Chance to get close to wildlife

Dominic Chessum Visitors to the Seal and Bird Rescue Trust, at Ridlington, near North Walsham, can getting close to some rare wildlife over the Easter weekend.

Dominic Chessum

It is not often you get to come face to face with an eagle owl with its steely stare and razor sharp beak.

But visitors to the Seal and Bird Rescue Trust, at Ridlington, near North Walsham, have been getting close to some rare wildlife.

After more than a decade of caring for sick and injured birds of prey and all sorts of other exotic creatures, the trust has thrown its doors open to the public for the first time.

And yesterday, children jumped at the chance of seeing birds and animals they would probably never get to see in the wild.

Bev Cosse, who runs the trust, said: “It is about teaching how to treat them right and about keeping them in the right conditions. Our message is clear - unless you are going to be able to look after an animal correctly and have a long-term commitment, do not get it in the first place.”

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For Matilda Gibbons, three, from North Walsham, it was the first time she had come so close to a live owl.

Unfazed by the occasional flap of wings, she not only stroked Sky, one of the sanctuary's tame barn owls, but got to hold her too. “It felt very soft, like my dog,” she said.

Her father, Paul, said: “Matilda has said she wants to be a vet and she certainly has an interest in animals.”

The sanctuary was recently given the stamp of approval by Raptor Rescue, Britain's leading bird of prey rehabilitation charity.

It is currently home to more than 70 animals, including four eagle owls and six barn owls.

Though the centre's mantra is “rescue, rehabilitation and release”, many of the birds will have to remain in captivity, either because they lack the hunting skills to survive or because their injuries mean they cannot fend for themselves.

The trust is based at the Barn Rescue Centre, Mill Farm, Mill Common Lane, Ridlington.

It will be open 10am to 4pm today (Saturday), tomorrow and Monday. Entry is £3 for adults, £1 for children. For details, call 01692 650338.