K. and I went to the Hawk Conservancy Trust last weekend, just west of Andover. It was a marvellous experience: the slightly understated nature of the birds in their enclosures is completely offset by the incredibly well choreographed displays: choreographed by the humans, that is; the animals are to some extent displaying natural behaviours. Especially the bald eagle, which descends from – but I don’t want to give away one of the best bits.
The Hawk Conservancy Trust’s occupants are not solely hawks: there are many other birds of pray, including vultures, falcons, bustards, sea eagles, a secretary bird, Indian runner ducks, a retired farm horse… and owls. So many owls. Eagle owls. Snowy owls. A burrowing owl that doesn’t know how to burrow, and a tawny owl that’s afraid of heights. Don’t laugh at the back there: it’s a refuge for injured animals; what were you expecting – best in class? Don’t judge until you’ve experienced the short, gleeful hit of joy at watching a trainee burrowing owl successfully totter through a proffered pipe. Or carried a scops owl on your hand.
This was the climax of a bank holiday spent in a camp site near the New Forest, visited as it was on the journey home. Sadly, the site wasn’t near enough to said forest for us to have much of a chance to actually enjoy any of it; it wasn’t even near enough to things it was meant to be near to (like the local town) for us to visit them on foot. But we did some walking, and visited the “local” pub (some fifty minutes away), and read the newspaper, and had lots of food cooked on Trangia and gas stove, which is always far more fun than you expect.
My only real regret is that I seem to have once again tricked myself into driving somewhere because it’s far away from where we are, in the hope that it’ll be near enough to other places not to need the car when we get there. It would probably have been difficult to get to the Hawk Conservancy Trust without it, of course: driver privilege saturates everything, especially Hampshire. But a big misunderstanding on the way down (over precisely which site we had finally booked at the start of my week away at a conference) led to a big, stressful detour. The journey across the country to Andover was stressful too. In fact, much as part of me does love good, solid, calm driving… real-world driving is always anything but.
Next trip away somewhere nice: we make it by train. And bus. And taxi, if need be. Anything else always feels like a false economy, so the next time will be no different. I know, because an owl called Nigel told me.