It was undoubtedly one of the warmest summers we can all remember and before it slips completely away, it’s good to reflect on our favourite summer moments and memories. My feature and report in this month's Shooting Gazette reflects on this year's Game Fair and the gundog activities which were the highlight of our sizzling summer of 2018.
The dappled shade of Ashmore woodland was ideal for avoiding the scorching summer heat and the dogs showed spectacular energy throughout the day - URC Hants & South West Intermediate and Veteran Working Test 2018.
A huge thank you to my friends and colleagues for your time and support with my blogging and article writing. I'm always thrilled to see my writing in print. I hope my passion contributes towards keeping gun dogs as a breed strong and supports the sport - Thanks for being awesome followers and wishing you all a fantastic season!
As summer moves into early autumn the field trialling season is fast approaching. The sport demands an all-round performance of the dog and handler which means team work, enthusiasm and consistency are some of the key elements for success. There’s no doubt those involved in trialling have a passion for the sport but having a passion and turning it into winning points are two wholly separate things. I was able to catch up with BASC at the Game Fair 2018 and meet some of the Tower Bird Trophy award winners who have gained the highest amount of points in the field trialing season for 2017-18.
Winner of the Labrador Retriever Section...
BASC Chief Executor Ian Bell was delighted to present the Tower Bird Trophies at the Game Fair. “It’s a great honour to meet and present these awards to handlers who are at the top of their game and the very best in the country.”
Sarah Miles was thrilled to win with her Labrador Retriever Hawksrigg Balgaire of Meonvalley, field name Finlay. “Finlay’s enthusiasm is phenomenal. He’s very honest and has a natural ability. He steps up every time he’s in a trial and he won his first novice at 11months. Finlay has been placed at every field trial he’s been in and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.” The winners also received an engraved cut glass tumbler which had a picture of the winning dog etched onto it. “I wasn’t expecting to see Finlay’s face on the glass - An extra special touch which means a lot.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation offers four national trophies for Gundog Field Trials, named in the memory of the late Noel M (Tim) Sedgwick, the former Editor in Chief of The Shooting Times and Country Magazine who wrote under the pseudonym “Tower Bird”.
There were 3 joint winners (all equal on points) for the HPR section.
Geoff Saint was delighted to accept the award with his German Wired Haired Pointer, Merle Haggard, field name Harry. “We call him happy Harry as he always has a smile on his face and wants to be everyone’s friend. He’s a nice all round dog that wants to work with me and be with me.” Geoff aims to continue trialling with Harry. “I would like to win a Novice and get him into the Open Stakes and ideally get him into the HPR Championships. I won the 2017 Championships with my Hungarian Wirehaired Viszla, Hourra Du Domain St Hubert and I think Harry is every bit as good as my Viszla.”
Peter Howard was thrilled to win with his German Wired Haired Pointer Tickencote a Night Like This, field name Tikka. “I’m looking forward to entering some Open Stakes this year. Tikka has a lovely temperament, she's fast, very biddable and she has a soft mouth which is rare to have all three elements.” Peter also had another reason for visiting the Game Fair. “I’ve just bought a farm and I’m going to become a keeper for the first time ever at the age of 70! The Game Fair is a wealth of information so I’m here to collate as much as I can from the specialists. I realize there’s a lot of hard work involved but it’s exciting times ahead!”
The following winners were unable to make the presentation and will be receiving their prizes at a later date.
Gill Pillinger with her German Short Haired Pointer - Witham Friary Tallahassee.
Mike Forbes with his Cocker Spaniel - Poolgreen Crafty of Omachie.
Gerald Devine with her English Setter - Ballyellen Tango.
Junior gundog handlers Tristan and Sophie Berry were one of 150 people in Dorset who took part in the Working Dog Fun Day at Hawkers Hill, Motcombe, by kind permission of Mr Phil Levers and Mr & Mrs Martin.
12 year old Tristan Berry who won the Junior Handler Award and his 14 year old sister Sophie had the unique opportunity to work their Clumber cross English Springer Spaniels in a variety of fun gundog tests. Both handlers pick up with their 2 year old Clumber crosses on their family shoot and they were delighted to work their dogs on new terrain. “The water test was my favourite" said Trisatn, "Digby loves the water as he can be adventurous.”
A team of dedicated volunteer gundog handlers spent the day offering the local community a chance to try out an array of tests, scurries and fly fishing, raising money for Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance. Event Organisers Kevin and Nicky Philips said the team wanted to raise money as earlier in the year the Air Ambulance was called to Hawkers Hill when a machine operator had a heart attack and needed an urgent
stent insertion to save his life. “It’s an essential service for people who live and work in the rural community. Our event will hopefully raise awareness of this vital service which is completely self-funded and has no Government funding” said Nicky who is passionate about raising the awareness of the Air Ambulance service.
One member of the volunteer team, Ken Green had a personal reason to be part of the fundraising day. “I’ll never forget the day my wife called whilst I was at work to say a heath fire was close to our house and kennels.” Ken knew his family was in danger as he heard a huge explosion whilst talking to her. “The fire had spread to our neighbour’s car which had gone up in flames. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would reach our house.” By the time Ken had driven home he found the area swamped with fire engines and police cars. “The fire had been put out and the house was ok but there was no sign of my family or the dogs.” For a while Ken was frantic until he was told two Air Ambulances had rescued his wife, children and four gundogs. “My wife told them she didn’t want to leave the dogs behind. The Air Ambulance crew were reluctant to take them at first but once they knew they were highly trained they made make shift leads out of some rope and got them into the second helicopter.”
The fun day, which was sponsored by Snyeds Wonder Dog Food incorporated an auction which included a donation for a 80 bird shoot day for one, shooting lessons and lots of fabulous raffle prizes. Gundog Test Co-ordinator Roland Stacey was pleased to see so many visitors enjoying their dogs and was delighted to discover £3524.24 had been raised from the day.
Delighted to see my gundog report in this month's Shooting Gazette.
With the Game Fair fast approaching, now is the time to check I’ve done all I can to make sure I’m ready to enjoy the world’s largest countryside festival. This year I’m camping and for me the social aspect of the Game Fair is associated with the camping experience. It provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax with family and friends (including our four legged companions) and enjoy our glorious sizzling summer.
This year I’m mixing work with pleasure and within my Biddablebardsley role I’ve got some exciting interviews lined up with several top gundog trainers and competitors. It’s also a golden opportunity to meet up with my editor and discuss future gundog features with the Shooting Gazette. I can’t wait to meander around the show grounds and absorb the sights and sounds of this prestigious event. With my camera in one hand and my dictaphone in the other I hope to capture those who are passionate about their dogs and all that rural Britain has to offer. And yes, I will be stopping at the Gundog Gin stand to test the variety of tipples that are a must-have for any countryside blogger - Look forward to seeing you there!
If you love the countryside you’ll love the Game Fair! It’s the must attend event of the summer, offering an action packed gundog programme. You’ll have the chance not only to watch the best handlers and top dogs in their field but also to have a go at the scurries and indulge in some retail therapy. You can never have enough dummies! My latest feature offers an insight to this year's exciting gundog activities. Hope you enjoy and if you're going to the Game Fair - have a fantastic time!
Many thanks to Dave Latham, Neil Varney, Del Bower, Willie Edgar and Rob Bunning for your time and support. Can't wait to see you all at the Game Fair!
On Monday 4th June at 11am three Twistmount Gundogs were stolen from Neil Varney's transport trailer in Stourhead, Somerset, Wiltshire. Two black Labradors and a liver and white Springer bitch.
Please share this post and make them too hot to handle!
Many of you know Neil Varney and have seen his popular gundog demonstrations at the Game Fair, Sherborne Castle, Dorchester Show to name but a few - He is passionate about his dogs and completely devastated. If you have ANY information on their whereabouts please visit Neil Varney's Facebook page.
As a novice gundog handler I've found training away days can offer a variety of benefits. Whether using the day as an introduction to the field or reinforcing specifics with older experienced dogs, an away day can be invaluable...
Absolutely delighted to see my latest gundog article in the Shooting Gazette June 2018.
Many thanks to Sarah Miles, Professional Trainer and Director of Smiles Ltd & Meonvalley Gundogs and Gundog Trainer Allie Hogsbjerg of Rufriver Gundogs for their words of wisdom in relation to group training away days.
Thanks especially to Nikki Urquhart, Jackie Davis, Karen Handley, Mandi Iles, Julie Jyoti williams, Helen Sanderson and Rachael Richardson who have shared with me their thoughts and hoping that each one of you will have the success in your gundog training that you all so richly deserve.
Building training hours up in the depths of winter, sending your dog into harsh winds and horizontal rain has been a challenge to say the least! So are you looking forward to rewarding yourself for all those hours of training with a successful working test day? Maybe you are only days away from your first test of the season and still in the final stages of your prep, I can only imagine how excited you must be.
I recently went to a working test to write a report and there’s nothing quite like watching a competitor send their dog. Nerves, excitement, pressure - a rollercoaster of emotions yet a display of balance, focus and determination from the team. The way the dog stands perfectly still when the shot is fired...a quiver of excitement runs through the air. The first thrilling glimpse of the dummy followed by ‘send your dog!’
It’s a pleasure to watch and there’s no doubt a good send off is crucial to the success of the retrieve.
Wishing you all many happy training days ahead in the spring sunshine and best of luck with your working tests!
"Success or failure evokes a variety of emotions, so brace yourself for that addictive feeling..."
One of my goals for this year was to have an article published in the gundog issue of the Shooting Gazette. You can imagine the excitement in my house this afternoon when the April issue arrived in the post. Absolutely delighted! I wanted to say a big thank you to those who comment, Like and Share on my page. I'm always thrilled when I hear from you and I know how precious your time is, but somehow you manage to find a moment to support Biddablebardsley. Thank you!
No sooner had the season finished I was planning several away day training sessions. This month I had the pleasure of joining a team of handlers for a day’s training with Allie Hogsbjerg.
We began the day with an invaluable exercise to identify what we wanted to cover throughout the day. Allie was keen to ensure that our time was well spent and we got the most out of our day. Being a small group enabled us to share our personal aspirations and challenges and learn from each other. A problem shared, really is a problem halved and discussing an issue with the trainer can offer reassurance for the day ahead.
Allie’s session was the ideal opportunity to get away from the normal environment and interact with a group of training buddies in a new setting. I find this helps me to think differently and try out new training strategies. The natural Cotswolds landscape provided the perfect opportunity to train on fabulous ground, with a range of cover including woodland, cover crops, jumps, drystone walls, hills and grassland fields. Throughout the day there was a good balance between discussion and applying theory into practice. With clear and consistent communication from Allie and no other distractions during the day, (apart from a much needed yum yum and a cuppa) it gave me the chance to relax and just focus on Reggie.
As the day progressed and the group’s confidence began to shine each handler had the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and stretch their dogs on new ground. I really enjoyed watching all the dogs progress. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a dog learns and picks the dummy with a new found self confidence. With a few challenges during the day (mainly the weather!) our group was not deterred and simply enjoyed the day spent with the dogs. I love that feeling when you see your dog progress and I firmly believe an away day offers reassurance and a sense of direction with your training goals. There's no doubt it offers numerous benefits and I can't wait for the next one!
Training away day with Allie Hogsjberg at Rufriver Gundogs: http://www.rufrivergundogs.co.uk
Nervous/proud/excited to see my IGL Retriever Championship feature in the February 2018 issue of the Shooting Gazette. Thank you to all who have helped me in the research and production of the report. It was a fantastic experience!
Are you as fascinated with the Buccleuch bloodline as I am? If so you will enjoy reading David Tomlinson's recent article in the Shooting Times. David offers an interesting and informative account about the Buccleuch Labrador kennel.
I hope you’ve had a fantastic Christmas and are now drifting safely into New Year’s Day 2018.
Where did 2017 go? I can't believe I have been blogging for nearly three years now. It’s brought me closer to many fellow gun dog enthusiasts, handlers and trainers. I have followed so many of you via social media and loved reading about your gundog adventures.
I want to say a huge thank you to my readers, friends and family for your support this year. My blog in January 2017 highlighted my plans for Biddablebardsley and I’ve been able to happily achieve my goals with several successful publications. It looks like 2018 is offering more writing opportunities and I’m excited to see what I can bring you in relation to future articles, reviews, training events, tests and interviews.
Thanks again for being awesome supporters of my blog and wishing you all a healthy and happy New Year…May all your wishes and dreams come true!
It's Christmas Eve and what a year it has been! This year I have followed so many of you via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and loved seeing your gundog pictures and hearing about your achievements and challenges with your working tests and trials. My journalistic journey has taken me to many wonderful events this year. Most overwhelming of all has been the enthusiasm and encouragement you've shared with me at the recent IGL Retriever Championship. My press experience was amazing - and all thanks to everyone involved. The friendly family feel to the proceedings was a privilege to be part of - And so I would like to share one of my treasured moments which took place on the final day of the Championship shortly after the awards...5 minutes with David Lisett.
I was lucky enough to visit an excellent family-run shoot recently in Dorset. My husband was invited as a guest gun and I joined the pickers-up team for the day. As a gundog handler I’m intrigued to find out what factors make a small driven shoot a good one.
I have a friend who is a regular gun on the farm and I’ve heard him on several occasions comment on the warmth of the welcome and the sporting attitude. What struck me at this shoot was that the team carried themselves exceptionally well and reflected a vibrant working countryside. The guns seem to have the same ethical mindset and all behaved as impeccable sportsmen. As a picker-up it was a privilege to enjoy the company and good companionship.
As always etiquette is an important subject on a traditional driven day and the shoot briefing in the farmhouse lodge was simple and informative. The shoot captain showed some flexibility in changing the morning’s schedule due to good weather conditions.
I feel adaptation is advantageous for any team and shuffling things around on the day kept everyone on their toes, including the gundog handlers! I’m sure you’ll agree being versatile can have its benefits with a small shoot and the shoot captain was confident in his approach which reflected a well run day.
Heading towards the first drive we were immersed in friendly banter with the guns and beaters. No segragation. Just people enjoying the stunning Dorset countryside and relaxed in each other’s company. As I chatted to the guns and beaters about their dogs there was a sense of fun and general camaraderie. I loved the fact that some of them had been involved in shooting or working their dogs for a very long time and were still totally passionate about what they do.
As we got into position I waited patiently with the dogs. Guns scanning the sky ahead. It's hard to beat the sense of anticipation before the first drive on a shoot day. Once the drive started I watched in awe as several of the spaniels were working the wind and using their natural abilities to find the birds. No job was too big for these fantastic little dogs.
And as the day progressed the conversation flowed and the guns and beaters made a point of highlighting the missed opportunities and the memorable shots. It was clear everyone had come to enjoy themselves and shoot some good birds.
When the final horn was blown the guns, beaters and pickers headed back to the farmhouse lodge which was a welcoming place to return to after a shoot day. The spacious kitchen offered warmth and comfort with a wood burning stove and picturesque views across the countryside. A real feel of country living and an ideal venue to discuss our post-shoot activities. Food was plentiful, as was the wine and port. It’s hard to beat a deliciously home-cooked casserole and I loved feeling exhausted yet invigorated from a day in good company.
Throughout the day I felt a sense of value and being well looked after. I’m sure you’ll agree two essential ingredients for an enjoyable day in the field. There’s no doubt the 'big-family' ethos keeps this shoot successful. But it’s not just about the birds, it’s the people, the topography, the delicious cuisine and of course the dogs which are the heart of this shoot. A truly desirable package which in my mind reflects a perfect day in the field.
Photography by Lauren Norris who is currently studying a degree in BA Photography at Falmouth University. Lauren is creating a 'Rural Life' project as part of her degree and she hopes to transform her passion into a vocation. Please visit Laurennorrisphotography.com to view her fantastic portfolio of photography.
You can imagine the excitement today…my first commissioned published article in the Christmas issue of the Shooting Gazette. Absolutely delighted!
My article examines the best way to make sure a novice gundog has an enjoyable and productive day in the field without stepping on anyone’s toes. I hope you will really enjoy reading the article as much as I did writing it!
Wendy Bardsley talks to John Halstead a distinguished trainer with an exceptional record having qualified to compete at the IGL Retriever Championship every year since 1992. John has developed his training methods over the past 30 years and takes great pride and pleasure in producing fantastic dogs.
Who do you aspire to?
Now I’ve got to where I want to be in the gundog world I don’t aspire to anyone. I tend to be a leader rather than a follower but when I started gundog training I liked Alan Thornton, David Garbutt and obviously my Father. I watch these people and I'm impressed by what they do and you find out how to do it and over time you learn how to take it to the next level. I've always trained my own way right from the start. My Father encouraged me to find my own path.
Gundog training has moved on such a lot over the last 10 and 20 years. You come to places like the Game Fair and you’ll see people straight lining as they’ve learnt my methods and other people’s methods and the standard just gets better and better. At first you must have something to aim for but once you get to the top you’ve got to be a leader rather than a follower.
How do you stay at the top of your game?
Working hard. There’s no short cuts. Very rarely do I train with other people. 95% of my training I do on my own in a field for hours and hours. It’s similar to an Olympic athlete they don’t train to compete everyday. They work out in the gym, they get up on the bar, fall off, get back on, fall off and they work on that exercise until eventually they perfect it and master what they want to achieve. It takes time and you can’t do it training with others. When you’re ready you then go into the field with others to see if what you are trying to achieve works.
Many thanks to John for giving up his valuable demo time to Biddablebardsley at The Game Fair, Hatfield 2017.
My affectionate lab, Jack has a wonderful personality and he’s a perfect companion to have around the house. When I’m at my desk working I often find myself glancing down and whispering a few words to him. I see the tilt of his head, the look in his eyes, the wag of a tail and then a gentle nudge of a wet nose. The signs of a dog who has never wavered in being there for me. I never tire of his enthusiasm first thing in the morning, and his sheer excitement when he sees the lead, whistle or a training dummy. His unconditional love for the family is real and uncomplicated.
Jack is approaching 11 years old and he is walking a little slower these days. His back legs don’t work the way they used to. He sometimes gets confused when we go out on a walk and by the time we reach the woods he’s ready to go back home again. But his tail never stops wagging and his love for life is amazing. Jack’s patience was put to the test last Autumn when I came home with a 3 week old kitten which I had found in the roadside. The tiny creature was weak and hungry so after an emergency trip to the vets I brought it home to nurse. Immediately the kitten developed a close relationship with Jack, sharing his bed, curling up together for a nap. They developed an unlikely, loving relationship and the kindhearted lab has helped to nurse the abandoned kitten back to health.
Needless to say the scrawny bundle of fluff has become a firm member of the family and now happily rules the roost. Only this morning Jack pondered down the garden and collapsed on the grass for a morning snooze. As he stretched out and began to soak up the September sunshine the cat trotted up beside him and rubbed herself against his body. His tail started to wag and he lifted his head up slowly and gave her a gentle nudge of a wet nose.
Seeing the uncomplicated signs of a loving dog just makes my day…