THE funeral will take place in Luccombe Parish Church on Thursday (March 2) of Cathy Powell, who 30 years ago founded one of West Somerset’s major tourist attractions.

Her death will result in the closure of Exmoor Falconry Centre, currently called Exmoor Owl and Wildlife Sanctuary, in Allerford.

The centre boasted ‘one of the finest collections of flown owls in the world’, a farmhouse bed and breakfast, and an individualised riding centre where the horses were barefoot and managed holistically.

Ms Powell’s partner of 16 years Rod Smith said the business could not continue and he was attempting to re-home all of the sanctuary’s birds of prey and other animals they kept, including horses, dogs, and hedgehogs, many of which she had rescued.

However, Mr Smith feared he would not be able to complete the task before the National Trust reclaimed the 15th century West Lynch farmstead where Ms Powell was ‘sole tenant’.

Ms Powell died suddenly on the evening of February 8 just minutes after hosting supper for some friends and neighbours.

She was aged 70 and leaves two daughters, Julie and Tina.

Mr Smith said: “I cannot carry on with the business without her.

“For the last 16 years all I have known is supporting her. I would help with whatever I could, but she was the business.

“Everything here, everything I see, everything I touch, is her dream.

“I have to accept with her passing, everything passes.

“I am trying to re-home everything. It is what Cathy would have wanted.

“But some of them will be very difficult to re-home so if anybody feels they would like to help then they should get in touch.”

Mr Smith said Ms Powell had been re-inventing the business at the time of her death, as she did repeatedly over the years.

He said it was a farm park when she arrived 30 years ago and she turned it into a falconry centre, and then turned it into an owl and wildlife sanctuary, and also started a horse riding business.

Just a week before Ms Powell died she had finished a website for her new business of using essential oils to work with horses and dogs to release stresses within the animals, and a therapy room had been converted from one of the centre’s barns.

Mr Smith said: “Tourism has changed and it saddened Cathy immensely. Since 2020 it was a slow decline, and last August was the worst I have ever known.

“That is why we were trying to redress the balance by changing again. We were re-inventing the business for the next 10 years to keep going.”

Mr Smith said Ms Powell had a gift for working with horses in hand, without a collar or whip and yet they would respond to her instructions.

He said: “She seemed to be able to communicate with horses in a way none of us ever understood, which led to her working with essential oils.

“All she ever wanted in life was to be inspired and to inspire somebody else, that was her life philosophy. All she wanted to do was share with other people.

“She only ever talked about helping people fulfil their dream.”

Mr Smith said Ms Powell had to stop horse riding a few years ago due to the pain from injuries suffered in an earlier traumatic riding accident.

Her pelvis was shattered in the accident and caused doctors to tell her she would never walk again.

“Six months later she got out of the wheelchair and proved them all wrong and got back on a horse,” said Mr Smith.

Ms Powell moved to Allerford from Gloucestershire, where she used to take birds of prey into schools and campaigned to protect wildlife and the countryside.

She lived for a time in the Middle East and also in Trinidad and Tobago, giving her an understanding of other cultures and ways of life.