This year’s International Gundog Retriever Championship saw Windsor Great Park thronged with visitors from around the world
Windsor Great Park in Berkshire makes a superb location for the gundog retriever championships — which have been held there before — because of its history, its landscape and its accessible nature.
It is a 16,000-acre rural oasis that has held urbanisation at bay, while its proximity to major airports and motorways offers easy access for overseas visitors to attend as well as UK dwellers. This year saw members of the gallery and sporting press travelling from as far afield as America and Japan, as well as a growing number from the Continent, in order to attend the International Gundog League 2014 Retriever Championship. In fact, it was estimated that on the first day there were around 200 vehicles, many carrying multiple occupants.
The trial was held by gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Crown Commissioners on 1, 2 and 3 December and sponsored by Roger Skinner Ltd. Judges were Keith Bedford, Jamie Bettinson, Ian Openshaw and John Stubbs MVO, steward of the beat was headkeeper Peter Clayton and chief steward was Philip Wainwright.
The championship was one to remember on ground that had provided mixed terrain. The Headkeeper and his team provided plenty of game, from pheasants to partridges, ducks, pigeon, woodcock, hares and rabbit, and from the Guns’ point of view put some super birds over them to which they did justice with some great shooting.
With regard to the gallery, I personally thought that the viewing for the gundog championship was generally good. It must be very difficult to balance the needs of a trial with those of spectators. Sometimes the dog work was out of sight, but largely, the gallery were close to the line, or on a hillside where the dog work could be seen in plain view.
The championship attracts a regular audience who are familiar with the routine, but attendance is also growing. For those thinking about attending the trials for the first time, take warm and waterproof clothing, food, drink, a folding seat of some description and some binoculars as these will make life easier for what can sometimes be long days exposed to the elements.