Judith Wrighte, Director of The Countryside Alliance Foundation’s Falconry for Schools project writes “A First For Falconry”: ‘Falconry for Schools’ was invited to attend a ‘Countryside Day’ for schools at the Bereleigh Estate, East Meon, Hampshire. The educational charity, Hampshire Country Learning based at Sparsholt College, organises estate and farm visits for school children in and around Hampshire in order to better understand the working countryside and food production. Hampshire Country Learning has been part of The Country Trust since 2007.
Hampshire Country Learning contacted The Countryside Alliance Foundation after having heard about the work that the ‘Falconry for Schools Project’ is doing to conserve falconry’s heritage, birds of prey and promote outdoor education and outdoor pursuits. This Countryside Day was designed to enable pupils to explore their local environment, discover rural activities and meet some of the people that work to preserve such rural activities.
Throughout the day the pupils from the schools visited a carousel of various activity stations across the Bereleigh Estate. These activities included gardening, forestry, gamekeeping, crops and machinery, pond dipping and falconry. “It is the first time at a Countryside Day for Schools that falconry has been an activity we can offer the children”, explained Felicity Davis, the Countryside Education Practitioner for Hampshire Country Learning. At the falconry activity station, the pupils became ‘Apprentice Falconers’, learning about health, diet, fitness and safety of the birds and also training a bird of prey. Practical activities included ‘mix and match’ games on health and equipment and a balanced diet for the birds. The pupils also had to guess the weight of a bird and then weigh the bird to see how accurate their guess was. The safety activity included tying a falconry knot and correctly attaching a swivel to mews jesses. The fitness training activity involved the pupils swinging a swing lure at a target, all before having a bird fly to the glove.