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Today I share with you my adventures from an owl sanctuary located in Ebbw Vale. Having spent my childhood years, living in a house next to a forest, I’ve forever been fascinated by various forest creatures. I’ve fallen asleep to the sounds of owls and crickets at night, occasionally spotted a wild hog or deer on the road. Not to say, that I’m not blessed by animal sounds now that I live in Wales- but I must say that sheep calls are so much less therapeutic than a gentle hoot of the owls.

I’ve only seen glimpses of owls in the wildlife. I’ve never had the experience of seeing or touching one up close- and I eagerly wanted that to change. I wanted to see those beautiful animals up close- so by friend’s recommendation, I set out to the nearest owl sanctuary- located about 2 hours away from where I live. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve never actually been to an owl sanctuary, so my expectations were indeed quite low.

I set off early in the morning to avoid rush hour but was stuck in traffic nonetheless, the sudden heatwave in U.K was making it impossible to breathe. But eventually I have arrived at Ebbw Vale and then got lost. The navigation took me to a family fun park but there was no indication whatsoever where the owl sanctuary is. There was no obvious signs, so it took a bit of walking around the place, to spot the tiniest arrow pointing down a footpath to the sanctuary.

I walked down a narrow path, walked through the gate of an entrance and was suddenly struck by a view which seemed like -out of a fairytale. Green trees, beautiful flowers blooming and a wonky wooden bridge, bees buzzing about….It seemed as if I entered one of Tolkien’s books. My excitement kicked in.

The place was really small but had a lot of character, as I was crossing the bridge, I could hear birds chirping in the background, the green trees and plants surrounded me I felt as if I was in an enchanted land. Soon enough, I started seeing some of the birds, not just owls but also falcons and hawks. As I walked down the path- small cages were lined up in front of me, with descriptions of the birds in them with individual names and their stories. I loved reading the little entries about them, as this has given me a glimpse to their background and personalities which often was evident in the way they behaved.

The Owl sanctuary was established in 1992, to be a home to owls, hawks and falcons who have been rescued or injured. The volunteers help rehabilitate birds back to health, where in some cases the sanctuary becomes a permanent home for them if the birds were raised in captivity or have injuries which would threaten their survival in the wild.

The Sanctuary is a free entry and is run purely on donations made by public…. They also have an amazon wish list, if you’re interested in helping out! – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/registry/wishlist/2IHWMN6JWGA6U/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_1

The place is really humble, I mean while walking around… it didn’t scream corporate or very business-like. A lot of things seem handmade and I can tell that the money is put in all the right places, as birds seem to be well taken care of there.

The cages are clean, apart from the ones where birds are breeding. The owls seem really calm and some are even willing to come out to be held by fellow admirers! Of course, I was one of the bunch off people who jumped at the opportunity to hold such a beautiful bird.

The owl I held was Ellie, she was rescued from horrible conditions and seemed to be very bonded with the volunteers. As I held her, my excitement was taking over and I couldn’t wipe a goofy smile off my face for a decent photo. I asked if it’s okay to kiss her and the volunteer looked at me weirdly and said ‘’I guess’’. So, I smooched my face into her…. her feathers are so soft… and she was so very cute.

Her eyes are a piercing orange colour, and her majestic stance overwhelmed me with awe. I held her on my arm and although she was bit heavy…I wish that moment could last forever. That’s until she was to impress me with her wingspan as she flew away to her favourite post, almost smacking me in the face. It was awesome… hehe.

I could tell by the way volunteers handled and spoke to the animals, that they were of caring nature. The birds seemed happy and while I strolled around witnessing more and more birds, I came across only one grumpy owl who would give me evils and occasional hiss…

Although I could tell the place needed some tlc in some areas… I was surprised at the commitment of volunteers, keeping this place running all year-round while not having any money from the admission. It’s a great place to witness some beauty of nature, learn some facts about the birds, get to hold some majestic creatures or have a friendly chat with the volunteers. I saw some children watching these beautiful animals in awe and since the place is located by a family fun park which is basically a complex of shops, cafes and kid’s playground- it’s a good place for a day out to make some everlasting memories with a family!

After ending the tour of these beauties, I went to the little gift shop. Again- humble is a good way of describing it, they didn’t really have a lot to sell … but I did buy a little owl pendant necklace which I wear every day now. After speaking to the shop owner- who was very friendly and passionate about his job, I then signed in the guest book and donated some money for the cause.

After the owl sanctuary it was time to head home, but being in this beautiful location, I had to cross some places off my list while driving home. And this would be a scenic lake surrounding the area.

I stopped at a the lake where I could see a lot of families and children enjoying their time…. Whether it was sitting on benches and having some food, running around the trees chasing one another or jumping into the lake. With the day being so hot, I was tempted to jump in myself… if only I brought some clothes to change with me.

Instead I just sat down and enjoyed the view and the atmosphere of the place. Lakes and forests are like a home to me since I spent so much time around them while being a kid. It was a sweet feeling to experience, an overlap of my good childhood memories and the overwhelming gratefulness of the present, stunned by such scenery.

I took it all in, the warm air, and the gentle evening breeze. The rattle of the leaves, and voices of laughter from far away. As I sat there, people started slowly leaving, the air started getting colder and a mist started setting among the pine forest trees. I took some more photos of the misty, hazy lake and forests. The temperature started dropping down rapidly, so the air was very fresh and after a stifling day, it felt like my lungs could finally fully expand. I was in mesmerized. But sadly, it was time to go so I headed back to the car, ready to set off home.

Hope you enjoyed this blog!

Thank you so much for reading,

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See you again,

 Marta x

Marta

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