Where the guests like to be put behind bars

There is a hotel in Scunthorpe that will cater for your every need - if you're a budgie, writes Kevin Pilley

Hotel lounges are often sterile, silent and rather sad places. But not in south Lincolnshire. In the residents' reading room in Scunthorpe's best-known hotel, the atmosphere is always lively and conversation always animated. Long-term guest Charlie always has something to say for himself. Walter likes to sing most of the day while Alfie concentrates on the morning papers. He can't read but prefers to defecate on them instead. He pays for the privilege. When he needs something, he just rings the bell for Rita the bellhop.

Rita Cross, with her husband Barry, has made 70 Ferry Road one of the most famous addresses in Scunthorpe. It is more famous than Erworth, the village where Ian Botham was born and brought up. It is the site of Britain's first and so far only hotel for budgies. Rita doubles up as room service as well as porter and chef, cooking her small guests three meals a day. Her husband is in charge of the reception desk. He is also the entertainments manager. "Christmas and New Year are always busy. We usually have a bit of a party, all the birds wear paper hats," says Barry, a retired newsagent and highly respected prize-winning budgerigar fancier.

"A special function menu would be something like shredded tweet followed by prawn cockatiel, millet steak and chirps and a perch melba dessert. Afterwards, the birds can have nest cafe coffee. We read the birds their Christmas cards and messages from their owners. They also get birthday cards and presents delivered to them while their owners are away. Valentine's Day is another emotional time for the guests. No bird likes to be forgotten on 14 February."

For pounds 1 per day full board (everything thrown in), bird owners can book their feathered friends into the five-star deluxe aviary at the bottom of a garden in the backstreets of Scunthorpe. The unique B, B &B (budgie, bed and breakfast) establishment can accommodate a hundred birds at a time and business has never been better.

"We are booked solid," says Rita. "Our perches are reserved months, sometimes years in advance. Some owners insist on having the same position every year for their bird cage, some like to be by the window. One wanted it close to the television because the bird was a great fan of Newsnight. The budgie had a thing about Jeremy Paxman."

The budgie hotel is no gimmick. It is a response to a national need. There are six million cat owners and seven million dog owners in Britain. Nine million people keep caged birds as pets but they have nowhere to board their budgie or kennel their canary when they go on holiday or away on business.

In 1994 Barry, a budgie breeder and authority on caged birds, converted his potting shed and became a full-time professional budgie hotelier. Shot-putter and budgie enthusiast Geoff Capes performed the official opening ceremony. Home from home comforts like central heating, double glazed windows and wall-to-wall carpeting are provided for all guests. Cages are cleaned daily and cats are not allowed on the premises. The hotel is a guaranteed cat-free zone.

"I have heard of people setting up businesses to look after other people's terrapins, hamsters and even virtual reality pets. I have heard of a stick insect hotel in Devon. But these are mainly local small-time and temporary concerns usually set up by schoolchildren. We have people from all over the north of Britain coming to us because they know that their pets will be in safe and experienced hands. A lot of people can't go on holiday for any length of time without imposing on neighbours or friends, a lot of whom have cats."

Guests at the Scunthorpe Budgie Hotel at present include a canary called Walter, Wally the parakeet, Benjy the cockatiel, an Charlie the African grey parrot, and the budgies George, Oska and Tweety Pie. "They all behave themselves," says Mr Cross. "Although Benson the mynah bird can get a bit rowdy sometimes."

Recreational amenities at the hotel include an assortment of ladders and mirrors. The hotel also owns one table tennis ball which is available for hire for a maximum of a half-an- hour. Plans are afoot for two private suites to allow VIPs to stretch their wings." Barry and Rita Cross will birdsit finches and lovebirds. They also offer goldfish a unique bowl and breakfast accommodation.

"Birds are part of the family and much loved," says Rita. "We get postcards from abroad. We have to read them to the birds. They usually end - wish you were here!"

One lady hired a chauffeured limousine in order to drop off her bird at the hotel. She said that she could not trust the post and thought mailing the bird was cruel. All birds must register on arrival. "Sometimes it can get very emotional when an owner leaves their loved one with us. There are a lot of tears all round. We had one man who asked to be left alone for a few moments to say goodbye to his bird. He came out with his face all lined where he had been pressing against the cage. Birds mean a lot to people. It is a wrench to be parted from them."

Each resident must undergo a stringent medical test before being signed in. "We have only had one guest die while staying with us," says Barry. "It was very sad. An old lady brought us her budgie. It seemed perfectly healthy and passed the medical with flying colours. Then two days later it keeled over. It was heartbreaking having to break the news. I tried to break it as gently as possible. In fact, it was awful. But the lady was not the slightest bit grief-stricken.

"She said she has been expecting it for a long time since the bird had been diagnosed as suffering from lung cancer. Apparently the lady was a heavy smoker and had smoked up to 60 high-tar cigarettes a day for 10 years and the bird had developed an inoperable pulmonary cancer from passive smoking. Just like some people develop cancer through sitting around in smoky bars, so budgies sadly develop cancer by sitting all day in the corner of smoky living rooms. Cages offer little protection from nicotine smoke. We operate a strict non-smoking policy. It's a hotel. Not a hospice."

The Scunthorpe Budgie Hotel is the only place in Britain where guests pay to spend their holiday behind bars. You might say it is also the country's seediest hotel - but it revels in the description.

Scunthorpe Budgie Hotel, 70 Ferry Road, Scunthorpe, DN15 8QE (tel: 01724 859268).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn