GWENT GREATER DISTANCE CLUB
Reports by Gareth Watkins
Mr & Mrs Gordon Mears - 1st PAU
The 2007 Pau race proved to be a difficult affair with no day birds clocked into Wales. However the highly successful Caerleon partnership of Gordon and June Mears clocked their game little three year old hen at 5.45 am on the second morning to win 1st GGDC and 2nd Open WSRNFC only being beaten for the premier National prize by Johnny Gauvain’s terrific racer up at Maerdy in the Rhondda Valley. This latest success at distance racing follows on the back of many previous top class performances put up by the Mears over recent years. Gordon and June are previous winners of 1st National Lerwick when they clocked their good blue hen Lonesome Lass to be the only bird in race time in the 2001 smash. This terrific performance was followed in 2002 with 1st WSRNFC San Sebastian, so you can see that the Mears are no strangers to success at the distance. Add to these 3rd& 4th National Lerwick; 6th & 15th National Earl’s Palace, Orkneys; 11th National Thurso and 12th National Pau, all in the past 10 years and you have a pretty impressive long distance C.V.
The Pau winner proved to be a medium sized chequer hen, which in fact was bred by club mate Wyn Llewellyn. She has been raced on both north and south routes, as are most of the race team, and in 2006 flew Bergerac approximately 500 miles south. In 2007 she was raced lightly to Picauville and Tours 350 miles before being set up for the Pau race siiting 12 day eggs.
Gordon and June winter just 32 birds and this includes the 4 pairs of stock birds. All birds have to earn their perch as the Mears keep no prisoners. Yearlings are expected to fly 400 miles with two year olds and older going to the extreme distance of 600 - 750 miles. During my visit I handled the partners’ single entries for Palamos and Barcelona which had both returned just out of race time. Gordon’s philosophy is a simple but effective one. Get them fit and send them to a long distance race and hope that if you get two back they are a cock and hen! Then mate those two together.
The main bloodlines housed are Brian Kaid Staf Van Reets; Ray Strawbridge Jan Aardens; Billy Thomas’s “Old Blood”; Louella Van Hees and Jan Aardens and some Dale Newcombe bloodlines via Mr & Mrs Everard of Skegness. These have been mixed up and tested at the distance to produce the present day team. One pair in particular has done really well and this is a son of Brian Kaid’s Thurso National winner paired to a Jan Aarden hen from Ray Strawbridge. This pair has produced winners through to 600 miles including the 2002 San Sebastian National winner.
The main racing loft measures just 14ft x 7ft facing east north east. This three-sectioned loft has ventilation at the front and back and houses the modest team of 12 pairs of old birds. The thirty or so youngsters reared each year are housed in a separate loft which faces south south west. Both old and young birds enjoy a semi wild existence as they have an open loft for most of the daylight hours throughout the spring summer and winter. All birds have access to a hopper of food, which is kept topped up at all times. The long distance candidates are also “blown up” by the addition of extra maize and conditioning seed in the build up to their long distance target races. Gordon’s aim is to have his entries “fit and well rested”. The birds are treated as individuals and each has its race programme mapped out for it at the start of the season. Mated in mid to late February, the old bird team are allowed to rear a round of young birds and enjoy an open loft to come and go as they please. By the time racing starts the old birds have had the cob webs blown away and are ready for a few preparatory tosses before being entered in a couple of inland races. They are then sent to some of the shorter channel races and Gordon likes his long distance candidates to have a 6 – 8 hour fly as final preparation for the task in hand. Every effort is then made to get the candidates in their favourite nest condition before entry into their target race. The birds are allowed an open loft and are left alone to come into form naturally with just voluntary exercise augmented by the occasional 20 mile single up toss, if Gordon thinks an individual pigeon needs it.
Lonesome Lass, the Lerwick National winner.
The young bird team are given an initial toss at 15 miles north and then go 10 miles east and 20 miles south across the Bristol Channel in successive tosses. They are never let go in batches but are released in twos and threes to minimise the risk of a hawk attack decimating the team. They therefore learn to think for themselves from an early stage. The Lerwick National winner Lonesome Lass was just such an individual as when singled up she would immediately land on the nearest high building and remain there for some time before striking off for home. Many is the time that Gordon took his grandchildren to Barry Island and released the hen on her own only for her to make for the top of one of the fairground rides. She would still be there when Gordon, June and the grandchildren were making their way home some time later. She would however, invariably be safely back in Caerleon by the time the Mears arrived home.
NO TREATMENTS WHATSOEVER have been administered to the birds for the past six years. They are nevertheless treated annually for paramyxo virus as per Union rules. The only weekly additions to the birds’ diet are cider vinegar, yoghurt and an iron tonic with Milton added to the drinking water once per week at the rate of 5mls to 5 pints of water. Simple, basic good management which when applied to good pigeons of sound constitution produces consistently good long distance performances.
To finish on a personal note – it’s good to see Gordon and June continuing to enjoy success in the sport as they are both tireless workers in their local clubs, specialist clubs , classics and Nationals. Wherever there is work to be done then Gordon and June are usually there doing it Congratulations both on your top class performances.