Sat. April 1, 2017
Private Experience Days with Pembrokeshire Falconry
Not many of you will know this, but Pembrokeshire Falconry run their Private Experience Days in the gardens of Picton nearly every day!
Over the last eight years, we have built up a wonderful relationship with Pembrokeshire Falconry whose aim is to give everyone, whatever their age, the chance to experience the thrill of having a bird of prey or owl, fly to your glove. The birds are trained by Alex and Emma themselves, so that they know they are safe for anyone to handle.
Fly birds of prey yourself, against the backdrop of our beautiful castle and see them swooping from the trees and gliding over colourful flowers as you stroll through the gardens! You will never forget it!
Click on the image below to go direct to their website
If you would like to read some reviews about Pembrokeshire Falconry, visit their page on Trip Advisor
STOP PRESS! Released Friday 2 September 2016
Following a successful business partnership of eight years, Picton Castle & Gardens and Pembrokeshire Falconry have recently announced the exciting news that they are taking their working relationship to the next level by basing Pembrokeshire Falconry permanently within the grounds of Picton Castle from the start of next season.
“Pembrokeshire Falconry have been running experience days for the public within Picton’s 40 acre RHS partner Gardens virtually every day over the past eight years…” commented Picton Castle’s Director, Dai Evans. “…consolidating that proven relationship by offering a permanent base is considered long overdue.”
Over the years, the experience days have flourished and are not only rated the Number 2 ‘Thing to Do’ in Pembrokeshire on TripAdvisor but were recently awarded the 2016 Radio Pembrokeshire Leisure and Tourism Award.
Always drawing a large crowd at Picton’s Annual Spring and Country Fairs, the dedicated team at Pembrokeshire Falconry are passionate about giving everyone, whatever their age, the chance to experience the thrill of having a free flying bird of prey or owl, fly to their glove.
“We are really excited to be working with Picton Castle Trust on this amazing new venture” added Emma Hill, one of Pembrokeshire Falconry’s Directors. “Picton Castle is the perfect venue for us to fly our birds with our guests. Falconry has always played a huge part in the history of castles and stately homes since Mediaeval times, so to be able to fly in such beautiful surroundings, with the backdrop of the Castle is just seamless. It makes perfect sense for the birds to now live where they fly, adding a new attraction to Pembrokeshire that will be beneficial to both businesses and the County” she concluded.
Historically, falconry was a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of Britain and was originally developed as a means of hunting fast or difficult prey as food for the table. However the birds of prey used for demonstrations and experiences are trained to come to the glove for their food, so that even the untrained person can experience this incredible, ancient skill.
Safe for anyone to handle, even the tiniest of tots, the birds are all named and have their own unique personalities. Frodo, the team’s White Faced Owl, has become somewhat of a celebrity around the County. He has his own ‘show’ at Bluestone National Park Resort and regularly wins the hearts of the couples whose wedding rings he delivers! Weighing 200g, he’s a firm favourite with everyone, particularly because he sounds like a cat!
“The deal, in every sense, is considered a win, win situation.” explains Emma “It has benefits for us in terms of travel time, fuel, etc so our business is more sustainable and leaves less of a carbon footprint. For Picton, undoubtedly it will increase business and in turn employment – their footfall increased by 20% alone last year. It will be a feather in the cap for Pembrokeshire Tourism – as it will be the only facility of its kind in West Wales. Visitors will love the opportunity of being able to see the birds in their aviaries – and the Visitor Centre will offer an opportunity for people to learn more about these birds.”
The Gardens of Picton are famous for their wildlife as well as their collections of plants and trees and a monitoring of the effect of the birds presence over the years has shown that the valuable flaura and fauna have flourished – despite the additional presence of a family of wild buzzards which have taken up residence within the grounds.
Training the birds is a long and difficult process and requires patience, expertise and dedication. Picton Castle is proud to be able showcase this ancient art and give everyone the opportunity to fly birds of prey themselves, against the backdrop of their beautiful castle and watch them swooping from the trees and gliding over colourful flowers as they stroll through the gardens.
The winter months will be spent building aviaries and a Visitor Centre in Bluebell Walk and will create a new, permanent home for the birds. The centre is scheduled to open by Easter 2017.
For anyone interested in this exciting project, there will be a Question and Answer Session with Pembrokeshire Falconry and the Picton Castle Trust on Wednesday 14 September between 6.00pm and 8.00pm at Rhos Village Hall.
Pembrokeshire Falconry is a small business that is run by husband and wife Alex and Emma Hill. Alex was born in the county and set up the business in 2008. Since 2011, Pembrokeshire Falconry have offered private experience days solely at Picton Castle. These experiences offer guests the opportunity to have trained birds of prey fly to their gloves as they take a stroll around the gardens. The experiences are available to any age group and ability and are individually tailored to suit the guest. The birds used in the experiences are trained by Alex and Emma so they know that they are safe enough for anyone to handle. In the last 5 years over 1500 people have flown birds of prey in the gardens of Picton Castle.
There are numerous Bird of Prey Centres across the UK, however the nearest to Pembrokeshire is in Barry over 90 miles away. Pembrokeshire Falconry also offer flying displays for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and CADW at their Castles, at all of the major agricultural shows in the County and for large holiday resorts such as Bluestone National Park Resort in the school holidays. Over the last 6 weeks, they have performed over 100 displays. During these displays many guests ask if there is a venue to visit the birds and research has shown that having a visitor centre in the County would be popular. As Pembrokeshire Falconry is already based at Picton Castle, it was deemed by The Board of Trustees to be a natural progression of this business relationship, which has obvious benefits to both parties.
The proposal is to build aviaries in The Bluebell Walk section of the garden, within the trees, in keeping with the style and feel of the gardens. Guests to the castle will be able to walk around the birds houses, for a small additional fee. The addition of these structures has been reviewed by both Tree and Ecology specialists to ensure the minimal impact on the environment. The birds being housed in the gardens will not affect the level of flying that will take place as the birds have already been flying there daily for the last 5 years and will continue to do so.
The visitor centre is part of a plan to make sure both Pembrokeshire Falconry and Picton Castle Trust remain sustainable businesses, which can continue to offer employment to local people. Pembrokeshire Falconry currently employs 4 full time members of staff and 4 seasonal staff, all of which were trained in house by Alex Hill. This proposal would see the company take on another 3 full time personnel. Picton Castle Trust also envisage a rise in visitor numbers requiring an increase in staffing levels for the castle.