New 'centre of excellence' for working dogs will support wide range of working activities
Gundogs and gundog clubs gathered in Northumberland on Saturday and Sunday for the official opening of the Kennel Club's Emblehope and Burngrange Estate, which the Kennel Club aims to develop as a centre of excellence to support a wide range of working dog and shooting activities.
The Emblehope and Burngrange Estate was purchased by the Kennel Club in 2016 as an investment in working gundogs, as fewer pieces of suitable land are becoming available to hold working dog activities such as field trials, Bloodhound trials and gundog training.
The development of the estate for this purpose underlines the Kennel Club's strong support for working dogs and features suitable facilities and land for working dog activities.
The official opening of the estate saw an introduction delivered by Kennel Club Chairman, Simon Luxmoore, a tour of the estate and its facilities, and the opportunity to accompany a mock field trial, held by the Scottish Field Trials Association, for attendees to fully experience what the estate can offer.
The estate offers both pheasant and partridge shooting and the varied terrain offers opportunities for all breeds of gundog to demonstrate their natural working abilities. Woodland cover provides excellent hunting for spaniels, whilst the stretching moorland is ideal for challenging retrieves and for HPR and pointing breeds to show off their hunting abilities.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: 'The Kennel Club aims for Emblehope to become the premier site for all working dog activities in the north of England. Working dog clubs and shooting clubs who wish to train their dogs and carry out activities involving gundogs are finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable land to hold activities, and we want to offer Emblehope as a solution to this.
'Gundogs are some of the fittest and most mentally stimulated dogs in the UK, carrying out functions that they were originally bred for, so it is important that they are able to be worked on suitable land. The official opening of Emblehope and Burngrange Estate has given working dog clubs the opportunity to visit and see first-hand all that it offers.'
OUR DOGS' Steve Dean was at the opening: 'The Emblehope and Burngrange Estate is 7,550 acres of natural moorland and lying north of Hexham, surrounded by the Kielder Forest. Driving towards it along the A68, the surrounding scenery was breathtakingly beautiful with sunlit rolling hills and, at that time of the morning, deep valleys full of white mist.
'The purpose of my trip to this remote moorland was to attend the Official Opening of the Kennel Club's new dog training centre. I must declare an interest however having been part of the team working on the project to acquire ground for gundog training and thus my report may carry a little bias.
'The approach to the Estate itself is by a single track road from a truing off the A68, just close to Otterburn Camp and it takes at least half an hour of travel before you are welcomed by (and slightly relieved to see) a Kennel Club sign heralding the start of your encounter with 'Emblehope" - "a Centre of Excellence for dog training".
'Being at the very end of the road this is certainly a safe facility for training dogs with no passing traffic and few if any casual passers-by unless you count the wildlife or the occasional military use of the site at its northern edge.
'As you enter the gate you are struck by the rugged beauty of the surroundings (perhaps we were fortunate with the warm sunny weather) and of course the sheep and cattle, typical stoic, hardy animals capable of living on what can be a harsh environment at times. Eventually the meeting point was reached, a well prepared area of hard standing with a backdrop of pine woodland, where a Kennel Club marquee stood out a little incongruous with the surrounding environment and where a welcoming cup of hot tea was gratefully received.
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'The Scottish Field Trial Association were present running a mock field trial for training retrievers along with several notable members of the Kennel Club including The Chairman Simon Luxmoore and Wilson Young, Chairman of the KC Field Trial Committee. Thus the stage was set for the official opening of the Emblehope and Burngrange Estate and the unveiling of a suitable Commemorative Plaque.
Mock field trial
'The central point of the day was the SFTA mock field trial and the gamekeeper, Raymond Holt, had arranged for the trial to be run quite close to the gathering point. Utilising a long gulley running north the trial worked retrievers across some testing ground with a wide variety of ground cover and some challenging terrain. For the inexperienced, the moorland that looked smooth and untroubled from the roadside rapidly revealed itself to be difficult walking ground to such an extent that one can only marvel at the ability of the retrievers to traverse this terrain at speed.
'However, after several hours on the moor, winners were declared and those less successful had learned much about themselves and their dogs and almost certainly left with valuable lessons learned. After all that is the Kennel Club's intention for the Estate as a facility for training and learning. The sport of field trialling is not for the faint-hearted. The opportunity to watch dogs using their natural hunting and retrieving abilities is rewarding and absorbing and an appreciation of the training required becomes ever more apparent. The whole day made the trek to Emblehope well worthwhile.
'The Estate offers training opportunities for gun dogs but is equally useful for holding training and competitions for working trials and Bloodhound tracking. Indeed the bloodhound folk had already previously visited the Estate soon after its acquisition.
'From the discussions and speeches made at the end of the trial there is no doubt this first gundog event has produced much enthusiasm for this Kennel Club initiative and speakers expressed their appreciation of the facility and what it offers for the future of the working dog.
'What I like about Emblehope is its natural condition. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it is a working hill farm and there is much to do to develop the ambition for 'Emblehope' to be a Centre of Excellence. One of the judges told me it is old fashioned trialling ground and even in its raw and rugged state there can be little doubt this is truly an asset for the world of dogs.
Working dog clubs and other parties wishing to enquire about making a booking on the estate for activities or events can contact the administrator via email at email@example.com.