A POPULAR visitor attraction near Ross-on-Wye is shutting its doors with immediate effect.

The International Centre for Birds of Prey, between Newent and Ross-on-Wye, said that it had made the difficult decision to close to the public.

The centre, which boasts hundreds of birds of prey at the 12-acre site, said it was closing in order to consolidate its knowledge and expertise, as well as to reduce workload and costs.

It said it was looking forwards to "slightly different and exciting conservation tasks ahead".

"Like many businesses the toll of the last two years has been huge, and we feel we must take steps to ensure the future of our charity and its work," a statement said.

"This is by no means the end of ICBP, and we are excited to share our next steps with all our supporters.

"However, these steps will be as a private charitable conservation facility and no longer as a public collection."

Founder Jemima Parry-Jones set up the centre in 1967, when it opened to the public, and it was originally as the National Birds of Prey Centre.

At the time it was a specialised falconry centre containing birds of prey, and the original intention of the centre was to educate people about birds of prey and their value in the world.

The centre's statement added: "We would like to thank everyone for the support they have shown us, not only during the pandemic but throughout our entire journey thus far.

"We hope that many of you will continue your valuable support as we enter this new phase and that we will continue to help conserve birds of prey for future generations, together.

All customers and ticket holders would be contacted, the centre said.

"We are excited to share our new direction and believe it will allow us to contribute to the conservation of birds of prey even more than before," it said.

"We are moving to a new location to create a facility dedicated to our conservation breeding efforts.

"This new facility with Jemima will concentrate on the conservation issues but will not be open to the public.

"We also intend to develop our ability to deliver new and innovative specialist courses and lectures to support the wider conservation community."

The centre described it as a "bittersweet time" and thanked everyone involved over the past 55 years.