LOWER HOOK FARM, WOOTTON BASSETT, WILTSHIRE
I don't think it can have escaped anyone's notice that Britain has been in the grip of a heatwave.... yes... I know, a real summer! Who remembers one of those before?! After the prolonged dry spell the SWC committee began to feel extreme consternation over the potential condition of the ground and our ability to hold the planned meeting safely.
The ground was initially checked a fortnight in advance and found to be in better condition than feared. However, knowing that it could still change for the worse it was checked several more times as the date grew nearer, with the final inspection two days before. Inevitably the ground was found to be hard, but the ancient pasture provided a good cushion and it was miraculously free of cracks. There was one area that was badly poached and this was noted and taken out of use.
The weather forecast was studied as closely as the ground. With predictions of temperatures in the low to mid 20s set to peak late afternoon, we agreed to start an hour earlier than usual.
Having assessed all the risks and taken measures to minimise them, we decided to go ahead with the meeting. Giving all our members an honest view of the ground and expected weather, assuring short and sympathetic courses and offering advice for keeping dogs cool and wrapping stoppers, we enabled each to make an informed choice wether to enter or not. Which ever choice they made we respect our member's decisions, and that the dog(s)' welfare always come first, as it does with us.
On the day we were joined by 30 dogs, making 6 stakes, with one fuzzy lurcher happily testing our first round course.
The first round course was a gentle 480m, not too tight or technical. The bitch stake saw a return from Diamond Web who we haven't seen in nearly a year and she came back meaning business!
Ringmore Galatea made her lure coursing debut in the Lydiard Open stakes with a lovely run. This stake had particularly strong first round runs. The double Bye between Coppermow Evoque and Derohan Bronze Angel was a corker and I'm glad neither had to go out. Sadly we did have to say goodbye to Twiggen Lettice Leefe after her run with Zoraden Darkest Wings which was also very tight.
The Byre Open Stakes for Dogs became a 4 dog stake after a late withdrawal, which at least cut down on bye rounds. Derohan Viking Flagship who has been quietly sneaking up the ranks in the league tables began his day with a lovely win against 2016 season finals winner Dark Wing.
Our veterans came up last, and wow did they have some storming runs! They could have easily given some of the younger dogs a run for their money a a few lessons in style! Silverhare Full Speedahead and Sandspring Special Envoy came out of slips shoulder to shoulder and didn't separate for several turns, making it one of the closest runs I can remember and very exciting to watch.
Our first break we enjoyed some delicious hot bacon rolls, thank you chef Susie! Followed off by some refreshing and cold bucks fizz to celebrate Katie's birthday. I hope its somebody's birthday 19th August because I thought this was a great addition to the day!
The second round went in a flash, but I did have time to notice Silverhare Foxy Sundance push so hard he nearly caught the lure, and both Mannerpool Its A Fine Life and Harerunner Hedgehunter get some lovely go-byes in their respective runs.
Between the shade of gazebos, the water bucket & jug and the breeze (that was at times strong enough that one of our gazebos nearly exited the field and funnily enough my calling 'STOP!' had about as much effect as when i say it after my whippets have spotted deer!) most human and canine parties were able to remain cool. Our field team didn't have the same luxuries and Big Red seemed to find the day a struggle. Believing it would never start again if stopped, Greg and Mike made simple changes to the course and we went straight into finals instead of having a lunch break, which is just as well seeing a certain someone left a big box of cheese rolls in the fridge in West Sussex (sorry!).
Just fefore the finals we held a clearing trial - congratulations Jagger, look forward to seeing you in competition soon!
Our finals course was 460m. Unfortunately the line broke during a few of these. Silverhare Foxy Sundance got his 10th stake win against Mannerpool Its a Fine Life who was runner-up for the third time this season.
Cheydanhar Sooleawa At Coppermow got her 5th stake win against Diamond Web who was in her first ever final.
Coppermow Evoque & Derohan Bronze Angel met for the second time of the day. Another great run, but not quite the close call as the first, and D. Bronze Angel got the flag.
Twiggen Tit For Tat should win a special award for most creative course of the day, having ignored all the turns laid out and added in a number of his own instead. D. Viking Flagship won the stake just a week shy of becoming a veteran.
Dawesychoice Moon Light Run had a strong run, but was just pipped by 2017s top qualifying veteran Sandspring Special Envoy.
Last but not least, another winner for Caroline Osborne (taking 3 out of 6 stakes, some might say that is greedy!) with Loroli Let's It With Derohan, and a special mention to the runner up Penbriar Sonata who at seven years old had his first ever competetive run. Its been a long journey for him to get to this stage, but Helena and Peter Gaffney's calm patience and perserverence, travelling long distances to bring him to trial month after month and build on his confidence paid off. I could not be happier for them and their pride was evident to us all. Congratulations!
After the competition we held the raffle. I believe there were some lovely prizes but Penny must have sold me dud tickets, because I didn't win a thing!
What a good day. Thank you to all my fellow committee who worked so hard in challenging conditions. Sensible precautions and good preparation by everyone meant not a single injury was reported, not even a minor scuff. Well done everybody.
Can't wait to do it all again next month!