Birds of prey swoop in to wow care home residents

A ‘flying visit’ by birds of prey including kestrels, owls and falcons thrilled residents at Avon Reach.
Under the guidance of an experienced handler, the avian stars were greeted with wonder by onlookers at Avon Reach in Mudeford.

The visit was a wish come true for resident Elizabeth Longley who had told carers how much she would like to see such birds close up.

Team members at the home contacted renowned expert Colin Sutherland, who arranged an interactive experience for her and fellow residents in the comfort of their lounge.

After viewing an array of birds, the highlight for Elizabeth was the opportunity to hold Kevin the kestrel.

Smiling throughout and donning a protective towel on her wrist under Colin’s instruction, Elizabeth was fascinated with the encounter.
“It was a truly amazing experience and I thank everyone for making my wish happen,” she said.
During the visit, Berkshire-based Colin spoke to residents about his work rescuing birds of prey, sharing details of their habitats and diets.

And he gave a demonstration showing how he had trained Kevin to regain his balance after a wing injury.

Denise Marks, Companionship Team Leader at Avon Reach, said: “It was a pleasure and privilege to help make Elizabeth’s wish come true.

“Animal visits always get a great reaction here and this was an especially lovely interactive experience for Elizabeth and other residents. You could see the happiness on people’s faces.”

Farmyard memories as chicks spring into life

Avon Reach hatched a plan to celebrate springtime by hosting the birth of some fluffy chicks
After we put a heated incubator with embryo eggs centre stage in the home’s lounge, residents waited eagerly for the new arrivals.

They were transfixed as, one by one, the eggs hatched over the course of several days with, eventually, eight chicks welcomed into the world.

Our Companionship Team Leader Megan Castell said: “It was the most magical time and our residents were totally fascinated.
“It was so interactive when the chicks arrived as residents could get up close and hold them.”
Among those enjoying the births was June Chandler who grew up on a farm in Wiltshire and loved being surrounded by animals.

June said she knew exactly what to expect when the chicks were born, recalling happy girlhood memories of looking after poultry, lambs and piglets.

[caption id="attachment_4827" align="alignnone" width="481"] Nancy BIRKLAND and Fluffy the chick[/caption]

“The chickens were no trouble,” remembered June. “The ones we owned had a little run but had to be wired in because of the jackdaws.
“We also had a little lamb named Larry and when the piglets were born we used to bring them home and warm them up by the fire. They were little devils really, very wriggly.”
All eight chicks born at Avon Reach have now left to go to good homes, either free range farms locally or to people with existing hen flocks.

Two Colten Care homes in Lymington – Belmore Lodge and Outstanding-rated dementia care home Linden House – also hosted the births of chicks this spring, delighting their residents as well.

Equine visitors delight horse lovers at Avon Reach  

A pair of horses who normally work with young disabled people have brought joy to elderly residents of a Dorset care home
Colonel and Elvis made a 15-mile round trip in a twin horse box from The Fortune College, a centre for riding therapy in Bransgore, visit us here at Avon Reach.

Their special visit served as a personal thank-you to our resident and horse-lover Margaret Barnes who has contributed to Colonel’s living costs for more than 15 years.

Margaret first became involved with the college around 20 years ago when she was editing the New Milton talking newspaper for blind and partially sighted people in the New Forest.

She became interested in sponsoring a horse after hearing that a local bank provided support that way.
Margaret said: “I really liked the idea of what the college was about and all the good work they were doing with the children. I love horses but have never ridden one except as a child.
“Before Colonel I sponsored a horse called Bertie. I used to visit the college quite often to see the horses work.

“It was delightful to see Colonel and Elvis making the trip to Avon Reach. I continue to support Colonel with sponsorship and it was such a joy to welcome both horses for an afternoon with us.”

The visit came about after college representatives offered to bring the horses to see Margaret and fellow residents in line with the relaxing of Covid restrictions on care home visits.

Jane Roberts, Companionship team member at Avon Reach, said: “Our residents thoroughly enjoyed meeting the horses. They spent time stroking the pair and feeding them carrots, which were consumed very quickly.

“Both Colonel and Elvis were very gentle and the smell and feel of them contributed to a really pleasurable experience all round.

“Many of our residents have spent time with horses in the past and it was fantastic to witness the precious moments when they could renew hands-on contact with a pat and a stroke.”

For resident Jean Davies, the experience broke new ground. “I had never stroked a horse before and I was thrilled,” said Jean. “It was the highlight of my year.”

College Principal Jane Delves and Equine Manager Claire Wesson both accompanied the horses.
Jane said: “This was a lovely trip and we were so happy to see the residents come outside and greet the horses.
“We’re grateful to Margaret for her continued sponsorship of Colonel. We rely on such support to help towards the costs of essentials such as feed, hay, shoes and teeth checks.”

Both the college and Avon Reach hope to arrange a return visit later this year.

Colonel is a 25-year-old piebald (black and white) cob while Elvis is a New Forest grey pony, aged 20.

Fortune College is a specialist centre that prepares young people with learning disabilities to live as independently as possible and participate in their local communities. Its patron is the actor Martin Clunes.