The sheepdog trialling season in the Westcountry is reaching its climax, with both the Cornwall Society and the Devon and Exmoor Society holding trials each weekend.
The timeless quality of trials has an immediate appeal – one man (or woman) and his (or her) dog, controlling wayward sheep with minds of their own – and being judged one against the other in stiff competition.
It was one woman and her dog who won the hard-fought competition run by the Cornwall Society at the weekend. Meriel Fox came down to the Cornish south coast from Sydling St Nicholas, near Dorchester, to win the Veryan Trial.
Staged at the idyllic setting of Pennare Farm on The Nare, her dog Gem beat 29 other contestants to impress the judge, Hamish Ross. They scored 154 out of a possible 170 points.
The course had a "double fetch" with a 250-yard first outrun to the left and a 350-yard turn back to the right. This was where some of the dogs had problems – as the sheep did not respond well due to the lie of the land. The Mule ewes, which were in two packets of four, worked well around the course, but took a bit of keeping apart after they were shed.
Jim Nicholls, from Buckland Brewer in Torridge, North Devon, took the early lead at the sixth run with his dog Joe. But five runs later Mrs Fox and Gem had the winning run, with two good "gathers" and the best drive of the day, only losing one point. Then a clean "shed" and penning of the sheep, just getting them into the trailer before time was up, clinched the contest.
Second was Norman Dalgarno, of Tregony, with Mirk, and third Mr Nicholls and Joe.