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Dennis Ward of Epsom Forty Years On!

“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.

 

Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 22).

 

Dennis Ward of Epsom Forty years on!

 

The members of London & South East Classic Club sent 1,264 birds to Cholet at the end of June 2006, for their first race from France after the ‘bird flu’ ban was lifted. On hearing that Dennis Ward, a fellow Esher club member had won the race, I gave him a phone call to see if he fancied a write up to record his latest success. I’m shocked to say that Dennis and I go back 40 years, to when I wrote up his BBC Rennes winner in 1977. When I was sorting out the photos for this article I was amazed that I’ve now been photographing pigeons for over 40 years, with Dennis’ ‘Stormy Lady’ being one the first champions I ever snapped. Where has the time gone?

 

The London & South East Classic Club took its new transporter to France for the first time and I must say the birds returned in ‘mint’ condition, which is full credit to the classic convoyers. The convoy was liberated at 06.00hrs in to a North East wind and a good hard race resulted, with a few empty perches at the member lofts that night.

 

Dennis Ward won the race with his two year old Staf Van Reet blue chequer pied hen, ‘Marilyn’s Girl’, named after his wife Marilyn, and she was sent to Cholet sitting 12 day old eggs. It was a double success for the Ward loft on that Saturday, with her sire, ‘Bad Boy’, winning the very strong Surbiton club from Messac on the same day as she won the Classic. The handsome blue chequer cock, ‘Bad Boy’, was one of a batch of 18 youngsters purchased from Louella Pigeon World in 2000 and has proved to be a ‘gold mine’ for the Epsom loft. ‘Marilyn’s Girl’ was only lightly raced on her build up to her Cholet win, getting four inland races, and her dam, another Staf Van Reet, was obtained from the Ewell partnership of Les and Mark Duffell. On handling this game little hen the day after her Classic win, I noted she had cast her third flight before the race and her main outstanding feature was her nice silky feathering.

 

Dennis raced his ten pairs of old birds on the roundabout at the start of the 2006 season and repaired them four weeks before the Cholet Classic, to fly on his normal Natural system. He has a 20ft, four section loft, with the old fashioned bob hole trapping and scrapes out twice a day. Dennis feeds a ‘breeder’ mixture and likes racing every Saturday, long or short, with his favourite races being from France, and maintains his birds perform best from the Channel and hard inland races. The old birds are paired up in January and Dennis tells me, he has no stock birds, with 90% of his team being Staf Van Reet. The racers get regular training from Milford (25 miles) and maintains he never goes any further down the line. He keeps about 25 youngsters every season and not being in favour of the darkness system, races natural to the perch. The young birds get a 12 training tosses before the first Federation race and must fly the programme. Dennis says he likes young bird racing and a good education when the birds are young sets them up for life. Dennis is a great worker for the sport, being secretary of several clubs in past seasons.

 

Now we are going back 40 year to look at some of Dennis’ early success! Two Surrey fanciers took the two premier prizes in the British Barcelona Club in 1977, with ‘Jubilee Lady’ winning 1st open Palamos for Joe Bradford of Sutton, and ‘Stormy Lady’ winning 1st open young bird Rennes for Dennis Ward.

 

When I visited Dennis’ Epsom loft two weeks after the Rennes event, the young birds were just finishing one of the hardest seasons the sport had seen for many years. Dennis had come from ‘Beginner to Champion’ in just three years, as he had only started up in the sport in 1975 and his Rennes win was true to his good form that season, winning several good positions, including 1st club Niort and 1st club Weymouth (young bird). He was then, as he is now, a small team man, wintering about 30 birds in his neat 16ft loft and some things never change, as he used bob hole trapping in those early days too. The old birds were hopper fed a good mixture, with training being intense before racing started and he gave them two 20 mile tosses every week during the racing season. When I visited his loft, he had 13 old birds, of which 11 had flown the English Channel and told me every pigeon had to race.

 

The first bird I handled on my 1977 visit was his Blue chequer hen, Champion ‘Stormy Lady’, and she was small and appled bodied. She had two races prior to her Rennes win, from Weymouth and Wadebridge, when she was Dennis’ last pigeon home both times. Her full performance was 1st section A, 1st open B.B.C. Rennes (velocity 1395), winning the princely sum of £46 and lifted Harkers Trophy, Sopp Trophy and the Section Winners Tankard.  Her sire had won 1st club Weymouth and her dam was Dennis’ best young bird in 1976, liking the hard, punchy races. Her dam was obtained from Mr. Durham of Sutton and she won several good prizes, including 2nd club Plymouth. ‘Stormy Lady’ was a Burger / Krauth cross and on handling her I noticed how well she was feathered for that time of year.

 

Dennis broke his novice status in 1966 when he flew young birds in the old Chessington Club, but gave up after that season because he couldn’t afford the up keep of the birds. Dennis told me at the time, that he raced his birds on the Natural system and was a firm non-believer in the Widowhood system, as it seemed very unnatural. How times have changed! On that visit to his Epsom home he said he thought it was very wrong that the same people do all the work at the local pigeon clubs and maintained the work should be shared out more evenly among the members.

 

Mick & Pauline Worsfold of Bisley.

 

Mick and Pauline Worsfold enjoyed a 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 an 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 Worsfolds 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!

 

Chitty Brothers of Kings Langley.

 

The brilliant Hertfordshire partnership of Brian and Dick Chitty have enjoyed many outstanding seasons racing to their loft in Kings Langley and have won 1st Combine eight times. The partners won the London & South East Classic Club twice, the first time from the young bird Exeter race in 2006 and then again in 2008 from the young bird Guernsey race. The two classic winners were full brothers bred from Chitty Brothers champion Soontjens stock pair, which were bred by Davey Allport of Darlington.

 

For several days before the first L&SECC young bird event from Guernsey in 2008, according to the early weather reports, it looked like it was going to be a holdover with rain over the Channel Islands on that Saturday, but on the day Steve Appleby and I put our heads together and had an early release, too produce an excellent race against all the odds. I liberated the 2,151 birds at my earliest time ever at Guernsey and the members enjoyed a very good race, with excellent returns. On our arrival at the Guernsey car park liberation site the sky had broken cloud cover and was bright and starry. I got no sleep as I knew it would be an early liberation or a hold over until Sunday and was keen to keep an eye on the weather and prepare the transporter for release. I watched the weather with anticipation and with the sun braking through the 60% broken cloud cover, my son Mark and I liberated the convoy at 06.30hrs in a brisk south / south west wind. It started to spit with rain at 08.00hrs and then the Guernsey weather took a nose dive, and at that time our birds were just hitting the south coast of England and were hot-foot on their way home. It was a work of art getting liberation and good race that day from a rain soaked Guernsey, but we beat the weather and enjoyed a good young bird classic! The race was won by Brian and Dick Chitty, with their young champion Soontjens blue chequer cock, ‘Davey’s Lad’, and after racing the young bird programme he was sent to the Guernsey Classic driving a hen to nest.

 

Brian and Dick have been racing in their present Chitty Brothers partnership since 1986 and have been premier prize winners in the local club and Federation many times. The best pigeon in the loft at that time was the dark widowhood cock, ‘Geraldine’s Lad’, and he had won over £2,000 in Nation races. The brothers were born in Hemel Hampstead, Hertfordshire, but lived most of their lives in Kings Langley and started their involvement with the pigeons in 1954, when Brian was 13 years old. At that time their father kept rabbits and a stray pigeon was found wandering around the hutches, and the brother caught it and started their pigeon racing story. They were helped in the beginning by a fancier who lived in their street by the name of Mick Hill and he gave them their first stock birds. Brian and Dick had good success in their first club, the Hemel Hempstead NR Club, and Brian says if his memory serves him well, they won their first race from Dorchester in 1956, and it was bad day weather wise, but won the race by 20 minutes. Brian has always been interested in sport and when he was a young man competed in cross country running races and was very interested in Football and Boxing. Brian remembers that the brother’s first 12ft x 6ft loft was self-built from scrapes of wood and recycled chicken sheds and in the mid 1950’s the local fancy was dominated by two great pigeon racers named, Charlie Farnes and Cox Brothers. He recalls their biggest mistake in the early days was excepting gift birds from local fancier at the end of the year, which were their none performers that season and throw outs. But having said that Brian told me he was from a big family and money was very tight, so beggars could not be choosers when it came to obtaining their pigeons. One of the brother’s best racers was the old 1987 cock, ‘Mulle’, and he recorded some wonderful positions from Nantes, including 14th open NFC Nantes (10,308 birds), 52nd open NFC Nantes and won over £3,000. They told me their most thrilling races were winning the two L&SECC young bird races and recording 52nd open NFC Nantes in their very first National event.  Brian is a retired milkman, serving 37 years in the job and Dick was a self-employed gardener, but for most of his working life had his own Garage business.

 

Some of the Chitty Brother’s best racers in recent seasons have been: ‘Geraldine’s Lad’, winner of 2004: 1st club, 1st Federation Tours, 2005: 59th open NFC St. Nazaire (8696 birds), 2006: 125th open NFC Sennen Cove (5350 birds), 2007: 24th open NFC Alencon (6079 birds). This champion dark chequer cock won over £2,000 racing! ‘Rucklers Express’, winner of 1st club, 1st Federation, 1st open UBI Combine Lessay. ‘Pam’s Girl’, 2007: 38th open L&SECC Guernsey, 2008: 46th open NFC Alencon winning £1,444, 14th open NFC Angers winning £170. ‘Dick’s Choice’, 2008: 12th open NFC Alencon winning £980, 71st open NFC Angers winning £1,237, 348th open NFC Fougeres (9435 birds). ‘Brian’s Lad’, 2008: 65th open NFC Angers. ‘The Allport Cock’, 2006: 1st open L&SECC Exeter (1,154 birds).

 

Chitty Brothers’ old birds are raced on the widowhood system, being paired up on New Year’s Day, and the youngsters are weaned at 28 days old. The pairs are allowed to sit ten days on their second round of eggs, when the hens are taken away and the racing cocks don’t see them again until the first race. The cocks are then let out for exercise around the loft twice a day, building up to one hour morning and evening, and both the cocks and hens are given eight training tosses, starting about three weeks before the first Federation race. The partners house 24 pairs in three sections in the loft and the racers are not broken down. Brian told me he sometimes shows the hen on marking night, or just turns the nest bowl and the widowhooders get their mates for about 30 minutes on their return home on Saturday afternoon. If the racers are not flying well around the loft they are given a midweek training toss and are fed ¾ of an ounce morning and night. They are fed a small amount of ‘Red Band’ every day, vitamins on a Wednesday and Garlic in the water a couple of times a week. The birds are mostly raced up to 400 miles, with the odd pigeon being sent to Pau and the long distance candidates are paired up the day before basketing, and are given plenty of straw and tobacco stalks to make them keen. The lofts are closed in with air vents at the front and back to get rid of any foul air and Brian maintains the loft must be kept dry. He cleans out regularly and uses loft white on the floors.

 

That our look at the L&SECC winners for this week! I can be contacted on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.