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Close encounters of the feathered kind

[Saturday 13 May 2006]

THE SOUND of owls hooting and the crying of hawks will reverberate through the tranquillity at Rievaulx Abbey this weekend, as expert falconers bring to life the 'sport of kings'.

'Sport of King's' comes to Rievaulx
Photo: English Heritage/
Raphael Falconry

Visitors will be invited to get up close and personal with a range of owls, hawks and falcons when Raphael Falconry host Medieval Falconry within the ruins of the Cistercian abbey today and tomorrow.

"For many young people today, they do not think of birds of prey as either hunting tools or a way of enjoying leisure time - in fact, more will associate owls with the delivery of Harry Potter-style messages than as trainable hunters - so this event should be a real eye-opener," says Jon Hogan, English Heritage's events manager.

With a medieval mews tent providing a safe home for the birds between displays, visitors will be able to learn about how the birds are trained and see the amazing creatures at close quarters, before watching spectacular displays of flight, as the birds soar above the abbey ruins.

In the middle ages, hunting birds were used by people of all walks of life, although there was a strict hierarchy about what birds people of different social classes were allowed to train and own.

The larger and rarer birds of prey would often command very high prices. At a time when fresh meat might be hard to come by, birds were often used to catch food for their owners, including rabbits and other smaller birds.

Three different falconry displays will take place at 12 noon, 2.00pm and 3.30pm, with short talks at the Mews tent taking place at 1.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm.

The mews remains open until 4.30pm, with the site open until 6.00pm.

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