Matthew Richards from High Littleton, Somerset, who was refused entry to a falconry exhibition at the Puxton Park because he was on his own. The attraction says it is to keep paedophiles away. Picture by Clare Green
A bird enthusiast made a 25-mile trip to see a falconry display at a family leisure park only to be told that single adults are banned – for fear of paedophiles.
Married man Matthew Richards, 54, a father of three grown-up children, was staggered by the rule at award-winning Puxton Park, a family-orientated leisure attraction near Weston-super-Mare.
Mr Richards, who also has three grandchildren, had previously visited the park with his family to admire the birds of prey.
But when he returned on Thursday hoping to watch another falconry display he was told he couldn’t be admitted as a single man, on child protection grounds.
Puxton Park claimed the rule, which is explained in the small print on its website, was “in line with all other parks”.
However Mr Richards, of High Littleton, near Bath, said he couldn’t understand the ban and questioned why the rule was not explained on the brochure which prompted him to visit.
He said: “I was frankly amazed. I was told the rule applies to single men, and women, for the protection of children.
“I couldn’t see anything about the rule on the brochure which I picked up at another attraction.
“We have taken one of our grandchildren there before, and I saw that the falconry was there and thought it would be interesting to go back and see the displays.
“They are advertising adult memberships as gifts so I can’t understand it.”
Puxton Park has many attractions that appeal particularly to young children, including its adventure park for youngsters aged four years and upwards, but its falconry display appeals to all ages.
Puxton’s website does state that single men and women without children are excluded from entry, but the information is not carried on the home page, or under two other sections which might be expected to carry it – the “Access Statement” which gives information for disabled visitors, and “Rules of Admission” which carries helpful guidance such as washing hands after touching the animals, especially before consuming food.
The information on the unaccompanied single adult ban comes in the prices section, at the end of a long list, and after information on gift vouchers. It states: “We are sorry but we are unable to let single men or women without children into the park.
“If you are here to meet someone let one of our reception staff know and they will happily do a tannoy announcement asking them to come and meet you.”
Alistair Mead, managing director of the park said the rule has been in place since the park opened seven years ago.
“There is a lot in the headlines about paedophiles and things that are going on with children.
“We have done our research and in line with all other parks we don’t let single men or women in,” he said.
“We make it quite clear that if people want to go to the falconry they have to get a prior appointment, and we would take them down to the falconry centre.
“It is in the leaflet. I think if I did a survey of 100 of our customers they would agree that we are doing the right thing.”
The falconry centre has more than 15 different breeds of birds of prey and is run by an experienced falconer.
The falconry section of the website lists hunting days and even a five day in-depth falconry course.
To find out more people have to ring or email the falconer, so would then be advised about special arrangements to allow unaccompanied adults to take part.
But there is no specific mention of the no single adults rule on the falconry page.
Mr Richards has struggled to find the guidance in the brochure he picked up. “I almost feel discriminated against,” he said.
“I could understand it if it was for the attractions that young children only enjoy, but the falconry is of interest to all.”
A spokesman for Visit Somerset said: “It sounds as if Puxton Park needs to publicise this particular rule a bit more prominently.”