What a hoot: Grandmother shares her home with 54 owls
London - At the age of 69, Rose Dawson is still busy running a bed and breakfast from her smallholding in the heart of Herriot country.
But the great-grandmother’s guests are not only of the paying kind. She shares her property with a menagerie of feathered friends – including 54 owls.
Dawson once helped James Herriot deliver a calf in her younger days as a farm girl. And her dog’s broken leg was treated by the Yorkshire vet’s practice, by then run by his son Jim.
She has now told how it was during those visits to the practice in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, that the surgery asked if she could care for an injured owl.
That favour in the 1980s led to the pensioner and husband John, 75, establishing an owl sanctuary at their property – which saw numbers increase markedly in the 2000s after being bought and then abandoned by Harry Potter fans eager to emulate JK Rowling’s young magician who had a snowy owl called Hedwig.
Dawson said her latest addition, a tawny owl, was brought in this year with a broken wing which had to be amputated. It lives in one of the 22 aviaries dotted around her three-acre garden with eight other injured tawny owls.
She said: "Most of the owls are at the bottom of the garden, but the tawny owls are close enough for the guests to hear. They do 'twit twoo' through the night, but it is such a soothing noise and the guests love it. My guests are welcome to wander down to see the birds – we have garden furniture out for them to relax in near the aviaries, but the owls are not tame so they cannot be brought out to be handled."
Dawson’s menagerie also includes chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits, lambs, hedgehogs, white doves and nine turkeys.
She added: "I am so blessed to have three acres so I have been able to create this haven for them all." Herriot, whose real name was Alf Wight, published the first of his books in 1970. They inspired the BBC1 series 'All Creatures Great And Small', and last week some of the stories were reprinted by the Daily Mail.
Rose Dawson features in Voices From Herriot Country, a new podcast about characters in Yorkshire to mark the 50th anniversary of the first book. It is available on Soundcloud, iTunes and Spotify.