Friday, 24 February 2017


The Yorkshire Retriever Field Trial Society held it's final trial of the season, a 16 Dog AV Retriever Novice Stake,  at the beautiful Harewood Estate by Kind Permission of the Earl of Harewood / Land Agent Christopher Usher and Head Keeper, Tim Rothwell. 

The Judges were Mr Barry Cooper (A), Mr Wayne Mitchell (A), Mr Gary McCarthy (NP) and Mr Mike Nelson (NP).  The Chief Steward was Mr David Barrett and Steward of the Beat Mr Tim Rothwell. 

The day would be predominantly driven with a small element of walked-up through the woodland areas. 

After formal introductions, apologies and amendments, the  competitors, judges, gallery et al,  boarded the "beaters bus" and were driven through the  grounds to the first drive.

All Aboard ..

The Skylark !!!

The dogs and handlers were lined out in a light woodland area with ducks being driven of a nearby pond.  The ducks provided some difficult shooting but a steady start was made. 

Lining out for the First Drive

A short walk across the Parkland and a line was placed directly in front of Harewood House and another to the side of a the small plantation. A nice drive saw plenty of birds flushed and shot with one particularly runner nicely picked amongst lots of action.

With all the birds picked from the park, we headed back down to the woods for a spot of walked-up. 

Some nice shooting by the guns saw the dogs quickly into action.  One bird was shot and fell out of the wood and into the lake. 

Emerging from the woods to the waters edge we saw some of the dogs refusing to enter the water or entering but exiting straight away. 

Eventually said bird was picked and the field cut by 5 !!!!

We continued to work our way through the wood in a walked up fashion and birds were falling left and right of the line. 


A nice retrieve from the wood over a the fence and out into the open paddock by Eden Parish's dog really upped the tempo.


Lisa Coates' young dog Rolex completed a a nice clean retrieve and we were down to the final three.

Dogs and Handlers were lined out for a mini drive with only enough birds being shot to complete the trial.

First to be sent, Thomas Bushby's  "Buddy".  Nice "out and in" retrieve. 

Both Eden and Lisa sadly failed with their retrieves which left the last, Woodcock, for Thomas and Buddy. 

Straight down the track heading for the open gate, but before the gate, a left along the fence line.  With some very nice handling the woodcock was in the bag and the trial was over. 

I'm sure both Eden and Lisa felt deflated to have got so far and to have come away empty handed.  Lisa especially in only her second novice trial, but both should take so many positives from the day.  A very well turned out pair of dogs, who did exactly what was asked of them.  Sometimes on the day, it is just a half a step too far, but it gives us direction for our training over the summer and the taste to be back next season to finish what has been started.   I will watch with interest to see how both dogs progress. 

Thomas was a worthy winner.  Buddy is a dog that I have seen run a few times over the last 18 months and it was the right time for the pair to advance to Open.  

I wish them much success as they push forward



Sadly for us this was the last trial to be run at the beautiful Harewood Estate.  It has afforded many field trial societies and training clubs am amazing area to train and compete in over the years and will be much missed. 

Many thanks to the Tim Rothwell, the gamekeeper, and his team.

Another set of thanks must go to all those that help out during the course of the season.  Whether it be stewarding, carrying game, the field trial secretaries, the handlers and the dog, an army of people required to ensure each and every field trial is a success. 

Enjoy your spring and summer training and I look forward to seeing you in the Autumn as the trialling season begins.    




Tuesday, 24 January 2017


With the end of the shooting season in sight,  those that regularly attend training clubs and sessions turn their thoughts to the impending Working Test Season. 

I have attended many working tests over the last few years, once or twice as a competitor and more recently as part of the day job. 

Today I was back at Stubbs Hall in Doncaster training with Darren Kirk of Kirkbourne Spaniels on his "retriever working test training day".

Ten dogs and handlers braved the early morning rain as the day got under way. 

The day was billed as "taking apart the aspects of a working test, training for them,  then running in a test" which is precisely what they did. 

The ten handlers were split into pairs and supplied with a note pad and pencil then Darren explained that the first exercise would be to score a simple test, carried out by Darren and Lottie under our judge for the day Paul Duncan.

Paul briefed Darren that the test would comprise of  heel work to a certain mark, at which time a retrieve would be thrown and he would be asked send the dog on the judges instruction. 10 marks for the heel work and 10 for the retrieve

Once the test was completed each team revealed their scores and their reasons for any deductions.   After a brief discussion as what would be deemed acceptable by a judge, it was then time for each handler to take a turn to be “scored”.

nstruction was given by the Judge as to what the test would entail and they were advised that as soon as they removed their leads, they were “live”.  It proved an interesting exercise with scores varying from 6 – 16 on the first few runs.  As each turn was discussed so a pattern emerged of what points would and would not be deducted for. And as you would expect as we progressed through the line so the handlers listened and worked hard to ensure that their run had as few errors as was possible

The top errors were :
  • Sloppy heel work
  • Leads in hands
  • Not listening to the judges instructions
  • Not waiting for the judges instructions
  • Dogs not marking simple retrieve
  • Dogs not coming straight back with retrieve
So a mix of both handler error and dog error, all issues that by listening to what you are being told and training your dog in the basics are all avoidable.

Part two of the morning session was a marked retrieve with distraction.  Two dummies thrown, Judge will tell you which dummy to pick.  First dummy was to be picked on every occasion.

Again a simple exercise of listening to instruction.  A marked retrieve with a distraction is something novice handlers train and so it was good to see the majority of the dogs retrieve the correct dummy.

A quick recap on what had been worked through during the morning and time for a spot of lunch before the working test.

  • Heel work to Judges stick, marked retrieve.
  • Marked Retrieve with distraction.
  • Blind
After a judges huddle and a run off between dogs 6 & 9 for third place, the results were as follows :

              3rd - Sheila and Misty                                            2nd - Lucy and Rupert

 1st Linda and Mabel

A fabulous day in great company.  Today was well thought through to test both handler and dogs patience, basic obedience and all the skills required to enter a working test.  A day that I would recommend to all those thinking of spending the spring and summer competing.

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Thursday, 15 December 2016



Being a Fieldsports photographer means I spend most of my days out in the elements, and funnily enough the winter months generally seem to be the busiest for me.  

From August and the start of the Grouse season through to the end of January and the Pheasant  and Gundog Trialling Seasons coming to a close, I can normally be found up to my knees in mud, dogs and camera equipment.  

One of the most important considerations at the start of any "shoot" day is obviously the weather followed very closely by "what to wear". 

And the "what to wear" question brings with it a whole host of other questions and headaches.  My outdoor gear needs to be waterproof, comfortable and durable and also able to let me carry what I need for a day on foot. 

After trying a host of brands professing to offer all the above, and still coming away, wet, cold or with ripped clothing or a wet mobile phone,  I really had decided to adopt the "wear it for a season and be done with it" approach.  

And then the Fortis Forrester Coat arrived in the post.

Now,  I need this coat to work, I really do.  There is nothing worse than trying to work when you are wet and cold.. and the day after I opened the box I was due to photograph a Field Trial in North Yorkshire. 

The forecast was for a wet day .. and it's didn't disappoint.  Driving rain and tough moorland conditions with nowhere to shelter really let me run it through it's paces. 

Whilst I normally carry a small game bag to keep my fuel in, the odd banana and chocolate bar, I also need to carry extra batteries and memory cards, cloths to keep the lenses clean and dry and of course the "mobile phone office".  

So, the Forrester has more than enough space for all the "stay dry" equipment. 

One inside pocket for the mobile, then two large pockets accessible with the zip remaining done up, and only having to release the outer poppers gives me ample room for all my batteries and memories cards and also a couple of lens cloths. 

I then have two large front pocket which happily carried extra gloves and cloths and then nice pockets to keep hands dry and warm. 

The hood is detatchable, but unlike most floppy versions this is attached with press studs and velcro so is nice and secure and has a wire rim to shape round your face, it's also big enough to be able to wear a woolly hat or baseball type cap underneath.  Press studs over the top of the zips all the way up to the top with closers on the hood meaning your are nicely snug. 

My photography involves a lot of bending and kneeling down and at the back are two zips which when undone allow for more movement and flexibility. 

Back to the car at the end of the day, a quick shake to remove the excess water and the verdict.... BONE DRY. 

For the first time for a very long time, my top half was completel dry.  The normal danger areas, across the shoulders and the elbows stood up manfully and not even a sign of damp. 

As the season has progressed we have attended Sheepdog Hill Trials in as bad conditions, various field trials in driving rain, shoot days in freezing fog and snow.  

So far so good........ 

Huge thanks to  the team at Fortis and I look forward continuing to put this Forrester Coat through it's paces.

Next stop, brambles and deep cover.  Watch this space !

And on the odd day off, plenty of room for leads and whistles whilst out training the pup.  



Monday, 15 August 2016


The New Boots...

In order to have new boots, there need to be old boots.  My old boots have been in service for a season or so and are most definitely past their sell by date.  Water damage, snow damage, and most latterly puppy damage have made sure that they are really not even fit for gardening.   They are the second pair that I have had, the plus side being that they fit like a glove, are as comfortable and have just about done the job and are pretty affordable.  The downside, they split across the middle of my foot and they aren't tall enough, and I hate wearing gaiters.

So it's a hard task.  I need something that is wide enough to be comfortable, that will give enough flex across the middle of the foot for me to be able to "bob down to shoot", and not split, that are tall enough to negate the need for gaiters, that are warm enough to see me through the coldest of seasons, that will survive all year round wear, the summers often destroy boots and waterproofs more than the winters, that look good (a small amount of vanity is surely acceptable) and that will above all last more than a couple of seasons.

And then I heard about Brandecosse and their Diemme range of boots and in particular the 11" Cervo's.   These boots are handmade in Italy and supplied in the UK by Jane Trueman and Brandecosse, two small family run businesses working in harmony.

From the moment you open the box, you are struck by the beauty and detail of the workmanship.  A beautiful warm chestnut brown, polished and buffed to a mirror shine, the smell of leather as you lift them from the box is intoxicating.

I have very wide feet for a lady which normally means I wear a mans boot, which the Cervo's are, this also means that there is often a little extra room.  This small issue is cleverly covered by the inclusion of a set of insoles designed to add padding. 

I initially tried a size 41, and they fit, with a thin pair of socks pretty snugly, but knowing that I would be covering fair distances in these boots and would need to wear them with thicker socks, I opted for a size 42 and the addition of the insole created a perfect fit with a pair of standard thickness shooting socks.

Time for the test.

First up was an HPR training day on the moor.  No real mileage covered and pretty easy going, everything was good.  But the next couple of outings really would put them through their paces.

The Glorious 12th, and my boots and I joined our local Grouse shoot on photography duties for the start of the season.

Half a day on Friday across Yorkshire Moorland and I was over the moon that my feet were as good as new at the end of day one.   Saturday and a different moor, out with the picking up team and 10 hard miles covered.  I had plasters, spare socks and pain killers packed just in case, but needed none.

The terrain was far from easy, from near vertical climbs to the top of the moor, down gullies and ravines, across burnt heather and then out across the white grass.  Bog ponds, standing water, cloughs swollen for the previous evenings rain all added to the testing conditions.

I ended the day with dry, warm, feet that were as good as when I put the boots on.


Comfort In terms of size, I did need to go up an extra size from my normal fitting but with the insoles this wasn't a problem and meant my feet had enough room.  I haven't worn tall boots before and the first morning lacing them up a few choice words may have been heard.  There is a definite art to lacing 11" boots.  I haven't as yet discovered it but I am sure the method will come.  What I did find is that if you lace your boots too tightly at the start of the day, as your calf muscles expand as you are climbing hills so the circulation becomes a little constricted.  Again this is just getting used to wearing longer boots.
The boots do feel heavy, but this is only to be expected after wearing short ankle length hiking boots and something I am sure I will get used to. The grip was fantastic.  First time out across the cobbles and boulders I felt a little unsure but after I learnt to trust the grip it was great to be able to walk down a bracken bank without the fear of slipping and to cross wet rocks and still feel sure footed.

The 11" meant that it didn't matter how many unseen bog holes I disappeared down my feet remained completely dry all day.

I also left my gaiters at home, which for me was brilliant, I find them a nuisance and it was nice to be  free of them, although i am sure many would continue to wear theirs.

Durability :  The three sessions out the boots have had have been pretty hard going.  My initial concern was that the beautiful Italian leather would end up looking like suede with all the grazing from the heather and rocks.  The boots were treated with Graingers conditioning treatment before they arrived and were good to go straight out of the box.  Brandecosse also recommend Cherry Blossom Renovating Wax to keep the leather in tip top condition.

I have to say when I looked at the boots on Sunday morning after they had dried out I was dubious that they would ever look the same.

I have brushed away the remnants of the moors, wiped away the dirt and applied two coats of wax and buffed,
I am happy to report, my boots are as good as new.   If you want to keep you boots in good condition so that they last, its simple, look after them.  Dry them out, clean them down, polish them back
Cost :  Expensive or not is a matter of opinion.  I spend my life out in the countryside, either as a fieldsports and rural life photographer or training and working dogs, all year round.  For me my boots are a tool of my trade and these are worth the investment.

Obviously everyone has different size feet and this only my view on how I have found these boots.

I was desperate for there to be a tiny niggle that I could mention, or something that wasn't quite right, just so it didn't sound like the perfect report, but there really is nothing, at the moment, that I would change about these boots.

As the season progresses and the weather changes I will report back on how me and my boots fair, so watch this space.

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