Melvyn Barton had flown pigeons for many years until in 2004 he gave up the sport to look after his elderly mother. 

His stock pigeons were farmed out to friends and his loft was used as storage. But he did not leave the social side of the sport and would go to shows with his friends Simon Ferguson and Paul Gent to enjoy a beer or two in good company. In fact Simon attributed his BICC young bird win to the advice given by Melvyn and the help given by Paul Gent and in 2014 his family situation changed so in 2016 he decided to start up again with a view to racing the national races. He re-joined the local club and his friends Simon and Paul bred him a round of youngsters to race in 2017. He began with 30 although after training and racing them he overwintered 18.

Melvyn Barton, 1st Le MansThese were earmarked for three national races as yearlings and each would depend on the performances of the last, so he decided that if the NFC Coutances race went ok, he would go for the Le Mans race with the BICC as their last race of the season. But with the prevailing east winds he was worried about their preparation so he decided to repair them 14 days before Coutances to keep the yearlings steady, and as they came ok, he put them all back on double widowhood to get them ready for the Le Mans race. With the recent heatwave he delayed their exercise period until 7pm in the evening. He noticed the cocks were going off for quite some time before returning single file and kiting around for some time before coming in. He was unsure if they were building form or indeed something was wrong, so he decided to watch them all thorough the evening. It transpired that one pigeon was stirring them all up, as they would never normally alight on the house roof and now he was going there challenging the others to fight him. Melvyn knew he was building up for something special, his actions around the loft were different and unusual so when he discussed it with his friends, he told them to watch out for him this coming race. The heat worried him a little but the pigeon was showing him he felt ok so he gave him a short time coupled with his hen and took them both to the marking station to enter the BICC Le Mans race.

On the morning of the race he expected a four to four and half hour fly and as he was waiting with his partner Sue, she noticed two pigeons coming towards the loft. They both went straight past and as they were looking in their direction their bird dropped and went straight through the trap. Unfortunately, he had to wait for his hen as she was the last to return at around 6pm but Sue said he did get his reward eventually.

GB17N51168He is of Vandenabeele bloodlines via Ali McCloud in the Teesside Federation although they do have some very good stock birds around them bred for the longer distance National races. Melvyn had been at the auction sales, when he realised the birds were going for far more money than most fanciers could afford, but he did notice guys pooling their resources to buy the birds and thought they must be sharing the youngsters between them. “We should do the same” he said to his friends, so a partnership between four of them to buy in the best bloodlines with a view to racing in the nationals against the whole country. The group now have three national winners included in the pool to bred youngsters to share which is testament to the trust of friends and the way others could themselves obtain better pigeons.

The race was a good race for all and there were 26 pigeons entered from Ireland, of which three were timed in race time. I include the race controllers report and weather advisers report too.

‘The high-pressure system that has affected northern Europe for the past couple of weeks continued to affect our weather. As a result, a good racing day was forecast for this B.I.C.C. race from Le Mans. As the sun rose above the horizon liberation took place under clear blue skies as shown by the satellite image (Le Mans circled yellow). Winds for the most part were very light and direction difficult to determine. Flags were almost stationary on poles as seen on the image captured by the French coast north of Caen. The wind chart indicates the actual flows at 09:00 hours showing a northerly influence over the channel. This data also supported by the Channel Lightship which gave wind direction at NNE. No actual wind advantage was gained into any particular area resulting in a fair race. Although at first light visibility was 3 to 5 miles over the open sea, this improved as the day progressed. Steve Appleby.

BICC Le Mans wind flow BICC Le Mans satellite image

With good weather forecast the BICC Le Mans National had an excellent entry of around 2700 birds. The Convoyers reported no problems with the collection of the birds from the various marking stations and both vehicles arrived at Horndean on time on the Thursday evening. Thinking of the welfare of the pigeons and because of the forecasted very warm temperatures it was decided to send both vehicles to Le Mans. They boarded the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen and arrived in France early next morning. Birds were on site at Le Mans just after lunchtime on Friday, and they were later fed and watered and left to settle overnight.

Our weather Advisor Steve Appleby had been checking the line of flight weather for most of the week and he was confident we would be able to have an early liberation on the Saturday morning. The usual discussions took place early on Saturday between the Race Advisory Team and with favourable conditions the pigeons were liberated at 6am, into blue skies, sunshine and very little wind. They cleared well and with good channel conditions a steady race was anticipated. It was pleasing to note that all, but a handful of our members verified 1st pigeon arrivals. Well done to the winners.’ John Tyerman and Mark Gilbert, Race Controllers. 
Chris Sutton 01530 242548


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