I spent last weekend in a building which used to belong to a gyrfalcon. It was an old barn which had been charmingly converted (you may notice a bed in the picture – I didn’t spend the weekend perched on a beam) and given the name The Mews in honour of its feathered former resident.
The building is set into the hill which means one beds down in the rafters, where the bird might once have dozed. It is a delight to sleep in a well-converted building, with the shell of its history around you, and the swoosh of a ghostly wing in the air.
Gyrfalcons are beautiful, enormous birds, the largest of the falcon family. In medieval England, only kings were allowed to hunt with them, and falcons were often given as diplomatic gifts between monarchs across Europe. It rumoured that part of Richard the Lionheart’s ransom was two rare white gyrfalcons which he had taken with him on his crusade. (An adorably niche book called The Kings and Their Hawks has gone straight on my wishlist.)
My own version is a little less noble though.
In what felt like an epiphany, I realised that gingerbread men don’t have to be shaped like people. So I cut out a gyrfalcon stencil (alright, a generic bird stencil), whipped up some of Mary Berry’s gingerbread mixture, with a half-teaspoon extra of ginger and of cinnamon because I thought the gyrfalcon would feel snubbed by a meek biscuit. (If you’re going to make your own gingerbread stencil, pick a rounded shape. Even with cooling in the fridge, gingerbread will spread and is no friend of sharp angles.)
A flock fit for a king.