Waking up to snow on the 3rd April was not how I anticipated my day going! *Note to self, start checking the weather forecast when making plans*. I was off to sample some of Northumberland National Park’s Experience Collection. A group of businesses delving further into experiential tourism to offer hands on immersive experiences to the discerning visitor.
Whilst not technically a visitor, with an hour’s drive, I was still going on a little adventure which I was looking forward to. As the day would be largely outside and with the unexpected weather conditions I popped a few extra layers on, entered the postcode into my sat nav and off I went to Falconry Days in Simonburn. After about 50 minutes, according to my Sat Nav I still had 5 miles to go yet it directed me down a single track road signposted for Falconry Days. Surely, my sat nav was wrong; it could not still be 5 miles when I’d already turned off the main road. It must be pointed out that despite its very rural location the road was tarmacked with plenty of passing points and Brown signs along the road with statements such as ‘BIRD OF PREY CENTRE - Almost there!’ reassuring me I was going the right way.
I was greeted with a warm welcome and a very tasty mug of vegetable broth – so far it was a good day. I’d heard there would also be ham and pease pudding stotties, a light refreshment which is offered during their new ‘National Park Bird of Prey Experience’. Being vegetarian I hadn’t paid much attention so was delighted when I was told they had catered for me with a meat free version – I was very impressed.
Next was the bit I’d been really looking forward to – flying a bird. One of the Falconry Days team brought out Grace, a Great Grey Owl and he (Yes, you heard correctly, Grace is a boy – by the time his sex had been established he’d already been named and it stuck) is magnificent. Stood with my gloved arm out-stretched, I prepared myself for him landing. I’d imagined that, due to his size, I would really feel the impact of his weight, but he was so light and graceful. I could have stood all day watching him fly backwards and forwards.
We were then treated to a very interesting tour of the centre by Mandy from Falconry Days. I was fascinated to learn that they fly their birds on rotation depending on where they originate from, for example, birds from colder climates will only be flown in the winter.
As someone who has an interest in dog training I was particularly interested in how they train their birds. I mean, if you can teach a bird of prey to recall, then a dog should be really easy!
Whilst there, I also chatted to Kevin from Ancient Britain, who bring historic locations to life with their very informative and thoroughly enjoyable guided tours. New for 2019 is their ‘Live Like a Roman Tour’ where you’ll experience what it is like to march along the Roman Wall. For the open day Kevin had brought with him a selection of Roman Cuisine which people that attend their ‘Live Like a Roman Tour’ will get to sample after having pitched their Roman marching tent. I must say the stuffed apricots were delicious.
Duncan from Northumberland National Park was also at the event to promote their recently launched Ranger led E-bike tours of Hadrian’s Wall. So, I got to have a very quick go on one of the electric bikes. Owning a mountain bike myself, I’ve always thought of electric bikes as a bit of a cheat! However, with the advances of modern technology this bike appeared very much like a regular mountain bike with front suspension and was very easy to ride. I’m sure these E-bike tours will prove very popular and am keen to book onto one myself.