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).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable