2015 England to Holland and Belgium
2015 arrived and the question on my mind was which show am I going to visit this year. I had been in regular contact with my friend Tom Powers over in England and together we agreed that the Spring Exchange in Houten, Holland should be our target. As Tom is closer over in Europe I left all of the arrangements with him.
On Wednesday Marie and I were in Toronto airport waiting to board a British Airways flight to London Heathrow where it had been arranged for Tom to collect and take us for an overnight stay at his place. It was the red eye overnight flight so we were a bit on the tired side by the time we arrived at Tomís house down in Hampshire. Despite this tiredness we enjoyed an English breakfast that Toms wife Bernie has prepared for us, before Tom and I went out to look over his set up. We handled many birds and it was amazing how calm the pigeons were not taking flight despite there being new faces in amongst them. Tom has a stock loft containing a good mix of the top Dutch and Belgian families of the moment. Things like Van Der Wouwer, Scheele Brothers, Dennis Veugelers, Koopmans and Jan Hooymans to name a few.
The afternoon was spent sightseeing in an old town called Farnham, the history that you can see in England is something to behold and be remembered. It was though early to bed that night because there was to be an early start the next morning.
Tom had arranged for the four of us to go over to Europe on an organised coach trip. We boarded the coach at 6.45 on the Friday morning and made a couple of pick-ups of other fanciers before we arrived at Folkestone and boarded a train that was going to get to France via the Channel Tunnel. When I say boarded a train what happened was that we stayed seated and the coach drove onto the train. Half an hour after departing the coach came out into the daylight on the other side of the channel in France. Another amazing experience.
As this was an organised trip there was a programme of events that we had to follow. The first stop was a chocolate factory that also sold tobacco and spirits, all of the experienced members of the tour got off and bought the goods that they wanted. It was then onto the first loft visit of the trip. We went into see an old Belgain fancier by the name of Guido Seys. Guido has an impressive record of results in the Barcelona race. This is the pinnacle of the racing season over in Europe and is the race that all international flyers want to win. There were a few birds purchased for the ridiculously low sum of 50 euros each. Seems to make the prices that we have to pay in North America look a bit excessive. I suppose we have to take into account what is a local pricing effect and the extra costs that shipping and quarantine also add to what it costs to get a bird over the Atlantic.
It was also interesting to get a good look at a traditional loft set up.

We all boarded the coach and it was off to Antwerp to the hotel that was going to be our home for the next two nights. The hotel was in the square that also had Antwerp Grand Central Station at the end. Now this is the most impressive railway station that I have ever seen, classic design and station platforms on two levels. That night we all enjoyed a steak meal and chat over a drink before returning to the hotel to prepare for the next day at the Spring Exchange.
Tom and I were going to the show whilst Marie and Bernie were going to go on a shopping trip to Utrecht.

The show was spread over three halls and all the halls were full of stands selling everything you could ever need for the pigeon sport, requisites, baskets, trailers, videos etc and thousands of young pigeons for sale.

Tom and I walked around once and then tried to get back to each of the stands that held the products etc that we both needed to take back with us. As well as the products that we left with Tom also collected a pigeon full of Jan Hooymans Harry blood that he had arranged before the trip.

We were outside at the correct time to meet the coach to go back to the hotel but two of our party did not make it. The driver waited 45 minutes but had to leave without them. It turned out that the two miscreants had been working on U.K. time and had not adjusted their watches to Holland time. They will not live down the ribbing that they had from everybody on the coach.
The next day it was up even earlier and over to Lier pigeon market. Now we have nothing like this in Canada. There was a market square full of fanciers with baskets full of young birds and thousands of fanciers from all over Europe walking round and buying youngsters to take home and add to their race teams. When the average price for these youngsters is 25 euros you cannot blame them for doing this. You cannot breed your own babies for these prices. In fact Tom came away with 2 youngsters.
Next it was back onto the coach and this time we were on our way to the Natural Breeding Station. I have never seen so many pigeons in one place. There had to be thousands in the breeding pens. A few on the coach were there to collect batches of six youngsters that they had ordered beforehand.
We were then back on the coach and starting our journey back to England, with a stop to the wine store for some cheap wine on the way. £2 a bottle for things that we pay $15 for at the LCBO.
There is so much to see and talk about at the Natural Breeding Station it is easers to go to there web site.


                      The Breedingstation on Video
The England loft that we visited was that of Crammond and Langstaff, national winners and consistently top flyers year in year out. The quality of birds that we handled here were amongst some of the best that I have ever seen in one place. ( Nigel Langstaff - Derick- Ian Crammonds ) Below
. Our first stop was into the stock loft that housed birds like a son of Harry, a child on Niewe Witbuick and one from New Laureate, some of the best distance blood you can buy today. We then went into the range of lofts that hold the rest of the stock birds. I was so impressed with the pigeons in one section that I asked Nigel Langstaff if I could buy a round of young birds to ship back to Canada. This was the section that has produced all of the top birds and Nigel said he will consider the request after discussion with Ian Crammond.

We had been in with the birds for three hours and still not seen any of the race birds. Tom then got a text to say the girls were back so we did rather rush the rest of the visit before we went inside. Once back indoors we were treated to a lunch prepared by Eileen, Nigelís partner. This does seem to be the way in Europe when you get pigeon guests arrive.
We told Ian and Nigel that if they came to Canada that our door was open ...PLUS... I would supply the Snow Boots, Ha..Ha
                                        Ian did say they might go to Florida to visit the loft's were its warmer
         Your Canada Friends would like to thank both of you for the time you took out of your busy day...Thank You Again
The last part of the day and the last thing we did on our trip was to visit a place called Port Solent. This was something Tom thought we might be interested in as it is a large modern marina and that was our business here in Canada.
The next morning it was back to the airport and home, a quick and very busy trip, but it was really worth it. I am already looking forward to what might be in store for next year.

                                                                 Big Thank You to Bernie plus I have to say Tom
                                                                                  for another great Trip
Nigel Holding GB11J15515
5 first Federation
The Latest was 1st Against 1169 birds from Exeter