Lancashire prepares to host its first English National Sheep Dog Trials for fifty years
PUBLISHED: 12:42 11 June 2012 | UPDATED: 12:11 28 February 2013
Forget the Olympics, Lancashire will be hosting a prestigious summer sporting event that's not been held in the county for almost 50 years. Emma Mayoh reports<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
They say every dog has its day. In a few months, on Swine Cragg field near Over Kellet, there will be hundreds of sheep dog handlers willing this to be true as they take part in the English National Sheep Dog Trials.
The event, the highlight of the countrys sheep dog events calendar, has not been held in Lancashire since 1966. But determined handlers Tom Huddleston and Richard Hutchinson persuaded fellow Lancastrian and current English president of the International Sheep Dog Society, Timothy Longton, to host the competition in the county.
Tom said: We are very proud of what we achieve, certainly in this part of Lancashire. We are very proud of our heritage and thats very much to do with the number of dog breeders and competitions. Its about time we have the trial back here.
There is a lot of pride at stake; we want to put on a good event and we feel the pressure to succeed. We want to do a good job and create something Lancashire can be proud of. It will take a lot of hard work but Im confident we can do it.
Tom and Ricky, along with a small number of volunteers, are organising the trials to take place on August 2nd-4th. There will be 150 dogs competing for one of the top 15 places on the team that will represent England at the International Sheep Dog Trials later this year in Cardiff.
The popular event is expected to attract a high pedigree of big names in the dog handling community, including the Longtons, who have run dogs for four generations, as well as the Cropper family, a name synonymous with the pursuit. Richard will also take part along with Tom, whose family has three generations of dog handling. His dogs also go back generations down the Udale breed line.
Tom said: Lancashire and Cumbria are very well known for their top quality sheep dogs and dog handling families. There are a lot of competitors from around here who love taking part.
In 1966 a third of the entrants in the national trial were from Lancashire and Cumbria and at last years event the numbers were still this high.
This area is a place with a lot of sheep on the hills which means you need a lot of dogs to work them. Without good dogs you just cant do it.
This is why there is such an interest and high standards in this area. We expect the Cropper and Longton families to have a presence in that top 15.
Tom, a retired psychiatric nurse, has been running dogs since he was a young boy. He had a break from it during his early career but it was when he saw a man training a dog on the fields near his home in Brookhouse, near Lancaster, that he picked up the sport again. He also now trains and coaches other peoples dogs.
He learned his skills from his father, Harry, who competed at numerous trials during the 40s and 50s, including in New Zealand. He was also the English Champion in 1972 with sheep dog, Sim.
All eyes will also be on Ricky, who was taught by Tom and has already had competition success. The 30-year-old, who has also worked at Chatsworth Estate, uses sheep dogs sweep and Roy to farm his land at Littledale.
He has twice won the English doubles a part of the competition where two dogs are run at once and has won twice at the international tournament, making him the current International Brace Champion. Hes also been in the singles team four times at the international event and has appeared on One Man and his Dog on several occasions.
He said: I first handled a dog when I was eight and my dad has always had dogs around. I love working with them and getting to know their character and I couldnt work the land without them.
Id love to be able to get in those top 15 places but I also want it to be a great event. Bringing the national competition to Lancashire is a great honour. I didnt realise how much work it would be but it will all be worth it.
We want to make sure local handlers feel proud of the event and we want lots of people, not just people taking part, to come along and learn more about it and enjoy themselves.
The English National Sheep Dog Trials will take place on August 2nd-4th. For more information visit www.englishnationalsheepdogtrials.org.uk
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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