ONE of Oxford’s most treasured institutions opened its doors to the public to showcase its work.

Helen & Douglas House in Magdalen Road, East Oxford, treated 500 visitors to an open day with live music, a barbeque, falconry, a Formula One racing car, and tours of the hospice and respite care centre for children and young adults.

Roman Krznaric, 41, came with his twins Siri and Casmiri, six, from their home in nearby St Mary’s Road.

Siri said: “I had my face painted like a bear, and I held an owl called Desmond.

“It was good fun, I learnt that some owls wake up at night, and some come in the day time.”

Mr Krznaric said: “We live in Oxford and we know people who use the facilities, and we feel it is such an extraordinary place, it deserves to be known by everyone.”

The hospice opened its gates at 10.30am on Saturday and music was supplied throughout the day by local stars including Trev Williams, Rory Evans and Nick Cope, former lead singer of the Candyskins.

Six-year-old Max Rutterford who lives in Sidney Street, East Oxford, visited with his dad Paul, and made good friends with Desmond the owl.

Max said: “I like owls because they see in the dark.”

Helen House was established as the world’s first children’s hospice in 1982. Douglas House followed in 2004.

The charity needs to raise £4.5m every year, 80 per cent of which comes from volunteer donations. Helen House manager Kathy Patching, manager of Helen House, said: “We are so dependent on the community, it is lovely to welcome them .