In the last newsletter (No.53) and on our website I gave you the sad news of the termination of our long term Agreement with the Muncaster Estate – an Agreement which supposedly gave the World Owl Trust security of tenure for our headquarters and World Owl Centre until 2046. I also informed you that we had been given until May 2015 to quit Muncaster ‘unless new arrangements could be negotiated’. Following this unexpected decision by the Estate and the failure to be presented with any renegotiations, and in the light of events in the months that have followed, the WOT Board of Trustees felt that the Trust had no prospect of a long term future at Muncaster and that we had no alternative but to relocate to a new site where we were both wanted and appreciated. I also promised to keep you informed of where we would be relocating.
I can now confirm that the World Owl Centre will indeed be leaving Muncaster at the end of April 2015 and from that date will have no connection with any future owl collection which may be set up there. Unfortunately, until our new lease is finally signed and sealed I am afraid I am not at liberty to reveal the name or exact location of our new home, but please rest assured that once negotiations are completed we will be only too happy to release this information, so please bear with us.
Many members and regular visitors have implored us not to leave Cumbria since they look upon a visit to the Owl Centre as the highlight of their holidays in the Lake District, but I am afraid that we have decided that this would not be the right option for us. Our World Owl Centre must be capable of providing the revenue necessary for the Trust to fulfil its Charitable Aims and employ the quality staff to ensure its Administrative, Conservation, Education, Research and Owl Collection sections are run to the highest levels of professionalism. This means that the new World Owl Centre needs to be situated not only at an attractive secure site, but also one which is within easy reach of a large number of prospective visitors. I am delighted to tell you that our prospective new home fulfils all these criteria to perfection – and perhaps best of all, for the first time in our history, will give us the opportunity to have our own Entrance and Admission fees. The fact that we only received a small percentage of the Muncaster admissions has always been an Achilles Heel in our ability to carry out all the owl conservation work we are asked to support both in the UK and overseas, and to employ the staff we need to do this. So to say we are excited by the new location is to seriously understate the case!
As you know, the World Owl Trust has a 30-year history of owl conservation and study in Cumbria, with accent of course on West Cumbria, and we have no intention of abandoning our relationship with farmers, landowners and private individuals – or our owls - in our home county. The fact is, in this technological age the Trust itself can be easily run from an office, and our Head Office will therefore continue to be in West Cumbria. It is here that you will still be able to visit and connect with our Admin, Conservation and Education staff. We hope to be able to announce our new office location and contact details in the next few weeks, for we hope to be ‘in residence’ by the end of October. Watch out for this announcement on our website in due course. The World Owl Centre (i.e. the owl collection) has never been, and never will be, merely an ‘owl zoo’. It was created as the world’s first ever specialist owl conservation-breeding centre (buy ‘The World Owl Trust Story’ from the office to learn more) and we have always prided ourselves as being the ‘finest’ collection with our birds being housed in naturally planted ‘mini-habitats’ according to their needs. We are also very proud of our breeding record. Rest assured that this is what it will continue to be while at the same time providing a great day out for families of all ages as well as professional owl people and the many ‘owl aficionados’ who have always enjoyed our collection and the message it portrays. In July we welcomed two very special visitors to the Centre. Yadav Ghimirey is one of our amazing representatives from ‘Friends of Nature Nepal’ who we had helped to get into a course for a Diploma in Wildlife Conservation at Oxford University. Yadav stayed with Jenny and I for two nights and was thrilled to watch our family of 6 wild Barn Owlets and their parents come in for food on his second evening. The same day he joined us for a visit to Muncaster to see our collection and displays and meet Felicity Parker, a lecturer in Animal Management at one of Cumbria’s largest and leading Colleges. These visits were to enable us to discuss future possible exciting projects, so we are confident the future is bright to say the least. I would also like to thank our members for their continued loyalty at a difficult time – for not a single person has cancelled their membership because of the current situation. Bless you all.
Finally I would like to state the obvious. Life itself is unpredictable and is not always fair. Bad things happen as well as good, and when something disastrous happens which we are powerless to change, there is a temptation to give up. However, we must have faith that what at first glance appears to be a catastrophe, will in the end turn out to be an opportunity for a bright new beginning. I can reassure you that the World Owl Trust’s Board of Trustees are strong and have faith that the unexpected cancellation of our Management Agreement with Muncaster, which admittedly we initially greeted with dismay, sadness, disappointment and worry, has in reality given us the opportunity to create a brand new, much improved World Owl Centre in an area with a far greater footfall of visitors. Even what were once regarded as ‘state of the art’ facilities are bound to become antiquated over time, and we have to keep ahead of modern-day demands and the expectation of our visitors. Yes, the next nine months will be hectic and scary, for we still have to resolve the matter of temporary housing for our owls until we open our new Centre, as well as completing our negotiations and Plans before undertaking a great deal of building and design work in order to open the new Centre as soon as possible – not to mention seeking the necessary funding to carry out our relocation.
I would like to end by inviting everyone to our next AGM at Stirk House (we will of course be continuing our link with the Hotel) on Sunday 28th September. I am sure you have many questions to ask us, and we will be happy to give you the chance to ask them, either formally or informally if you can join us there. See you soon I hope.Tony Warburton. Hon. President
World Owl Trust
The Owl Centre
Cumbria. CA18 1RQ
Tel: (+44) (0)1229 717393
|World Owl Trust
Registered Charity Number: 1107529
Limited Company Number: 5296745
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.