FALCONRY, historically a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe and the Middle East, will be one of the many interests featured at this year’s Royal Welsh Spring Festival in May.

The locally-based Hawksdrift Falconry, established in 2006 at Builth Wells by Layla Bennett, will display a range of beautiful birds of prey and stage flying demonstrations to provide visitors with an insight into the fascinating world of falconry.

Hawksdrift is dedicated to the promotion of falconry as a traditional country sport and to the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of wild birds of prey.

In 2009 Layla received the Young Entrepreneur business award for Powys and a year later together with her falcon, Monty, presented successfully on the BBC programme Dragons’ Den. Hawksdrift is now one of the best known falconry companies in the country.

The company’s latest success came last September when Layla was recognised as a Woman of Achievement for 2010 by the Women of the Year Foundation, a body which offers financial and practical support to enable women in the UK and internationally to improve their lives and contribute to their local communities.

Monty is not only now a TV star but also the winner of the 2010 ‘Falconry 500’ time trials with an outstanding speed record of 22.8 seconds to cross the 500 metre finishing line.

All Hawksdrift birds of prey are bred in captivity and live in grounds extending to eight acres of beautiful Mid Wales countryside. Captive breeding began in the UK in response to dwindling wild bird populations due to the use of toxins, habitat loss, persecution and other causes.

Hawksdrift falconry displays are given throughout England and Wales at country shows where Layla and her birds enthral audiences with educational displays by hawks, buzzards, falcons and owls.

The experience is hands-on and audience participation is a main part of the demonstrations with spectators invited into the arena to take part in handling and flying these magnificent birds of prey.

Layla will be present throughout the festival at the Hawksdrift stand to talk to visitors about falconry, birds of prey and conservation issues.

The Royal Welsh Spring Festival takes place on the showground at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, on Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22.