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Belgium Trip with Les J Parkinson

There are things that we do in our lifetime that can still be of interest to some in the sport who may have not read them before, and that’s why we scribe’s go into our archives for articles from the past. Also, with the way things are going we need to sort something out to fill pages where pages of results will have been. When going to Belgium you are better on a mini bus, mat cost a bit more buy you have more opportunities to visit some lofts and you can also get into the less commercial lofts.

At the lofts of Germain Nuytens in Belgium

 

This is the story of our trip 15yrs ago to Belgium, this was an enjoyable trip that was a long time coming, it was a case of “were we” or “weren’t we” making a few loft visits. Do you go over the same ground or do you venture and go looking to see what is new in the way of winning lofts in Belgium. Well it ended up with as little of both something old something new, mostly old but well worth seeing. Then we did not know until the last minute when we were travelling because we had hired a minibus and we only knew at 5pm on Friday the 13th that the bus was available for an early start. We made the best advantage and left Middlewich at 9.45pm on Friday the 13th, what a day to travel for the superstitious. The journey down could not have been any better because we had a really good run down to Dover with a minimum of delay. We caught an early ferry and arrived in Belgium shortly before 8am and that is with the added hour, a little tired but nevertheless where we wanted to be. I suppose l had better tell you who we are there was Dave and Lynn Healey who are always game for a trip to the continent. Then there was Dudley and Irene Niblett who had only been on one other trip to the pigeon’s lofts of Europe and that was getting on for ten years ago. Then Elizabeth and I with young Craig tagging along to see what he could purchase from the many shops; pot eggs and plastic rings were definitely out on this trip because his dad said so. Hans Verschuaren had booked us into the Nazareth Hotel on the E17 main drag and was well a good point to travel around this small country. A bit further up the E17 may have been better because of travelling to the other end of Belgium but we did make the most of it. However, as we were early, we decided to make our first port of call the “Dream Breed Lofts” of Koolskamp. This visit was set for Monday but with our early arrival there was no point in missing an opportunity, especially when the younger member of the family Leen was at home to translate for dad Frans whose English is improving in leaps and bounds. As always Frans good his very lady Ragian laid on a breakfast which was very good of her and many thanks for that it was needed after a night’s travel. This was also a good opportunity to see the birds and what was in store for lofts around the world over the winter months where some of these birds were going. As always there was a good team of pigeons available for selection and no doubt some fine samples of future stock birds. Because our change of plans was short notice, we did not get a good chance to handle the National and International winners so Frans suggested that we called on our way home and he would have them ready. At this time of the year the pigeons are in full moult and it was a shame to handle them, but we can’t all go when everything is 100% for everyone. I think all the party were impressed by the high standard set at these lofts and how well looked after the birds were. After the visit we went to the hotel with the help of Frans and Leen who showed us the back way into the hotel.  The problem was it was a good hotel on the main highway and as is generally the case you have to travel a few miles further and come back on yourself to get there. Saturday afternoon except for Dudley and Irene (stayed in their room?) we discussed a few of the plans for the week that had already varied slightly from the itinerary that had been set out the week before. Having said that we had started the break with more time than we had first thought as our planned arrival time was late Saturday. Saturday evening was taken up with a meal out with Frans and his family that was an addition due to circumstances of our early arrival. Sunday morning and a later rise than l thought but after being on the road all the previous night I suppose it was expected, it makes all the difference when you have a good night’s sleep in your own bed but a strange bed is somewhat different. Over breakfast thoughts were on the trip to the Antwerp area to visit a new loft to me while in Belgium. That loft was run by the man who put down “pigeon fancier” as his profession on his passport. This loft visit to William Geerts was selected by Dave because during all his visits to the continent he had not seen this one. Mind you Dave will visit any of the lofts to see what is there, if there is anything new, does this one have that something extra that we think is a difference in winning and losing, the secret of being a winning fancier. Mind you that something extra in winning can more or less be done by anyone if they put their mind to it and work hard with their pigeons but that’s another story. William Geerts is precisely what it says “Professional Pigeon Fancier” because he gave up work many years ago to spend all his time with the pigeons and make it his living. The other loft of the day is one that I have visited on several occasions and much the same as many of the back-garden lofts that we find in the U.K. The lofts we are referring to are those of Geert & Clara Phillips of Dendermonde. These are both top class racing lofts and also Geert and Clara take part in the administration side of the sport. Anyway a good breakfast and we set off for the day, we set off for the Antwerp area at 9.30am not really knowing where we were going or should l rephrase that to, we had no idea how to get to the lofts of William Geerts, the professional pigeon fancier. One benefit of the hotel was that it was on the E17 and therefore handy to get around Belgium from. The downside was that there was no easy access to the road if you wanted to head east or when you came from the West you had to go past the hotel and come back on yourself. All that aside it was a good hotel which makes all the difference the day also started as it was going to be good so what more could a group of English fanciers want on a trip to see continental lifts. We set off heading East on the E17 towards Antwerp and l was very surprised how little traffic there was, on our last journey on the same route the traffic was much heavier and there was also an accident that didn’t help matters. The loft of William Geerts was a choice of Dave who had seen the lofts on video and read about them, so we had never seen them on the many previous trips, so this was our chance. The place was not that easy to find and although they are generally very helpful in Belgium a few appear to have their directions messed up. We did get there eventually when were met by William and his son. The lofts took some finding, but we arrived there in the end and the first thing that David said was we are only playing at it. That maybe the case when you see such organised lofts you can understand why he said it. The setup is rather spacious, and the lofts are well maintained and in fact some were new additions. But there are also lofts in the U.K that are on the same level and only have their lofts for racing.

With Germain Nuytens

 

William Geert the man with “professional pigeon fancier” on his passport, he is exactly that, a professional who along with his son caters for all the needs of a professionally run racing and breeding loft. I must say they do breed a good team of pigeons for sale purposes only but if you are a professional then that is a part of the reason that they can do it in the first place. You could also look at it from another point and that is if they are bred and put to one side then you may have a better chance of getting a good one or two. On the other hand, if they are the not so good leftovers you may be paying a lot of money for nothing. You can see from the photos that they do have all the facilities to cater for the needs of the fancier’s worldwide when it comes to our feathered friends. They also race a good pigeon with 18 x 1sts during the 2002 season. The Geerts lofts have been in the winner’s enclosure for many years and these lofts have been “General King” of Antwerp of all middle distance and long-distance races together on seven occasions. They have also won more than 300 x 1stsin the middle distance 400km in the biggest club in Belgium 1,000 members. More than 40 x 1sts in the Provincial races between 500 & 750km. 1st Bourges Nat ylgs. 10 times the best Olympic Pigeons of Belgium middle distance. General Champion Provincial, Antwerp Fondclub youngsters. Six times National Ace Pigeons of Middle Distance. First National Champion of Belgium. So, in general it looks as if these lofts have covered a wide area of wins over the last 20yrs. In 2002 the following results were registered, 18 x 1sts between 217 & 601kms. Recent years have seen around 20 x 1sts coming their way each year and some good positions in provincial and National competition. We did not get a chance to see and handle the stock birds because they were in such heavy moult and the only pigeons which we saw were those that were for sale. Mind you they did look a good team, but l thinks in general those in the party would not be buying pigeons without seeing the winners and breeders while visiting any loft. I suppose that it you are looking for pigeons or buy at auction the fanciers do not see them in the first place.

 

 

At the original Georges Busschaerts Lofts

From Schilde we then headed back towards the Gent area to the lofts of Geert and Clara Phillips at Dendermonde. This loft was one that those in the party will remember for several reasons with the main one being the very high quality of the pigeons. On the continent you very often see the National winners selling their best pigeons but that is not the case here. I must say that on this trip we saw the other side the true side of Geert & Clara, the side of them as when meeting other fanciers. The reason was the change of circumstances because on my other visits there were problems that arose but are now seen as a thing of the past, problems that were not brought about by either us or Geert & Clara. They knew that this was a trip to visit lofts in Belgium so weren’t expecting a financial reward from the visits. Everyone on the trip was made at ease when we sat around talking and in general having a laugh in the bargain, I suppose this was because they made us feel at ease. For those who know Geert & Clara they are genuine fanciers with a very good team of pigeons and Geert is also the secretary of one of the big federations in Belgium. There are not many lofts that you can go too where they have such a good line of National winners that they are not prepared to part with no matter how big the wallet is. What did cause a chuckle was when I asked who had won what, for those who do not know what l am referring to l shall take a step back. Geert &Clara have their own lofts, their own team of pigeons that they race, Clara has a team of 12 widowhood cocks and Geert 22 also on the same system l asked who had flown the best team. With a wry smile it was Clara, the pigeon lady who goes out to work in the winter and when it is time to get the pigeons ready for racing, she packs up work for the summer. Not bad job if you have a good employer. In 2002 Geert &Clara had another good season with 1st Dourdan328kl ob’s. 1st Blois ob’s. 434km 1st & 2nd Dourdan ylg’s 1st Dourdan ylg’s. 1st Chateauroux ylg’s 503kl. 1st Argenton ylg’s. 530kl 1st Chateauroux ylg’s. 1st Bourges 456kl ob’s. 1st 2nd Bourges ylg’s, 1st Noyon yb’s 181km. 15th National Bourges ob’s 13th semi National Chateauroux ylg’s 27th Nat Bourges ob’s. These are just a selection of prizes taken from the seasons list and it was interesting to note that they expect their pigeons to race week after week from the 300 & 500ml races and they have to do this to stay in the lofts. Their methods are tried and tested over many years and the do work well. Because both Geert & Clara are so involved as a couple with pigeons there was plenty to talk about for everyone and that made the day very easy indeed.

 

Craig and Gabby Vendenabeele

 

Our last call of the day was an unexpected one because we called to see Filip De Prol at Odenem. I compiled an article and Filip with the help of Johnny Carrette a few months ago so this was an ideal opportunity to look at the new birds and what he had done since. The problem was we were getting towards the end of the day and feeling more like getting back to the hotel for a shower and a good meal. Even so Filip and his family made us most welcome and this was another loft like many in the UK. When we were discussing wins and what was achievable Filip made the point of wind direction and the weight of the birds was towards the Antwerp area and not nearer to Brugge where Filip races his pigeons. Filip unlike many of the fanciers who take visitors does work therefore Sunday was our only chance to call in and see the birds. His good lady was telling us how they bought the land to build their bungalow on, however as with many winning fanciers the pigeons were a priority and the lofts were started and birds in before the bungalow was finished. Since then Filip has added more length in stages, with the next addition being a stock loft and aviary so that all the birds can now be at his own home and not at his mother’s where the stock birds are presently kept. It is hoped that the new stock loft is finished, and the birds housed before the end of the year so that all the pigeons will be in one place. Filip De Prol will be around for many years to come and if his enthusiasm continues, he will be winning with the pigeons. He along with his wife attended Blackpool at the start of the year and they enjoyed it so much they will be there again in 2003 and we look forward to seeing them again.

 

Middlewich memebers with William Geerts

 

Monday, which was set aside for the ladies and yes, we did take them into Brugge for a day’s shopping. This is a real nice city and one that we have visited on several occasions. Not only does it have very good architectural influences that stands out wherever you go it also has some very good shops for everything. The ladies agreed that the clothes shops were very good with excellent quality and the men, well they just went along to give the ladies a day away from pigeons. Even so I think in general they did enjoy the loft visits that were the main interest of the trip in the first place. There are that many lofts to visit in Belgium we could have filled this day, but I think it does everyone good to get away from them during a week’s visit. On the way home from shopping we called at a restaurant in Deinze where we found that young Craig does eat something else other than chips, he tried an omelette and really enjoyed it. It was then back to the hotel for a shower and change before attending the watering hole and a reasonably early night. The day saw a few things occur that caused a chuckle, but I shall leave them in my unpublished bits and pieces for another time, maybe. Those bits and pieces do include some good photos and incidence that have happened somewhere around the world. They may have been in England or maybe abroad, like the photos of a well-known Belgium National winner dancing on the table when he was rather inebriated in Germany, he was also doing the same thing at a Belgium presentation. Or a well-known FCI member at an evening out, will they ever be used I don’t know because they were all in good fun, a part of pigeon racing that we see too little of. Jealousy overruns the sport at times, and it should not, everyone is entitled to enjoy themselves and have what they want in their lofts and that should not be anyone else’s business.

 

Craig & Les with the Geerts team

 

Anyway, back to this trip and our loft visits for Tuesday when we had another run up to the Antwerp area to a place called Putte where two of our arranged visits were for the day. First stop was to the long-time winning lofts of Flor Engles and Sons, the lofts are now run by the sons Jos and Jules, Flor is now into his 90’s and takes no real active part in the birds. Our helping hand in the communications field was Jos’s son Stefen who speaks very good English. Up until he was 18 years Stefen took part in the racing and breeding, but he was stopped when he became allergic to the pigeons and he was telling us that if he got too close to them, he would be sick. It was also rather unfortunate that we could not see the race birds because the sons prefer no visitors to the race lofts at all. I do believe that if the time is right there have been a few visits but, on this occasion, they were heavy in moult. We did get to see and handle some good winners and breeders that had been retired to the breeding lofts. What was so good about their pigeons was the fact that they all had good strong eyes and with their racing and breeding lines were perfect for the job. When in Belgium fanciers look at pigeons differently than in the UK. For instance, Janssen Bros pigeons were mentioned on several occasions, not in this case but on other loft visits. They were all of the same opinion and that was they were not up to the high standard of the present-day winning Belgium lofts. It is a fact that on a couple of occasions when the name Janssen of Arendonk was mentioned they were referred to as Janssen soup. However, these pigeons do win well in the UK and other countries around the world and therefore can justify their place in pigeon racing history. It is the same with the Busschaert’s whose name has probably been linked with more top class wins than any other family around and the UK and the pigeon racing scene will not forget them. This family will be under discussion later in these notes, now back to the pigeons of Flor Engel and Sons and what they have achieved. Their latest National gem is a Chequer hen called “Het Gueretje” Winner of first National Gueret. As with all the know lofts in Belgium they have good records and Stefen was keen to point out that some of their winners have not performed as well as others. Stefen went on to show me the results and how they go about grading their pigeons and it is all done on a co-efficient basis. There are over 60 x 1st listed on the provisional and inter provincial basis and when you look at their co-efficient some are as low as 0.02 which is very good indeed. There are in the region of 270 performances in the top five listed with less than 50 having a co-efficient of 1.00 or more. The way that they are listing their birds keeps them on top of everything and they do not get carried away with a pigeon that has won a 1st prize. Each pigeon has a pedigree and below is listed all the positions from all races entered with the co-efficient at the end of each row. This enables them to easily calculate if the pigeon has earned its corn and is the pigeon worth putting it to stock or whether it retains a position in the race team. Stephen is going to fill in a questionnaire that we will present later and having spoken to Stefen I think he may well come up with some good informative answers.

 

William Geerts stock lofts

 

We then moved about 3 miles across Putte to a loft at our friend Frans Rigole rated very highly, the loft of Van Hove-Uytterhoven. Having said that I can add that in general that the lofts we visited on the whole trip were of a high quality but obviously people do have their preferences and this loft was the choice of Frans as a top winner and highly competitive. The season had finished and like most lofts on the continent there was major work being carried out with the first being a new drainage system on the lawns in front of the lofts. Van Hove Jnr was telling us that with all the rain during the last months the lawn was continually flooded, and they felt that this was no good for the pigeons because this did cause a damp atmosphere. The lofts were also having a facelift and all the sections thoroughly cleaned with the outsides also receiving a freshening coat of paint. Mrs Van Hove also takes a major part in the racing of the pigeons and races young birds own their own very success fully. We find that the ladies of the house do a lot with many of the winning Belgium lofts this being no different having said that there are many ladies in the UK who do the same. Many of the sections were empty for the next few months, what they do is move the pigeons into an aviary with grill floors so that there is minimum cleaning out to be done. This then gives them breathing space to get all the other lofts cleaned and any modifications done for the following season. This was the sort of loft set up that we have become accustomed to when it comes to continental fanciers. However, they are not all filled with hundreds of pigeons, some like the lofts we are now referring to spread the birds out giving them plenty of room. I think all in the party were impressed at the way they kept their widow racing hens during the racing season. They were locked in boxes with one big door covering them all and the box perches were the German type with front to rear sloping perches. These hens were exercised for one hour both morning and evening and then left for one hour to have their corn and water before being locked up. The widowhood boxes for the cocks also have covers to blank them off if they are not in use or the pigeons are away at a race. They are not simply blocked off by the actual nest box front but a full solid piece with a magnet that clips onto the nest box front itself. The ideas were there, and you can see that the top fanciers are always looking to improve the high standard already set. I will cover more on these lofts in a future article.

 

 

Next stop was at Itegem where I was very lucky indeed to handle a legend of the sport, that legend is “Jonge Artiste” at the lofts of the Houben family. I was surprised that Luc even allowed me to see and handle this pigeon who is now something like 20 years old and has a reputation around the world for leaving a whole host of winners. We also handled many of the children and grandchildren of this pigeon that is responsible for winners worldwide with many lofts owing their success to this legend. I know that is said about many winners but in this case, it is a fact well known throughout the world of racing pigeons. I also think that many fanciers are aware that Nadia is well known for her expertise with the pigeons and while we were there she was always on the go. Luc did ask Nadia to basket a few of the stock cocks and unless it was just by chance (I don’t think so) they were sheer quality and all around “Jonge Artiste”. I was also surprised at how close they have bred these pigeons, they have quite a few that are very inbred. Luke was saying that it has very often been said that you should not breed to close for racing but that is not the case here because they still win. They are more or less as inbred as they come, and they still win against top competition although he did admit that in 2002, they did not have one of their better years. I suppose that is something all fanciers experience at one time or another. The trophy cabinets are full and those that they could not get in are an impressive array that tell you this family are winners. Going back to Nadia, there is an interesting photo of her holding her pride and joy, a dandy cockerel. You may ask the question “why do they want a dandy cock”, well this spends its time in the widow hens’ section. This cockerel stops the hens going onto the floor and pairing up, I had heard of this before, but it was the first time I had seen one in action. Another idea was the ladders in each of the sections for the pigeons to walk up to get out of the lofts for exercise, the outlets for these pigeons are very limited with space around the lofts being at a premium. When they enter the lofts, it is in through the wires and onto the electronic timing system that is fitted to all sections. They still have the clocks because they are not yet fully allowed to use the system and an independent view after talking to fanciers on the continent is that the hierarchy on the continent are trying to keep everyone who manufactures a clock or any other system happy. There have been big changes at these lofts over the last 12 months with a new loft and the high-rise loft being refurbished, again more on the Houbon family at a later day. Before finishing just to mention how fanatical these fanciers are. When visiting you will see that every available bit of space is used for pigeons with the only walking space is a path around the new loft. That goes to show that the Houbon family are pigeons through and through with Nadia being a full-time loft manager.  

 

Lofts of Jorris Blomme

 

Wednesday was down as our last day of visiting lofts, having said we had 10 lofts in 4 days and one of those was the day we arrived. Wednesday was the easiest of the days because the lofts we were visiting were within 30mins of the hotel. Our first port of call was to see the Belgium legacy of the legendary Georges Busschaert and the old brick loft that still stands where George had his pigeon. The location is still there for all to see and his wife Albertine still lives although she was not in the best of health on this visit as she was in hospital and we wish her well. Germain Nuyttens lives in Beveren-Leie and is a nephew and loft manager of Georges and still keeps his stock birds in the old loft where they are kept in individual pens for breeding, the lofts are probably not as they used to be but nevertheless are still there. But Germain does have his own racing loft at his home where he only races a team of eight old birds and eight ylgs. The races that he goes for are the longer events like most of the lofts in Belgium specialises in those longer races and leaves the others alone. He did say that over the years he has tried to compete in all races but had now decided to concentrate on the races that give him a great deal of satisfaction. When we came away, I was left wondering why a fancier who has such good pigeons only kept so few, why did he not keep more and send to all the races. When all said and done that was not the case with his Uncle George’s Busschaert’s who had quite a team of pigeons. Let’s take a step backwards to when we entered the home of Georges wife where there was no mistaking the fact of where you were because there were photos of the top pigeons hanging on the walls. On the wall was rather a large frame with what I think were a dozes of the top Busschaert’s known and what was noticeable from my point of view was the great Mealy cock “Pluto” who was as good a pigeon as l have ever handled. What I am going to have to do is look at these pigeons in more depth for two reasons {1} they are the greatest ever family of pigeons to win in the U.K. And secondly, I would like to know how those pigeons have progressed since the death of their founder and legend the late Georges Busschaert. Just one last observation and that is that Dave Healey commented how like they are to the winning Busschaert’s that he houses, and he and Lynn have had them for many years. Some of the wins achieved in Germains hands and unless stated are all in National races. They include 11th Argenton 3,125b. 4th La Souterraine 9,164b. 3rd Barcelona 11,214b. 13th Bourges 11,943b. 12th Argenton 17,933b. 8th Cahors 9,989b. 4th Barcelona International 26,807b. The breeding lines are still more or less the same going back to “Pluto” “Little Black” “Schiavon” “Professor” “Domingo” “Petito”. Hans has promised to gather some information on the present-day winners at these lofts.

 

 

It was then on to the loft of another legend Silvere Toye, a visit that was the choice of Billy Whisker was supposed to be on the trip but because of circumstances changed his mind. Having said that l am pleased that he did request the visit because this was a loft well worth visiting. The present place started off as a farm for a member of the family and Silvere purchased part of the buildings and a further piece of land that is where the lofts are. Like all the winning Belgium’s Silvere has a fine array of trophies and some excellent additions that have been presented to him. The Belgium fanciers have quite a lot of visitors, so they have added a room to show off their winnings and there is always a table and chairs. Most now have a conservatory where they entertain, and these are solely for that purpose and of course a place where they can watch their birds while keeping the paperwork up to date. The lofts are quite a range as can be seen on the photos but there aren’t a lot of pigeons in them compared to how they are kept in the U.K. All the breeders are given individual sections so that that the parentage is sure to be correct. Another feature that looks to be in most top lofts is that the stock birds are put in aviaries with grill floors to save added work when the season has finished and most use this time to clean there lofts right through. This also allows the lofts to have a rest from the continual scraping etc. When they are in the covered aviaries they are not cleaned as often because of the grilled floors. The lofts also have other features such as the extractor fans that are fitted in the roof of each section of the race lofts. There are vents along the front of the lofts so that the five speed extractors can be adjusted and draw a steady flow of fresh air into the lofts at all time. The windows also have electric blinds that can be brought down to allow the windows to be left open and at the same time maintain a steady airflow. All are added features that may or may not be necessary, but they suit the needs Silvere Toye who has been around the winners enclosure for many years, so does know to a certain extent what the pigeons require to win the big races. Change and new ideas are what keep many fanciers going, looking for the alternative that may suit their pigeons and take them nearer the top of the tree. It was also interesting to hear about the stock and how Silvere brings them in, but l shall leave that to another article because there is so much to write about.

 

 

The last arranged loft visit of the tour was to the in loft of the moment for the U K loft fanciers, the lofts of Gaby Vandenabeele. These are the most sort after pigeons now in the U K and like any other top winning loft has brought in top class pigeons to supplement the already winning lines that are housed. The big winner of 2002 was the Nat winner for Mel and Sue King whose Vandenabeele lines gave them another superb Nat performance. I have even had this experience of racing this family myself after collecting 5 youngsters from Peter Fox earlier this year. Out of these l must say they did shape up well and had it not been for the fact that we only clocked one in and sometimes two we could have had them on the results. One hen did race well winning money NWCC and in the same race Derek Woodward won the race with a youngster from the same family of Peter Fox when paired to a Dream Breed Loft cock. As far as the stock go l was very impressed with the quality and looking through the pedigrees it was plain to see that Gaby had a winning line of his own and brought in the odd good pigeons off National and Ace Pigeons to cross into them. Gaby has been very selective with his breeding and a good stock loft and next to it is a loft where there are a good team of feeders so that he can make the best use of the top breeders. He was also showing us the new corn mix that he had formulated himself and this is now being mixed by Beyers with a photo of Gaby on one end. Feed was a subject that has come under discussion with different fanciers and even though I have always been happy with Versale Larger I shall be looking to change it very slightly for next year. We would have liked to spend a bit more time with Gaby, but he is a very busy man and was either on the phone or having callers. Even so we did have enough time to see the best of the pigeons including “Wittenbuik” we also handled a pigeon called “Turbo” that Silvere Taye believes to be better of the two. The original lines of the Vandenabeele pigeons are “Kleinen” “Bijter” and “Groten” which is the Desmet Mathjys top pigeon. From 88 to 2001 Gaby has had an impressive series of results that have drawn fanciers from around the world to his lofts. Then in 2002 he once again had an excellent season that has brought him even more attention and no doubt there will be more wins in the future years.

 

 

Friday saw a completely different day when Dudley Niblett had his choice with a visit to the vets over at the other end of Belgium. Even so the near 2hr journey was well worth it because we also made another visit in the same area. We arrived at the surgery of Dr Vandersanden at Lanaken just before lunchtime. There was plenty to discuss and several questions were asked, and I think that we are all a bit more informed on the problems of the young bird sickness. This as I have reported in the past is an off shoot from cirovirus that has become a problem all over the world. It not only affects pigeons but other birds and animals too and even though this can be controlled we are told that there is no real preventative on the market but there are products to clear it up and get it under control. We are informed that the problem is going to be with us for a long time to come. There was something else that interested us more and that is the fertilisation programme that he has under way and we are assured that it works. Dr Vandersanden has purchased a couple of National winners that he now uses on a sperm bank basis. Through this system he can get as many as 16 youngsters in one round ready to move together as a team. These ybs are all supplied with a DNA test card to prove that they are off the pigeon in question which in this case is a 1st National winner. There have been a lot of sceptics over the last couple of years regarding this procedure, does it or does it not work. Well rest assured it does and the more financially sound members of our sport will be using this system more and more in the near future. We saw the offspring of this system and they look fine and they have been tested and bred from as yearlings. There was a good team direct off the Dark Cock that had won 1st National and they looked a good team just like any other team that you would come across. What Dr Vandersanden did say was that they are looking for the super pair, the pair that is breeding more than their share of winners. That is further down the road and I don’t think it is too far away when winners will be selected and bred this way. Whether it would be my way of doing it and whether they are all winners or not is another matter, I think that I would get more satisfaction out of breeding winners the natural way, all that set aside they have still got to be raced. Pigeon racing on the continent is always moving at a fair old pace and no doubt there are other ideas in the pipeline, a few that may well have been proven and yet to hit the papers.

 

 

We then went on to the World Pigeon Centre, which really does not have a great deal to offer on a visit. There are only the pigeons to see but they are not a proven team of winners that would attract a lot of visitors, these are young bird and a few yearlings that have been raced in the one loft race. On the ground floor there is a very nice bar and lounge area where they serve good food and if your passing through it is a good place to call. There are also items on show from the past and present but nothing to go out of your way for. I must say that the place itself would be an attraction for the local fanciers or residents who wanted to go for a meal and discuss pigeons in general. As l say if you are passing through it is well worth stopping off for a bite to eat and a drink, then again what else could you offer at such a place other than turning it into a full blown pet store. That is unless there is something that we did not see. It is a pity that the WPC is not still connected with Dr Vandersanden because they could have a good relationship with his breeding programme and there could always be pigeons from National winners available. Plus, the system would be of interest to fanciers, an added attraction.

 

 

Further down the road there was a very interesting visit and a lengthy chat with Jean-Louis Jorinson at the home of the Comed range of products. Jean-Louis is a mind of information when it comes to the need of the racing pigeon whether for breeding, racing or moulting. When we sat down for a chat, I could have kicked myself for not taking my tape with me because he had that much to say it was mostly forgotten. No doubt some will stay up there in every ones brain box but as anyone will tell you who attends meetings on a regular basis there is only so much you can take in at any given time and that is why you should always take a note pad. This is a man who could command the attention at any quiz night but getting him over here may be a problem. This is a very busy knowledgeable man who goes into every detail on the needs of the racing pigeon whether they work or not is always up to the fancier concerned. I have passed a few e-mails with Jean-Louis and he has promised a few articles for the future.

 

 

Thursday evening saw the team sit down and discuss the week’s events and who was the best and who did not want us in the lofts. There was only one disappointment and one that we would have expected more from having said that one out of ten is brilliant. One thing we all agreed on was the fact that you would have had a hard job to find a trip that took in so many top fanciers whose hospitality was second to none. We must thank all those who gave us their time on what was a tight schedule, the fanciers who made our trip well worth participating in for a week in Belgium, thank you to them all. There will be further reports in future additions. We thought we were finished at that, but we had a few spare hours, so we ended the holiday as we started by calling at “Dream Breed Lofts” to collect a few pigeons to make up our stock team. Dave and Dudley got to handle the Dax International winner and the other National winners housed at these lofts. When we had made our selection, we called at an above average supplier of pigeon products, I was talking to the assistant who was telling me that the price of rubbers had gone up considerably because of the problems last season. Things really are cheaper on the continent than they are here in the UK, why, well that is very often put down to the bigger profit margins in the UK, which is probably, correct. Also, we must pay more in taxes in one sort or another. I would like to finish by thanking Dave, Lynn, Irene, Dudley, Craig and Elizabeth along with the fanciers we visited for making the trip so enjoyable.

When I look back at such trips, I wonder how the same one would go today and are these fanciers still all about?

Les J Parkinson. 11 Rushton Drive, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 0NJ. 01606836036 Mobile 07871701585. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. web site www.elimarpigeons.com