Heath and Peter Archibald of Dover
I have found this article a little difficult to put together and I suppose, upon reflection, it could be termed as a bittersweet loft visit for me because a lifetimes dream of winning the British International Championship Club’s longest race from Barcelona has been achieved, but by a Fancier who is seriously ill and his time is limited to enjoy the adulation the race rightly deserves.
Now named “Peters Dream” their winner is a six-year-old widowhood cock, which had proved himself very capable of flying the distance in his previous performances. His preparation for his triumph from Catalonia was very limited in the early part of season, so much so that Heath and Peter thought he needed more hours on the wing and so sent him to BICC Poitiers on the 14th June in which he homed first to the loft, after 11 hours on the wing.
His previous wins include being 2nd Open and 16th Open BICC Marseille plus 35th Open BICC Barcelona. Peter told me that after his last race they allowed him loft exercise only and prior to shipping for the race he was showing them he was ready.
As with most of the pigeons in the Archibald loft he is bred down from pigeons that Peter and Heath introduced in the mid 1990s from the top Welsh long distance fancier, R.O. Jones of Resolven in the Neath Valley in South Wales.
The R. O. Jones pigeons are based on generations of the old long distance bloodlines that had raced so well from Thurso and Lerwick. Robert Jones crossed into this family some of the best Jan Aardens that originated from Clwyd Lofts, and the subsequent generations of pigeons excelled at all distances.
They had answered an advert in the British Homing World and bought six pigeons originally. They were so impressed with them they went back a few years later and bought some more. In fact one of the hens did so well they allowed her to go back to Mr. Jones to continue his breeding program with proven pigeons. Indeed all of the pigeons in the partners loft originate from those six pigeons bought in 1996.
The racing loft measures some 30ft x 6ft and is divided into five sections and houses 22 cocks and just 30 youngsters. The usual practice is to mate some of the cocks to stock hens and these cocks are raced on widowhood whilst the remainder are raced on a form of round about system.
All birds are mated in early January and where possible they like to single rear the first round of babies. Once the youngsters are weaned Peter picks the best weather and starts to train the old birds out to 20 miles – this is usually about two weeks before the start of the old bird season. During this time the birds are exercised regularly on good days and they usually go with a fair bit of vigour but they are never forced to fly.
Yearlings are given a few short channel races in early May usually with the East of England Championship Club and the whole team might get a 20 – 30 mile toss midweek if the weather is suitable and if the partners think the birds need a pick me up.
This Barcelona National win comes at a poignant time for the partners as Peter, the senior partner, has been battling a serious illness for quite some time and his dearest wish was that they could win this BICC International race before he died. I thanked him for allowing me to visit and as we shook hands he said “I shall not say see you later” to which I replied “I sincerely hope you do Peter”