Last weekend I went to stay with the beautiful Miss Hermés in Kent for a long overdue catch up and a very exciting event on Sunday! She is also a vet student but at Liverpool. We quickly got on to the topic of vet school and discussed recent course happenings before having a good moan about general vet student stresses. After we put the World to rights, we headed to Bills for dinner and more gossiping. As usual I was that annoying person in the restaurant and photographed all the food. Unlike Llama Supporter, Miss Hermés is much more understanding and supportive of my food photography. I started with avocado hummus and flat bread and Miss Hermés went for the crumbed halloumi sticks.
We both decided on the buttermilk chicken burger with sweet potato fries. I’m terrible at trying new things once I find something I like in a restaurant. It’s got so bad that the staff in Burger Joint in Bristol not only recognise me, but they know my order off by heart! But anyways back to the Saturday night, after absolutely stuffing ourselves at dinner we went home to finish catching up whilst scrolling through Instagram and discussing recent events. Despite talking regularly on Whatsapp, we never run out of things to talk about.
On Sunday we set off nice and early for a very exciting morning in the sunshine for a falconry experience at The Hawking Centre, which is based at beautiful Doddington Place gardens in Kent. We started off with a cup of tea (how all the best days start) before a tour round the bird mews. After a quick introduction to our adorable new feathered friends we got ready to fly Reggie the Barn Owl. Reggie is a very special Barn Owl, he was born with too much melanin, so is a beautiful brown colour. He wouldn’t have survived in the wild as his mum would have removed him from the nest.
We headed towards the woodland part of the garden with him. For each of the birds we wandered round different parts of the stunning gardens and woodlands. It felt so relaxed and the staff were so lovely and knowledgeable. The birds were able to fly off and then come back to us as and when they liked, but they knew full well where the food was located. Most of them wore a tracker incase they got too far away and they could then be located later on.
After we returned Reggie to his perch, we took Cinders the Great Horned Owl out to the formal gardens and pond. She was so much stronger than Reggie. According to the handler, Laura, this breed has been known to kill muntjac deer. They have 900lbs of force in their feet. Cinders flew much further away from us than Reggie, they tend to hunt from a greater distance and then glide in silently on their prey, which meant you had to keep an eye on where she was incase she decided you would make a better perch.
Once we had wandered round the gardens and rock pools in the now very warm sun, we returned Cinders and met Stella. We took Stella the Harris Hawk along the woodland walk away from the main house and towards the sheep and lambs. Stella is used in the City regularly as a pigeon deterrent. Thankfully she wears a bell which makes her easier to locate in dense woodland. Unfortunately it still wasn’t enough for me to notice her coming up behind me and perching on my head for a better survey of the area. Stella also demonstrated, with the help of Miss Hermés, her (fake) rabbit catching skills before we returned her to her mews for an afternoon rest.
We were then very privileged to meet Irina the Bald Eagle. I can’t remember how much Laura said Irina weighed but I definitely need to go to the gym more. We were told to keep our arms as straight and as level with our shoulder as possible, as if we dropped it down it would encourage her to take perch on our shoulders instead. Something I don’t think any of us wanted to experience. But definitely easier said than done. The shakes soon set in and she started to feel like she weighed 15kg. I can’t explain how amazing she was, this is probably the only time I will ever get to witness the shear beauty of one of these creatures up close. I’m so glad I’m not a mouse.
Thankfully our next feathered encounter weighed a lot less but had so much character! We went to the lawn in front of the tea room to fly Maggie the Vulture. We took it in turns with the people who were on the full falconry day to fly her backwards and forwards with encouragement from fresh chicken. We managed to get two videos of us flying her too, but unfortunately at the moment, WordPress won’t let me upload them here. I will let you know when I have managed it!
We also met, but didn’t get to fly, the following beautiful creatures!
Oreo the Spectacled Owl
Nanook the Gyr Falcon
Theo the Eagle Owl
After a drink at the tea room and a lovely chat to the couple also in our group, we set off to explore the beautiful gardens. The gardens alone are enough of a reason to come and visit. They are maintained beautifully and are currently full of wonderful spring flowers.
We then went back to Miss Hermés house for a lovely late lunch in the sunshine with her wonderful parents. Unfortunately, the weekend went far too quickly as usual and I was off home again. If you ever get the chance to go to the Hawking Centre or are thinking of booking an experience, I honestly can’t rate it enough. It’s an amazing experience for yourself or as a gift. The staff are so lovely and knowledgable and the grounds are stunning. A huge thank you to beautiful Miss Hermés for inviting me along, it’s one of the best days out I’ve ever been on.