How many fanciers can say that they have won two Nationals? Not many, but how many can say that they have won two Nationals on one weekend? These fanciers are as rare as photographs of the Abominable Snowman. Well the subject of this report is one such fancier as on the weekend of 8th September John Fretwell of Evesham won both the BICC Guernsey Old Hens and MNFC Young Birds Nationals on the same day. The following report outlines John Fretwell's time in the sport.

John first became involved in the sport in 1980, in Penistone Yorkshire, where he was brought up and the weekly results of the Penistone club are still the first things that he checks up on in the pigeon press each week during the racing season. His first major influence was his grandfather Arthur Jubb who was his mother's father and who bred pigeons for the R.A.F. during the second WorId War.
One of John's most painful memories was when his grand father died and John's mother would not let him have the pigeons at home because, as she said, "she had to clean them out before she was married and she was not starting to do that again!"
Like most young aspiring fanciers of that time, John used to catch strays on the farm he used to work on as a school boy. These were then housed in a rabbit hutch at home, but his first real loft was the upper floor of a stable at the back of a cottage where he lived in Thurlstone, near Penistone. John and his schoolboy friend Richard Naylor, who still races in the Penistone club today, converted the stable attic into John's first functioning loft. Looking back on his management of the birds in those days, John can now see the glaring mistakes that he made! The birds that he had were a mixed bunch, mainly gifts from local fanciers. However his first winner which he can still remember vividly, was a red Van Wildermeersch cock bred from a pair of birds that were purchased at a sale at the Birdwell Club.

John Fretwell

1st MNFC Young Birds for John Fretwell

John Fretwell's BICC Guernsey 2 OH winner Simply Red

The Fretwell loft

View to the Malvern Hills from the Fretwell loft

Since those early days John has moved from Yorkshire, as he said, "On missionary work" ,to the county of Worcestershire and has been at his present location since September 2006, resuming his racing career in 2007.
The main racing loft is approx 60ft long split into two 8ft wide young bird sections and five 6ft wide old bird sections which contain 38 nest boxes in total. However, John has never managed to fill every nest box. In addition to this there are two spare sections that are used for a number of different functions, such as storage of baskets, stock birds and so on.
There is also an 8ft X 6ft stock loft split into two sections with an aviary at each end. The main racing loft faces south east and this maximises the amount of sun that enters the loft during the summer months. The most recent additions to the racing loft has been the installation of adjustable ventilation as well as a 2ft corridor which runs along the front of the loft allowing access to the individual sections.

John uses a deep litter system for the young birds, and the rest of the birds are on floor grills. He generally keeps around 12 pairs of pigeons for stock, and hopes to breed about 60 youngsters every year from these and selected members of the race team. Numbers in the race team are dictated by the performances in the previous season and John doesn't try to fill every nest box just for the sake of it. They are there on merit not because there is room for them.
The old birds are raced on the widowhood system and the youngsters are allowed to do what they want once they have completed a fairly intensive training programme prior to the start of racing.
The birds are usually all mated at the same time which is around the end of January. John is a great believer in the full moon theory, and he takes note of when the nearest full moon is to that time and then mates accordingly. As all the birds are paired around the same time he is able to float the eggs from the stock pigeons under the race birds that he does not intend to breed from. Despite this early mating time, John has found that the widowhood cocks still carry a good wing right through to July.

The procedure that John usually follows before the first race is generally governed by the weather. However, the usual practice once the race birds have hatched is that the youngsters are left with the cocks for about two weeks, at which time the hens and one youngster are removed leaving the cocks to continue rearing a single youngster on their own. Once they have finished rearing, the youngsters are weaned and the cocks are left celibate for a while before being re mated when John will start to train them up to about 20 miles. Depending on time and the weather they might go to their first race paired or just on widowhood and John has found that it doesn't matter. Once the hens are taken away for the second time the cocks go onto widowhood properly and stay on that for the rest of the season.
If the cocks are flying well voluntarily then they are left alone but if needs be they are forced to fly. When at exercise they are always shut out of the loft for the full period of exercise both morning and evening. Once racing begins, and their initial pre race training programme has been completed, the cocks are rarely trained thereafter but there is no hard and fast rule on this point. If John thinks the widowers need a pick me up then he will train them.
The cocks are raced weekly with a week's rest in between channel races.
The hens that did the damage in the BICC Old Hens Nationals were used as widowhood hens for the racing cocks earlier in the season. When some of these widowhood cocks were lost racing or to the local raptors, John simply placed their hens in a spare section and began to exercise and train them with the young birds before lifting them into the National races suitably enlivened by the introduction of some old cocks prior to basketting!!

The youngsters are raced through the young bird program although John will stop some of the cocks as the program progresses. However all the young hens will fly the full program if fit and well, finishing with every one going to the final Midland National young bird race. All the youngsters are raced on a darkness/light system and John has found there to be no detrimental effect on them in adulthood.

All pigeons are fed by hand with the old birds fed in their boxes, and the young bird team fed in troughs on the loft floor. John likes to feed a blend of different mixtures and has used Bamfords corn for a number of years now. More maize is added to the mixtures fed as the season progresses plus a few peanuts.

The main bloodline that runs throughout the Fretwell family of pigeons is that of Marcel Sangers of Eeffde. To this base John has added over the years pigeons from C & G Koopman with success, and also some from the loft of Stevens & Luyton Bommer.
These lines have knitted in well to produce the main part of the birds raced today. One pigeon that must be mentioned here is a chequer cock given to John by his good friend Rodney Greer. This cock is a son of "Tom Thumb", who raced so well in the London North Road Combine. However, the Sangers birds have been successful both pure and crossed at all levels, and John still maintains the pure Sangers lines within the stock loft but nevertheless he is always on the look out for birds to test against the established lines. He firmly believes that if you stand still you are almost certainly doomed to go backwards in this sport. He likes a medium to small sized bird with a strong back, a nice step in the wing and the bird should only show one feather width on the tail when held in the hand. As regards the eyes he is not an eyesign man but does like to see a rich coloured eye, and one at each side of the head with a look of intelligence!!

As far as medication goes, John carries out the statutory inoculation regime for Paramyxo and also treats the whole flock for salmonella during the autumn. Before pairing the whole flock is also treated against canker and coccidiosis. The race team is treated against canker and respiratory disease every four weeks during the racing season at different times. The youngsters are injected against paramyxovirus on weaning and are then treated for canker before racing, and once again half way through the racing season. As regards worming and lice control John uses a one spot treatment. John feels that observation is the key to keeping your flock healthy, and therefore he is always watching for any problems and tries to nip them in the bud as soon as possible.
John has used the Adherb range of products for many years and intends continue with these in the future.

John is an enthusiastic National racer both with the National Flying Club, the Midlands National, and beginning this season with the B.I.C.C. In 2007 he clocked to win 1st Section 3rd Open in the Midland National Tours race, In 2010 his young bird took 1st Section 122nd Open In the National Flying Club St Malo race, with 8,809 birds. In the same year he was 1st South West Section in the Midland National Young Bird race from Carentan. However this year's performances in the Midland National and the B.I.C.C. have been fantastic with 4 x 1st Sections and 2 x 1sts Open at National level which is about as good as it gets.

Some top class racers at the Fretwell loft over the years are as follows:-
The Slatey Cock
4th Fed Frome 61 miles
5th Fed Wincanton 74 miles
2nd Fed Berwick 252 miles
10th Fed Picauville 190 miles
16th Fed Poole 97 miles
191st Open 11th Section National Flying Club Fougeres 263 miles
1st Section 3rd Open Midland National Tours 348 miles

Slatey's Nest mate.
3rd Section 17th Open National Flying Club Fougeres 263 miles
5th Fed Pontefract 113 miles
16th Fed Hexham 196 miles
6th Fed Rotherham 95 miles
3rd Fed Rotherham 95 miles

"Tim" Bred by Tim Gould
18th Section 28th Open Midland Continental Yelverton 143 miles
18th Fed Exeter 123 miles
7th Section 202nd Open Tours 348 miles
4th Section 35th Open Midland National Saintes 444 miles
10th Fed Portland 110 miles

St Malo 07.21
8th Fed Portland 110 miles
8th Fed Kingsdown
25th Section 56th Open Midland National Tours 348 miles
2nd Section 17th Open Midland National Bergerac 514 miles
1st Section 122nd Open National Flying Club St Malo 245 miles

2nd Section 100th Open National Flying Club Poitiers 396 miles
3rd Fed Kingsdown 110 miles
10th Section 72nd Open Midland National Bordeaux 502 miles
Long Distance Ace Pigeon Midland National 5th Section 23rd Open
1st Section 34th Open Midland National Tours 348 miles
A full sister 10.37 was 1st Section 36th Open Midland National Carentan 2010 196 miles

"The Blues Brothers 42 & 45"
11th Fed Newton Abbot 129 miles
13th Section 126th Open Midland National Fougeres 263 miles
Middle Distance Ace Pigeon Midland National 10th Section 60th Open
4th Section 33rd Open Midland National Bordeaux 502 miles

"45" Sire of Jessica Ennis 12.34
7th Section 161st Open Midland National Carentan 196 miles
17th Section 120th Open Midland National Bordeaux 502 miles

"Simply Red 23"
17th Fed Portland 110 Miles
4th Section 134th Open B.I.C.C. Guernsey 1 184 miles
1st Section 1st Open B.I.C.C. Guernsey 2 184 miles
Just 2 races in 2012

"Jessica Ennis"
1st Section 1st Open Midland National 196 miles.
The Mealy cock was also 10th Section 18th Open from Carentan in the Midland National this year.

"I have numerous views and thoughts on the sport, firstly I feel that there are too many clubs and federations fragmenting the sport, I see no point in say three transporters going from the same district to the same race point, and having separate liberations. The RPRA should be stronger and consolidate the whole thing regarding the allocation of race programs. Regarding the problems we all suffer from birds of prey, I feel that the money generated from all the shows nowadays, a larger proportion should be put back into the sport to create a fighting fund to take up the cause and take it forward. It is very true that we need to encourage new people into the sport, look at the average age of most pigeon men. I am not sure how we make it "sexy". However I do feel that the new management regime at the R.P.R.A. are trying to address this problem and it is a problem. If the sport is go on through the 21st century it is up to us all to do our utmost to make sure we go forward, youth is the key.

That then is a brief pen portrait of a straight talking son of Yorkshire who has achieved what very few fanciers have done in winning two National races on the same day. Congratulations John and long may you continue to enjoy your sport.

Gareth Watkins