Swoop into Preston and Discover This Gem of a Bird Sanctuary
My three year old has developed a bit of an obsession with owls. I'm not sure where it has come from, but a friend pointed us in the direction of Turbary Woods, a bird sanctuary located behind Duxbury's garden centre in Preston, which is run by volunteers. Well, what a find it was.
Getting up close and personal with a five week old owl
As we entered to pay, I was startled to discover that the fluffy creature in a hutch which I'd assumed was a rabbit, was actually a 5 week old owl. What an amazing start to our outing. My eldest was quite taken with him, and we were allowed to stroke it – how much closer to an owl can you possibly get?
There were a wide variety of owls to look at whilst we were there- Eagle Owls, Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, Spectacled Owls, Snowy Owls, the list goes on. I never realised that there were indeed so many species, and how much they vary in size and appearance. As well as owls, there were eagles, hawks, kestrels and vultures, and we even got to see a parrot. In total there are around 90 birds, so it's a pretty impressive experience.
The highlight of Turbary Woods was most definitely the flying display, so make sure you don't miss it – there's only one each day (midday on weekdays and 1pm on weekends and school holidays). As well as getting a chance to see the owls and hawks hunt for their prey, swooping and covering a lot of ground in an impressive time, you also get the chance to hold a bird.
Staff were really good at making sure everyone got a chance to hold most of the birds that were flying. Some of the birds were in a stubborn mood and reluctant to perform (we were told the birds are kept well fed to stop them killing local wildlife), but the men in charge persisted and we were treated to a show which went on for more than an hour. The staff at Turbary Woods are clearly incredibly knowledgeable about their birds and treat them well.
The flying display is the highlight at Turbary Woods
Although not a full day out, Turbary Woods is a brilliant family outing. When you and the family have had your fill of birds, there's a small playground for the kids and a nice cafe with some delicious cakes, which are all part of Duxbury's Garden Centre. There are also picnic tables located in Turbary Woods if you would rather bring a packed lunch.
It's definitely worth popping in to Duxbury's Garden Centre whilst you're there too. There's plenty to look at. When we visited, there were some tortoises who were 'holidaying' there. The whole establishment feels like a friendly, family affair. All the staff were lovely, and my seven year old was quite taken with the sparkly jewellery at the small shop contained within the garden centre – The Toy Garden. The lady who ran the shop was really lovely to her, as she spent ages rummaging through its treasures. The kids were determined to mess up her gorgeous selection of Charlie Bears, but she was incredibly patient. There is also a farm shop stocking produce that is locally sourced.
If you're planning on visiting Turbary Woods, please bear in mind it is a not-for-profit business and all the staff involved are volunteers, so please give generously. Entrance costs are clearly kept at a minimum as it's just £15 for a family of 4 and under 3s are free. Cards aren't accepted, so make sure you have cash on hand.
It's also worth mentioning too that they also offer bird handling experiences and the chance to adopt some of the birds, perfect if you have a bird fanatic who you know would just love a gift like this.
All the family left Turbary Woods with a better understanding of these incredible birds, and my eldest was definitely keen to get more involved with caring for birds in the future. It's a truly inspirational place, and a fun day out for all. Visit the Turbary Woods website here.