The Trials Site situated at Blore Crossroads, near Ilam, is located on the Okeover Estate, home to Sir Andrew and Lady Phillipa Walker-Okeover, and forms part of an estate farm which is tenanted and farmed by Robert Rowlinson. We are, as always, most grateful to Sir Andrew and Lady Phillipa and Robert, for allowing us to use the site for our annual trials. The site extends to some 40 acres with a West facing slope, similar to an amphitheatre, so that viewing is good from almost anywhere on site, and has two access points from the crossroads at Blore. In addition to the Trials course itself, it provides ample space for car parking, toilets, catering, an ice cream van and the Craft Marquee., and, of course, watching the Trials. It is the top part of the site sloping down from it’s highest point that provides the Trials course of a size and standard appropriate for not only the annual Sheepdog Trials but also National Competition. For the safety of spectators, and sheep and dogs alike, the course is fenced off by a post and sheep netting fence which ensures an unencumbered view from all angles.
Run over two days, Tuesday starts at 7.00am with the Local Open Trial, which is for handlers residing within a twenty mile radius of the cross in the centre of Ilam, the top two prize winners going forward to the Championship of the Dales on Wednesday. The Local Open is followed by an Open Nursery Trial which will see handlers from all over the country competing with their young dogs who have yet to win a trial. They are the Open dogs, and some of them possibly the champions of the future. This is then followed by the first of the two Open Trials which will see some of the country’s top dogs and handlers competing for a place in the Championship on Wednesday. The top five from the Open Trial will go through to the Championship.
Wednesday starts at 7.00am with the second OpenTrial and again the top five will qualify for the Championship, meaning there will be twelve dogs and their handlers trying for the top prize later in the day.
At lunchtime on Wednesday there is an Open Doubles competition where one handler works with two dogs. This is quite a sight to behold and the competition is always keenly contested and something to marvel at for all spectators.
And so, after the Doubles, comes the Championship of the Dales, featuring the top dogs from the Local Open, top five dogs from Tuesday’s Open Trial and top five from Wednesday’s Open Trial.
The commentary team will explain the layout of the course and how the judge will be scoring each competition before it starts, and the handler’s scores will be given out t intervals as well so that if you want to keep an note of those you can do so.