2018 Members in Sections Report -

In the period between the last old bird race and the young bird race in September I have decided to compile a couple of articles to give due recognition to strong performance lofts within each section. To this aim I had asked the fanciers who have helped me with the section reports for each race to assist me once again. This report is by no means conclusive as many will be on holiday so I hope to follow up with a further report to complete all the sections once I have the information to hand, if you feel someone has been missed out please let me know and we can make an inclusion in my next article.

For my part I had a relatively new fancier in mind namely Daniel Hocking, who I had first met in October of last year at the Epson Show and competes in section G.

Daniel Hocking

A young man with a young family could find it extremely challenging to race the National Flying Club program against long established lofts, with resources to match the high quality of birds they have nurtured through the years. Indeed, one such fancier could be forgiven for assuming they could not compete at National level and concentrate solely on local Federation races instead. But in 2017 I met a young man from section G called Daniel Hocking, who had bucked the trend by winning the Mark Gilbert International Trophy for the National Flying Club Ace Pigeon. An award he had won by having the only bird to have been timed in every race of the program. He had brought it along to me to be photographed and I could see the pride in his face as he told me about each and every race she had been to that year. I liked the friendship he had with the local fanciers who had accompanied him to the show and they explained his dedication to his pigeons, so I have been watching his results over the races this year.

Daniel Hocking LoftsDaniel Hocking Pointing

Beginning with the first race, he achieved a very impressive 19th Section 53rd Open from Coutances, followed up by an eye opening 2nd 3rd & 4th Open from Messac taking 1st 2nd & 3rd Section G. This was really impressive, and I was pleased for him, so for the following race from Ancenis I went straight to section G on the leader board to watch as the race unfolded. But Daniel had suffered one of those set back races that we all have from time to time and in a difficult season such as we have had this year, 62nd section and 764th Open could have tested his resolve, but he bounced back in style in the next race from Tarbes, winning 1st 3rd and 4th section G and 11th 47th and 49th Open from a distance of 570 miles. This fancier had really grabbed my attention and I eagerly awaited his results from the final old bird race of the season from Sigogne. His birds did not let him down and although it was another very hot and difficult race, he won 1st and 5th section with his first bird being 27th Open. In one of the most difficult seasons for years, this young man had won his section three times and been well up in the open result in all but one of the races.

GB14N51219 Hocking

GB16N36451 Hocking

He had certainly raised my eyebrows and as I was due to visit his neighbourhood, I called to see if I could drop by. He readily agreed and to be honest it was one of the most uplifting loft visits I have been to. Here was a fancier who had caught the bug quite recently and had been taken under the wing of local fanciers who had encouraged his interest by loaning him birds, breeding him a few youngsters and giving him lots of reading material to feed his appetite for knowledge in our sport. They should be applauded for their encouragement and they have raised the bar in their local area too. Because Daniel is now one of the lofts to beat and there are lots of top National winning lofts in his section. Quite a simple recipe really, and very easy one for anyone to emulate if they know of an interested young fancier in their area.

Daniel Hocking YoungstersDanil Hocking Old Birds

His loft is located deep into the countryside, about 10 miles north west of Bridgewater and my sat nav took me down single track roads to the postcode area where I began looking for the usual tiled roofed pigeon loft as an aid to finding him. After a short drive up and down the lane, I saw a young woman pushing a pram and stopped to ask if she knew Daniel. As luck would have it she was his partner and she directed me to a farm yard just 100m away. In my imagination I was expecting to see a tiled roofed pigeon loft and Daniel waiting for me in a new loft coat. But my eyes lit up as I realised he was racing to an old cow shed and I recognised the true value a report on this young man would be to aspiring newcomers in this great sport of ours.

It was built around the sixteenth century, with 18 inch thick stone walls and a breeze block frontage added many years ago to convert it to a pig pen. There was a few of the blocks knocked out to allow the pigeons to enter via a trapping system and inside was loosely partitioned with fence panels and 2 x 1 inch timbers to give an old bird section and young bird section with a corridor along the front. The floor was concreted to allow cleaning after the larger animals it had housed in the past with straw scattered around for the new occupants. I immediately noticed the climate inside was very stable, with no draughts and a constant temperature. Daniel said it was like that most of the year as he had constructed a “box within a box” type loft that I had seen before on a few occasions in Belgium. He has made the best of what he has at hand and the birds are happy, healthy and have responded in a very positive way.

GB16N98517 Hocking

As many other long distance fanciers, he races them on the roundabout system for the early season but as the longer channel races come along, he re-pairs them in preparation. His birds are long distance bloodlines provided mainly by two local fanciers, Dave Woodland and Sheldon Horn when he began racing just six years ago, in fact these are the gentleman who have given him the most help and guidance, with both living a very short distance away, they have been selfless in their support and Daniel is lucky to have such friends nearby.

GB17N12924 Hocking

GB17N12967 Hocking

He works as head of a property maintenance team, looking after over sixty properties for a local estate and passes the farm yard on a regular basis during the day. This allows him to exercise his pigeons beginning at 6am with the cocks for an hour followed by the hens, which is repeated in the evenings. The young birds are given their liberty to roam all day and although he breeds early in the season, he does not put them on the darkness system. He is happy for the young birds to build their knowledge of the area and contentment within the loft. He sends his youngsters to the club races but only to give them experience and he is happy to put them by for the year once the 100 mile stage is completed.

I am grateful he is happy to assist me in putting together the section reports for each NFC race and he is also a much valued member of the NFC Bridgewater marking team, regularly preparing the crates at the marking station for which the Chairman, Paul Naum, would like to pass on his gratitude. All in all, a very good fancier with an obvious talent in stockmanship and I left him with the knowledge that we will all be watching out for his results in future. Well done Daniel, keep it up and good luck.

Perry Liddle took up the request to highlight consistent lofts in section Q with the usual enthusiasm for NFC racing into Cornwall and sent me the following report;

During the 2018 NFC Old Bird Season, the Cornish Fancy have sent more birds in Section Q than in the respective 2017 races.  This positive trend in entries meant that a total of 411 birds were sent to the five NFC Old Bird races and considering the amount of enthusiasm that National Racing has generated, I would have to confidently predict that entries will continue to grow into 2019.  Throughout the season, the coveted 1st Section was won by five different lofts, Mervyn Elliott, Roy Mears, Frost and Downs, Lee Luscombe and Mr and Mrs Wright and finally V & D Harvey. This report gives me the opportunity to reflect on the Section winners and to write a little about the Duchy’s most consistent flier of the year, V & D Harvey.

Looking back on the year, Coutances was won by Mervin Elliott of Hayle, who timed a 2yo grizzle cock from Honeysuckle Janssen X Hereman-Ceusters lines to win the red card. This cock was having his first trip across the water, was spurred on by his family responsibilities; as he had a large youngster and was driving his hen to nest.  He had been really consistent bird for Merv, having scored a number of good Combine positions. What made this performance even more remarkable was the fact that Merv had a bout of adenovirus in his loft a few weeks beforehand and this good performance says much about his skill as a fancier to be able to get them back up so quickly.

Messac was won by Roy Mears of Bude, who timed his yearling Janssen based, dark grizzle cock to take the honours. Roy was second section from Coutances and during our conversation to discuss his timer, he told me about the nest mate that was going to Messac and that he was expected him to do well. These birds were bred from Tumley Lofts stock and as Roy is more about good pigeons than pedigrees, I contacted James Cook at Tumley Lofts to get a better idea of the birds breeding. James proved to be an encyclopaedia of knowledge where his Janssen lines are concerned informing me that Roy’s winner was a blend of the best of Tumley Janssens being a grand-son the RPRA Award winner T3 Phoenix Star, Joe 1st National Bordeaux, a half-sister to Little and the Welsh Grizzle.

At Ancenis it was Frost and Downs of St Austell who stepped up to take 1st and 2nd Section. Their timers were literally knocking on the door throughout the season and were models of consistency. Their timer a 2yo dark cheq pied widowhood cock, was having his third channel race this year, always being in the clock.  As always, I find that good winners are beautifully bred and this chap was no exception being bred from a House of Aarden Jan Aarden (grand-son of Padfield’s Invincible, 2nd BICC Barcelona 2009 and Nellie’s Lelly, the daughter of Nellie 1stInternational Barcelona 2009) when paired to a Stuart Wilcox Chris Hebberecht (Home Alone and Ben lines).  Their second timer was a 2yo blue cheq, Dr Frans Zwols widowhood cock, this bird was again having his third channel race of the season and was one of their most consistent birds having previously taken a number of good Combine positions. Their small team of widowhood cocks have been ultra-consistent this year, having won several first prizes in the club as well as winning the Cornish Combine on two occasions.

From the Tarbes Grand National, the partnership of Lee Luscombe and Mr and Mrs Steve Wright, flying to Lee’s address in Roche, came to the fore.  Their good 2yo blue chequer celibate hen, now known as Q Queen led the way on her 547 mile journey.  She was absolutely bred for the job, being a granddaughter of the fabulous “Cracker” (the winner of 1st and 3rd Open BICC for the Luscombe’s) when crossed to a hen of De Rauw Sablon lines obtained from Roger Phillips of Guernsey. Although only being a two year old, this hen has had loads of channel experience, previously scoring 5th Section Fougeres, 6th Section Messac last year as well as flying Coutances and Cherlot this year in preparation for her tilt at Tarbes.  Considering where it appears the birds entered the country, we could hypothesise that this gallant hen has actually flown the best part of 750 miles to reach home, but being the nature of pigeon racing all we will ever know is that she flew at least 547 miles. 

Finally from Sigogne it was the turn of the Duchy’s most consistent channel loft to finally win the coveted red card. Duncan Harvey of Buryan, flying as V & D Harvey timed his 2yo blue cheq cock sitting 5 day eggs and having his third race of the year and his first ever channel race. My summary of the Section winners for the year, does include a small injustice; as what remains unseen the fact that in almost every channel race, I seem to have written, that Duncan has got one.

So what has made Duncan’s, the most consistent loft in the County?  His timers this year have come from a variety of sources, including Ron Dove’s Barcelona blood, the Padfield Wim Muller lines, the lines of Padfield’s Dave, Padfield’s Invincible, Padfield’s Jack, Titus (the son of Hagens Bros Champion Sarina), Duncan’s good hen Penberth Katy, as well as lines of Ross Watson and Jim Biss. Listening to Duncan talk about the bloodlines that he has at his disposal, it really is no surprise at all that he always gets one! In fact, he has become the yardstick in Cornwall, so that when somebody clocks a National bird, they cannot be sure that they have won the Section, until they know when Duncan has clocked.

His breeding philosophy is very simple, use top class bloodlines as a base and find a good cross to add a bit of speed, before breeding back to the originals. The backbone of his loft indicates a preference for pigeons bred from National Section winners, top class distance blood, with base lines being obtained from the Padfield’s, Doug Gatland’s Vanderwegens, Louella’s Kuypers lines, Ron Dove’s Barcelona lines, Stan Biss, and Brian Denny.  The occasional departure of from the basic philosophy of using top distance lines, has included birds such as Crammond and Wagstaff’s, Van Lint’s and Verheye’s to introduce a bit of speed and then the first generation has been crossed back into the distance stuff to maintain the endurance. The Verheye’s were a particularly interesting introduction, obtained at Blackpool show from Mr and Mrs O’Brien of Eastbourne.  Duncan found a particularly good cross being between Doug Gatland’s Ponderosa VDV pigeons x Verheye, one son being a top stock cock responsible for breeding a string of good channel pigeons. Throughout the breeding process, in blending these lines together, Duncan has always looked for type rather than the family, his criteria being small to medium, relatively long cast with soft feathers, and for Duncan, his type is more important than the actual family, pedigree alone is not enough to get a pigeon into Duncan’s stock loft.  

Flying into the Duchy is particularly unforgiving, with the County being approximately 100 miles wide and with Duncan’s loft almost as far West as possible to go without ending up in the Atlantic, it is possibly the most difficult loft location in Cornwall. Here to time early, birds have to that special homing instinct that enables them to break early from a huge batch of pigeons.  The team that Duncan is currently flying, is the distilled essence of the original introductions that have been carefully selected and crafted into Duncan’s current distance family. Duncan explained that separating the wheat from the chaff, is simple, send everything across the water and then breed around what comes home. If they get home, they are invariably the type that Duncan wants in his loft.  Duncan continued that to be successful into Cornwall, we really need to breed around birds with acute homing ability, something that little bit special.  Pigeons flying well into Kent, for example, would not survive flying into Cornwall, because they often fly in a batch and drop into their homes when the batch gets to their area. This is not possible flying into Cornwall! When sending to National races from Cornwall, roughly 1/3 are never seen again, most of the rest will generally correct themselves and work back, but only roughly 5%, the special ones, will break early from the batch and surge for home with an hour of liberation. Duncan’s advice is clear, breed around those, the ones that arrive early, those that make you think, now that’s a good bird!  This has been Duncan’s method for many years and I will say it again Duncan always get one!

Duncan’s advice is to give young birds as many training tosses from 10 miles as possible with a few 25 mile flights before their first race, but to ensure that this is done late in the evening to avoid Peregrine attacks. Simple loft flights and training in Cornwall can fraught with danger due to the constant attention of Peregrine Falcons and flying birds during the day, provides an unnecessary risk of birds being massacred and what better way is there of taking advantage of the lovely evenings that we have been having, than to fly your birds late in the day. 

Another interesting point from Duncan, was his view that the early races National races were too early.  This is based upon local knowledge from his crabbing friends, that because of the water was still so cold, crabs were 6 weeks late in 2018. This is a really interesting point that has made me look at things differently; as I have never thought of the cold channel in those terms.

Finally, I should wish Duncan well as he will be going into hospital sometime in the next few weeks for a hip operation, so he is hoping it would be done soon so that he can recover in time for next year’s busy season on the farm. Many thanks to Duncan for this special, fascinating insight into the formation of the most consistent distance family in Cornwall.

Steve and Lesley Wright of the House of Aarden are sponsors of the National Flying Club and Perry has also provided a report on his recent visit to their loft; 

Set in the heart of Bodmin Moor, near Temple, is the House of Aarden, owned by one of the main sponsors of the NFC, Steve and Lesley Wright.  Steve and Lesley are pioneers of our sport, who have lovingly and skilfully created one of the finest collections of Jan Aarden based pigeons in the world.  This collection was heightened in status with the acquisition of the entire flock from the Padfield Family when Vince decided to leave the sport earlier this year.  So what is it like to visit the House of Aarden? 

Whenever I visit the house, I am welcomed with a big smile and a hand shake and then ushered into the run where the superstar stud cocks are housed in single flight aviaries and where there are a number of communal breeding pens containing the various sons and daughters of the Padfield Champions. As you walk down the palatial corridor of Steve’s single flight breeding facility, the Jan Aarden legacy is plain for all visitors to see. 

Occupants include Padfield’s Invincible, a beautiful blue chequer pied, the prototype of the modern Jan Aarden.  A real warrior that flew for 7 years to the Padfield’s loft, winning good prizes again and again before his epic 2ndOpen BICC Barcelona, beaten by a competitor flying into Essex as Invincible battled into a fresh westerly wind. Padfield’s Blue Badge, a magnificent blue bar white flighted cock, who handles like the Mr. Universe of the Pigeon World. This wonderful pigeon was a BICC Certificate of Merit winner before winning 2nd BICC Barcelona, again beaten by a competitor several hundred miles east of Cwmtillery. 

Padfield’s Kaysie, the Queen of the House, a small dark chequer hen, the pinnacle of the Padfield’s racing career, winning 1st Open BICC Barcelona and being timed from a race in which many good Dutch lofts failed to record a timer. Padfield’s Gareth, the winner of 3rd BICC Barcelona behind Kaysie. 

Champion Padfields Kaysie GB13N85205 copy

The list of Padfield Champions goes on:- Padfield’s Jack, the WSRNFC Certificate of Merit winner and winner of 1st WSRNFC Tarbes. Padfield’s St Vincent, the winner of 1st BICC St Vincent. Padfield’s Dave, the winner of 1st WSRNFC Tarbes and breeder of several good racers for Dave and Vince. Padfield’s Iron Lady, a beautiful blue white flight, the first pigeon to fly BICC Barcelona on three occasions, being in race time each time, and winning 8th , 11th and 35th Open BICC.  Finally, I should mention the wonderful NL05 hen, the daughter of Wim Muller’s First Class and quite literally the grand-dam of the Padfield’s Loft.

So, if you are visiting the House, apart from the Padfield Champions, what other goodies can you expect to see? How about De Cas, the winner of 19th Dutch National, 45th International Barcelona 2009. 3rd Dutch National, 17thInternational Barcelona 2010, 1st International Barcelona Ace Pigeon 2009 - 2010, not only is he a performance pigeon, but he is also the grandsire of 1st Open Scottish National for Peter Virtue. 

Paarsborst Crest, a daughter of De Paarsborst, raced so successfully by Ko Van Dommelen to win 1stDutch National 2nd International Dax and 1st Dutch National Lourdes. This hen is the grandmother of 2x National winners, 1st WSRNFC Tarbes for John Smale and 1st Dutch National 2nd International Marseille for Jan Polder. Jelle Man and Jelle Baby, surely the ultimate in blue blooded racing pigeons, being bred from New Laureaat 1st International Barcelona x Kleine Jade 1st International Barcelona and what’s more Steve has already received good reports of their grandchildren performing well this year as yearlings. 

The One and Only and Nelly’s Lellie, two of the only three children of W & M Van Houten’s Nellie, the winner of 1st International Barcelona in 2009 before she was sold to Japan.  These pigeons represent the very core of the Van Geel line and are responsible for section winners in the NFC. Black Shadow, a beautifully build dark chequer cock, a blend of the finest Black Giant Van Vanroy, Eijerkamp and Hagens bloodlines, the winner of 1st Club, 1st Provincial, 1st Belgian National, 2ndInternational Barcelona 2010, in what is said to be one of the hardest races on record and moreover a proven breeder of Barcelona winners for Bart and Francis Verdeyen before joining the House of Aarden.

Black Rico, a magnificent dark chequer cock, a full brother to Van Tuyl’s famous Rodico the winner of 1stInternational Barcelona, the grand-sire of several pigeons to score well in the NFC and BICC.  Lady Victorie, daughter of Jan Polder’s Victoria, the winner of 1st International St Vincent, is the grand-dam of 1st International Agen.

So it is a fact that the House of Aarden are responsible for winners at Club, Federation, Combine, Section, National and International level.

My visits to the House of Aarden always remind me of when I was a lad watching the horse racing on our black and white TV.  I would sit with my father, as he explained that the Epsom Derby was the world’s most prestigious race, the ultimate test of a thoroughbred racehorse.  Epsom Downs, offers a truly unique challenge, the unforgiving undulating track, the famous Tattenham Corner before the long steady climb to the winning post while constantly fighting against the camber that throws a tiring horse towards the inside rail.  To win at Epsom, a horse must be a unique blend is speed, stamina, balance and finally that iron will to win. Think about the greats that have won the Derby, they were fast, agile, able to handle the undulations of the track and then in the final two furlongs when it matters, they were able to stretch every muscle and sinew to run all the way to the line.  In recent years, no family of horses have dominated the Epsom Derby like the descendants of Northern Dancer.  Direct sons, such has Nijinsky, The Minstrel and Secreto, Grand Sons, Golden Fleece, Shahrastani, Lammtarra and the mighty Galileo. In fact, direct descendants of Northern Dancer are responsible for winning 16 of the last 18 Epsom Derby’s. Clearly, these are not just racehorses, they are thoroughbreds, golden bloodlines nurtured for generations and trained to perfection to run for their lives. The 2018 winner, Masar, was no exception, his sire New Approach, a Derby winner, his grandsire Galileo, a Derby winner, his great grandsire Sadler’s Wells, his great great grandsire the incomparable Northern Dancer. In other words, these lines are becoming genetically pre-programmed to win the ultimate prize at Epsom.     

So as pigeon fanciers, what facts can we deduce from the history of the Epsom Derby that might enable us to breed that illusive Barcelona Champion?  It is clear that Derby winners breed Derby winners. Derby winners can breed also rans, but also rans generally do not breed Derby winners. Therefore, if we were looking to breed a Barcelona winner, the evidence is suggesting that we should not breed around pigeons that have just got home, but breed around Barcelona winners.  Hence, back to the subject of my report, the House of Aarden.  If we consider the Epsom Derby to be the toughest horse race to win then surely the Barcelona International must be the toughest of all pigeon races. Furthermore, with the start line in Barcelona and the metaphorical winning post somewhere in the UK, then surely the toughest winning post to reach MUST have been in Cwmtillery, the home of Vince Padfield, and the lofts to where the Padfield Brothers raced so successfully for so many years.  Not only did these pigeons have to fly the arduous 758 mile journey, but they would also have needed to tough it out battling against the prevailing westerly wind before falling from the skies as they would dive for their home into the heart of the Welsh Valleys, and this for Steve and Lesley, is what makes the Padfield’s Barcelona Champions so remarkable.  With the genetic legacy of the Padfield Loft in safe keeping at the House of Aarden what better chance could the fancy have to obtain stock capable of conquering the ultimate challenge of the Barcelona International.  Winners breed winners, Champions breed Champions, so which pigeon would be the equivalent of the equine star Northern Dancer? Well for me, that would have to be Padfield’s Invincible; as Steve tells me he is now responsible for 6 national winners.

As always, I would like to thank Steve and Lesley for my latest visit, and the opportunity to stand and gaze at the amazing Champions at the House of Aarden, and to dream of my little Nijinsky’s diving for the loft……one day!

For the 2018 Old Bird Season Section B has provided one of the largest entries per section and the honours have been shared around. The first race from Coutances had the Mr and Mrs Mark Gower partnership in premier position, also in 10th followed by 7th in the following race from Messac where Nicky Wilson of Pompey took top spot and also 8th. Johnny Attrill of Salsbury close up behind in 2nd place. Dave Waterhouse a National specialist was 9th Messac and followed this with 4th from Ancensis and 1st and 2nd section from Sigogne.

From Ancensis it was yours truly, Bill Edwards in 1st and 2nd section with another arrival at 10th section and Johnny Attrill 3rd section.

It was Tarbes that turned out to be the most testing of races for some time and the consistently successful partnership of Wearn Brothers and Nielson topped not only Section B but also 4th section and 1st and 7th open. A superb performance, but a closer look shows how consistent Jimmy and Eric have been this season. Eric and Jimmy have a lovely set up in the Hampshire country side at Ramsdean but it borders on a huge country park which means that Raptors are a constant threat. For this reason, the birds do not normally see the outside of the lofts until the breeding has finished which is the beginning of April and leaves little time to prepare the birds for the early channel races at the beginning of May. The yearlings are kept celibate and raced to the perch whereas the older birds are raced on Roundabout.

Jimmy and Eric’s main aim is the longest races but have realised that you cannot compete in the earlier races solely with distance birds and became frustrated at being just a bit off the pace early on so introduced birds to compete in the short and middle distance races while still remaining focussed on the longer races.

Tarbes 2018 2 Jimmy Eric

Their National race results for 2018 depict their consistency throughout the season. There was a slow start to the season at Coutances with 36th, 46th section etc. Moving on to Messac and they took a bit closer order with 10th, 23rd section etc. At Ancensis they were 15th, 16th, 17th and 20th all with yearlings.

From Tarbes, the hardest of races with no day birds, Jimmy and Eric had the first arrival next day to record 1st Section B, 1st Open for a brilliant result. They were also 4th Section 7th Open and 18th, 22nd and 26th Section. From Sigogne to complete the Old Bird season, another tough race for many they recorded 3rd, 4th, 6th, 21st and 24th Section B, 10th, 11th and 17th open. That is great flying, well done and good luck with the youngsters.

I did suggest to Jimmy and Eric that they must have the Langston Gold Cup in their sights, but they said that nothing can be taken for granted and that they were trying not to think about it and recalled a few years ago when they were in a similar position. The lofts were located in the adjacent field then and the veranda was adorned by hanging baskets of flowers but the week of basketing for the young bird National the youngsters decided to feast on the flowers, reducing them all to stalks but all the youngsters were too ill to send to the race. Jimmy and Eric are rather publicity and camera shy and would rather just let the bird’s results do the talking.

Brian wall has also had a fantastic season racing to section A. Alan Blake went along to see him and compiled this report; 2018 was an exceptional racing year for Brian who fly’s as Mr. Mrs. Brian Wall of Havant. Brian is well known in the sport for being the owner - Managing Director of the popular Gem Supplements. They cannot be many if any MD’s of pigeon companies that race pigeons. Brian told me he likes the fact that over the years he has sponsored and helped many organizations and charities in the sport he loves.

He flew 30 widowhood cocks this season, which he says is about the maximum he can manage successfully. These race to two sections in a 28 foot loft. 24 in the larger section

And 6 in the smaller one. The widowhood Hens are in the 3rd Section on V perches with the floor covered in plastic balls. This discourages the hens from pairing up, although near the end of the Old bird racing a couple of the hens still got to the floor to pair up.   Brian said the Hens being so close to the cocks makes no difference to performance although he concedes if he could he would have them further away. Nationals and specialist clubs like the BICC & Classic are the races he likes to compete in, although club racing he uses as trainers he still supports his club each week and is chairman of his club. The Emsworth & Havant FC.

He is very pleased with his performances in the 4 National races he completed in this season because it was a loft performance as you will see below not one pigeon. The Tarbes race is a little too far for my pigeons he says, although I like to dabble now and again.

I asked about his routine and he told me the following.

“I train the cocks to the hens about 6 tosses before racing. Once racing commences I do not train. I use the first couple of club/federation races to get them race fit. They go out twice a day for on hour and are fed in, main feed on an evening. After the main feed I go round the boxes and give them a pinch of Matrix which they look forward to as they love it. This year the birds have flown round the loft exceptionally well. I noticed that I could not hear them when they took off which is really unusual normally they clap off. They did clap when they were flying round the sky but they were silent on take off. Never experienced that before, I suppose I have never had birds this fit & healthy.”

He feeds Gem Super widowhood throughout the racing season with plenty of Gem Supplements as you would expect. On return from a race he gives 50% Super Diet soaked in Gemthepax and 50% G10’s as much as they can eat. They get the same Sunday and do not go out that day. They rest and repair the muscles. Some times rest is as important as exercise. His top ten Section results this year in the National are Coutances 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th       ,Messac 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th & 9th ,Ancenis 1st 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th  ,Sigogne 1st & 2nd

Brian’s favorite bird is a big winner who has a perch for life is a 2003 Van Reet Cock now retired of course and also a section winner & 4th Open National bred a two year old cock that won the section this year and was 2nd in another two. Some reward for the loyalty Brian has shown him in return for a happy retirement.  Not surprisingly Brian has also won the Section ‘Champion of Champion’ by a mile and was 15th in the overall ‘Champion of Champions’ in the NFC.

He has won 15 Sections in the National now and 3 Classic wins plus 1st BICC with many other top positions in all these races. Also Combines and Fed wins. His ambition is to win a National he’s been close a few times and as he says it is not easy living so near the coast (half a mile) as your birds need to come in right over your loft otherwise if they turn left or right it’s dead time and you will be beat. No time for the birds to funnel up to your loft if you live further from the coast. He said this year the wind was kind to him and the NFC did not have any bad races as such. Some years luck is with you and you have to be ready to take advantage of it. Like all fanciers I have had my share of bad luck, so it’s nice to have some good luck. Another reason Brian puts his success to this year to is that he semi-retired and now as more time with the birds and enjoys the racing again. Like all pensioners he wonders how he did it while working full time the time the sport takes up and the energy you need to compete. Now it’s a pleasure.

I used to enjoy young bird racing he says, but now it not the fun it was years ago.

Losses are bordering on the silly side and it’s a worry every time you send them.

Well trained young birds once they have an overnight race and are released in the hundreds/thousands seem to lose it and just disappear. Clashing/sickness and hawks play a part but I believe it is something else that affects the YB’s. What I do not know but there’s something wrong. I wouldn’t race them if I thought it would not affect them as yearlings, so I give the young cocks one or two races and only train them once they have had that.

Many thanks Brian and good luck with rest of season.

Richard Hodgson has written for section O all season and has sent me the following report on Bruce Balamire; Bruce has been very ill this year which makes the following results all the more special.

Bruce Blamire

The first race from Coutances is very early in the season for the longer distance fanciers but Bruce managed to get his birds in fine fettle finishing 3rd section behind Kris Czaplinski and A.Graham & Co. His prize winner is a De Weerdt cock, past winner of Carnforth Two Bird club Ancensis in a light north wind all the way, 21st N.N.W. Sect Midland N.F.C. Fourgers five times across the channel and every time a good performer.

The Blamire team hit top form two weeks later when he clocked after ten hours and forty two minutes and ten hours and fifty eight minutes to be 1st and 3rd Section O from Messac at 446 miles. His first bird 4092 had been 12th section O from Coutances. Both birds are four year old cocks and were flown on Widowhood upto the first channel races and then paired together and were sitting eggs for this race. Bruce sent four cocks to the race and had a third on the night but had already deleted the race from his clock

Bruce once again had a fantastic race from Ancenis when he clocked two birds in two minutes to win 1st and 2nd section O from Ancenis. His first bird, 93985, clocked after ten hours and fifteen minutes for the 481 mile journey, had been 3rd section from Messac two weeks earlier. This pigeon is a class act being across the water seven times now and scoring every time. So just to re-cap Bruce has taken seven section positions in the three races entered including 2 x 1st, 2nd, 2 x 3rd a 12th and a 13th.

Most of the Blamire birds originate from a friend of his, Raymond Crawford, who travels over to Belgium regularly and brings birds back, which he often then gifts to Bruce. The birds are all from one loft in Belgium and all Bruce knows is that the fancier in question flew well from Barcelona and that the birds are De Weerdt base. Bruce flies his birds upto the first channel race on widowhood before repairing for the cross channel events. I must also mention that another first rate Section O fancier, Kris Czaplinski, has the Blamire pigeons at the base of his loft. Congratulations to Bruce on a fantastic season.

Jeff Walton has kindly collected all the information required for the section N reports all season and has summarised the old bird season as follows; It's never an easy option flying the NFC race programme, but that's the challenge members take on & strive to succeed. 2018 has proven to be a really tough year so far. In Section N the race birds were straight into the 400 mile plus Coutances race. To do this in the third week of May the birds have had to be trained well to contend for top prizes. One loft that came out of the starting blocks meaning business was M Anderson & Sons of Washington.

George Anderson M Anderso

Ray & George took the first four prizes in the section & another in the first ten. From the Messac race they were 6th section. From the Ancenis race they clocked four birds to win 4th 6th 8th & 10th section. In the Sigogne national their two year old hen “Twilight Express” topped the section & won 47th Open NFC. Looking at the velocity and mileage covered, 637miles, you realise the strength of this performance nationally by this hen & follows her 1st Section N from Coutances in May. They also won 3rd 6th & 7th section.

Bob McKie of Blackhall Mill, Newcastle Upon Tyne has had a good season, especially as the race distances have increased.

Bob McKie of Blackhall Mill

He took 7th section from Coutances. Then followed a procession of birds to win 7th 8th 9th & 10th section Messac. From the Ancenis race Bob won 2nd & 3rd section. His second bird that day, “Virtue” went on the win 4th section from Sigogne flying 639 miles & being the longest flying bird on the Open result.

Jeff & Matthew Walton of Coxhoe have had an excellent 2018.

 Jeff Walton Son 1st 4th

Starting with a team of just fourteen birds for the national races they won 1st & 4th section Messac with only five birds in the section on the day & heavy rain & thunderstorms covering the last 120 miles. Two weeks later another very hard Ancenis race & flying 509 miles taking 1st section.

 

In section P Kevin Foster has himself put up some great performances along with writing for the section. On this occasion he has written on two lofts that have both topped the section; There have been some notable performances in section P this year with a sprinkling of top open positions amongst them, notably at Tarbes from Heath Archibald and the wonderful dual performance of his great hen ‘The Proof’. But looking back over the old bird season two lofts have each had a couple of section wins, no mean performance in a very competitive section. Mark bulled from Harlow, and David Coward -Talbot from Chelmsford, both past national winners, are the two under the spotlight and I will leave them to tell the story of their old bird season. Firstly, let’s hear from mark:

A very up and down season for me in the NFC 2018. The NFC into Essex has grown recently with the welcome introduction of sect P and at times sect P now one of the bigger sections. However, to do well it would seem we require a gale of a west wind as the drag of birds still go up Cherboug apart from occasionally the young bird national where sect P flyers have a lot of success. Apart from Tarbes I don’t plan my season on any other races although do like to support all the National clubs and get my weekly fix of Channel racing. The season started so well. Winning all the club races followed by 1st sect BBC and then 3rd and 6th BICC Alencon.

The first NFC race from Coutances gave a NE wind and as id emptied my loft out from France the week before I just entered a team of just 6 hens. Where I’m situated in Harlow an east wind does benefit me for a section prize and it was no surprise to see my entries arrive from the west as mine generally do maybe following their inland line? My section winner was a front running hen I think a lot of. A granddaughter of my Tarbes National winner Legacy. Raced on the widowhood system She was destined in 2018 to be prepared for Bordeaux and this in reality was just a training spin for her. As it was she had a mishap later in the season so I didn’t risk her at Bordeaux but she lives to fight another day in 2019.

Following race Messac i sent a strong team of 15. My no 1 entry was timed again from the west a little later than what i had hoped for. A 2-year-old son of my top cock Eastbourne 1st BBC Fougeres. Raced on widowhood and a winner of 3rd BICC 3 weeks previously. I was pleasantly surprised to log on later to see id won the section for the second race running. This cock struggled as a yearling but slowly improved and raced very well this year before going down in a later race in the immense heat. Maybe my fault for pushing him on one race too many?

Tarbes. The low point of my season. Everything was going great and I sent my team of 5 full of confidence. All had scored before at Tarbes, some twice, the loft was on form so what could go wrong? Never in my 30 plus years of racing have I failed to time at the distance if I sent my main team. Well weeks on I still only have 1 and that took 3 weeks. Well done to those courageous birds that made it but surely something went horribly wrong somewhere?

Plans for 2019? Just to be competitive every race which may not be so easy looking at some of the birds lost this season. And as always my main aim will be one day to get my hands back on the Kings Cup, still in my opinion the number 1 race in the calendar. Well done to all winners in the 2018 season and for mostly some very good racing

And here’s what David had to say about his season; We never know how a season is going to turn out for us, but normal preparations must take place as usual. My new season starts after the last young bird race of each season. I test my pigeons, so they do not sit around all winter with a problem. I then leave them totally alone with no treatments, why, because whilst the moult is taking place I do not want treatments of any kind. When moulting, my pigeons get plenty of good portion foods, adding a few different oils at various times on the food. Good fresh water with the occasional water disinfectant and electrolytes are used. I get into November when I inject all my birds in the garden for paramyxo virus . I use a water based vaccine normally Colombovac, I then treat for paratyphoid for 10-12 days. I don't normally pair my stock birds up early, mainly around two weeks after the Blackpool show. I have in the race team 12 widowhood cocks and about 35 cocks and hens on a roundabout system . I usually pair these around a month before racing. the roundabout pigeons do have a youngster each, but not the widowhood cocks. I also race a team of natural pigeons about 20 pairs, these are usually paired around the beginning of the race season. I test all my stock birds prior to mating, in fact, this is the only test I carry out on them, as i will not be treating stock birds when rearing babies or going to nest etc.

David Coward Talbott

My race birds get tested one month prior to racing and a couple of time during the race season to get on top of any problems. I will train my old birds up to 35 miles mainly with the help of my good friend , Steve Smith, who does a training system for me and some of our local fanciers. I will if time allows, do a few 60 mile tosses to get them into shape.I have joined the late Stan Biss old club the East of England Championship club. I must say what an extremely well run club this is with Tony Battersea as secretary and his very efficient committee members . I race with the Thames North and Eastern counties, which is an extremely strong club with over 100 members and many well known fanciers. I am notably informed that we have 35 National winning fanciers among us. We race normally shorter races of around 120 to 150 miles, many of them to the cops.  My main aim are the Channel Events with the NFC, BICC, BBC and now the EECC.

Preparation training and club racing are under way at the end of March early April, sometimes too early for my liking but we have to look at the fact that the BICC first race comes around early but with cold easterly winds this year, especially racing pigeons on this east coast can be very hazardous, so I do occasionally miss a channel race if I do not like the forecast.

My 2018 Season has gone very well all year. My main aim is Channel racing so I hardly break my pigeons down on food.  They are fed on my main mi all the time and depending on the race, a high fats mix is used in the last couple of days before basketing.  I use very little antibiotics only the occasional respiratory treatments the necessary, but I do use natural products both in the water and on the food.  I tend to take each race as it comes and picking my team as we go.  I have found all the best laid plans early in the season can go out of the window very quickly when racing the Channel.  But of course, racing the NFC, BICC and BBC races always at the bar of my mind when preparing my team. My biggest disappointment this year was my Tarbes team of 6 pigeons, I spent lots of time looking and preparing these pigeons only to have my first arrival on the morning of the third day.  This turned out a bad race for most, but I did manage to get all six back.  I returned one of them for the BBC Bordeaux race where she was 4th Open.

Obviously, my highlight of the year was when my good yearling blue chequer cock “Prince Harry” won his two first ope Section P in the NFC. Two very hard races when the wind was not favorable in the Open.  It was also very satisfying to take the first 4 positions in Section P from Sigogne on a difficult day. “Prince Harry”, winner of first Section P Ancensis and first Section P Sigogne.  He was prepared for his first NFC race after a couple of club races and a BICC race.  He is a roundabout cock that had two Channel races a a young bird.  He is a very quiet, timid pigeon in the loft and does his own thing when exercising around the loft, which is a trait I look for in good pigeons.  He was then prepared for his next NFC race Sigogne with great confidence.  He obviously has a great line of his own coming slightly off the coast on both occasions.  I believe he will make a good Tarbes pigeon for me next year. FINGERS CROSSED. There you are then, in the words of two of the country’s top fanciers, one last thing which resonates with me when I asked Mark and David for their own words based on a few questions I gave them, I also asked for their contribution back to me by a specific date. As expected they both came back within the deadline and on time. Attention to detail and executing the plan - well done gents.

 (THIS PHOTO ISN'T AVAILABLE TO PUBLISH AS YET DUE TO THE FORMAT IT WAS RECEIVED IN) Photo Information “A blast from the past!” “Jimmy Peters and Lol Stanbrook from Hornchurch Essex, Ron Hallam from Kent, The late great Maurice Delbar from Belgium, myself (a little younger version haha ) and Bill Groden.

In section C Mel and Sue King continued their great form right through the old bird season to finish section C Old Bird Champions 2018.

Mel Sue King

Here is a summery of their season in their own words; ‘The NFC National year started with a Bang when we won 1st Section 1st Open Countances with “Stourcrest Momus” a P & D Houfflijn cross Gaby Vandenabeele. The Houfflijn line was supplied by R Rome from their direct imports. The sire of “Momus” was bred by Mel & Sue from birds bred by R Rome and the sire was one of three young cocks that all won 1st Prize as Young birds, another of these young cocks also bred 1st section Young bird National. The dam of “Momus” is again from our main family of Gaby Vandenabeele cultivated from the M & D Evans birds we purchased in 1999 she is another daughter of “Dione” daughter of “Shadow”. Dione is dam and G dam to 5 X 1st Open Nationals and 3 X 1st Open Classic winners. Five full sisters bred from “Dione” when paired to a son of “Solitaire” have all bred 1st section winners, six sons & daughters of “Dione” when paired to a son of “Mclaren” have also bred 1st section winners. 

If Coustances was a high, then Massac brought us back down to earth with a bump when we only managed to achieve 18th section (typical pigeon racing to keep you grounded). After Messac we were delighted to time one of six entries at Ancenis to win 1st section, one of only a handful of race birds not to contain any of our Gaby Vandenabeele family lines “ Stourcrest Pyramis” is a M & G Caseart x Van Lint. The M & G Caseart lines have proved to be very successful especially when crossed with the Vandenabeele’s as our 1st Section 5th Open NFC Tarbes 2016 shows. The sire of “Pyramis” was bred by Caseart and gifted to us by Brian Goodwin and is a direct son of “Gamin” x “Prunelle”. Gamin is a full brother to “Nasdaq” 1st National and G sire of “Minstral” 1st National Brive . Dam of “Pyramis” is a Van-Lint daughter of “Pride of the Hill” 1st Open NIPA 24,436 birds from Dean Pallatt, purchased at a Blackpool auction after we took a shine to it.

Next up Tarbes the Grand National, this turned out to be a hard race for most with low returns, after a long wait we timed a yearling widowhood hen of Limbourg x vandenabeele breeding to take 3rd section. The Limbourg lines are of the “Joost” & “Blackopium and are responsible for winning 1st, 2nd & 3rd Open CSCFC Bergerac amongst other prizes. The Vandenbelle has 2 lines back to “Eros” our NFC Nantes winner son of “Dione” mentioned earlier. The final race at Sigogne caps off a great National old bird season when we won 1st Section 6th Open with “Stourcrest Eurydicee” he is a full brother to the Ancenis section winner.”