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More Alive J Clements 13-07-18

More Alive


John Clements.


I had a tiring day on Sunday. The day consisted of getting up at, doing what I had to do at home and then visiting two lofts in the company of David Fox of Bakewell. Both lofts had notable performance pigeons in the recent NFC Tarbes race which, everyone who takes an interest in races of this kind will know, was as hard a Tarbes race as there has ever been with only six percent returns in the whole race.

The first loft was that of Steve  Redfern and sons of Derby but more of that later when I do my annual report of NFC Certificate of Merit pigeons.



Terry Lowndes

On the way back from Derby we called in at Fenny Bentley on the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton Road to visit the loft and absorb the atmosphere of Terry Lowndes and his menagerie of sheep - pony  - chickens and of course pigeons.

The reason we visited Terry was to celebrate and have a look at a really remarkable pigeon and if it is possible get behind what really happened when Terry’s pigeon not only topped her section but  must have flown many  miles entirely on her own to get home at  by 18.41 in the evening on the winning day. This hen  flying 682 miles was 16th open when the overall  winner flew 538 miles, 144 miles less.  If we are fair we must take into account the fact that she  was flying against the wind in sweltering conditions for many miles.

Terry Lowndes holding his 16th open NFC Tarbes hen. The Atrill trophy winner for the first bird into Derbyshire and it is

hoped she will eventually be awarded an RPRA award for her performance.


A remarkable achievement and a remarkable pigeon. Pigeons that do this kind of performance are in fact  more alive - more healthy  and more confident than they have felt in their entire life. The combination of circumstances that lead to such a situation  cannot be pre arranged to order. The process is too complicated and too little understood for that to happen. The only thing possible is to set the conditions that may bring extraordinary sporting achievements about then leave the rest to fate or the eternal stuff of a higher order.


Bringing everything down to earth I should think ’041’ should certainly be nominated and awarded an  RPRA Long Distance Award but that will be left to others to judge.


Close to Nature

There is a feeling of being close to nature about the whole Lowndes set up. Indeed it goes much further than a worship of the hidden ways of nature there is another  hidden feeling of being almost afraid of diverting from it lest nature reasserts itself and bites you in the butt. The Terry Lowndes method  is to be completely without any kind of modern pigeon system and to be more inclined to copy  the way of migrating birds that complete their two or three thousand  mile annual migration  without human intervention or help.

The view from behind the Lowndes loft across the wide valley that eventually joins with the famous Dove Dale of ‘Isaac Walton’ fame.


There is a sporting lust for speed in pigeon racing  these days but there is yet another vital aspect to our sport that hardly gets any notice - the business of reliable homing without  which there would be no race at all.  This is where the alternative strategy  of leaving it to nature and to allow the pigeons to do their own thing, then  comes into its own. This policy has enabled Terry to win his NFC YB section a total of 5 times  so obviously reliable homing is connected to this nature thing  but most think any hint of being spiritual or going back to nature is a sign of a poor fancier who cannot get his pigeons to fly fast. . There are many who would rather die than lose control, that is why they avoid difficult races.


The Inner Self

Of course to do this spiritual sort  of thing you have to have top quality pigeons in tune with nature and the local environment that lends itself to the ‘natural’  which feeds the ‘inner self’ of both the fancier and the pigeon.   Terry's loft at the back of his house is ideal - it looks out over a wide valley of pastures and distant trees that once was an old railway line transporting stone as well as farming produce. His environment is perfect for he can see his team of young birds enjoying their flying strength and playing in the wind miles away on the distant hillside.



Friendship also plays a part

Getting to the point of our visit. The Lowndes Tarbes Pigeon. She is a three year old Cheq White Flighted hen bred wonderfully well. Her sire  was a pigeon  raced by Colin Shinwell of Bakewell also in Derbyshire. Colin is a great friend of Terry. This pigeon was 15th open Tarbes but more to the point she was off the original Lowndes bloodlines of E Newcombe of Macmerry in Scotland that are the foundation of the Fenny Bentley success.


The Dam -  a hen that had been 48th Open Tarbes and many more Tarbes positions flying 682 miles was also of the foundation Newcombe Flying Festival blood.


Over the years this blood has delivered many good open positions from either Tarbes or Pau for instance 52nd - 116th - 138th - and 250th Open.



On the run  up to the Tarbes race ‘041- went missing for two days from a shorter race from Caranten. This on the face of it was bad news because Terry did not think he had enough time to get her down on eggs again. With this in mind he shut her in her box away from the cock to prevent her laying. This did not work - she laid and when her cock was reintroduced both immediately began sitting tightly as if nothing had happened. ’041’ was sent to Tarbes sitting only 5 days. Obviously what appeared to be a mistake turned out to be beneficial adding yet another incentive for her to get home at all costs. We often find getting into the mind of a pigeon and beginning to think like them is difficult but that should not deter us from trying. They are after all a different species and one that thinks differently.


The role of the Grandson

As many of us who are now getting on in years,  Terry included - he has to thanks his grandson (Hartley) for the help he gives to the whole enterprise. It was Hartley who first noticed the Tarbes hen when she returned. There is a bit of Comedy about the whole affair for Terry was taking a shower at the time and when Hartley shouted “Terry  come” “there is a Tarbes pigeon on the loft” -  Terry thought he was playing his tricks again but this time he was right so Terry had to exit the shower - towel himself down - put on a pair of trousers and time the pigeon. Often memorable events in life seem to have some comic spluttering urgency about them which grows over the generations with repeated telling of the story.


Terry would also  like to thank Jim Bates the stalwart clock setter of Asbourne Flying Club. Jim has been a huge  assistance over the years especially when the long races come around and he puts himself out to record a lone pigeon in the clock station often  late at night.   Without such men the sport would not survive.

My whole experience of visiting Fenny Bentley and being able to later write my thoughts about a rare distance pigeon performance in such a hard but prestigious race has been an enormous pleasure. It is this kind of thing I hope will rub off on my readers and perhaps hint that there is more to pigeon racing than is on the surface. Winning is only a small part of the enjoyment. We are lucky our sport has so much more to offer and in its way keeps us all more alive because of it.