Falconry & Countryside Fair: Stonham Barns

Jonathan Marshall at the Falconry & Countryside Show, Stonham Barns, Suffolk

Falconry & Countryside Fair at Stonham Barns

On the 8th of October 2017 my wife and I spent the day at Stonham Barns for the Falconry & Countryside Fair. It was an event to raise money for the raptor hospital on site. As well as seeing the displays in the main arena we also browsed the tents offering crafts, food, information, artwork and more. Despite the reasonable price of entry, I actually ended up spending most of money in one tent.

Falconry & Countryside Fair displays!

The first display we saw a gun dog demonstrating essential training and commands for obedience and retrieval.


Out on a wing Falconry

We next saw demonstrations by Tim and Tina from Out on a Wing Falconry. First out was a Grey Buzzard Eagle which flew effortlessly from Tina’s glove to the perches.

Next we saw a Barn Owl, Black Kite, Peregrine-cross-Lanner Falcon and a Merlin (smallest British bird of prey).

Ferrets and ferreting

After some lunch and an ice cream from Molly Moo’s Ices we saw a short demonstration on ferreting. The keeper told us how is one of the most humane and Eco-friendly ways to hunt rabbits. Although I wouldn’t personally eat or hunt rabbits, I do see their point on this!


The Lowestoft Dog Agility

The Lowestoft Dog Agility Display Team training group gave us a demonstration of their skills and the dogs performed brilliantly. Unfortunately where we first stood, the dogs and their trainers had their backsides to us, so we decided to move round to the side where we could find a gap! The two teams took part in several races over the hurdles and through the hoops. They finished with a ‘freestyle’ training exercise which could have been any trick or command.

There were a few races between team blue and team orange which worked up to a fly-ball race. Flyball is a race where the dogs have to make their way over hurdles. At the end is a ball machine. Each dog then presses a button to release a ball which they take back to their owners. The comedy moment was seeing the little Jack Russel who hadn’t quite gotten to grips with using the fly-ball machine!

The grand finale saw the dogs jumping through rings of fire, which they didn’t seem phased by at all.

Free Spirit horse and falconry spectacular.

The last display of the day was by Jonathan Marshall of Free Spirit Horses & Falconry. Jonathan gave us an insight into his life and career, sharing his beliefs about living as free spirits. He also told us about his childhood love of TV shows and movies that inspired him to want to work with horses. His horse, The Colonel, had apparently appeared in the Lloyds Bank advert featuring singer/song writer Birdy. The pair of them area also going to play parts in TV series Game of Thrones. You can find out more about Jonathan’s story on his website at

As part of the show Jonathan shared with the audience how he trains his horse and birds to trust each other by having the bird sit calmly on the saddle. He told us that once the bird puffs it’s feathers up it shows it is comfortable. I believe this is a common sign of birds relaxing!


The Grand Finale

The main spectacular was seeing the birds fly through The Colonel’s legs, certainly something I haven’t seen before. Also this was quite difficult to catch on camera, having my shutter speed to the max! Overall the show made for a great end to our day and was delivered in a very informative and heartfelt way.

We thoroughly enjoyed Falconry & Countryside Fair as whole and look forward to visiting the Stonham Barns owl sanctuary again. Unfortunately displays have now come to an end for winter, although the birds will still be exercised, there will be no scheduled displays until next spring. As card holders though I expect we’ll be back to see the birds, especially whilst the car boots are still on!

On a last note, I am currently editing images from a few visits in 2017 to the Stonham Barns Owl Sanctuary. So keep an eye out if you’d like to see more bird of prey images – there’ll also be some of the resident Red Squirrels and Meerkats.

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