug holes for lamp posts, dug 96 holes for our fencing, screwed, cut, lugged gravel and painted for so many days. We literally worked 7 days a week for months. Don’t even get me started on how much work Jamie did to clear the flying field. Finally in March 2021 we were at a point where we thought we could open.
BUT (there always has to be a but)… Bracknell Forests Council wont allow us to open to the general public without a zoo license. We passed our Animal Activities licence, which allows us, thank goodness, to do our experience sessions. So for the past 8 months we have been able to have our gift shop and main entrance way open but the general public cannot walk around the centre. Its heart breaking to have worked so hard but not be able to share it. It really is just a matter of waiting and hoping that people will be patient with us. I love showing the experience session customers the centre and it does feel like you are in your own private centre when you come along.
I have to take this moment to thank everyone that has been part of this move. Jamie is the biggest one. He has worked for over a year for us, without a wage, building, planning, emotionally supporting. We got engaged this year and I know that going forward the centre is literally now in both our bloods (and our blood sweat and tears is in the centre)!!
Olivia who has stood by us, hugging, tea making, looking after the birds and me, organising all the volunteers and just generally being bloody brilliant. Ann, Craig, Dawn, Katrina and Sarah have been the life blood for us. All volunteering right through the move, they have painted everything within an inch of its life and lugged so much around, dug holes and just been genuinely been amazing. I know for a fact that we have become friends for life. I would just also add here that Dawn so sadly passed away this year and left us totally heart broken. Her family is part of our family too and she is so so missed.
A massive thank you to each of the volunteers that came for a day or two to help paint, to clear weeds, to clear the field. Every brush stoke, every wheel barrow load all added to the amazing centre. Thank you to Mark for clearing the field for us.
A massive thank you to Cherry Wallis, an amazing you tuber that has an amazing magical family who helped to support us.
And the biggest thank you to everyone that donated to our fund raising. Without you it would not have been possible at all. The cost was astronomical, and the money is still flowing out and until we can open we are still on a fine line. But the cost of moving was so high I honestly can not believe that we achieved it and it was all down to your amazing donations. Thank you so so much.
Lots of Love Sadie, Olivia, Jamie, all the volunteers, Beth, Tilly, Billie Jean, Norman, Gimli, Charlie, Ash, Pudding, Bert, Bailey, Dobby, Amos, Pip and Squeak, Bourneville, Nala, Mouse, Lucy, Acer, Arya, Echo, Milo, Rossi, Alice and Sam.