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Donkin's World: Bluffers’ Guide To Sticks

...When the sheep run off among the spectators and cars as one group did, there is nothing for the shepherd to do but to walk off, er…sheepishly....

Richard Donkin attends the Patterdale Dog Day.

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There was only one place to be in Patterdalthe other Saturday and that was the 106th Patterdale Dog Day, which, I’m told, would have been very much like the previous 105 apart from the cars.

The Lake District field where it is held was a favourite of William Wordsworth and you can see why. The rising fell on the far side provides a perfect stage for the sheepdog trials. It’s not easy guiding your dog to herd four sheep out of the arena, on to the hill, around various obstacles and back in to a pen on the main field. Some dogs are good fell dogs and some are better in the field. Here they have to be good all rounders.

When the sheep run off among the spectators and cars as one group did, there is nothing for the shepherd to do but to walk off, er…sheepishly.

My favourite part was the exhibition of shepherds’ crooks and walking sticks. Peter Allen, our host at this year’s Camp Pete, was compering the various events but had given us a run down on stick-making the previous evening.

What counts in a good stick, he told us, is the balance, the join between the wood and the horn (for those using a horn for the crook), and the way it lines up with the stick. A good stick has to feel right when you’re leaning on it, he said. I was taking some photographs at the stick stand when another visitor asked me: “What makes a good stick then?”

Ever the instant expert that comes from a life in journalism, you would have thought I had been making sticks all my life; enough, at least, to earn effusive thanks from my questioner.

But this was a dog day and I was keen to learn a bit more about the Patterdale breed. It seemed a fair assumption that I would get an equally informative grounding from the woman behind the Patterdale dog stall. “Can you tell me about the breed?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Do you have a Patterdale?”

“No, not personally.”

“Do you know where they’re bred?”

“Well not round here, I know that.”

“How much would one cost?”

“No idea.”

“Thank you.”

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting another dog for a while, then. I bought a stick instead.


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