Friday, 15 July 2016

The Return to Innisfree - Day 7

Me and My Hawk

Cong                                                                              Ireland

Thursday 12th June 2014

Today was the day I was waiting for the most on this incredible journey as I was taking part in falconry and horse riding. I was really excited about doing this but food came first and I wasn’t going anywhere without a home cooked breakfast. We then made haste for Cong yet again where I would say goodbye to the parents and head to the falconry sanctuary which was hidden in the Ashford castle grounds. I was that eager to get there that I ended up at Ashford castle with loads of time to spare. So instead of rushing to the sanctuary I sat at the opposite side of the castle looking over at Lough Corrib with the beautiful sunshine on the smooth water enjoying the moment of relaxation. There was a time that I would pretend to be a part of the lifestyle of all the guests in the castle with their fancy ways but then I returned back down to earth as it was definitely time to make my way for the falconry. Along the way was a nice peaceful walk along the lavish gardens following the signs for the sanctuary. It was quite a long walk to the sanctuary but when I approached the area, I immediately realised it was right next to Squire Danagher’s house from the film. It was wonderful to see this building again with more memories flowing through my mind. I arrived dead on time to the wonderful sight of hawks and falcons resulting in my joy building up. The instructor named Tommy introduced himself and gave me some factual information about how hawks actually work as a pack on larger preys and how females are larger than males. It was interesting to know this and it was great when he gave me a mini tour of the sanctuary so full of hawks and even an owl too. They were all tied and perched on their own piece of wood looking quite miserable at the fact they were caged up. It was time to finally hold the hawk I would be taken out to hunt with and I was full of excitement. I had to place a thick leather glove on my left hand and as soon as I had it on securely, the hawk came onto it. It was an amazing feeling to be holding a hawk with a sense of power in my mind. I also couldn’t get over how light weight he was too even when he was only 1 year old. After a training session on how to call the bird over safely and release him, we were ready to leave the sanctuary for our 2 hour walk through the forests and gardens of Ashford castle grounds. As we walked by Danagher’s house, we were getting admired by people passing by taking a picture of the incredible bird. Once we were all alone, we let the Hawk fly off with a flick of the wrist and into the woodland area with the sound of the little bell on his leg fading away slightly. Tommy told me that there had been times he had gone out with them and never seen them again for a good few hours as they are always on the hunt with or without human contact. So I was hoping my hawk was going to stay with me. In order to do that, Tommy placed a piece of meat into my gloved hand and then as I reached my left arm up, the sound of the bell got louder. It was a thrill to watch the hawk swoop down through the trees weaving in and out of small branches onto my arm. It was so elegant and subtle with a sense of pure beauty to watch it come towards me and land onto my arm for the meat. I set him away again as Tommy and I were talking about why I was here and what I had been doing during my time here until it was time for the Hawk to grab another piece of meat. The hawk was a bit reluctant on coming as it was focused on something else hiding in the woods. To be honest it was nice to see the Hawk do what it was born to do and hunt but then it lost interest and came straight back to me. For the next hour or so I would never get tired of watching the hawk come straight towards me and I joked on with Tommy about intending on owning one of these hawks; although it would be nice to have a Hawk in the house. Along the way, one of the Hawks feathers came off and Tommy was kind enough to let me have it as a memento. I thanked him and then there was one last skill he had the Hawk doing recently. He wanted me to experience the hawk thundering down from above me as though I was the birds prey and the view I would see would be the last vision from a mouse. So we stopped walking right underneath the hawk which was at the top of a tall tree looking down on us. With a bit of persuasion the hawk glided down rapidly and landed safely on my arm. I had so much fun as was expected but good things come to an end as we were making our way back to the sanctuary. One final swoop from the hawk was for a whole mouse that was placed in my glove and it was freaky when I heard the crunching sound. Just before I left the sanctuary, Tommy brought out the large owl for me to see and it was exceptionally beautiful and looked quite heavy to be honest. Its wingspan was massive too as it tried to fly off when Tommy had a hold of it. I shook his hand thanking him for an amazing time and took the quaint walk back through Ashford castles gardens thinking a lot about what I had just done and a memory I would never forget. I made it back to Cong with no clue where my parents were so I decided to head to the quiet man café for my dinner. It was lovely to relax watching the dozens of tourists filling the quiet village but it was then time to head back to the equestrian centre which took a short while to start my 2 hour horse riding session. I was looking forward for this session especially when I finally arrived being suited and booted. I then clapped my eyes on the horse I would be riding. The horses name was called ‘Willow’ and he was a lovely looking grey horse. After meeting and greeting my instructor, I did a few laps around the barn area before setting out into the woodlands of Ashford castle. It didn’t take me long to get used to the reins knowing how many kicks were required to get him moving. The instructor and I had a great chat along the way as well as learning about the area such as the Guinness tower hidden well within the woods. My horse was making me laugh as well as he tended to trot away by himself without my command and kicks; he seemed to be like me in many ways but mainly stubborn. Also as we were passing low branches, he would just stop in his tracks to have a bite on the leaves. We were laughing at the situation a lot but I had to get the horse back on track. Further down the road the horses got startled by a low flying bird which made me think that my horse would either rear up or start galloping. I braced for the worst but he got his nerves back together and headed back on track. The 2 hours were spent well in the woods and grounds but it was time to head back to the barn. Today had definitely been a great day of fun and I was in a rush to tell my parents about my day. I eventually found them mainly because I could hear my dog barking her head off at someone. They were so happy that I had a brilliant time and it was nice to share the evening with my family too giving the fact I hadn’t seen them all day. A pint of Guinness was all I needed with a bit of fishing on the side to end the day in perfection marking down another incredible timestamp in my life.
Ashford Castle & Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib

Ashford Castle Gardens

Ashford Castle Gardens

Squire Danagher`s House

Beautiful Owl

Beautiful Owl

Me and My Mischievous Horse `Willow`

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