The Kennel Club's 72nd Spaniel Championships -
Victor Mc Devitt competed
click image to enlarge

The 2001Season's British Championship was held this year on the Earl of Yarborough's 27,000 acre Brocklesby Estate , in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The event is organised by The Spaniel Club, whose Secretary and Chief Steward Jon Smith ably assisted by club committee members, did a great job of work before and during the three days to make the event a memorable occasion for all concerned. Special mention must go to Chairman Keith Carter and to Ray Langford both of whom in a quiet, laid back approach imposed an amicable discipline on the large crowd attending. Never before have I seen a quieter, more well behaved crowd at a championship, there was a great atmosphere of interest and enjoyment throughout the whole of what turned out to be an excellent and fitting premiership and end to the field trial season.

Perry Brumby, Head Gamekeeper on the estate had assembled a team of guns who, with very few misses, only shot flushed birds, largely ignoring those which flew off undisturbed. This was a wise policy, which was a great help to handlers and judges alike. His planning ahead ensured a very smooth, low profile movement of people around the central area designated for the trials. Stops appeared and disappeared as required. Keeper and Club obviously had done their homework and enjoyed a good rapport , which benefited all.

The two Judges, who officiated at both stakes, were John Dickson from Scotland and Peter Coombes. Neither needs much introduction to spaniel aficionados.

John who was a Head Keeper is now a Kennel Owner and Shooting Instructor is Scottish. He has a great experience of both cockers and springers and a wealth of experience in the shooting field with years of trialling and training knowledge.

Peter is English and enjoys a good reputation as a breeder of distinction and is well known for his Badgercourt Springer Spaniels.His Field trial Champions B. Susan, B .Dusty, B. Druid and B. Ben all had style and in particular good pattern and groundwork.

At the end of three very enjoyable days Peter give a résumé of the A V stake, which was enjoyed by all present. This is a useful thing to do , educating and clarifying various aspects of the dog work and judging . Résumés can, if done properly, reduce spectator error and any controversy, which might arise.

Fairly flat easily walked woodland and good crowd control provided excellent viewing for spectators.
A variety of cover fully tested all competing dogs. The undergrowth ranged from a sparse leaf covered floor of patchy bramble ,bracken and fallen branches for the Cocker Spaniels to light layered, open briars and finally to dense, tight, clinging and very punishing bramble for the Springer Spaniels. Each dog would have to face this cover with courage, drive, pattern and style under each of the two Judges. They would have to remain steady under the temptation of many finds on Pheasant, Woodcock aplenty and a scattering of Rabbits. The fact that many dogs did just that but through some slight fault did not feature in the awards does not in any way take away from the quality of work displayed in the body of the two stakes. There was work of a high standard in difficult conditions. Probably more in the hunting than in the retrieving, which in some cases could have been better, none the less overall the standard was high befitting a championship. Then there was the cream, it always comes to the top and it certainly did just that in both the cocker and the springer stakes.

The Cocker Spaniel Championship

I felt a little bit sorry for the cockers , running on featureless ground, a bed of leaves and fallen branches interspersed with patches of bracken and bramble. This ground called for effortless patterns and careful ground treatment. Every twist and turn every little mistake every little pull or break in the pattern was visible to Judges and spectators alike. Birds were everywhere appearing as if by magic out of nowhere. Spectators walked them up behind the line , judges rightly ignored that, but how those birds lay invisible and undetected is a mystery. Short or long retrieves had to marked to an exact spot. Finds had to be positive and dead steady, not a movement. With birds flushing freely in front, dogs really needed to be level headed and handlers right on their toes to avoid elimination. For the most part the cockers rose to the occasion.

Twenty dogs competed, ten gained recognition, no Irish dogs competed

Right at the start the first two dogs to run, Wendy Openshaw with Mallowdale Ila of Murrayeden and Peter Avery with Parkbreck Explorer of Deepfleet, straight off the lead flushed some fifty birds out of a small area of bramble. This caused a shiver of fright to run through the other handlers, all of whom had heard the rumours of vast quantities of birds on the ground.

However things settled down after that and No 4 Carl Colclough who was last year's winner with FtCh Kelmscott Swoop set a good standard followed by a good second run to finish Fourth. The dogs in the body of the stake produced some good work but it has to be said that overall it was, with the exception of the top award dogs a very level contest.

The winner Brian Whittacker with FtCh Larford Elma after two cracking runs was, as we say "on ice" A run off for second, third and fourth followed, which placed the order of the top dogs. Will Clulee with a litter brother of the winner, FtCh Larford Evan, had surprisingly enough, a long second run before obtaining a find, whether that affected his place in the result, who but the judges know?

Cocker Spaniel Championship results
1st Brian Whittaker's FtCh Larford Elma
2nd Will Clulee's FtCh Larford Evan
3rd John Stubbing's Norbeck Cassidy
4th Carl Colclough's FtCh Kelmscott Swoop
Diplomas of Merit to
  S. Tyres's FtCh Sandford Black Mamba
  W. Openshaw's FtCh Mallowdale Rackateer (also Guns choice)
  J Shotton's FtCh Chyknell Jessica.
  C. Colclough's FtCh Kelmscott Foxie Girl
  J. Bailey's FtCh Abbygale May
  R Crowther's Gusty Silvan

A.V. Spaniel Championship

Held on the final two days the15th and16th January, on the same Ground, same Host, same Guns, same Judges etc the Championships continued as the weather continued to be bright with clouds, sheltered, almost warm in the woods, plenty of game, and good scenting conditions generally, most unseasonal for the time of year.

This time forty-two springers qualified, forty-one competed, five of which were Irish. Eleven gained recognition. The top three were all dogs as were three with Diplomas of Merit. Looks like the males are coming back up?

The winner Moonreed Flush received two "A+" marks and won "on Ice", while all dogs in the run-off had been given two "A's" Diplomas of Merit were conferred on dogs which had gained an "A" and 'A-" no less, in the body of the stake. This would be the first time the two Championships have been won so cleanly and without the winners having to endure the agonies of a run-off.

The qualified Irish competitors were Andy Calvin with FtCh Flowbog Zennia, Damian Kelly with FtCh Anahoe Ernie, Willie Megaughan with Ft Ch Wyndhill Bee, Victor McDevitt with FtCh Never So True, and Poreg McMahon with the current Irish Spaniel Championship winner IrFtCh Millshadow Aster.

Andy at No 1 was first in under Peter Coombes on the right hand side, running with Roger Shepherd and FtCh Barnbrook Trident on ground similar to the cocker ground. Andy hunted well, with a number of good steady finds in fallen branches, his dog showed well but his retrieving, over a small hill did not please Andy. I did not see his second run.

Before long in the same wood in came Willie at No 6 both this run and his second run were good clean efforts which would have gained him a place in the awards at home. It was not to be however .His dog hunted well in heavy bramble, taking the cover in its stride with good positive finds, dog and handler were at one .In his second run a bird was shot into bramble cover looking highly like a runner and Willie was moved forward fast and close to the fall, to try to help bring the bird quickly to hand, this move seemed to confuse the dog a bit, it needed handled to the fall before producing the bird which had not run.

The scene changed to another wood as No 12, I followed Streadroc Smiler, a litter brother to last years winner FtCh Steadroc Sker into the line. How the scene had changed.Now I could see what Tony Kandes and Smiler had had to cope with. Low clinging, layered brambles with all sorts of vegetation growing through. Brambles that were difficult to walk in and were moving with game.

John Dickson clearly understood the nature of this ground and told me to work to suit the ground, advice I was glad to take. With birds running in front, three finds on birds that did not flush, three that did and a find on a rabbit, all of which produced good short retrieves, I was glad to get out and back to the crowd. The second run was in more open woodland at the end of the same day. With two finds on pheasants and one on a woodcock, my dog was stopped in cover while waiting for the left hand side to finish a retrieve close to my dog, a rabbit was disturbed and suddenly appeared out of the cover. My dog moved on it and the dreaded words come from Peter Coombes "to far Victor" and I was out.

Damian was No 15. But Ernie had while being exercised in Scotland, injured a toe very badly. Looking very red, swollen and very sore it would be a miracle if the dog would be able to run. Luck was definitely on Damian's side this trip, the toe responded well to treatment and Ernie was declared a runner.

From reports he had a good run under Peter Coombes, which I missed out on seeing. I did see his second run, which was in open woodland with John Dickson. This run could only be described as fast and in the circumstances required a cool handler at all times. Damian rose to the challenge and was rewarded with the only D O M, which the Irish Contingent as the late great Peter Moxon used to call us.

Poreg on the other hand was himself injured and limping very badly, with the aid of a crutch and in great pain. He entered the arena at No37 setting off in great style but with obvious pain and difficulty. Aster had no thought for his owner as he moved about in his usual manner treating all that came his way with disdain; he put in a great run establishing himself as "in contention". Mixed woodland, fast pace, pattern and steady finds finishing with tidy retrieves and clean deliveries. His second run was just as good but in brambles, he never seemed to give his poor handicapped handler any cause to worry. He well earned his place in the run-off where he gained Third Place. This dog must be the most consistent award winner for years always in the awards and virtually never out of the stake. Aster, as a winner of the Irish Championship won the highest award in this event ever gained by a dog which qualified in this way. (Phillips Girl won the 1997 Championship at Ampton by qualifying under Kennel Club Regs in Wales)

The winner of the stake was of as in the Cockers "on ice" with two "A+'s" Watching his first runs at No39 he was a joy to see. He literally did every thing right and with style in open woodland. I made a point of seeing him in action in the heavy bramble on the second day where he did a repeat performance. Talking to Handler Jim Clark before the Awards Presentation we both knew, as did the whole crowd present, that he was the winner. Good as his first run was Jim reckoned the second was the best. In my mind at the time both were on a parr. Spaniels which take to cover , the way Flush did, and take it well are the best and the type of spaniel we all talk about and aspire to own.
A run-off produced the final results and showed the quality of the whole event. The results are below.

Ian Shepherds dog FtCh Cheweky Treestump of Cundallhill caught the eye as it had done at Slane last year finishing this time in second place.

The First Second and Third spaniels are all dogs the only bitch to finish in the Awards was Paul Dyson's FtCh Whitehope Whindancer which might have gone higher but for a little bit of whistle at start of the run-off. I have to say that never have I seen this bitch go so well she simply was in top form and flew about with style to burn and everything else in place.

The whole championship was well organised and controlled and there was a great atmosphere to the whole event, even the weather was kind to us. If only we had had a hotel which kept the bar open in the evening all would have been splendid.

A.V. Spaniel Championship results
1st Jim Clarke's Moonreed Flush (also Guns-choice)
2nd Ian Shepherd's FtCh Cheweky Treestump of Cundallhill
3rd Poreg McMahon 's Irish FtCh Millshadow Aster
4th Paul Dyson's FtCh Whitehope Whindancer
Diplomas of Merit to
  Jon Bailey's FtCh Nant-y-Bwla Ricky (in the run off)
  Aubrey Ladyman 's Craighharr Holly (in the run off)
  John Habgood's Steadroc Serenade
  Clifford Watson's FtCh Roydedge Scarlet
  Damian Kelly's FTCH Anahoe Ernie
  Mark Whitehouse's Cheweky Wolf
  Jeremy Organ's Halaze Hickory of Edgegrove