A new beginning
It was roughly five years ago when Brian Bolton left the shores of the UK to live in the hotbed of Belgian pigeon racing with a view to taking on some of the very best fanciers in the pigeon world. He had wanted to race in Belgium for many years and often went looking for possibilities in an area of Belgium that had caught his imagination due to the many great names that flew there, Berlaar.
As it turned out an opportunity arose in Merksplas as a loft manager for Premier UK and so he and his partner Michelle made the brave decision to leave England and as he says “live the dream” Frank Tasker once said to me that it would take 10 years before anyone from the UK could win a prize in Belgium, such was difference in systems and professionalism.
I respected his views but I don’t think Brian had heard him.
In a very short while he shook the local fanciers by winning three first Provincials, a first Interprovincial (Which is classed as a semi National) A first Nat Zone 7000 birds and in the Bourges National Old birds he came sixth open and also had seven pigeons in the first 80 out of 20000+ pigeons. In the Yearlings race he was 14th Open and also had seven in the first 80 positions out of 24000 pigeons.
Brian had been a very successful fancier in the north east of England, and I suppose it was a natural progression for a man with his drive to want to test his talents against the Belgians in their own backyard. So when I was in the area of his new loft location, now in Zondereigen, I stopped by to interview him for this magazine.
He is now flying in a new partnership with Ronny Van Tilburg and Premier UK, very near to the Hobby Shop owned by Ronny, and this is his second season there. The recent move to Zondereigen had made it even more interesting for me because the partnership bought a new pigeon loft but also Brian had inherited an existing loft and had to make adjustments as he saw fit to be able to compete at the highest level.
My questioning these changes would give me an insight in how the man thinks the loft should be, to be able to reach and maintain top condition in his pigeons.
Firstly there was an issue with the Hobby Shop nearby. Brian has two lofts and has to walk across the car park of the store which sells everything you could possibly think of for pigeons.
“When the customers come from their lofts they also bring with them their germs and I am walking them into my own loft”
So he placed a large rubber mat soaked in Jeyes Fluid just after the gate to his loft so he could elevate that problem and completely soaked the inside of the loft and once dry went over it with a burner to begin afresh.
There was an automatic watering system, in the existing loft, which he promptly disconnected, he said he just did not like it. The pigeons had to take water from a nipple and it did not seem natural to Brian, so 3ltr drinking pots soon replaced them. Then he had aviaries fitted to the whole front of the loft for the pigeons to be able to safely enjoy the fresh air in the closed season.
He considered the fully open wire ceiling a detriment as cold air was coming straight down on the pigeons as they sat on their perches. So a 50cm solid board was fitted above the nest boxes to prevent this and in the internal corridor a plastic mesh screen put in place to further reduce draughts.
In the partition walls between the sections an ATX radiation heater was fitted to a controller to ensure all the pigeons have a low humidity environment and he was nearly there. I say nearly because there was something missing, something he could not put his finger on, as the pigeons seamed to be lacking confidence when approaching the loft to land.
It was then that he invited further investigation from an expert and an electric field was discovered in the vicinity of the loft.
I had heard of this situation many years before with a loft that Silver Toye had constructed at a new location, which he resolved with copper wire like a Faraday Cage. Faraday cages shield their contents from static electric fields.
An electric field is a force field surrounding a charged particle, such as an electron or proton. The solution was to earth the loft with a lightning rod and copper coils placed in strategic positions as directed by the experts and all was happily trapping to the loft as a result.
Now I recount this story, not to invite lots of opinions on electric fields and their effects on pigeon lofts, but to give you an indication on the man and his determination to get things right and his ability to see problems others would not. He obviously gives a very high importance to the environment his pigeons live in which is the true foundations of any winning loft.
Brian suffers from a high sensitivity to pigeon bloom and he said that he was deeply indebted to Michelle’s contribution towards the day to day running of the loft, and in my short time there, I could see they both had the same resolve towards the pigeons. Everything worked like clockwork, to a strict timetable, and they both fully understood what the other was doing. It was a real pleasure to watch them both around the pigeons, working to a system of which I will explain further in part 2.