LES J. PARKINSON
In Cambridgeshire with John & Dawn Searle.
We have recently had a few weekends away for one reason or another, the latest being to Cambridgeshire just East of Cambridge City where for the first time we visited John & Dawn Searle. We have visited the area many times and always said we would call in and see them but as we know things don’t always work out as we want them to. So, on this occasion we did make time and we followed Wayne who knew the area better than we do, and it’s a good job we did because we might have had trouble finding it. I have known John for many years, and we were recounting the days we went to the continent by the then private plane of Bruce McAllister plus a couple of others including Paul Smith. I have to say this was the first time we had flown so it was a new experience and one not to be missed, since then we have been to many countries. It was also nice to meet Dawn again who we had not seen since the National FC function was held at Southport, that was also the place I met me IT Man. As we sat in the conservatory a second dog appeared outside the door and Dawn said he won’t hurt you, don’t think I would like to visit the property if John and Dawn were not there. Dawn was telling us that one was a rescue dog and what a beauty he is, the breeding is Russian, and he is one of those dogs they have out in the wilds to keep the bears away. Dawn went on to say the Russian dog was OK with the ladies but doesn’t like men, he ignores them. So, when they were let into the conservatory, I put my hand out to greet him and without even looking at me he walked straight past only missing me by inches, it was as if I wasn’t there. We were told that at some point he had been mistreated by a man which was why he was like that. As he went past me, he looked at Elizabeth and went to the other side of her to be greeted, I know you don’t blame him. Anyway, he paused with Elizabeth and promptly left the room. When we were at home late the following day, we were telling Kim about the dog and straight away she brought them up on her phone, apparently Kim and daughter Ebony had been looking at them and were saying what a magnificent dog they were. The dog is Meesha a Russian Ovcharka, or Central Asian Shepherd Dog, originally used for keeping bears and predators away from sheep on the mountainside. Must mention that there is also a black Labrador named Dottie, they are both bitches.
John Searle & Les J Parkinson
After meeting the dogs, we went out into the garden to see the pigeons, this is a cracking spot to keep them with plenty of room for a good range of lofts, the kind of garden all pigeon men would like. The first birds we saw were coloured cage birds that looked so well. As expected, when I am in a pigeon fancier’s back garden, I ask what line the pigeons come to the lofts from, they had a good flight into the lofts which is always helpful. The Buzzards were enjoying their time in the air above the lofts but as we know they might frighten the pigeons but will not being taking them for lunch. John was saying there were a few of them last year during the breeding period but, as he said they have been no problem to him, there are other BOP that have been. There are always going to be such problems living out in the country, no matter where we live everything is never going to run smoothly.
The first loft we went into was where the race birds are housed, before going in I was taking in the outside view and thinking that there didn’t appear to be much light going into the loft. However, when we went inside it was not too bad, not as bright as most lofts, but it does look like the birds are content which is what we all need in the loft, content birds. All the nest boxes are, and box perches are the electric ones which certainly make life easier for cleaning purposes. What I did notice was the young bird boxes were not very wide, so I watched as they lifted from the floor into the boxes and they were having no trouble, turning around was a bit tight but they did manage. I would think this was a benefit for the hens over winter because there was only room for one pigeon in each box, two and they would be standing on top of one another. Also, there are grill floors so all in all I think this would suit the widowhood hens and stop the young birds pairing, in which case they could be moved to a section where there are nest boxes. John was saying that he had several sets of the electric boxes from the late Brian Long’s lofts. The floor is pulled out from the rear of the lofts to be cleaned, I have seen this idea before, the problem for most is finding the room behind the loft in the first place. What was noticeable was how clean the lofts were, you can go into lofts and see that they have been cleaned but at times I have also thought to myself that no matter how much cleaning some do they don’t look as clean as this loft did. There are 50 widowhood cocks and hens total with 60 young birds for racing. They are raced in the Stansted Racing Pigeon Society, the M11 South Road Club, the National Flying Club and the British International Championship Club.
Widowhood hens and young bird perches
We then went to the stock loft which was very impressed with, ideal for stock birds with plenty of air going through the lofts and is was not draughts. This has been built on a concrete base with a breeze block wall about 2ft high all round. There is then a grill floor throughout so all droppings are well below the pigeons and they cannot pick amongst them. I did say that we had seen such a section with a covering of garden lime which does help to break the droppings down and they are cleaned out once a year. The nest boxes have the breeding boxes where the floor of each one is pulled forward for cleaning purposes. John was saying that the stock birds have not gone down as well this year which is probably down to the changes in the weather, a few have told me the same thing. There are five stock sections, 4 x 16 nest boxes and 1 x 8 nest boxes. The stock loft is 15 feet deep and 40 feet long. 4 Sections at 8 feet and 1 section at 6 feet wide. The stock birds are made up of, 24 pairs that make up the Long-Distance family which include Brian Denney’s, Chris Gordon’s, Euro Diamond and Wim Muller’s. To cover the short to middle-distance races there are 20 pairs of Leo Van Rijns, 20 pairs of Heeres & Son and 4 pairs of Jos Thone. I have to say they really look well. The two main teams of sprint to middle-distance pigeons are top class pigeons that do a lot of winning for Leo Van Rijn and Heeres & Son. They are also winning top positions for fanciers in the UK but as we know unless you are the latest fashion the vast majority do not want to know. Gone are the days when up to date winning pigeons in the UK are the ones in demand, the fashionable pigeons do win but there are far too many that are winning and brushed aside.
Stock Loft above and inside below
When I go to lofts, I normally handle a few but, on this occasion, neither Wayne or myself saw a pigeon through our hands. There was no need to because we could see that these pigeons were quality, they looked well which is what we are looking for at this time of the year. It must be a real pleasure to race pigeons to a place like this and have no neighbours looking over the hedge wondering what you are doing. I would like to thank John and Dawn for their time and to Wayne for taking time out from his busy work schedule to show us the way. Wayne is currently looking at another house where there is more room for pigeons so who knows what will happen on that front. For one reason or another a lot of things have not gone his way in the pigeon world but he said he is hoping to settle down and race pigeons properly, might be the case but will that health issue raise its head once again. Just before finishing I must thank Wayne for taking the photos.
John & Les watching the Buzzards