Official Park Opening with David Bellamy – Sunday 2 September 1.00 – 3.30

Written Saturday 8 September, 8.11pm

Well, this time last week I was checking the weather forecast every half an hour and trying to memorise the names and breeds of birds in Ben Potter’s Unusual and Interesting team in order to appear slightly knowledgeable about falconry!  But I had no need to worry as what a glorious day it turned out to be….

The weather was sunny and hot and many friends, family, staff and visitors joined us for an afternoon of celebrations for all the hard work undertaken by Jon Old, Conservation Manager, contractors and funders of the magnificent park redevelopments.

Re-surfaced woodland paths, a natural children’s play area, stylish new signage and enhanced wildlife habitats were the end result of months of hard work, planning and consideration.  The park is a public area open for visitors to enjoy all year round, with a varied and extensive programme of outdoor events meticulously organised by Rosie Bradford, which complements the Museum and its collections and temporary exhibitions.

David Bellamy very valiantly agreed to open the park, and he and his wife, Rosemary were an absolute joy to entertain, with their enthusiasm and warmth towards the project.  Lord Foster introduced Professor Bellamy who did an inspiring speech about conservation and the local natural environment, culminating in a very vigorous cut of a beautiful vine hand-woven by a team of the Friends of the Bowes Museum, artistically led by Susan Kirkbride.  Many journalists from the local Press were present for photographs and interviews, arranged by the Museum’s Press Officer, Sheila Dixon, and as a consequence, a fantastic piece appeared on Look North that evening promoting the park and the Museum to the North East.

Amy Bainbridge, Education and Learning Co-ordinator, involved lots of families and children in making paper birds in the Education vaults and Ben Parnaby, Café Bowes entertained everyone in his Pimms tent on the grass surrounding the play and picnic area.

The culmination of the afternoon was a stunning display provided by Ben, from Ben Potter’s Birds of Prey Displays from Thirsk, and his six ‘Unusual and Interesting’ birds, who although they had been sat out in the beating sun for several hours, wowed and entertained all audiences on the parterre.  With health and safety at the forefront of my mind at the start of the display, I soon began to relax as I realised Ben was totally in control of the wide range of falcons, vultures and owls taking part.  The long line of people with a ‘birds-eye’ view standing the full length of the balcony looking over the parterre will be a memory forever.  As will the swooping of the falcon in the final display as it circumnavigated the full width and length of the park in front of the Museum.

It was a fantastic and dramatic ending to what was, I think, a brilliant day and something to remain in the memories of all those who attended.  Thank you to everyone for all your help in making it such a special day.

Alison Nicholson, Marketing Officer

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