Archive for the ‘Hound Trailing’ Category

Windscale v Richmond Town, Wednesday 31st August 2022, 7.45pm

September 4, 2022

Harry and Isla had gone back to Teesside ready for the start of the new school year, leaving Jen and I with a few days left in The Lakes. I’d noticed that the Ennerdale Show was taking place and so we thought that we’d have a wander along. There were various competitions such as best pair of carrots, best set of three hounds, a bit of horse parading and even some fell running. We didn’t enter anything.

The dog was soon bored with looking at beagles that were half his width and so we left after a couple of hours and went for a walk at Ennerdale Water. There were far fewer people around and with a free car park and well signposted walking trails I was surprised that it wasn’t more popular. Perhaps everyone was at the show, focusing on winning Best Six Peas in a Pod.

That evening we called in to Egremont for a Wearside League Premier Division game between Windscale and Richmond Town. I know Egremont pretty well, or at least I knew it well thirty years ago when working at Sellafield. Thursday nights frequently culminated in the Old Hall nightclub for what was known as ‘Grab a Granny’ night. Looking back, it seemed like anyone in their thirties was considered a granny those days and it may very well be that some of them were.

Jen and I still had Henry with us and that caused a problem when I noticed the sign at the Falcon Club entrance prohibiting dogs. It’s a reasonable restriction as I’m sure plenty of dog owners would just bring their pooch for a walk, perhaps when a game wasn’t taking place, and then let it piss or crap on the grass.

Jen very kindly offered to skip the delights of eleventh-tier football and take Henry for a walk around the neighbouring estate. There was nobody taking money at the gate and probably around fifty people lined up around the perimeter fence.

If you look at the map of Wearside League teams, Windscale are the only one on the west side of the country. The rest are, well, in or around Wearside. I’ve no idea how Windscale ended up in a league that otherwise comprises clubs from a small part of the north-east and I doubt that it’s a popular journey for visiting teams and officials.

Windscale were in blue, with Richmond Town in red. The visitors had the best of the play for most of the first half, but it was Windscale that took the lead half an hour in with a well-directed header from a free kick. They could have doubled their lead just before the break when a shot from the edge of the box hit the inside of the post and somehow bounced out rather than in.

Henry and Jen completed their walk and returned to the car park during the half-time interval. That was my cue to call it a night and follow the remainder of the game on Windscale’s twitter feed. It took them until added time to notch a second goal and seal the points.

Steel Brow Hound Trail, 8th June 2013

December 30, 2013

1 opening shot

Some people, mainly my Mam, sometimes suggest that I might be a little obsessed with football. I’m not sure that’s the case though. I think if I am over-keen on anything, it’s live sport. I don’t really watch much sport on the telly these days but if there’s something happening nearby then I invariably make the effort to be there.

On this occasion Jen and I were having a few days over in the Lake District. It’s one of my favourite places in the UK and somewhere I’ve been going to since I was a kid. We’d been hiking on each of the previous four days, including slogging up Great Gable from Wasdale Head and so when I spotted in one of the local papers that there was a hound trail taking place I thought we could have a day off from the walking whilst I got my live sport fix.

Sheep, near Great Gable.

Sheep, near Great Gable.

I’d never been to a hound trailing event before, but imagined it to be just a countryside version of greyhound racing, similar to the relationship between Point-to-Point and proper horse racing. The directions on how to get there weren’t the easiest to follow but Steel Brow is a fell just outside of Frizington.

As we got close, we found and followed some temporary signs, pausing at the entrance of a field to hand over a tenner.  There were already a couple of dozen cars inside, with a few people sat around in camping chairs. Most appeared to have dogs with them, mainly fox hounds that I presumed were competing, but plenty of other breeds as well. I had a sneaky wish that there would be events for the likes of Pugs and Pekingese. I’d have paid double for those races.

With the first event of the day about to start I popped over to the bookies to place our bet. There’s not much form to go on, at least nothing that outsiders get to know about and so we had to use a combination of tips from the article in the paper, the odds themselves and gut feeling over the name of the dog.

Bookies at Steel Brow

Bookies at Steel Brow

You couldn’t make your selection based upon what the dogs looked like as there was no way of identifying them. If one had been hopping along on three legs I wouldn’t have known which dog to avoid backing.

I dare say their owners knew which was which but for the likes of us first time punters they were just hounds on leads heading off to a corner of the field from where the race would start.

That was pretty much the last we saw of them for around twenty minutes. After a while everyone wandered across the grass to look over a wall towards the fields in the distance. We didn’t have binoculars, but I’m not sure it would have made any difference if we had.

"I think they are over there"

“I think they are over there”

A few minutes later the crowd headed over towards a different wall and again stared out into the middle of nowhere. I still couldn’t see any dogs. The hounds could have still been sat in the corner of that first field for all we knew, possibly biding their time with a crafty fag before deigning to reappear looking suitably breathless.

"Maybe they are over here"

“Maybe they are over here”

Eventually the dogs came into sight and bounded back up the field towards their owners. It was pointless cheering any of them home as we had no idea which one was the one we’d backed. It struck me as similar to pigeon racing as a spectator sport, although mercifully quicker.

Once over the line the dogs were rewarded with a drink, some food and a rosette if they were amongst the first half – dozen back.

"Good dog. Have a biscuit."

“Good dog. Have a biscuit.”

The winners of the big races went home with trophies, an increased breeding value and an intention to sleep for the rest of the day, I’d imagine. We had to ask around for the result to find out if we needed to go back to the bookies for our winnings. I can’t really see why the dogs don’t wear numbered jackets like at the greyhound racing. Ideally luminous coats so we could spot them in the far-off fells.

Failing that, if they want to keep it ‘country’, maybe daub some of that paint on them that they mark the sheep with. At least you’d be able to see where your selection finished.

Here's what you could have won.

Here’s what you could have won.

I think we saw three races in total and that was enough for us. It was an interesting experience, but we’ve done it now and I doubt we’ll be back.  After all, I can have a day out in the countryside staring aimlessly into the distance anytime I like.