Report by Cameron Stansfield & Les J. Parkinson of

The honour of winning 1st Section E and 1st Open goes to 37 year old Jaimie Clarke of Chesterfield in Kent who clocked a celibate hen at 4.04pm and had 19 of his team of 30 celibate hens home by 6pm. These hens were started off about two months ago and have been sent as trainers in the young bird programme with his local organisation, having had three races through to Lyndhurst, 121 miles, last weekend. They have also had about ten tosses from 30 miles on the line of flight and have been exercising once a day for up to two hours. Jaimie says they have been coming really well but he was surprised by how well they shaped in the National because they are going through the moult and were in pretty poor feather. They are just given a basic feed and to stop them pairing together and laying he keeps a couple of cocks in with them at all times. He says basically they fly just to the perch and he can’t explain why they do so well. None of these hens has ever been paired and his first in the clock is a 3y hen who has always been consistent. Jaimie says he does not get too close to these hens but he keeps things regular and works hard with them. He added that he races hens celibate because for reasons he can’t explain, he has always raced a better hen than cock. However, his ambition is to get a good team of widowhood cocks together so these hens will act as their mates next year before being brought out again for the Old Hens National.

Dave Wells of Borden rounded of a good season by winning Section A by 55ypm with a 3y hen, her sire being a Busschaert and her dam a Lier Market purchase, believed to be a Janssen. She is in the clock just about every time she is sent, though Dave did say that whenever he puts some money on her it slows her up a touch! With this race being so short for him, he sent for a bit of fun really though he did expect her be intelligent enough not to overfly the loft. She was given a 50-mile toss a few days before this race and was sent feeding two 14-day old youngsters, which he is rearing for a friend. For the record he timed his other hen twenty minutes later but his single young bird entry did not show up. Next year his winner will be raced out to Bordeaux or another race of similar distance; he won’t being sending her any further than that as he feels that her breeding suggests that would be her limit.

Dave Wells

The best bird in Section B was recorded by Derek Human of Petersfield who told me he only sent to prove a point to other local fliers that such short flying birds wouldn’t necessarily be swept up in the general convoy and overfly their loft, and indeed the second of his two old hens arrived ten minutes after the first. His Section winner is a very good natural hen, in fact next season she will be going for a NFC Certificate of Merit having previously been twice in the 1st 100 of the NFC’s longest race. In 2004 she was 11th Section Pau and this year was 6th Section Bordeaux, which was her most recent race prior to this one. She had done nothing since, then last week Derek gave her a short toss from Lee-on-Solent before being basketed with her just looking at her cock. She is of Catrysse lines which go back to birds from Norman Bishop and Les Davenport. These have served Derek very well and are good all-rounders, as performances such as 1st & 2nd BBC Nantes, 1st CSCFC Avranches and 1st CSCFC Lamballe (by over 100ypm) illustrate. Derek is now 65 years of age and started with pigeons as a 12 year old. He says he’s happy to win from anywhere be it Exeter in the local club or on the National stage and his ambition is to win the Grand National. Perhaps this hen will be the one to do it for him next year.

Following on from his 1st Section Old Hens in the Central Southern Classic a fortnight ago, John Halstead wins Section C. John was confident his hen would battle against the wind as in terms of condition she had superseded his Central Southern winner in the last week or so. His National hen was an hour behind his Classic Section winner in that race a fortnight back and was sent here on her fourth flight. Whereas his Classic winner had been a widowhood hen during the old bird campaign and had only been flying out for a month before her success, his National hen has been raced in the old bird programme and was in fact 1st Club Messac in June in his local Gillingham club. She is one of only four hens raced in this manner and when you consider John started 2006 with 14 widowhood cocks it shows that he is by no means a big team flier. John’s winning hen came in as a young bird stray. She was only in his loft for 24 hours before being given a 50-mile toss, from which she returned so he reported her to her owner, Ivan Jones of Rhymney in Wales. Duly transferred, she was sent to the CSCFC St Malo YB race, only to return to her original Welsh home, arriving just 5 minutes after Ivan’s 2nd Section winner. Since then though she has behaved herself and she was set up for the National by being basketed on a 5-day youngster. Known as Welsh Mel, she is of Haelterman lines.

Sue White of Honiton notched up her third 1st Section win in the NFC having previously won the Younng Bird Section twice and she described herself as ‘well excited’ as her game yearling hen was really up against it flying into a gale force wind. The hen in question was bred by Jack Hackman of Sidmouth and was bought for £5 in a breeder/buyer. She was unraced as a YB and began this year in a stock section but she escaped over Sue’s head having not paired and went awol for two days. Sue decided to keep her flying out and trained her with the young birds through to 25 miles. She was coming well so was sent to two Isle of Wight races with the Devon & Cornwall Continental Amal. Sue had contact with pigeons growing up on a farm when her family used to sell the youngsters bred off strays at the local cattle market. She always harboured ambitions of one day racing some birds herself but it was not until she took over a pub in Honiton where the local club met that things came together. Now with more time on her hands, she plans to have a go at roundabout and darkness for the first time next year. She describes the birds she has as mongrels and they comprise birds from Martin Rickman of Derbyshire, a Natrix hen through Jim Biss and birds from Scottish friends. Additionally she has a young bird team made up of birds from the many West Country fanciers who rallied round when a fox killed all her own-bred youngsters earlier this year. The plan now is to continue racing her Section winner next year and, who knows, she might one day fulfil Sue’s ultimate ambition, which is to fly Palamos with the BBC.

Sue White with Nobby Henley.

Paul Stowell of Basingstoke had the best bird in Section F. He clocked a hen bred out of a pair of gift birds from Machiel Buijk of Hoogerheide in Holland, the lines being Jan Aarden/Van Geel. These are very inbred and Paul says in terms of type they are like the Ko Nipius which have served him so well, with rich eyes being a particular feature. His winning hen has been through to Bergerac in the past but this season has been hardly been anywhere in terms of races, though she has had loads of short tosses with Paul’s youngsters and was sent sitting 10 days. It is surprising to find that this was Paul’s first ever 1st Section win in the NFC when you consider his CV includes 1st Open BBC Bordeaux and being top prize winner 13 times in his local Basingstoke club and also 8 times runner up. In Paul’s own words he has been through a lean spell in recent years so hopefully this success signals a return to form. His ambition is to win the Grand National. If you want to know more about these birds, visit

Paul Stowell’s 1st Section F winner, ‘Dedication Dolle’.

Seventy-one year old Brian Henley of Bradford-on-Avon wins 1st Section G with a 2y unpaired Busschaert hen. She is bred down from birds bought many years ago from Mr & Mrs Clare of Boston, Lincs, this being a line which has served Brian well. In addition to never having been paired she has never been trained. She was unraced as a youngster but was raced a yearling, and this year went to St Malo. She is one of 11 hens which race to a spare section but when asked what the idea behind this was Brian replied: ‘No idea whatsoever other than that I don’t have much nest box accommodation and they were too good to get rid of.’ Brian sent 5 hens to this race and had two on the day and 2 the next day. He was keen to see his fifth one home safely for as he said, ‘I don’t just like my pigeons, I love them and I don’t care if I win or lose as long as I see them come home.’ Having said that, he missed his winner’s arrival as he had popped into the house to put his dinner in the microwave. Brian is helped greatly by his son Kevin (who races to his own loft nearby) and says his aim is just to enjoy his pigeons and carry on in the same way. He feeds Gerry Plus all year round having had it recommended to him by Brian Sheppard, with whom he grew up.

Section H was won by G & T. Harris of Polstead near Colchester, who also won the Section in the Young Bird race, the two Section winners arriving together. See the report on the Young Bird race for further details.

I wrote last year of Jeremy Wright’s fabulous sequence of four successive 1st Section wins in the Old Hens’ race (including a 1st Open) and lo and behold he’s done it again, which must be a record. In the past five years his methods have not changed at all, the only difference being that this time he won it with a 2y whereas his four previous wins were with yearling hens. The common denominator is that all five hens were racing to their first youngsters of the year and, in the case of the yearlings, the first youngster of their life. Jeremy sent 13 of his 15 hens to this race, but there were only three yearlings amongst them on account of losses in the young bird programme of the year before. These hens were paired mid-February then parted after sitting 4 or 5 days before being re-paired in April and sent to the first race sitting. After that they were raced on widowhood through to Tours at the end of July before being set up for this race. After Tours they were given an open loft whilst being driven and, once having laid, were trained from 30 to 40 miles more or less every day, with Jeremy believing frequency of tosses to be more important than distance. Once their eggs hatched no more training was given and they were basketed on 5 or 6-day old babies. Jeremy had 10 out of 13 home on the day and his Section winner had been 4th Section MNFC Portsmouth earlier this season when the loft also won 1st & 2nd Section. Her sire is a Haelterman which won the Warwickshire Fed Championship Club from Plymouth and her dam is out Chris Raes stock. Can Jeremy make it six in a row?

John Fretwell had a great day last Sunday, winning Section J in the Old Hens, 7th Section Young Bird National plus 8th Open MCC Yelverton and 1st & 2nd Club Exeter. He gets a thrill from all races but said that clocking in from the National is just something altogether different. In the Hens’ race he clocked a yearling blue w/f Smit Van Winkel (direct) x Houben (Ken Whitehouse). A consistent young bird, this year she was used as a widowhood hen then was given a couple of trainers in her local club. John said it was blowing a gale so he was surprised to clock when he did, but then fifteen minutes later he had another old hen and his first youngster and by nightfall he had 6 out of his 10 old hens home. John has wasted no time building a strong team having only re-started with pigeons on his move to Pershore in 2004. He only buys from the best but said that even then you need some luck. He races mostly Marcel Sangers and Janssens. This year he has won the old bird average in his local club racing a team of 18 widowhood cocks, many of which flew through to Crieff on the north before being turned around and then scoring 1st & 2nd Club Picauville. Feed here is Bamfords Fast & Fancy and a widowhood mix. His winning hen will be given a toss on Wednesday and if she pleases him he will send her to the MNFC race on Saturday.

John Fretwell’s Section J winner.

Vinnie Wilkinson fulfilled his long term-ambition by winning Section K and was thrilled when I phoned him with the news. He timed a yearling Janssen x Busschaert hen through stock from Mick Thompson of Grimsby. She has been consistent this year having won 217th Open BICC Falaise and 156th Open BICC Alencon. For those races she was raced on a celibate system, just being let through to the cocks’ section prior to the races, however for this race she was sent on 4-day old chicks. She went straight back on them on her return and Vinnie is toying with the idea of sending her to this weekend’s Midlands National event; he’ll make his mind up after tossing her on Wednesday so watch this space. Vinnie says despite her moulting he fancied her, but he didn’t pool her because of his unfavourable loft location. Incidentally, Vinnie put up a great performance from Bergerac with the BICC earlier this season, clocking on the day at over 600 miles. This pigeon was a 2y late-bred cock and, remarkably, as a nine-month old late-bred yearling it homed in race time from the Pau International, which is one heck of a fly into Grimsby. He was bred by Mick Thompson out of a Busschaert x Delbar cock known as Crackerjack and a hen which went into Mick’s loft as a stray when coming home from Palamos. She belonged to Neil Bush of Amcotts near Scunthorpe who has a long distance record second to none so Vinnie’s Bergerac pigeon was certainly bred for the job.

Section L was won by Graeme Marskell of Leyland near Preston who clocked outside of the hours of darkness which kicked in at 8pm, his bird arriving at 8.13pm, at which time he said it was just getting dark; he actually had a young bird arrive from a local club race later still. His Section winner is a Staf Van Reet and is a gift bird from Maurice Jackson, his club secretary. This is a very good hen as she has previously been 1st Hereford, 1st Bath, 1st Portland, 3rd Hereford and 6th Bath, and she has also bred a 1st prize winner fromLudlow this year. All this and she is still only a yearling. She wassent sitting a 6-day old youngster, as she was when she had her other 1st prizes. With the amount of west in the wind and the late liberation time, the further flying Section L birds were really up against it, as a perusal of the top 10 in the Section shows. Graeme’s bird was one of 5 which were clocked during the hours of darkness and three others were timed between 6.30 and 6.57am the nest morning, the only two birds in the top ten to be timed on the first day being to Barber & Hilson and Roger Sutton.

Graeme Marskell, 1st Section L.