Special tribute to man who created one of Horsham’s leading visitor attractions

A special tribute is being paid this weekend to a man whose love of birds led him to create one of Horsham’s leading visitor attractions.

Family and friends will be gathering together on Saturday (January 15) to celebrate the life of Julian Ford.

Julian - who founded Huxley’s Experience, bird of prey centre, off Brighton Road, Horsham - lost a short battle with cancer in October.

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But this weekend the centre that he loved will host a gathering of loved ones in a tribute to him.

Julian Ford, founder of Huxleey's Experience bird of prey centre in Horsham

Julian was born in Northampton and moved with his family to Australia as ‘£10 pommies’ when he was 11.

But the family - mum Muriel, dad Mervyn and sisters Heather and Vivien - moved back to England in 1961.

Julian went on to work at Bristol University Botanical Gardens after qualifying as a talented horticulturalist.

He attributed his love of birds to his mum Muriel who kept zebra finches and his other great love - of cacti - to his dad Mervyn.

Julian Ford, founder of Huxley's Experience bird of prey centre, with one of his beloved birds

When Julian got married he and his wife moved to Scotland where he worked as manager of a large country estate.

From there, the couple moved to another estate in Somerset and then on to a position as estate manager at Charleston Manor near Seaford in East Sussex.

Julian’s niece Louise Price said: “This is where his passion for birds of prey took off, with his first Kestrel called Norman, who was named after the main character in Psycho.”

Julian moved to Horsham in 1992 and developed his vision for Huxley’s Experience, building and nurturing the centre which opened in Easter 1993.

“It is what it is today because of the vision Julian had and it is an ever-changing and evolving place,” said Louise.

“His last project was his cacti house which can been seen now at the centre.”

Julian’s son Shane is now spearheading the business in a legacy to his dad.

And he will be leading the tributes at Saturday’s celebration of Julian’s life.

“So many people have asked about sending flowers or donations,” said Shane. But, he said, his dad had given him “strict instructions not to have a funeral or any fuss or flowers - and well, let’s face it, no flowers, compared to what he grew, would be good enough.”

The bird of prey centre - within Hilliers Garden Centre - was developed by Julian from what was once a dumping site for the garden centre itself into an award-winning garden and much-loved home for all the birds, including falcons, eagles, hawks, buzzards, owls - and more.

Louise added: “Shane has taken the business on in a fantastic way.

“He has lots of visions for the future and is carrying on Julian’s legacy.”