Owls will delight for another year

Cameron Whitworth and Reinhard Biehler, of Baytree Garden Centre, with Kevin the grey eagle wol when they launched the search for a new falconer last year.
Cameron Whitworth and Reinhard Biehler, of Baytree Garden Centre, with Kevin the grey eagle wol when they launched the search for a new falconer last year.
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BAYTREE Owl Centre has staved off the risk of permanent closure and from Monday it will open daily for the start of the spring and summer season.

The owl centre is one of the star attractions at Baytree Nurseries and Garden Centre at Weston but a closure threat hung over it as boss Reinhard Bieher battled to find a new falconer.

The former resident falconer, Andrew Charlton, left in October and the garden centre began a nationwide search to find a replacement.

That trawl drew a blank but help was found close to home.

Mr Biehler said a member of his staff – Darren Wright – has been away on a falconer’s course and the centre is also helped at weekends by an experienced former member of staff who works at the Butterfly Park at Long Sutton.

Last year Mr Biehler said it would be a sad day for Spalding if the centre were to close after 22 years because it is a big national draw for lovers of prey – and just as popular with local families.

Speaking this week he said: “We kept it going.

“It’s already started opening at weekends and, from next week onwards we open 10am to 4pm every day.”

Volunteers stepped in after the falconer left last year and Mr Biehler said the centre would still welcome more volunteer help.

nMr Biehler revealed a big chain of national garden centres last week offered to buy out the Baytree business but his family decided to remain at the helm and rejected the offer.

He said: “We had a good offer but we decided to keep it in the family.

“We have three daughters in the business and three sons-in -law.

“Financially we have no problem at all. We are very much a family business and we are very strong in our position.”

He said the centre introduced “short time” working of 35 hours over the winter but now everybody is back to normal hours.

Mr Biehler said Baytree has 100 members of staff – some have worked there for more than 40 years – and no one has been made redundant.

But those who reach retiring age – and voluntarily retire – are not being replaced.