Owl Enlightenment: A haven of healing and hope on Somerset Moorland

Nestled on a quiet slip of Somerset moorland is a modest aviary, home to an idiosyncratic feathery tribe. A collection of owls from all over the world (and one steely eyed buzzard named Billie). This is their home, Owl Enlightenment, an inclusive, safe and welcoming space for people to connect with these magnificent birds, and discover how they can promote good mental health, improve confidence, and encourage hope, positivity and healing. 

The project was founded by Michelle Blackmore, who has lived and worked with owls for 4 years, developing an intimate knowledge of their transformative impact and potential. In 2022 she founded Owl Enlightenment, so that others could experience their unique mindful bond and qualities.    

In September (2023) Michelle reached out to Stepladder, to find out more about how the Winston Innovation Fund could support the work she does. We’re thrilled to announce that her recent application has been successful! In 2024 Michelle will be delivering a series of mindful, healing workshops working with men experiencing poor mental health.   

“It’s a great honour for our work to be recognised and funded. The owls have such a calming influence, allowing people to “just be”, provoking a calmer state and clearer thinking. The owls invoke a stillness that gives rise to inspiration, guidance and mindfulness, that is straight forward and fluid. Interactions with owls helps build empathy and compassion and can help support building self-esteem, self-worth and sense of purpose.”

Michelle Blackmore, Founder of Owl Enlightenment

It’s captivating, listening to Michelle speak, as she explains extraordinary facts about these amazing creatures, and all that they are capable of; how she has experienced first-hand the emotional and mindful impact the owls can have upon the people they meet. She has seen how the owls uniquely calm children (with SEN) and vulnerable adults, centring them in calming moments, in ways that clinical therapy hasn’t been able; and how an owl such as Marmite, uniquely attracts and tunes in to individuals experiencing difficulties processing grief.   

Adam Clarke on a recent visit to Owl Enlightenment meeting Marmite (a Black Barn Owl), Bubble (a Southern White-Faced Owl), and Duffy (The Distinguished Gentleman!)  

“Flying the owls was a totally magical experience; Twiggy (the Tawny Owl) was especially enthusiastic. Spending time looking into their eyes, it’s hard not to feel a deep connection; a sense of deep peace and tranquillity (though apparently you must be mindful to blink, otherwise they can take staring as a sign of aggression!). Owls feel innately mysterious, associated with the depths of night-time and their echoing calls, but being up close stirs something truly inexplicable. As they perch on your arm you can sense their heartbeat, feel somehow grounded and centred in their presence; and when they take flight something shudders through you.”  

Adam Clarke, Stepladder’s Community Development Worker

It’s easy to see how being in the presence of the owl’s can tune someone into a deeper level of consciousness, creating a mindful grounding experience that for individuals with mental health challenges could be truly transformative.  

We plan to follow ‘Owl Enlightenment’ over the coming months, see how the sessions run, and hopefully speak to some of the men who will be working with Michelle and her owls. We can’t wait to visit again!  

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