Sedghurst Clumbers
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The beginning of Sedgehurst Clumbers

The Beginning of Sedgehurst Clumbers by Debbie Zurick

Some people say it is an obsession, I like to say it is a passion of mine as I would hate to admit to anything as an obsession.  But Clumbers have become a large part of my life. 25 years ago when my father was diagnosed with cancer, I bought him a copy of the Country Life magazine with an article by David Tomlinson, featuring James Darley with his working Clumbers, Duncan and Beryl. My father said when I get better, that’s my next dog. 'Had it with Springers, only get one or two good years out of mine and that’s between 10 and 12 years of age. Too hot for me,' he said.  'I am going to have a nice steady rough shooting dog!!'

Unfortunately that day never came for him, so I kept the article, rang James, and asked to see the dogs working. I explained the type of shooting my husband John and I do, mainly rough shooting and picking up. That I had been brought up with springers all my life and that John had always had Labradors.  We were invited to watch Venaticus Duncan working at an any variety field trial in East Sussex, judged by the late Keith Erlandson. Little did we know then we were watching what was considered the best Clumber in the country at the time. We were suitably impressed when he received a reserve in this field trial, after a run off against springers. At the time we didn’t understand this major achievement and hurdle that Duncan and James had just gone through. This was a top award for a Clumber in an AV field trial for more than 6o years.  No wonder our request to James was to find us a Clumber, thought he worked very nicely, just what we were looking for. We of course, in our ignorance, thought all Clumbers were like this, we were soon to have a rude awaking.

Our first puppy came from Derbyshire and we called him Bertie. He proofed to be a challenge due to some temperament issues which he showed from a very young age and also health issues in later life. Nevertheless John persevered with his training and even achieved a COM in a field trial. But Bertie's health and temperament were such that we vever considered breeding from him but started another search for a new puppy.

We were soon to discover the difference between dogs breed purely as a workingo dog, or a dog for the show bench. We joined the Working Clumber Spaniel Society and with help, we found the right line of Clumber to be able to breed a litter which was free from such health issues, good natured, and keen to work, willing to please.  The opportunity came from a bitch that James Darley had bought in Cornwall, Newhill Nightingale ( Floss). He felt she wasn’t going to make a trialling dog and had passed her own, this hadn’t worked out, so we asked if we could have a go with her. Floss took to John very quickly, they went everywhere together and soon became good mates. He even managed to run her in a couple of trials and get through to the second run, but she was always out. Never terrible steady! But more importantly I could see she was the right material to breed from with a hip score of just 14, clean clear eyes, very lively, lean well muscled, sweet natured, a little stubborn but a strong hunter and retriever. A good looking bitch, with a good line of working blood either side of her pedigree going back to Venaticus Duncan as her grandfather.

Then to find the right sire Christine Bridgwater, very well known for her springers had a nice line of Scherzando Clumbers which she worked. She also owned a dog, bred by the late Mabel Hall out of her Leybel line, which had a hip score of 0/0. This dog was the father of the sire I choose, belonging to Mike Blakeman,  Sherzando Chieftan (Tank). He also was a sweet natured soft dog, good worker with FT awards in minor breed trials.

They had a super litter of 6 pups (3 bitches & 3 dogs) our first Sedgehurst Line pups. Two went to James Darley, one each for John and I, one to Mike Blakeman, and one to a lady in Kent who we had met at the CLA gamefair.  They weren’t perfect but very good for Clumbers, hips score for this litter came in an 8, 24, 13, 15, 10  for the five that we scored. We were delighted as the average was still 43 in those days. We wanted to breed a dog that was less exaggerated, a lighter frame, yet well-muscled and lean, clear eyed, more colour back in them again, and capable of a day's work, drawing on the dogs of the past, back in the Victorian and Edwardian times, when they were in their heyday. Two of the brothers had 28 field trial awards between them. Maxim (Max) owned by James Darley had 11 FT awards in minor breed trials including 2 firsts. And Tormentum (Wooster) owned by John Zurick had 17 FT awards including 2 firsts in minor breed trials. I am very proud of our first litter of Sedgehurst Working Clumbers. Both dogs that we kept from this litter were happy to be either out rough shooting, picking up, or the odd days driven, sitting at the peg, as long as they got plenty to pick, if their master or mistress had their eye in!! Bronte, one of our first pups who had a full working life died at 15, a really good age. The next generation needed to be even better, and so it was. We are now breeding consistently low hip scoring dogs with single figured hip scores and 0/0 elbow scores. 

Rufus, the next generation had  19FT awards to his name and one of those in an AV Novice spaniel trial against 16 springers & 1 cocker and he was placed 3rd with a full set of awards given that day including 4 C.O.M.s. Of course we were delighted, as the last person to achieve this was James Darley with Duncan. Since then Sedgehurst Tempest(Titus) has done very well in Minor breed Field trials with many awards, but proud to say he has two awards in AV novice running against English Springers & Cockers including a guns choice, and was still running in AV trials at the age of 10. A very fit lively dog winning 2 field trial awards at age 11!! He is now 12 still working, but has made it to house dog now.

I am proud to say after serving on the WCSS committee, I have been secretary for the past 17 years, which is a very satisfifying enjoyable honour, to be able to help people find the right Clumber and encourage them with its future. They are a very appealing with an irresistible charm. I would like to ensure the breed has a place in the hearts of  shooting people as long as the sport survives. So maybe Clumbers have become an obsession now.

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