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The British Spaniel Championships 2000

(Published in Spaniels In The Field Spring 2000)

For the second year in succession, the Spaniel Championships for the year 2000 took place in Norfolk.
The event for cocker spaniels took place on the first day by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen at Sandringham. The Any Variety But Cocker (for which read English springer) followed at the Shadwell Estate, near Thetford, by permission of Sheikh Hamdan al Makthoum. The Steward of the Beat on the first day was Mr. William Meldrum and Mr. David Mason officiated at Shadwell.

The judges for the three days, both only recently appointed to the ‘A’ panel by the Kennel Club, were Mr. Tim Crothers from Northern Ireland and Mr. David Pope from North Wales.
The Chief Steward was Spaniel Club secretary Mr. David Paterson. Twenty-three cockers had qualified for their own championship by winning at least a first place during the current season of which 18 already had Field Trial Champion titles.

The oldest qualifier was Robin Laud’s bitch FTCh Fenlord Black Beaut who shares with the Labrador FTCh Ulstare Style a record of having qualified for six consecutive championships. The youngest contender was Peter Jones’s Winton-wildfowl Serin, whelped October 28th, 1997.

The cockers competed in ideal spaniel ground comprising mature hawthorns with an understory of bracken, brambles and willowherb. Conditions were very frosty for most of the morning which rendered the bracken unpleasantly abrasive but one of the outstanding features of this event was the hunting quality of all entries without exception, even those which did not figure in the awards. Considering that Sandringham is a wild bird shoot, the amount of pheasants seen was little short of amazing.

Owing to the frost conditions, I made the baleful prophesy that runners would be difficult to pick. Unfortunately I was correct. Shooting was patchy. At times distinctly good, particularly where Holkham headkeeper John King was concerned but there were far too many unpicked runners for comfort.

Her Majesty honoured us with her presence and took a keen and informed interest in the proceedings.

Mr. Ray Plunkett’s FTCh Tawnyhill Andra kicked off on the right, partnered by William Clulee with Larford Carp. A collection of a dead hen was speedily followed by a failure on a runner.
FTCh Wernffrwd Kathleen followed Carp with a class hunting performance in frozen bracken. She was tried on a runner and failed. Andra collected and Kathleen was dismissed, then the judges decided the bird was the wrong sex and unshot, so this did not constitute an eyewipe so Kathleen was called back into line and had a retrieve.

FTCh Mallowdale Rackatear, handled by Wendy Openshaw hunted up to his high standard and collected a long bird in the open. Bryan Buchan’s FTCh Findlav’s Flyer is a tiny, lively bitch but absconded when sent for a shot bird. Ian Openshaw, handling Mr. A. Andrew’s FTCh Sanford of Maesydderwyn executed a rapid eyewipe.

Last year’s winner, FTCh Larford Cateran, handled by Will Clulee, had a good mark and retrieve and Dickie Jones with FTCh Whisk Ci Dwr smartly picked a woodcock but he seems better in brambles than bracken. He also failed on a runner.

The youngest competitor, Serin, picked a wounded bird hut it might not have been the right one. He did pick a good dead bird but also failed on a runner. Mr. E. Scott’s Scottish contender, FTCh Jenoren Dougal, had an impressive run with several finds and three marked retrieves. FTCh Dolgarrog Aron went well for Wendy Openshaw and made two competent blind retrieves. Her husband, Ian’s FTCh Parkbreck Perfection, really got into the game and had five retrieves. The last three fell in heavy bracken and the dog required a lot of whistle and handling to put the birds in the bag but it was a competent run.

John Holloway’s Norbeck Riley put a rabbit out of bracken which was wounded but he took the line too fast and did not give himself time to work within his nose. Whisk Ci Dwr had a fair hunt with a find and good mark.

Although Plunkett’s Andra seemingly had put herself out of the prize list in her first run, her second run was spectacular with stylish hunting and the collection of the only real runner of the meeting, followed by a second find, mark and retrieve.

Rackatear’s second run was looking good, then he passed a bird. Sandford Tara, handled by Openshaw, was very concise with two positive finds and retrieves from an open field. A bitch worth watching. Clulee’s Cateran went well and had a competent find and retrieve, finishing with a second find. Black Beaut found a bird that ran along the edge of cover then fortuitously stopped. The bitch owned the line but was pushed onto the retrieve. Scott’s Dougal
was unfortunate after such a good first run to have two unpicked runners against him after a satisfactory dead bird. Meanwhile Carl Colclough’s FTCh Kelmscott Swoop kept her nose clean with positive finds and retrieves. Openshaw’s Perfection pointed solidly then pushed a hen which provided a quick retrieve then performed a competent eyewipe. Holloway’s Riley tailed on a runner but concluded with a good mark.

The 1998 winner, Steve Wanstall’s FTCH Birky Bog Bob had a top class first run but a runner was shot after lunch which took the dog into live birds and a hare. The runner escaped then Bob concluded with a find and retrieve from heavy cover.

Laud’s Fenlord Gypsy Beaut Fossy had a find, mark and retrieve, then a failure on a runner, followed by a satisfactory find, mark and retrieve.

Only two dogs were called for a run-off, Colclough’s Swoop and Openshaw’s Tara. It was a complete anti-climax. The brambles were full of birds. A runner was shot for Swoop who got into live game and was unresponsive, meanwhile, Tara should have stopped to shot and honoured her bracemate’s work. Instead she went righthanded and required a too firm vocal reminder to mind her manners. Predictably this episode provoked some controversy but it later transpired that this run-off had not been for top honours. The winner was on ice.

FIRST Mr. D. Openshaw’s dog FTCh Parkbreck Perfection (handler Ian Openshaw)
SECOND Mr. A. Andrew’s bitch FTCh Sandford Tara of Maesydderwen (handler Ian Openshaw)
THIRD Carl Colclough’s bitch FTCh Kelmscott Swoop
FOURTH Robin Laud’s bitch Fenlord Gypsy Beaut Fossy

Dickie Jones’s bitch FTCh Whisk Ci Dwr
Peter Clulee’s dog FTCh Larford Cateran (handler Will Clullee)
Robin Laud’s bitch FTCh Fenlord Black Beaut
John Holloway’s dog Norbeck Riley

GUNS CHOICE Ray Plunkett’s bitch FTCh Tawnyhill Andra

By: Keith Erlandson, Llangollen, Wales