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Mark Casley of Llanharan



A visit to Mark Casley of Llanharan, one of Wales’ Rising Stars

by Gareth Watkins

To refer to a fancier who has won a National race plus scores of club and Fed races as a rising star might seem to be underplaying the subject’s previous achievements. However, I firmly believe that the best is yet to come, as far as this likeable young fancier is concerned.

The 2007 season saw the Casley loft finish top in the local club with 10 x 1sts; 8 x 2nds; 10 x 3rds etc winning the old bird average; YB average; Overseas Average; Combined Average plus longest old bird race and longest young bird race. This success at club level was mirrored at Federation level flying with the highly competitive South West Glamorgan Fed where the Casely team picked up the Old Bird Average; Old Bird points; Young Bird points; Combined Points; Best Average Bonn old birds and Ramsgate young birds; Longest old bird and longest inland young bird race and European Average race Winner trophies. A total of 63 Fed prizes including 2 x1sts; 4 x 2nds & 3 x 3rds were taken during the season, winning from first race to last – pretty impressive pigeon flying by anyone’s standards.

Widowers loft and stock loft.

Possibly Mark’s greatest achievement in the sport thus far was the winning of 1st, 3rd, 4th & 11th Open National Maidstone young birds against a field of 4,677 birds. In this race the Casely team finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 5th Section National and 2nd, 4th, 5th, 14th, 42nd, 43rd & 44th open Combine with 10,499 birds competing. On looking through the list of performances of the Casely loft in recent years one thing stands out – and that is the fact that Mark rarely has to rely on one outstanding performer to keep the loft’s name at the top of the result sheet but rather a blanket finish by the team is usually the case. In the past couple of seasons alone the Casely loft has topped the SWG Fed on no less than 8 occasions and in most of these races Mark has clocked several other pigeons to finish in the top 10 at the same time. I could go on quoting top performances achieved by the loft in recent years as there are plenty more to highlight, however I think those that I have shown here are sufficient evidence of the ability of this enterprising young fancier.

The lofts are situated on an allotment along with those of a number of other local fanciers. There are three lofts which house the widowhood team; young bird team and stock birds. Louvres are extensively used in all three lofts and as a result the ventilation and internal environment of all lofts was first class. The widowhood loft measures 10 ft x 6 ft and houses the old bird team of just 16 widowers. These are mated in late January and are allowed to rear a round of youngsters and sit their second round eggs for a short while before going onto the widowhood system. Once on the system they are exercised twice per day when daylight hours permit and are simply locked out of the loft for an hour on each occasion. They are never forced to fly but are allowed to do as they please during the hour’s freedom. The usual practice in previous years has been to feed the widowers individually in their boxes, but in 2007 Mark decided to change things slightly and as a result fed the cocks communally, in a trough on the floor. Depurative is fed on return from a race up to Tuesday and from Wednesday onwards the cocks get 100% sport with the last couple of meals being fed to appetite. Brewers Yeast and vitamins are administered weekly being added to the food ration. The Casely timer in the difficult Oudenaarde race was treated as above and he went on to win 1st club, 1st section National, having previously won 1st Fed Epsom. This cock in turn is the nestmate of Mark’s Maidstone National winner being bred from an A.K.Davey Van Reet Cock and a Watkins, Son & Cockcroft Van Reet hen gifted to Mark by Gareth Watkins and the late Doug Cockcroft.

Mark and son outside their yb loft.

Young birds are raced on the darkness system. The babies go onto darkness from weaning until mid June when they are taken off the system and allowed normal daylight for the rest of the year. When racing, the youngsters are trained daily from 40 miles, usually early morning and are then exercised once per day in the evenings for one hour. They are raced weekly if fit right out to the longest inland race from Ramsgate 220 miles.

Stock birds are mated in mid January and the stock team is made up almost exclusively of Staf Van Reets from three main sources. These are A.K.Davey of Pontefract; Adrian Ware of Beddau and Watkins, Son & Cockcroft of Tonypandy , with a few Mark Caudwell’s thrown in for good measure. Judicious blending of these base bloodlines has produced a medium sized racer that can win from 60 miles through to 550 miles at all levels of competition.

Mark holding 1st sect National Oudenaarde, nestmate to 1st National Maidstone.

Mark works for a living and as such has to fit his time with the pigeons into a fairly hectic schedule. Without the help of “Twm” Green, a retired fancier who is at the loft to help out when needed, Mark’s work would be made all the more difficult. So take a bow Twm, your help is greatly appreciated.

That then is a brief pen portrait of a young fancier who is rapidly becoming one of Wales’ top performers. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I firmly believe that the best is yet to come from this extremely likeable and quietly spoken young fancier.