Treasures near Bath Part 1 - West of England Falconry

Mad Max Tours takes a look at some countryside treasures just beyond the city…first up is the West of England Falconry in Newton St Loe The City of Bath is one of the most beautiful and enticing places to visit, live and work.

Its location in the West of England finds it surrounded by some wonderful, fascinating and extraordinary places run by talented locals, nestling in the countryside nearby. Over the next few months, we are going to pick out some of our favourite local sights, attractions and experiences to share, and tell you why, whether you are a resident or a visitor, it is so worth exploring beyond the city itself. Our first featured attraction is the West of England Falconry in Newton St Loe.

Situated just a stone’s throw to the west of Bath, The Centre specialises in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick or injured wild Birds of Prey, and the recovery of captive birds of prey which have escaped. It also offers fantastic guided hawk walks where you can fly one of the trained hawks in the beautiful countryside on the Newton Park Estate.

This registered charity is dedicated to the well-being of birds of prey and owls and to promote an understanding of the historic art of falconry. It also offers amazing, memorable experiences – having popped along to an open day, our very own Maddy was so taken with it she is taking her lovely dad for his 92nd birthday treat! The Centre was founded and is run by Jay Marshall and his team. Jay set up West of England falconry in 2010 and since his move to Newton St Loe the business has literally taken off…!

Jay Marshall, Founder

The recently added under-cover Owlery is really impressive. All kinds of owls can be found here - Snowy Owls, Barn Owls, Tawny Owls and some more unusual ones (for us at least!) – Burrowing Owls, White-faced Scops and even a Bengal Eagle Owl.

Whenever possible, wild birds are returned to their natural habitat, and captive birds which are brought in are returned to their owners. If owners can’t be traced though, or if sick or injured birds come to The Centre, they may be fostered and stay. It is these birds that provide a wonderful and unforgettable experiences on their ‘Hawk Walks’ and ‘Owl Encounters’.
So, if you are looking for another great day out near Bath…other than a fabulous tour with Mad Max Tours, of course ;-)…West of England Falconry will entertain, educate and give you a thoroughly lovely time. Topped off with lunch in the yummy Newton Park Café and a wander round the farm shop…we highly recommend!

To arrange your visit, Tel: 07766 767153 or email

What a lot of Boules!

What a great evening we had! A number of the Mad Max Tours guides, office team, Maddy herself and husband Gerry all descended on The Northey Arms in a village called Box, near Bath, for fun and learning as the Mad Max Team were instructed in the art of the game of Boules (or Petanque, as it is known in la belle France). The Northey Arms Boules Club provided the equipment, tuition and two of their six pistes for us to practice on, and we quickly got to grips with the principles.





It has to be said, our levels of natural ability varied considerably, and I must apologise to Mike, who had the misfortune to be paired with me as it became apparent early on that my talents clearly lie elsewhere! However, with gentlemanly kindness, he remained encouraging and supportive as I proceeded to deliver some unique and altogether surprising (even to me) shots, the like of which I doubt had ever been seen in civilised boules circles before. The Northey Arms Boules Instructors (our friendly opponents) must have been smiling to themselves as I tried but failed repeatedly to get anywhere near the jack, despite employing what I thought would be throws guaranteed to knock our opponents out of court. Alas! There were (I am certain) some strange ‘bumps’ on the piste…which sent my boules careering off at high speed in the wrong direction, or weaving an unbelievable route between the boules I was trying to knock out of the way. I’m not sure the other Mad Max crew did much better, but they certainly looked more accomplished!

For anyone interested, the people we met at the Boules Club at The Northey Arms are a friendly bunch and gave us a fantastic introduction to their game. We highly recommended it for an evening of fun for all ages and abilities. If you want a ‘heads up’…. Here are the basic rules (although they may vary a little):


  1. You need two teams of one – three people. If your teams have one or two, each player has three boules, if your teams have three people, each player has two boules.
  2. Toss a coin to decide which team plays first. Draw a circle in the sand to mark where players must stand to throw their boules.
  3. The first player throws the small wooden cochonnet (jack) between 4m and 8m up the piste.
  4. A player from the first team then throws a boule from within the circle trying to get it as close as possible to the jack.
  5. A player from the other team then throws a boule from the circle and tries to get it closer to the jack than their opponent, or to knock the opponent’s boule out of the way.
  6. Teams continue throwing until they place a boule closest to the jack until all have been thrown. Players on the same team do not have to take alternate throws, but each player must always play their own boules.
  7. When a team has thrown all their boules, the players of the other team throw theirs and try to place them as close as possible to the jack.
  8. The winning team scores one point for each boule nearer the jack than the opposing team’s closest. Only one team can score points in each round.
  9. A player from the team that has won throws the jack from a new circle drawn round the jack’s last position.
  10. The winning team is the first to reach 13 points (or whatever number you decide). Retire to the bar and then eat a hearty supper – we went to The Quarryman’s Arms up the road. Excellent food and amazing view…
Live in Bath? Now is the time to visit Stonehenge!

Live in Bath ? Now is the time to visit Stonehenge – Yes, really!

When we have world famous monuments on our doorstep, it’s amazing how we can somehow blank them out from our field of vision. When it comes to planning a day out with family or friends we somehow feel we know all Stonehenge has to offer because we’ve driven past it a dozen times on our way to the coast.

Cast aside your cynicism and book a visit, it really is worth it. If you have National Trust membership it’s free and the same if you have English Heritage membership too. A family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children is under £40.

I visited last Friday and a few things really stand out in my memory. First, I’d forgotten how beautiful Salisbury plain can be. Low winter light across an open rolling landscape, glimpses of flint clad churches and appealing country pubs that I was committing to memory for future visits. And as you draw closer there are burial chambers peeping into view on the higher ground.

Yes, you have to dress for chilly winds and showers, but when this is all sorted you have the benefit of a world heritage site without the crowds. It’s such a wonderful way to see the stones and to wander round the exhibition area without feeling rushed.

Once inside the visitor centre you can stand at the centre of a projected image of the stone circle, watching it evolve, watching the seasons change, observing the dawn on a summer solstice and the sun setting on the midwinter solstice.

Outside are the beautifully reconstructed Neolithic dwellings, with different styles of thatch. You can wander into the houses, see the hearths and pots and allow yourself to imagine the life on Salsbury plain 4500 years ago. There’s also a copy of a sarsen stone on a sledge that you can attempt to drag on its wooden rollers- something that might be achieved with another 95 friends in tow!

 A few minutes bus ride and you arrive at the stones. Time your visit right and you have the sun setting behind the monument as you approach it. With the winter sunrays scattering around the stones it felt like viewing light through a cathedral window. Is this the way it was viewed around the time of the winter solstice in the Bronze Age? It’s fun to try and imagine what the locals did here 4500 years ago, but actually it’s just as wonderful to appreciate it as it is – a special  landscape where people lived, gathered and feasted over hundreds of years, travelling from across Europe and drawn together by something that we still don’t understand.

Visit Bath - The perfect base to explore Somerset, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds.

It’s simple – Bath is a hub - Not exactly the centre of the universe but it really is the perfect base to explore Somerset, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds from. At the moment most people come to Bath for a couple of nights, the spa, the fantastic restaurants, a choice of amazing museums, stunning architecture and then they leave – what a shame, there is so much more beyond the city itself.

Most people who live in Bath know this, it’s no secret, but for some reason, visitors from the UK and overseas, haven’t picked up on it yet, which is such a shame!

If you want to avoid packing and unpacking your suitcase, if you love the idea of a small chilled out city to come back to and relax in for the evening , then Bath is perfect.

Most of what is listed below is within an hour from Bath – how lucky am I! Most of which can be visited on our wonderful half and full day tours.

Let me just give you a few ideas:

To the North is the Cotswolds, the most quintessentially English part of England. Loads of nooks and crannies to explore, packed with history, stunning wool churches and some fantastic independent shops. Not to be missed is the Cotswold Woollen Weavers in the village of Filkins. A tiny museum, a perfect setting and some glorious woollen cloth, designed by an inspirational husband and wife team.

Then if you look to the East of Bath, it’s only a few minutes before you’re in Wiltshire. Full of ancient history, not just Stonehenge but the lesser known Avebury stone circles. Burial chambers, mounds and earthworks in abundance. It also has its fair share of stunning villages too with diverse architecture. Lacock National Trust village is often used as a film set. Both Pride and Prejudice and some of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here. If you’re more of a city person then get the train to Salisbury. It has the most stunning cathedral, great markets and it’s all very walkable.

Then head South into the county of Somerset. Glastonbury, with all its magic and mystery. The birthplace of Christianity, its connections with King Arthur, the magnificent Tor where you can take in the stunning views of the Somerset levels. In fact the county of Somerset, with its stunning Cheddar Gorge, varied coastline and flooded levels offers some of the most diverse landscape in the world, within a very small area!

The city of Wells (the smallest city in England) with the oldest street in Europe is a gem. To come across cathedral green and gaze upon the front of Wells cathedral just stops you in your tracks. If you visit Wells promise me you won’t miss out on the Bishops Palace. I visited again this year. The gardens, the setting, the views from the wall, it’s unique and will create some truly beautiful memories of time well spent.

Of course, you musn’t miss out on Bristol, our bustling neighbour. So much life around the waterfront, with the world’s first ocean going liner as a major attraction. Don’t miss the Clifton suspension bridge or Clifton village with its grand architecture and excellent boutique shops. For something different, visit the market at Christmas steps. Quirky, full of energy and a lovely place to try local produce too.

And we haven’t even ventured into Wales yet! So basically the message is simple. Be kind to yourself when you’re travelling. Pick a base, like Bath and make this your home for a week and then venture forth and explore with one of our tours!

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