A novice and open test on the fenlands of Cambridgeshire by Paul Rawlings
The Ely and District Wildfowlers’ Association held its annual charity gundog working tests at Frank’s Farm on the outskirts of March, Cambridgeshire, by kind permission of Michael Deptford and D H Deptford Farms Ltd, on May 27. This venue is very well known for being the home of David and Sarah Deptford’s Sovereign Quarter Horses, whom I have previously enjoyed watching at the CLA Game Fair. The open farmland was very typical of the Fenland area with large arable fields surrounded by deep dykes and drains, all part of the Fenland ecosystem.
However, in recent years 25 large wind turbines have changed the landscape somewhat but in this area they are such a common sight now that their presence has almost become insignificant. None of the dogs taking part seemed at all fazed by the revolving blades or indeed the sound as the wind freshened.
I have judged here at a previous event and so was delighted to accept once again. I was joined by John Iacono and, with only a few days notice, Stuart Rippon who had stepped in when the other scheduled judge pulled out.
On the previous Monday we met the EWA secretary Derek Robinson who is responsible for organising the event and looked over the ground that was available for setting the tests. Derek is also the association’s press and public relations officer. Nearly every field was bright yellow with rape exuding its distinctive aroma; other crops, such as sugar beet, were only just showing and the grassland was very high. These factors limited what we were able to set; however, the river Nene and several grassy headlands and carriageways gave us plenty of scope for a variety of exercises.
There were novice and open dogs entered to compete at three different tests in the morning. The team scores would just be the accumulation of the individual scores of each team member, so even if they did score a zero on one of the tests the rest of their score would count towards the team total.
We set each of the three tests so that it could be adapted easily for novice or open dogs with just minimal changes to the location and type or order of the retrieves. Test 1 consisted of a marked retrieve from over the far bank of a section of the river Nene for the novice dogs and then an unseen from the same area was a more exacting test for the open dogs. Test 2 was a mark and a blind, in that order, for the novices and then a more difficult blind over a reed and water-filled ditch with a memory retrieve to follow for the open competitors. Test 3, which I judged, had the added complication of an elasticated rabbit crossing the open dogs’ path when they were on the way for a blind retrieve having already completed a marked retrieve over a ditch. The novices had a double marked retrieve from the spring wheat field.
The test was set and judged using Kennel Club regulations as a guide but as it was in aid of charity the association put no restriction on the breeds of dog that could enter. Although the majority were black Labradors, there was one Springer, a Flat-coated Retriever, a couple of Goldens and a lurcher. Incidentally the lurcher called Nell belonging to Nick Rollings was one of the better novice dogs on the day, gaining 47 out of 60 points and narrowly missing the cut for the novice stake run-off.
Although one or two of the handlers were regular competitors many were having a go for the first time and the nerves were certainly evident at times.
By lunch Great Yarmouth WA (scored out of a possible 240 points) were five points ahead of their nearest rivals Gameflight Training Club with Blackwater WA’s second team in third position. After lunch when we had totalled up the individual scores, five novice and two open dogs were called back to run-off for the various places. The open dogs were required to retrieve a long distance mark from cover afforded by the spring wheat; however there was a deep ditch to cross on the way out.
Paul Crowder received a sustained round of applause from the gallery when his dog Bill succeeded after Simon Wade’s Jet had unfortunately failed. We had stretched both dogs to the point of failure and therefore Jet was not eliminated at this stage of the competition but still featured in the awards having previously done some outstanding work. However, unbeknown to the gallery at this time, we already had got our open winner ‘on ice’ with a perfect score of 60 out of 60!
The novices had to retrieve a dummy that, after a shot, was thrown across a deep water filled drain to land on the corner of a rape field. When all five dogs had run we put the judging books together and there were only two points separating the first three dogs, such was the quality of their performances. EDWA chairman Joe Cooper presented the prizes and the winner of the novice test was presented with the Ken Gandy Memorial Trophy.
Following the test I asked Derek about Ken Gandy and this is his account: "Ken Gandy was a founder member of EDWA in 1956 when the club was formed. Ken ran a gun accessories and game dealership in Ely until retiring and died shortly afterwards. Ken always supported the club. When non-toxic shot became compulsory he obtained the club’s usage at cost price for the members for the first few years. When he retired (albeit he only had about a year and a half of retirement) he used to run his black Labrador in our test as a novice entry.
"During the war years he served as a rear gunner in Wellington Bombers and was shot down over Germany. All the crew survived the landing and got out of the aircraft in one piece. Ken suggested they run for it and live off the land as the Germans closed in on them. So Ken and the pilot ran for it and the other crewmen gave themselves up. Ken and the pilot evaded capture for several weeks before being picked up by the French resistance and smuggled back to England.
"All the crew wrote a combined book on what happened with each crewman contributing a chapter. Sadly I don’t know what it is called because if I did, I would have got a copy.”
If any readers do know of this book’s title then please let me know so that I can try and help Derek source a copy.
The Novice: The Ken Gandy Memorial Trophy
1 Tony Wakelin and Bonnie (Labrador bitch), St Neots, Huntingdon.
2 Paul Crowder and Reg (Labrador dog), Wisbech, Cambs.
3 Richard Ward and Oscar (Labrador dog), March, Cambs.
1 Keith Bedford and Kim (Labrador bitch), Manea, Cambs.
2 Paul Crowder and Bill (Labrador dog), Wisbech, Cambs.
3 Simon Wade and Jet (Labrador dog), Backwater, Essex.
Team Event for the Derek Robinson/EDWA Team Trophy
Winners: Great Yarmouth Wildfowlers (Team Captain Billy Fosdick) Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Runners-up: Gameflight Gundogs Training Club (Team Captain Haley Drew) Friday Bridge, Cambs.
Congratulations to the EDWA and Derek as the event raised over £100 and Derek topped it up to £120 which will be presented to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Your news or views please to Paul Rawlings KCAI (WGA) by email firstname.lastname@example.org.