Paul Arnold of North Cheam.
When Paul Arnold was in his Covid 19 self-isolation in the early part of 2020, he never dreamt that when he was finally let loose to race his successful team of pigeons, he would win a major National Flying Club race. Paul is a class act and has been one of the premier winning fanciers of the Surrey pigeon racing fraternity for many years. After having a good race and scoring: 16th and 27th open from the first NFC race from Fougeres, he sent a small team of five widowhood cocks to the second race from Messac (255 miles) and hit the ‘jackpot’. Paul clocked his good four year old blue cock, ‘True Faith’, in five hours six minutes to win 1st open National by nearly 30 ypm, with over 5,000 birds competing. Paul named his Messac National winner, ‘True Faith’, after a relative who had recently passed away and told me, that for day after the race was in the a dream world, coming to terms with fact that he had won the National. ‘True Faith’ was bred from one of Paul’s Staf Van Reet cocks and a Gaston van de Wouwer hen from Derek Nichols. This champion cock recorded 1st section E (639 birds), 1st open (5,097 birds) NFC Messac (255 miles) and has been retired to the stock loft. On Paul’s build up to winning the NFC, he won in the Three Borders Federation: 3rd Federation Honiton (925 birds), 13th, 23rd Federation Newton Abbot (846 birds), plus 1st club Wincanton. Paul is a member of the Esher & District RPC and all the members, including me, are very proud of his great achievement in winning the National Flying Club. Congratulations to Paul!
The Three Borders Federation were at Honiton for their fourth race of the 2019 season and members sent 822 birds, for what turned out to be a very fast race. Paul Arnold of the Esher club had a good race recording 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 17th Federation and our Paul had been ‘knocking on the door’ since the start of the season, previously winning: 15th, 24th Federation Blandford, 6th Federation Blandford (2), 11th Federation Yeovil. Members of the Esher & District RPC had won the Federation on the first four weeks of that season and a very special congratulation went out to Imran Malik and Atif Khan who had won the Federation on the first three weeks of the season, then on the fourth weekend won 1st open BICC Falaise. Brilliant pigeon racing! The last time Paul Arnold had won the Three Borders Federation was in 2016 and it was from Exeter with 1,197 birds competing. At the time when I asked Paul about his latest Federation winner, he said, ‘we call him ‘Larry’, as in Larry loner, because he always flies on his own and come time to get him in is always missing! He was my fifth pigeon the week before from Honiton and was 19th Federation. Funnily enough that week I mentioned to my wife that it would be interesting to see how he would come the following week from Exeter, because as when he was a youngster he seemed to get better the further he went. On the Thursday morning when it was time to get the cocks in from exercising, again he was missing but this time I thought the Peregrine had got him, as I had a hawk taken one of my youngsters the day before. But after an hour and forty minutes he came diving in up high from the north east, half a turn straight onto the board and in. Then on Saturday while we were waiting for the birds, five minutes before we expected them he appeared all on his own coming like a rocket bang on line, folded up, half a turn straight onto the board and in. If we'd had blinked we'd have missed him! I went up checked the ETS and as I came back down the garden said to my wife that I think Larry's just won the Fed! His breeding on his sire's side is my new family of pigeons, which are Gaston Van der Wouwers which we have spent a hell of a lot of money on, and is a grandson of ‘Rik’, a top breeding son of the amazing breeder of Gastons, ‘The Kaasboer’, who is responsible for many Provincial, National, car winners and ‘ace’ birds in Belgium. Several birds were purchased by us in 2013 direct from Van der Wouwer's sale in Belgium via Pipa. The dam is a mealy Staf Van Reet hen from my old ‘Santa Vosse’ bloodlines. I’m quite hopeful that together with my old family that these new ones are going to make an impact as my winner in the first race from Blandford was also a Wan der Wouwer’.
Paul Arnold’s present loft is a converted brick built double garage and the building was converted in the winter of 2003 by Paul and his good friend Barry Jarvis. The conversion work took a lot of planning, but says he has got it virtually right and the air flow in the loft is excellent. He has always raced on the widowhood system, but for some seasons has raced what he calls a double widowhood, racing both cocks and hens. Paul tells me returned back to conventional widowhood for the 2009 racing season. The widowhood team is normally made up with 16 cocks and 16 hens which are mated to the stock cocks. The feeding is varied, depending on the conditions and Paul mixes his own corn so can vary from one week to the next. The widowhood racers are sometime shown their mates on marking night, depending on the type of race and most of the birds are expected to race from Bergerac (450 miles). He never repairs the racers for the longer races and says he has tried it in the past and it has always been a complete disaster. Although he repaired ‘Victor’ in 2011 to win the Combine from Bergerac, but this was a one off! On their return from the race the cocks get their hens for as little as ten minutes at the start of the season, but on really hard races they may stay together over night. The old birds will be given two or three training tosses at the start of the season, if in the weeks prior they are flying well around the loft and then after a couple of inland club races they are ready for racing out of France. In the 2007 season they were exercising around the loft really badly, but came out and won: 1st section E, 2nd open NFC Alencon, 3rd open L&SECC Alencon, 16th open L&SECC Tours, 5th open Combine Truro, 6th, 18th open L&SECC Guernsey (young bird) and 2nd, 6th open L&SECC Guernsey (old hens). Well, that’s pigeons for you! Paul told me, if they are flying well at home not much training is done through the season.
The Arnold loft houses 16 pairs of stock birds and Paul likes to line breed to his two champion base cocks, ‘Santa Vosse’ and ‘The Governor’. He normally keeps between 40 and 50 young birds each season and these are fed on Breeding Mixture for the first few weeks after weaning, and then are switched on to a lighter mixture for training and racing. He raced on the darkness in the 1990’s, but has now dropped the system, maintaining that by flying natural the babies roam for hours right up to the last races in September. With this natural method he says he can keep the training of his youngsters to a minimum and his first tosses is from 30 miles. His young birds get very few tosses, but are very soon up to the 70 miles stage, where they get four chucks before the first Federation race and he gets very few losses. Paul says he has only got one young bird section, so finds it a bit hard to motivate them with the lack of space and like to send then over the English Channel as many times as he can. If he could he would send them over to Guernsey or France every weekend, as in the main he is no longer interested in Saturday Federation racing and his main interest now being in the NFC and L&SECC young bird events. Paul likes to leave his birds together in the winter months and only parts them about four weeks before pairing up.
The super Paul Arnold / Staf Van Reet pigeons are winning premier prizes for many other fanciers in the UK, including several top performers in the Epsom loft of his good friends, Colin Crook & Andy Iddenden. Colin and Andy’s 2010 Yelverton SMT Combine winner was their ‘darkness’ Staf Van Reet blue chequer hen, ‘The Combine Hen’, and she was bred from stock birds obtained from Paul Arnold. Her sire is their good dark pied cock, ‘Keith’, and he is a grandson of Paul’s champion breeders, ‘Santa Vos’ and ‘The Guvnor’. She was a member of Crook & Iddenden’s 50 bird strong young bid team in 2010 and had one Federation and the two L&SECC Guernsey races on her build to her Combine win. She was never paired up and flew natural to the perch. A nice twist the story is she was lost off top of the loft when very young and returned home with an orange plastic ring on her leg, just before training started. Colin says he has never taken the ring off and she still wears it today! Paul’s record for breeding winners for other lofts is brilliant! Paul’s loft is dripping in quality and on my recent visit to his home in North Cheam we looked at several top performers, one of the best being his good blue chequer Staf Van Reet cock, ‘Champion 42’. This handsome cock is now retired after a fantastic racing career winning five times 1st club, 1st Federation Yeovil, 3rd Federation Weymouth and flew the English Channel 27 times, and never had a night out. He recorded eleven positions in the first thirteen of the open Combine result and as a six year old won 2nd Combine La Ferte Bernard, being beaten on decimal. ‘42’ has several premier prizes in the NFC and L&SECC, and in the very last race recorded 2nd section, 3rd open L&SECC Bergerac (450 miles). A fantastic all round Staf Van Reet!
Paul Arnold has probably one of the best lofts of all round Staf Van Reets in Europe today, winning a long list of premier positions in the Three Borders Federation in the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons, including 1st SMT Combine Bergerac (450 miles), with him clocking his sole entry on the day and 2nd SMT Combine Messac. His performance from the longest old bird race Bergerac was what dreams are made of; he sent one pigeon and won the Three Borders Federation and SMT Combine by a country mile! I think I’m correct in stating that Paul’s Combine winner had the best velocity of any pigeon liberated in Bergerac that day, also beating the London & South East Classic Club and the Central South Classic Flying Club. An absolutely fantastic performance! The Bergerac Combine winner was Paul’s two year old Grizzle cock, ‘Victor’ and he is a Staf Van Reet / Roland Janssen cross, with his sire being a top performer at the Arnold loft, in the form the ‘19’ cock. This super Staf Van Reet cock has won many premier positions including: seven times 1st club, 2nd Federation (twice), 3rd Federation and is a grandson of Paul’s champion breeder, ‘The Governor’. Paul had trouble motivating the Combine winner, ‘Victor’, in the first half of the 2011 season, but a week before the Tours race hen lost his hen and took up with a new mate in a different nest box. After that he never looked back, being sent to Bergerac for his Combine win driving his hen to nest. The super Paul Arnold / Staf Van Reet pigeons are winning premier prizes for many other fanciers in the UK!
The Arnold family has been very successful pigeon racers in the South London and Surrey areas for many years, with several brothers and their sons all winning in major competition. They are truly an outstanding pigeon racing family! Paul Arnold of North Cheam has been a premier pigeon racer in the Surrey area for many years and I’m amazed that we had never met until 2008, when he first came to my Claygate home to have his London & South East Classic Club winning hens photographed for an article. He is a great lad and we had a great chat about our sport, which lasted for nearly four hours. He is a very interesting fancier to talk to, as he is very knowledgeable about racing and breeding pigeon and has some very strong view about the sport. I was convoying in 2008 and just like our first L&SECC Guernsey classic flown in August of that year, the early weather reports suggested a hold over for our second Guernsey race in September, but my weather man, Steve Appleby, and I put our heads together and found a good window in the weather to produce an excellent race. On the race day morning there were light showers in the English Channel and I anticipated that with the very strong south west wind these would not bother the birds on their homeward journey. We cut the strings and liberated at 07.50 hrs and the 1,800 plus birds in the convoy cleared Guernsey instantly. Paul Arnold won the old hens classic (223 birds) with his fantastic Staf Van Reet widowhood hens and chalked up a brilliant 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 39th open. Paul sent 14 hens in brilliant condition to Guernsey and had two drop together, clocking his first bird at 10.01hrs. His Guernsey classic winner was his yearling widowhood Staf Van Reet blue chequer pied hen, ‘The 27 Hen’, and she recorded 44th open in the first Guernsey classic in August. The hen that I was most impressed with was the beautiful red chequer Staf Van Reet ‘26’ and she has been a member of Paul’s widowhood hens team for several seasons, recording 2007: 2nd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 6th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 2008: 3rd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH). She is one brilliant hen! The Arnold loft also recorded 12th open in the young bird Guernsey classic (1,599 birds) and Paul tells me that pigeon, a Staf Van Reet cock, has gone on and won 1st club, 6th Three Borders Federation (993 birds) Yelverton (179 miles) since his classic success. The Arnold loft recorded 1st, 2nd, 3rd South Downs Club, 6th, 7th, 8th Three Borders Federation on the day. A brilliant family of Staf Van Reet racers!
Paul was born in Wandsworth and being born in to a really big pigeon racing family became interested in the sport at a very young age. When he was a youngster in the 1970’s he raced with his father and brother in the Mitcham club, but was a very keen footballer and played most Saturdays and Sundays through the season. In the 1970’s Terry Goodsell dominated the Mitcham club and the young Paul always wanted to emulate him, and finally did in the 1990’s, winning everything at Federation and Combine level. After a break from the sport Paul returned in the late 1980’s and raced with his brother, Gordon, for a short time, before going it alone with a few late breds in 1989. Paul’s first club, which is the same one he races in today, is the South Downs in Epsom and his first loft was a brick structure at the bottom of the garden. His brother started him up with a nice kit of Louella / Verheyes and Paul won his very first race from Blandford with a thirteen week old blue chequer pied hen, which also recorded 5th Federation (4,500 birds). He maintains the Verheyes were good pigeons and they won a lot of races, but when he introduced the Staf Van Reet pigeon it was obvious that they were not in the same class. Since Paul says, ‘over the years I have found there are many fads and fallacies involved with pigeon racing, but I’ve always done my own thing, sometimes it’s been right and sometimes wrong, but I’ve always learnt from it’. Paul has raced on his own for over 20 years and has won it all! He has won the Federation many times through the years and lifted many Federation average trophies, including the London Federation O.B. Inland Average in 2006. His fantastic Staf Van Reet pigeons have excelled in Combine Channel race over the years and have won: 1st, 2nd, 3rd open Combine Messac (three hens), 1st open Combine Le Ferte Bernard and 1st open Combine Sennen Cove. When I asked Paul about his family of pigeon he said, ‘I’ve had the Staf Van Reets for about 19 years now and they really are fantastic pigeons to race, and as I’ve always stated they are so good they make me look good. They are outstanding in any weather and any wind, but are especially good in head winds and, on hard days. I’ve tried many other families of pigeons against them in the past few years and none have come close to their excellent performances. I have been very lucky to own several ‘once in a life time pigeons’, but the two supreme pigeons are the base of my loft, in the form of the two Staf Van Reet Champions ‘Santa Vosse’ and ‘The Governor’. Champion ‘Santa Vosse’ is responsible for literally hundreds of winners all over the world, including many multiple winners of 15 up to 18 times 1st club. ‘The Governor’ is still alive today at 18 years old and is responsible for countless winners, including at least 80 Federation, Combine, Amalgamation and National winner’. A wonderful family of Staf Van Reet pigeons!
Paul was a self-employed plasterer and sometimes when he is very busy at work, his wife, Helen, and his then ten year old daughter, Charlotte, were an enormous help to him with the pigeons. He says, although they are not really interested in pigeons they will help out and do anything around the loft. He would be lost without them! Every year Paul gets many phone calls from fancier who are winning with his pigeons, in spite of not being a seller of many birds. It gives him a great sense of pride to produce so many winning pigeons for other fanciers, especially when he has only a small set up and keeps only a few birds. Paul loves middle distance channel racing up to 450 miles with the Classic and National and maintains he is no longer really interested in club racing. He told me his biggest thrill was in the early 1990’s when he realised how good his Staf Van Reet pigeons were and they were taking the first six positions in the club, and peppering the Federation result. When I asked Paul if he held any offices in the sport his reply was, ‘No none! Although I have held offices in the past, I am not the least bit interested in the politics of the sport and just want to enjoy my sport in my back garden’.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)