A new sanctuary for birds of prey near Dorchester will celebrate its official opening soon.

Xtreme Falconry, a nature centre that hosts more than 60 species of birds and an education centre, will hold its opening event on Thursday, July 4.

Martin Ballam (who has more than 34 years of experience caring for birds of prey) and his wife Tara bought a 6.9-acre site at Lewell Mill Lane on the outskirts of Dorchester, to set up the centre.

Martin said: "It has always been my dream to open my own site to educate the public about birds of prey as well as breeding and caring for the many species. Thanks to the support from NatWest, Xtreme Falconry can offer a wide range of activities and experiences while maintaining the natural beauty of the site. After a successful launch weekend, I look forward to welcoming even more people to the centre to see all we have to offer.

"Our mission is to educate, inform and inspire people regarding birds of prey and help to gain the respect they deserve."

Species of birds that are featured at the sanctuary include falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, and three species of critically endangered vultures.

There are also tea rooms, a butterfly garden and a bird hospital at the site.

A team of three falconers help Mr Ballam run the centre, and he also receives support from his three children.

The centre was set up with the help of a commercial loan from NatWest.

Alison Hill, NatWest Relationship Manager, said: “Xtreme Falconry will provide a boost to tourism in the area with the unique experiences they offer. Martin and his family are very passionate about their birds and it is clear to see in their conservational and educational efforts. We look forward to supporting the business as it continues to grow and the number of species in its care expands.”

Xtreme Falconry will hold flying displays and offer visitors bird handling experiences.

They also offer off-site displays, and anyone looking for information about these can email enquiries@xtremefalconry.co.uk

A spokesman said: "Xtreme Falconry have been on the off site circuit since 2006. We display at many different events throughout the year."

More information about the centre can be found at dorsetfalconrypark.co.uk