Visiting the Hawk Conservancy in Andover, Hampshire
One of my favourite days out close to my hometown is the beautiful Hawk Conservancy Trust which is just four miles away, west of Andover, Hampshire. Hampshire is quite a lovely county really, although it’s expensive, there are plenty of family days out. The Hawk Conservancy Trust is one of those places that is just perfect for families. They have so much going on throughout the year, do amazing conservation work for birds of prey around the world and provide a real in depth look into the world of birds. We recently went to the trust during the Easter Holidays on a lovely sunny, breezy day which is the best type of weather to visit. You can see the birds flying beautifully. The Hawk Conservancy Trust is open pretty much whatever the weather but walking around the woodland area which can get rather muddy isn’t ideal. I much prefer to visit on drier days.
Getting to the Hawk Conservancy Trust
Getting there is easy by car. There are plenty of signposts close to Andover along the A303. There’s plenty of parking available. Public transport runs throughout the summer season from Andover Bus Station. If you’re staying within Andover or the surrounding villages there are Taxis that can take you with an average cost of £10-£15 per journey.
Summer and Winter Seasons
During the Summer season (April – October) there are plenty of beautiful displays and things to see and do. The last feed is around 5pm and makes for a great day out. The Winter season only features two displays with the last activity being around 3.30pm. I much prefer the summer season as I love the Woodland Owls display in the late afternoon which only runs in the summer. However, in the cooler months they do have Owls by Moonlight which is really quite beautiful and happens in the later parts of the evening.
Our Family Day Out at the Hawk Conservancy Trust
We went as four adults and one child which cost around £70 including donations to the trust and gift aid payments. Adults are just under £15 and Children under the age of 15 are £10.45. Children under 4 can visit the trust for free and there is a family ticket option for two adults and two children for £46.25. We arrived around 10.30am with plenty of time to start looking around and then attend the Vulture Feed and Talk. Vultures are one of the key birds at the trust and the conservation work they do really does help this critically endangered species. If you’ve not seen Vultures up close before or think you’re not a fan of these birds then you need to visit. The bird handlers at the trust will convert you to loving these big birds that do an amazing job of cleaning up our planet. The talk is around fifteen minutes and I always learn alot about how much work Vultures do for the good of our wildlife.
At 11.30 you can head over to the first flying display which is situated opposite the Vulture talk on the lower flying grounds. This display trys to mimic an African wildlife habitat and features so many amazing birds. They really get the birds close to you with them flying over your heads so you need to keep your eyes peeled and be prepared to duck. We saw a beautiful big Eagle Owl, Tolkein, fly through the area and over the audience as well as three vultures. There’s a big finale featuring lots of beautiful birds flying through the ‘lake’ and across the grass. Two new editions to the Hawk Conservancy Trust are a pair of Meerkats who attend this display too. I think my favourite bird of the display is Dr No the Secretary Bird who is a bit of a karate expert. The display is very informative and around 30 minutes which brings you just in time for lunch.
We went to the Feathers restaurant for something to eat but there are plenty of places to sit outside for picnic lunches. The Feathers restaurant at the Hawk Conservancy Trust have a range of hot and cold food. I went for a sandwich and a Bounty which I obviously HAD to share with Evie despite her having a children’s Lunch Box. The Children’s lunch box contained a sandwich, apple juice, jelly pouch, crisps and small chocolate bar. They also sell coffees to drink in and takeaway. If you fancy something later on in the afternoon and you’re prepared to book in advance the Hawk Conservancy Trust offers an afternoon tea.
After eating we spent an hour or so walking around the upper grounds of the park before the second flying display, Valley of the Eagles which looks over a beautiful wildflower meadow that’s protected by the trust. This display featured vultures, black kites, a kestral and two beautiful Bald American Eagles. They fly in from around a mile and a half away so at first they’re just little dots in the background before they gain height and zoom right in. It’s amazing to see. During the school holidays and weekends children are then invited on a tractor ride around the wildflower meadow for a bit of fun. Evie could not possibly wait for the second ride though and instead choose to play in the park.
The last flying display is my favourite and situated close to the upper flying grounds. It’s a shaded area so out of the sun and features lots of lovely Owls. Sometimes there’s a chance for children and adults to interact with this display too which is really lovely. For this one we saw Great Grey Owls, Barn Owls and a very cute Long Eared Owl. The Owls really do fly quite low and get very close to the audience, often perching next to you on the back of the bench. It was after this display that we decided to go home, around 4.15pm however there are still a few activities in the later part of the day including a Ferret Race, Talk with the Secretary Bird or Sea Eagles and a wild raptor and herring feeding. Throughout the day there is also the chance to meet and hold a bird of prey and fly a Harris Hawk.
Things to do for Children at the Hawk Conservancy Trust
Children are very welcome at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. There’s a brand new play park in the lower grounds close to some of the Owls and Vultures that Evie really wanted to go in but it’s very new and due to the wet weather it wasn’t quite ready on the day we went. There is a smaller play park though with tyre swings, slide, climbing frame and tyre walk. A good place to burn off a little energy after sitting still throughout the flying displays. There is also a little fact sheet for you to spot the Owls and learn a little more about them as well as a Stamp Passport which gives you a mystery prize at the end of the day for getting all the stamps. It was a lovely day out.
You can take a look at our video here to see a bit more of what happens at the Trust and see some of these Birds of Prey in action, however, it’s no substitute for visiting the trust if you’re in the area.