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" Muncaster Castle with Gareth "

Date & start time: Thursday  5th June 2014, 2 pm start.

Location of Start : Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria, Uk ( SD 103 967)

Places visited :      The Castle grounds and the World Owl Trust aviaries.

Walk details :         A general meander around the gardens, woodland, cafe and aviaries.

                           [ We passed on a castle visit due to having our dogs with us.]

Walked with :        Gareth, Ann and our dogs, Harry and Dylan.

Weather :               A dry day with variable cloud cover, improving after a damp morning.

 " Muncaster Castle with Gareth " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


Chance to visit a place we've often heard about . . . and passed many times on our drives to walk the fells.

Today Gareth joins us on a visit to Muncaster on the west coast of Cumbria

to see the gardens, the World Owl Trust and their conservation centre at Muncaster Castle.

The castle is home to the Pennington Family who can trace their ownership back to 1208 or possibly earlier.

Today the castle is open to visitors and the grounds are famous for their flower displays.

Parking adjacent to the A595 coast road we leave a reasonably full (free!) car park and enter the grounds.

Tickets from the gatehouse will give us access to the grounds and the Owl Centre.

It is just after 2pm and we learn that the flying display is on shortly on the castle lawn, so we can't delay.

Down the main drive with its meadow flowers . . .
and lovely tree-lined edges.

The display is on the lawns on the other side of the castle.

The building ultimately dates from Roman times but the first significant castle was built in the 1200's

The last major change was building and improvements in the 1860's which give it much of its present day character.

A good crowd for a mid-week day . . . we are all seated or have sufficient space to stand and still get a good view.

Our Owl expert and wildlife guide introduces Mortimer the buzzard.

[ The loudspeaker was part of his excellent but un-intrusive commentary system.]

A magnificent bird, one normally seen at a distance, soaring high in the air.

Mortimer was a rescue bird  which the Trust nurtured back to good health here at the castle.

Starvation in his early life meant his flight feathers never properly matured and so he never developed the skills to soar high and search for food like other buzzards.  He would not be able to survive in the wild himself.

He more than earns his keep now by introducing us all to the concept of rescue, breeding and wild release, the cornerstones of the Muncaster and Owl Trust conservation projects.

He is the most 'widely walked' buzzard in Cumbria and despite a full set of flight feathers now hardly ever flies higher than twelve feet off the ground.

He demonstrates his ability to stalk . . .
. . . and catch a lure at just three miles an hour.

To catch rabbits and voles that would be Mortimer's normal prey, he'd have to travel a lot faster than that !

But he's a great looking bird all the same.

Meet Fidget the Barn Owl . . . the second star of the show.

These are free-flying displays as the birds move from handler to perch, back and forth across the lawn.

One gloved hand protects the young lady from the sharp talons.

This lovely bird with its wings fully outstretched, accepts a treat after each flight.

A bird of the meadows and woodlands, they fly silently on broad, quiet wings . . . listening for their prey

using hearing rather than sight as a primary means of finding food such as mice and voles.

At the end of the display it gets a special treat . . . far better to reward with their natural food if at all possible.

With the other two birds safely out of the way, enter Chocolate, a large European Eagle Owl.

It's natural food source is rodents and the like but it is also partial to birds smaller than itself !!

Our ranger guide talked of how important bio-diversity and hay meadows are to the complete food chain,

allowing everything from the voles to these sort of birds to survive in a balanced ecosystem.

Chocolate ready for his flying display . . .

. . . chasing treats in the air and on the ground.

A magnificent bird . . .

. . . but you wouldn't want to take your eye off him for a second !

- - - o o o - - -

We passed on taking a glove and having our photo taken in favour of continuing our walk around the grounds.

From the cannons at the front of the house there are lovely views of the Esk Valley.

Below us is the river and the Devoke Water fells behind Waberthwaite to the right.  

Ahead, at the top of the valley is Harter Fell with Bowfell, Crinkles and the Scafells to the left.

Muncaster is famous for  the expression "Tom Foolery"
I'll leave you to read the story above.

We called in at Creeping Kate's Cafe and enjoyed a lovely fresh sandwich lunch on the tables in the stable yard.

Time to take a walk and enjoy the grounds.

The cafe is on the right, the Owl Centre and its aviaries to the left with Muncaster Church behind.

We've just missed the best Rhododendron displays of the season but there are sufficient varieties

to provide good colour for most of the summer.   We are walking the lower tracks back to the castle and the vole meadow.

Lovely displays on these Himalayan trees.

The climate here in this part of the UK reflects that of the Himalayas at 12,000 feet above sea level and these plants grow well.

Beautiful borders to the tracks and woodland.

Pimula Prolifera (Candilabra), I believe.
The Yellow Iris, I know.

Lion . . . at the foot of the steps to the castle lawn.

The lawn beyond the castle has been converted into a hay meadow to encourage the wildlife.

Timothy Flowers within the grasses.
Foxgloves on the margins.

Time to be heading back to the Cannon Bank for the four o'clock display.

We have about quarter of an hour by the sun dial (allowing one hour forward for British summer time of course).

Time to walk through the Sun Dial Gardens and view the Primulas (Cistus hybridus/Cyprius)

Bright red fuchsias . . .
Wonderful red poppies . . .

. . . and a romantic Clematis arch over the chair.

More poppies as we walk back to the castle.

Ann and Gareth make their way over to the cannons again.

The weather has come up trumps now with lovely blue skies over the castle.

We enjoy more extensive views up and down the valley . . . with Yoadcastle and Stainton Pike to the right.

Everyone is gathering for the 4pm heron feeding.

We spot one of the birds in the long grass . . .

. . . and another in the tree.

A third manages to shake his head as I press the shutter . . . still it makes an interesting shot !

Count the Herons

When you looked more closely there are loads of herons in the trees all around.

. . .   hold your cursor over the picture to count some of the herons.

The tradition of feeding the herons started when two rescue birds were fed on the bank to encourage them to join the wild flock of herons that live down by the river.


What happened though was the wild birds came to realise there was easy pickings on offer at a certain time in the late afternoon.


Muncaster now feeds the herons and the wild flock has prospered.


Some days there can be twenty or thirty of these magnificent bird which fly in  for the free meal.


They are fed day old male chicks, a by-product of the egg and chicken industry, the female chick of course go on to become egg laying flocks which provide us all with eggs from our local farms or shops.


Our lady guide was explaining the history, the ecology and background to the bird display at Muncaster.

Time to feed the birds.

A mass of wings . . .
Jumping,  flying,  jostling . . .
Success . . .
Escape to enjoy their meal without further harassment.

After the first few minutes, when all the food had been consumed, peace returned

and with it the chance to capture a few last shots of these magnificent wild birds.

The Grey Heron . . . Ardea cinerea.

They can reach nearly a metre in height, both sexes look alike.

- - - o o o - - -

Before we go we must pay a visit to the owl sanctuary so we head back along the scenic route through the Himalayan trail

and the lovely woodlands again.

Lovely pink . . . and white examples . . .
. . . all imported from overseas and planted at Muncaster.

We follow the basic garden map and try and identify a nice shorter round walk through the trees.

Another nice seat at a viewpoint overlooking the castle.

From here we'll make our way across to the aviaries.

 - - - o o o - - -

Inside the entrance . . . "reasons for the declines" in owls worldwide . . . and "what we are doing".

Many of the birds have been rescued and are no longer able to survive in the wild by themselves.

The World Owl programme aims to encourage breeding and release of young back into their original habitats

to survive and prosper in a world where their parents could not.

Large aviaries with as natural a habitat as possible . . . here a Tengmalm's Owl (Europe Asia, Siberia)

The Ural Owl (from Scandinavia and Russia)

A "pair" of Spectacle Owls (Mexico Central America)
Not all Owls . . . here's a Red Kite (from Europe)

Finally a south /central American Pigmy Owl.

Try and take it when he's lookingh this way !

The birds were often difficult to photograph, what with the small mesh and the tree branches inside,

Roll up, Roll up . .  . try your luck . . . hold your cursor over the right hand owl photo to try and take a picture yourself.

- - - o o o - - -

The centre has a much larger display of owls . . . this is just a taster . . . go along and see them for yourselves if you can.

[ A fuller range of my bird photos and some information about them is given in a final link at the bottom of this page.]

- - - o o o - - -

Time to be heading back after walking through the centre.

Back to the wildlife pool alongside the castle's back lawn.

A male . . . and here a female mallard duck . . . with their brood.

We spend a few pennies and buy some bird food to scatter for them to eat.

The young ducklings . . .
. . . intriguing to a young pup.


- - - o o o - - -


Gareth takes time out to check his phone


which included pointing out that if we didn't get going


then they'll shut the main gate and we'd be locked in !


My my . . . how time flies when you're enjoying yourself !


- - - o o o - - -



The car park was busy when we arrived . . . now where did we park the car ?

- - - o o o - - -

To complete the week of Gareth's stay we stopped off in Ennerdale Bridge

to enjoy a meal and a pint at the community owned "Fox and Hounds" pub.

Well deserving of their trip advisor reports.

A lovely Wensleydale and Spinach quiche.

Hold your cursor over the photo to check out the fish alternative.

The food service was quick and efficient and the food fresh and well cooked . . . what more could you ask,

and as they say in all the best fairy stories . . . and so to bed.

- - - o o o - - -



For more owl pictures from inside the World Owl Trust Centre

then click here or on the photo to the left.


For more information do please visit the Castle web site at


Remember if you are visiting it is well worth getting there before lunchtime for the 2.30pm and the 4pm displays.

Can we say that they have a very sensible but relaxed attitude to dogs (and puppies) which was superb.

Our compliments to Patrick Duff Pennington who we had the pleasure of talking to for a few brief moments during our visit.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot SX220, or my Nikon P520 digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . conservation and ecology in mind.

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Previous walk - 3rd June 2014 - Buttermere Long How

A previous time near here - 1st November 2006 Stainton Pike and the Rowan Tree Falls

Next event - 9th June 2014 - Loweswater Farmers 2014