Here Be Dragons… (and owls)

The second Saturday of the month is when our local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers meets. I’ve missed a few meetings this year one way or another – normally I’m there every month. So I felt a bit bad about not going to the September meeting either but every year it falls on the same day as our village fete and I’ve not been to that for some time so I decided this year I’d put in an appearance locally instead.

It’s called “DragonFest”. It’s a village fete/sports day with a difference! A few years ago when I was at a village coffee morning, one of my neighbours told me of a great idea he had – how about a themed fete centred around dragons? After all, it’s the emblem on the Welsh Flag – Y Ddraig Goch or “The Red Dragon”. He went on to explain how he thought it would be great if everybody made dragons out of whatever they wanted and displayed them in their gardens, there would be stalls and a Dragon Roast (hog roast) and so on. Dragon festivals happened in China he said but this would be the only one in Wales – how about it!? “Great idea” I said, “talk to Mike” and dragged him over to see Mike, one of our local movers and shakers who is great at getting things going. Mike also said “great idea!” but blanched at taking on any more organising and so the idea got passed around a few more people and in September that year the first DragonFest was born. Several of us in our Knit n Natter group got together one day to build dragons out of chicken wire and papier mache, muslin and egg boxes – we had great fun doing this. Predictably the dragons mostly ended up with Welsh names…

Each year the DragonFest commands stunningly good weather (so much so that people now plan to go on holiday that week!) and has grown with different people helping out – not me I’m ashamed to say. Everybody has a great time and it’s now held in it’s own community field known as “Dragon Field” and most of the village turns out to take part in the fun and games and decorate their houses and gardens with jokey dragons sitting by the stream fishing, clutching a pint of beer, hanging out of trees, hiding in bushes roaring scarily at the small children walking past (not sure that’s a good idea actually!!). One dragon disappears into the side of one house only for the other end to emerge out of the wall round the corner. Sometimes dragon footprints can be seen down paths, some people have clutches of dragon eggs mysteriously appear in their gardens and some even have baby dragons.

This year my friend Nick who is the owner/maker of the business Kirsten Berry Crafts on both Deviant arts and Etsy which sells handmade dragon sculptures was taking a stall there along with his brother whose business sells the polymer clay that the dragons are made from. I said I’d join them to keep them company and because I would have been spinning anyway, I took my spinning wheel along. Our guild often does demonstrations at shows and fairs locally to spread the fibre love and encourage people to try their hand at fibre crafts so it’s not so very different to what we normally do – even if I was going unofficially. I piled all my skeins of handspun into the car and added my spare wheel just in case I could tempt anyone to try spinning and headed down to the village with our friends and my mum.

I missed parts of the opening parade – local school children make dragons and parade around the field to open the fete. I was busy spinning and by the time I’d found my camera, the children had marched their crocodile/dragon past so I didn’t get very good photos of these. They put so much effort into them!

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Because it’s 100 years since the start of the First World War this year, the theme was apparently WWI. But it was quite hard for people to stick to the theme I think so it seemed to drift into WWII instead and thus Vera Lynn serenaded us from the speaker system along with other music from the 1940’s and after the children had taken part in some sports this Landrover entered the field…

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The music being played was a bit of a giveaway as to what was about to happen next…

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Although I have to say I was a bit surprised when the members of Dad’s Army started Line Dancing…

Even more surprising is that several of them are our builders!! ;0) They all looked great though and Pikey, Corporal Jones, Mr Mainwaring, Sergeant Wilson etc were all quite recognisable – even if they go by other names on weekdays!!!

Because I was spinning all afternoon with our friend Sue joining me on my spare wheel (knew it was a good idea to bring it along!) and talking to people who wanted to know what we were doing, how to make yarn and so on, I didn’t get a chance to look around much. My mum and Sue fed me bits of roasted dragon (tasted like pork) and ice cream (didn’t know dragons made ice cream) at various intervals. But I did snatch a few minutes at the end and went to have a look at these rescue owls sitting very quietly on their perches.

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It was really interesting chatting to the man in charge – I didn’t realise you could buy birds of prey from licensed breeders – as long as they’re bred in captivity then it’s quite legal. Unfortunately as with any other pet, these birds can get abandoned when people find they’re harder to look after than they thought, didn’t realise the diet or housing requirements they need, stop being cute fluffy chicks or just get bored. Years of working for vets means I have very negative feelings about both those who breed animals for pets for sale and caged/captive animals – you see the results of too much cruelty and neglect and more unloved animals to ever want to actually buy an animal purely as a pet. There are just so many abandoned animals out there that need loving homes – rescued animals are very much a subject dear to my heart and all my animals have been acquired this way, sometimes missing body parts or with other life changing injuries. I call them my “recycled animals” and I’ve had tons of love over the years from these little furry persons ;0) So I’m glad there’s a charity able to take on specialised care for animals that couldn’t exist in the wild – nearly all these owls are non-native breeds I’d never even heard of, let alone seen. Some of these owls can live for decades so it’s really important they have appropriate care and safe homes for their entire lifespan and it’s quite a commitment for the charity.

I’m not sure I’m going to get these names right but let’s have a go! ;0)

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Brown Wood Owl

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This chap was my favourite! White Faced Scops Owl

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I think this is the Indian Scops Owl…

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African Barn Owl

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British Tawny Owl – these are the ones that sit outside my bedroom window at night hooting like crazy. I like to hear them – but they are very noisy at times!!

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Chaco Owl

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I’d wondered how they felt about being awake during the day, they all looked very sleepy. This little chap was making no effort to be on his best behaviour, I think he wanted to go home for a proper snooze…

I think he was the Sundra Scops Owl – but then I didn’t really get a proper look! ;0)

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African Spotted Eagle Owl – with his/her ear tufts flattened. Also looking a bit cheesed off…

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And this was a British Kestrel. Not sure if the heat was getting to it or if they sit like this for some other reason. It was quite a muggy day. Perhaps it was just trying to vary the posture to jazz things up a bit. There’s only so long you can sit still on a post after all…

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They were fund raising by allowing people to pay to hold an owl (with the appropriate help and a falconry glove to protect hands and arms). This little girl had a nice time holding “Casper” whilst I was there. I left a donation but didn’t hold an owl – I would have liked to but I felt a bit sorry for them after a day there being admired by everyone. Although they were content and well looked after and it’s great that they tour round raising awareness about owls generally and the owl sanctuary also helps to preserve our native breeds of owl which are sadly on the decline thanks to us humans :0(

So that was my day out with dragons and owls!!

For now to continue the dragon theme, I’m spinning up some red batts made from merino/shetland/bamboo and gold sparkly firestar to knit some Smaug socks by Claire Ellen to join in a fun Knitalong on Ravlery. They look a bit more tricky than my normal sock knitting so wish me luck!!

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