“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week Club.
The ‘Lion Brewery’ Midweek Club at Ash had another successful season racing off the south coast in 2019 and one of the main plus’s for me with the ‘Lion Brewery’ Midweek Club is they race mark on Wednesday morning for all Wednesday inland races and the birds can have a good 100 miles fly for only 80p each and not have a night in the basket. Great training for the long distance events! This 100 miles mid-week racing is proving to be a great help in getting pigeons ready for the main National and Classic events and ‘Lion Brewery’ members have figured high in several open results in the 2019 season, including Mick Worsfold winning the section in the BICC. The subs are £25.00 and all young fancier under 18 years of age don’t pay any sub, but pay the full price for their birdage each week. That’s another plus for the ‘Lion Brewery’ Midweek Club in my reasoning, is having Mick Worsfold as club secretary! Mick Worsfold is a ‘straight down the line’; no nonsense sort of gentleman and everything is spot on with him. We have been good friends for many years and must say it’s great to have him at the helm! Mick races his pigeons in partnership with his wife, Pauline, at their home in Bisley and their record Channel racing over the years is second to none, winning 1st open Combine (twice), 1st open British Barcelona Club (twice) and 1st open London & South East Classic Club (twice). Best wishes to our Pauline who had a knee job recently and out of action for about six weeks.
I had a chat with my ol’ mate Mick Worsfold recently and he outlined some news of the clubs 2020 season. The Mid-Week marks on a Wednesday morning (09.00 hrs to 11.00hrs) for an afternoon race from several south coast race points and in recent seasons has adopted a rule very good rule: ‘Bad weather, no mark, no race, no holdover and no unnecessary expense’. Mick tells me the club had a great 2019 season and only missed a few races through bad weather, but most clubs had some difficult races, especially the young birds. He is correct when he says, ‘I don’t know why, but sometimes we have bad races on good days, which is pretty general in our sport today. One major problem racing from our old Hamworthy race point was the birds had to fly right across the full length of the New Forest and the Sparrow Hawk and Peregrine Falcon attacks they had to suffer. The Mid-Week came out of Hamworthy for the 2018 racing season and now race from Salisbury and Wincanton’. Since Mick took over as the club secretary nine years ago the ‘Lion Brewery’ membership has risen from about 12 member to well over 50 members and on some races the birdage has been over 450 birds in the 2019 racing season. The birds are convoyed with the Bromley Mid-Week pigeons by Tom Firmanger on one of the BICC transports and the birds are liberated at about 14.30hrs.
The ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week 2020 race programme is: (Old Bird): 15th April Salisbury: 22nd April Salisbury: 29th April Wincanton: 6th May Wincanton: 13th May Wincanton: 27th May Honiton (Open Race): 3rd June Wincanton: 10th June Wincanton: 17th June Wincanton: 24th June Salisbury (any age): 1st July Salisbury (any age): 8th July Salisbury (any age): (Young Bird): 29th July Salisbury: 5th August Salisbury: 12th August Salisbury: 19th August Wincanton: 26th August Wincanton: 2nd September Salisbury: 9th September Salisbury.
The ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week recently held it’s AGM and Prize Presentation at the pub and all officers were re-elected the same as in 2019. The main issue to sort out at the meeting was the new Saturday racing section the club is starting up for the 2020 season. The Saturday section will be racing with the Surrey Federation (inland racing) and the UBI Combine (continental races). There will be additional subscriptions to pay for members who want to race in the new Saturday section and the ‘Lion Brewery’ will be running a clock and ETS station for all NFC, BICC and BBC National races. The Surrey Federation old bird inland races kick off on 4th April at Blandford and go through to Penzance and the young bird inland races start at Salisbury on 25th July. The UBI Combine 2020 race programme is: (Old Bird): 16th May Guernsey: 23rd May Honiton: 30th May Falaise: 13th June Le Mans: 27th June Poitiers: 11th July Falaise: 25th July Bordeaux: (Young Bird): 22nd August Guernsey (any age): 29th August Wadebridge: 12th September Carentan. The members would like to thank Mike and Lyndsey Armitage for allowing the club to use their wonderful premises at the ‘Lion Brewery’ PH. After the AGM the members present received free food and the prize presentation took place. Premier prize winners were: 1) Mick & Pauline Worsfold: 2) Mike & Lyndsey Armitage: 3) John Waldron: 4) George Burgess: 5) John Eastwood: 6) Tony Staley: 7) Gerry Francis: 8) Jim Jolly: 9) Tony Bradbury: 10) Joe Deville: 11) Woodhouse Brothers: 12) Jamie Berry: 13) Bill Carr & son: 14) Jim Harrison. The 2019 trophy winners were: Mike & Lyndsey Armitage: Old Bird Average: Young Bird Average: Combine Average: Show Cup: Mick & Pauline Worsfold: Old Hens Average: Points Shield: Jim Jolly: Novice Cup.
Mick and Pauline Worsfold were premier prize winners in the ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week in 2019 and won: 5 x 1st, 4 x 2nd, 5 x3rd and lifted two trophies. Their highlight of the 2019 season was winning 1st section BICC Guernsey (old hens). Racing old hens successfully has become a bit of specialty for Mick, scoring well up in National races most seasons. Mick and Pauline enjoyed another good racing season recently as he dose ever year, with a recent high light being the L&SECC Guernsey old hens race, when he had three birds come more or less together to record 11th, 12th and 14th open. First pigeon on the clock was Mick’s good blue hen, ‘Molli’, and she had previously won five firsts racing, including three in the very strong ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week Club. Jamie Berry of Egham gifts the Worsfolds a few youngsters from time to time to try out on the channel and ‘Mollie’ was one of a batch bred by Jamie. All three hens were raced well in that season, but rested for a month before the old hens races and after a couple of mid-week warm up races were sent to Guernsey sitting ten day old eggs.
Mick is mostly interested in channel racing, through to Palamos and is famous in the Surrey pigeon fraternity for his brilliant performances from France and Spain through the years. His birds are raced on the natural system and are fed a high protein mixture, with the longer Channel races in mind. Mick keeps about 20 pairs of racers, which are paired up any time after 14th February and although he used to have a few stock birds, he doesn’t bother keeping any these days. He says he tries to compete with the 50 youngsters he breeds each year, but he races young birds only really for educational purposes and some do race up to 200 miles, with yearlings racing through to Bergerac (450 miles). Mick is a great believer in sending young birds across the channel to France. He likes to give the youngsters as many training tosses as possible before their first race and the old birds have two 35 mile tosses every week, during the racing season. The youngsters are raced to the perch and Mick is not a liker of the ‘dark’ system, and told me, he would never use it. Mick buys his corn in bulk when it is at its cheapest and fed beans, peas and maize, with wheat replacing the peas in the winter. Red Band is used for trapping and linseed for the moult. Mick doesn’t show his birds much in the winter mouths, but does a lot of judging, which he enjoys very much. His favourite condition for birds being sent to the long races is sitting ten day old eggs. Most of the training is off the south coast, with the longer channel racing in mind and all the birds, old and young, get as many tosses as Mick and his wife, Pauline, can give them. For many years now Mick’s wife, Pauline, has been his pigeon partner and is a major factor behind his continuing success, with her help with training and the general loft management.
Mick Worsfold had always raced in partnership with his father, George, until his death in the early 1980’s. This was a very unsettling time for Mick and his family, but he decided to carry on with the pigeons although he had to travel several miles to George’s garden, where the lofts were sited. The partners certainly lived up to their nicknames, ‘The Bergerac Aces’, winning countless major prizes in the Combine and National events, including twice 1st open Combine Bergerac (450 miles). Their first Bergerac Combine win was in the SMT Combine in 1975, with 4,027 birds competing and the star bird was a 1973 bred blue chequer hen of the Kirkpatrick and Bricoux strain. This great hen previously won several top prizes, including 1st club Exeter, but pigeon racing being what it is, with ups and downs, she was lost from Pau. The main family was Kirkpatrick with Bricoux crosses, and he bought in the old fancied pigeon now and again to try out. A firm favourite at the Worsfold loft was a mealy cock called, ‘John Courage’, and what a great pigeon he was! He flew the channel over 20 times. In his prime he flew in five Nationals and was never beaten by a loft mate in those five races. This wonderful old timer was also an outstanding breeder, siring many good racers including a yearling which won 2nd club, 23rd open SMT Combine Bergerac. ‘John Courage’, on his many channel crossings chalked up many major positions including: 1st club, 3rd Federation, 5th open SMT Combine (7,003 birds) Avranches, 1st club, 3rd Federation, 5th open SMT Combine (4,234 birds) Niort, 8th section NFC Nantes and 1st club Guernsey.
The 1976 season saw the Worsfold partnership win the combine from Bergerac for the second time, but another highlight of that year was when they won 1st club, 1st Surrey Federation, 5th open SMT Combine (3,801 birds) Laval, with the blue chequer cock, ‘Vacation’. This Kirkpatrick / Bricoux was a brother to the 1975 Bergerac Combine winning hen. Behind every great racing team you normally find a good stock team and the Worsfold’s stock loft was no exception. At one time Mick turned down a very good offer for his Kirkpatrick red pied stock cock, ‘Sir Duke’, which was the sire of countless winners, including ‘John Courage’. The old Bricoux blue chequer cock, ‘Fall Guy’, was another great racer. When he was retired to stock, he bred ‘Vacation’ and the 1975 Bergerac combine winning hen. Mick said that George’s favourite pigeon was the grizzle Kirkpatrick stock cock, ‘Sidney’, bred by Sid Allcock, which had flown the channel 20 times in his racing career, but had excelled as a breeder. On the road he recorded: 1st club, 12th Federation (1,628 birds) Weymouth and 3rd club (beaten by two loft mates), 8th Federation, 40th open SMT Combine (4,003 birds) Bergerac. At stock he bred many winners, including, ‘Rowdy’, the 1978 Bergerac BTB Combine winner. The Kirkpatrick grizzle cock, ‘Rowdy’, in his build up to winning the combine that year he had six channel races. This champion cock’s full racing performance was 1st club, 1st Three Borders Federation, 1st open BTB Combine (1,852 birds) Bergerac, 1st club, 7th Federation Exeter, 4th club Angers, 6th club Niort and 27th open London & South East Classic Club.
The late George Worsfold had kept pigeons for many years, but at one time he had a long spell in hospital and young Mick had the job of looking after the birds. Mick was about 15 years old at the time and had to sell the pigeons because of a shortage of cash. Two years later, when things sorted themselves out, George and Mick started up again as partners. The original birds were Bricoux / Sion, which Mick obtained from Amos Foster of Chertsey and in the late 1960’s the Kirkpatricks were brought in from J. Johnson of Larne, Northern Ireland. Mick says he looked up to Les Davenport and the late Eric Cannon of Wormley as his ideal fanciers and maintained, if he had been to be second to any fancier in the National result, it would be Eric Cannon. He is 100% channel minded and maintains that if he couldn’t fly the channel, he would pack up pigeons, as inland racing doesn’t give him any thrill whatsoever.
Since George’s death, Mick has continued racing the Kirkpatricks with outstanding success, winning 1st Federation inland and many times from France. In recent seasons he has won 1st open British Barcelona Club (twice) and 1st open London & South East Classic Club (twice). Mick said that his loft is more or less all Kirkpatrick now, with the Bricoux greatly reduced. His 1985 1st open B.B.C. Rennes winner was the Kirkpatrick dark chequer hen, ‘Darkon’, which was a granddaughter of ‘John Courage’. The old mealy cock, Champion ‘John Courage’, was also the grandsire of the Kirkpatrick blue hen, ‘Wombat’, winner of 1st open L&SECC Guernsey in 1987. The following season this fantastic hen won 1st open L&SECC in the Poitiers Yearling Derby, which was a very hard race and her dam was a Kirkpatrick blue hen that chalked up 2nd open SMT Combine Nantes in 1986 for Mick.
Our Mick is one of the great workers in the sport and holds a list of offices, which he works very hard at. His jobs including President and Chairman of the Berkshire Federation, President of the Sunningdale RPC and Secretary and President of the ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week Club. He runs the ‘Lion Brewery’ like clockwork and the club has enjoyed some brilliant times in recent seasons under his good care and due to his hard work! He thinks the ETS is the way forward in our sport and he says it disappoints him to see the low birdage in some of the long distance races these days. He told me although his great champion ‘John Courage’ was a late bred, he has no real use for them and only breeds a few if he has had bad losses in the young bird season. Mick says the south of England has been the home of many brilliant pigeon flyers over the years including: Eric Cannon, Les Davenport and Bobby and Ken Besant, but the best of the modern day crop is his club mate, Mark Gilbert of Windsor.
Mick has been a good friend of mine for most of my time in the pigeon racing sport and he is a great guy. With Mick, a spade is a spade, and what you see is what you get. No flannel. There you have it, Mick Worsfold, a brilliant channel racer!
Mike and Lyndsey Armitage were the club’s runner up premier prize winners in 2019, winning 4 x 1st, 6 x 2nd and one 3rd. The ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week Club has its HQ at the ‘Lion Brewery’ PH set in the wonderful Surrey countryside at Ash and it is common knowledge that the pub has been run for over 40 years by the premier pigeon racing partnership of Mike and Lyndsay Armitage, who have won both the BICC and L&SECC in recent seasons. The pub is a marking station for the NFC and BICC, and has been the home of the ‘Lion Brewery’ Mid-Week Club since 1980. Mike’s wife, Lyndsay, has a great interest in the pigeons and works very hard for all the clubs who are based at the pub in Ash. The very smart lofts are sited in the pub garden and Lyndsay has her loft of all white racing pigeon in the garden of the Armitage’s house next door to the ‘Lion Brewery’.
Mike Armitage started up pigeon racing in his home town of Hull over 60 years ago and has been an outstanding fancier over the years, winning many premier racing honours, including: 10th open NFC Pau, the first ten positions in an open race and 1st open Federation many times. Years ago he liked sprint racing, but is now in to channel racing with the BICC and NFC. He has been a publican 50 years and has been 40 years at the ‘Lion Brewery’, a wonderful little pub set in the Surrey countryside at Ash. The ‘Lion Brewery’ is very much a pigeon pub, with several clubs being based there, including the British International Championship Club, which has been there at Ash for over 20 years. He told me when the BICC first came to the ‘Lion Brewery’ it had 164 member and now it has progressed up to over 1,600 members, which he maintains is full credit to a great management team. Mike has three lofts totalling 160 ft. smartly set in the pub garden and all the birds are trapped through open windows to the ETS system. Mike has in recent seasons erected a new loft in the pub garden and I must say it looks very smart. The main 50ft Belgium style racing loft was purchased from Johnny May of Worcester Park after his recent retirement from pigeon racing and is kitted out with slatted floors, Perspex roof lights, German up and over nest boxes and the ETS. The families raced are Fountainhead Janssens and Busschaerts, Roger Lowe’s Hartogs and the fantastic Marriotts obtained from John Grey of Hull in 1977. The Marriott pigeons have been outstanding for Mike over the years.
The ‘Lion Brewery’ Midweek club held its big annual open show at the pub in Ash the day after Boxing Day and in spite of very bad weather conditions on the day, the event was very well supported, with 150 birds being entered. Terry Haley and Peter Wells travelled down from Hertfordshire to judge the four classes, which were all handled. The quality of the birds entered in the show were first class and Terry told me it was very refreshing to handle the pigeons, with most open shows these days being through the wires, but this was not surprising, as whether it be racing or showing at the ‘Lion Brewery’, it’s always premier quality. Every one present at the event had something to eat curtesy of the club and a big thanks to Jim and Russ from setting up the room and erecting the show pens. Russ and Liz O’Cuneff had a shocking journey driving in the heavy rain from their home in Tilbury in Essex to compete in the show, but all the long holdups on the motorways were worth it in the end, as their entered some super pigeons and recorded ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Best Opposite Sex’, winning two of the four classes. Russ won ‘Best in Show’ at the ‘Lion Brewery’ Christmas Show in 2017 and on that day had big problems getting to the event with snow blocking the roads. Ted Burgess won the other two classes and with Russ O’Cuneff took most of the pool and prize money on the day. Other prize card winners were Bob Ockey, Malcolm Gaiter Jim Jolly and Mike Armitage, who won the clubs ‘Show Cup’.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).