History & Heritage


The first Dovedale Sheepdog Trial was held at Ilam in 1890, preceding the formation of the International Sheep Dog Society in 1906, and is the oldest trial in Derbyshire and one of the oldest in the UK.  Following disruption during the war years, the trials started again in 1945 when the Ashbourne Young Farmers held trials under the Dovedale name and then in 1950 a group of local farmers started what was the forerunner of today’s committee.  In fact, there are descendants of some of those farmers still on the committee today.  The farmers contributed from their own pockets to stage the first trial, recognising that:  “There is no good flock without a good shepherd and no good shepherd without a good dog”.

Two of the long serving committee, Nigel Davis (past President, Secretary and current Chairman) and Ian Smith (past President and Chairman) are currently researching for a book on the history of Dovedale Sheep Dog Trials which it is hoped will be published in time to launch at next year’s English National Trial which is being held at Dovedale.  If you have any information, old programmes or, indeed, memories or funny stories you would like to share for possible inclusion in the book, please contact Nigel Davis whose email address appears on this website.


Every year Dovedale Sheepdog Society stages the two day trials in August, inviting shepherds and dog handlers both locally and nationally to showcase their dogs and their skills. The summer spectacle sets benchmarks, conserves traditional skills and, hopefully,  inspires the next generation to preserve the tradition. In 1967 and 2008, the Society was honoured to be invited to stage the English National Sheep Dog Trial, and has been awarded the honour of staging it again in 2020.

Further information will be posted on this website setting out full information as the details are finalised.  What we can confirm at this stage is that the dates for the national trials are 30 and 31 July and 1 August 2020. Also, because of the staging of the English National Trials next year, there will be no separate Dovedale Sheepdog Trials in 2020.

During the winter months the Society also holds Nursery Trials for young dogs.  The format and other details for 2019/2020 will be discussed, and agreed, at the Society’s committee meeting following the summer trials and will then be posted on this website.

Each spring, the Society holds the Tom Naden Memorial Trial in memory of the late Tom Naden who was the  Society’s Chairman for some 38 years.  This is a one day event and all profits are donated to Cancer Research.  Again the date and venue will be posted on this website once the details for 2020 have been agreed.