Father’s vision could counter Hampshire charity’s Covid crisis

December 3, 2020

The son of a bird of prey charity founder says his father’s vision could be the key to helping the organisation survive the financial downturn it is suffering as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust, which undertakes conservation and research work throughout the UK and overseas, usually raises much of its money through the operation of its visitor centre near Andover in Hampshire but this year’s lockdown periods and ongoing operational restrictions have led to a drastic reduction in the number of visitors able to purchase tickets.

Ashley Smith of The Hawk Conservancy Trust
Ashley Smith of The Hawk Conservancy Trust

Thinking hard about ways to address the shortfall, Ashley Smith, son of the Trust’s late founder Reg is hoping the solution lies with the legacy of a wildflower meadow planted at the Trust in memory of his father 25 years ago.

Ashley said: “We’ve reached a point where we have to do something unusual for us and appeal directly for support.”

“We have a really supportive community who have recognised our work to conserve birds of prey over the years, of which we’re really grateful, yet we have never been in a position to feel forced to simply ask people for money to secure the future of the Trust.  It was almost a revelation when I realised my father may have left us the answer with the wildflower meadow created in his memory.”

Instead of just appealing for donations, Ashley and the team have devised a campaign to offer people the chance to adopt a plot of Reg’s Wildflower Meadow.  For £100, supporters can become a Guardian of the Meadow, choosing their plot from among the six areas named after the wildflower species that thrive there and form the stunning backdrop to many of the spectacular bird flying displays.  Individuals can adopt for themselves or as an ethical gift and each plot holder will receive a certificate and inclusion of their name on the Guardians’ signage.  If £100 seems a stretch for some at the moment, given the difficult financial pressures many are under there is the option to fundraise for a plot or simply club together with friends and family to share this together.  Most importantly, adopters will be helping to preserve the future of the Trust so it can continue its renowned conservation, research and educational work to protect the world’s bird of prey populations.

More information on the Guardians of the Meadow appeal and online adoption options can be found at www.hawk-conservancy.org/support-us/meadow-appeal

Created in 1995, the seven-acre meadow is an integral part of the visitor experience. Serving as a display arena and highlighting the importance of wild habitats and biodiversity for birds of prey, it has become a special place for many people – whether it be for memories of watching beautiful birds fly across the wild flowers; the setting for wedding photos; or a place to remember time spent enjoying nature with a loved one.

The meadow is part of the Hawk Conservancy Trust’s bird of prey visitor centre at Weyhill near Andover, Hampshire. Rated Hampshire’s number one attraction by TripAdvisor, it is also home to the National Bird of Prey Hospital™ and gives visitors the chance to experience rare birds of prey up close – watching world-class flying displays in three completely different arenas or simply enjoying its 22 acres of woodland and countryside.