The Fox Inn, Steventon.
To enable the smooth operation of the biggest club in the UK a huge team of volunteers run the marking stations, from the north of the country to the south. Thursday the 5th June ’14 was the marking day for the National Flying Club race from Cholet, France, in which my wife and I had entered ten pigeons.
My marking station of choice is a ninety mile drive south although there is a nearer one fifty miles north. The reason I drive the extra miles is that the allocated marking times suit me better, being 12 noon until 2pm, whereas the Sheffield marking stations allotted times are 7:30-8:30am.
The Fox Inn, Steventon, is the venue for the marking station and with food and beverages being available, many fanciers turn it into a social get together, which is worth the drive in itself. Many discussions take place on the weather, wind direction and in form lofts.
All the ten marking stations, up and down the country, have an allotted person in charge to make sure the whole procedure complies with the Royal Pigeon Racing Association rules. There were five members of the National Flying Club committee also sending their pigeons from Steventon marking station, so the whole process runs very smoothly indeed.
When I arrived, I was directed to a cabin in which my entrance paperwork was checked to ensure it corresponded with the clubs copy. I was then given an envelope containing my entrance sheet, duly marked to authorise the ringing of my birds. With this in hand I went to join the short queue next to table running the electronic timing system relevant to my make and model of clock.
My turn came I placed my basket of pigeons on the table for the marking team to enter them on to the system and place them in the respected crates, marked cocks or hens, to await the transporter and be loaded.
The National Flying Clubs state of the art transporter arrived right on time being driven by Brian Holder, and when he had reversed into the car park, next to the awaiting pigeons, everyone pitched in to help in the loading of the crates.
All the crates contain a specific amount of pigeons and once full, all the openings were tied with string and a special numbered seal attached to ensure nothing can be tampered with. The youngest member of the team, James Kenny, was very busy keeping an inventory of all crate numbers and the corresponding seal numbers.
This is all done with safety, security and the complete well-being of the pigeons in mind. They were fed and watered whilst waiting to be loaded and are ensured a very spacious, stress free journey to Cholet. Everyone who enters their pigeons into the Nationals has given them the very best of care in the preparation for the race and all the organisers continue this dedication right through to the liberation, which is planned for the Saturday 7th June ’14, weather permitting.
If the weather forecast is not suitable for a liberation then a holdover is called and the team of conveyers continue to feed and water the pigeons until such time as the weather has improved enough to ensure a fair race and maximum returns. Then the whole process begins again in the build up to the next National Flying Club race two weeks later from Messac.
Once the pigeons were safely on their way, all of the hard working Basketing Committee retired into the pub for a well earned drink. Each and every one hopeful of the winning pigeon landing at their loft on the day of the race, I wish everyone the very best of luck!