One of the new activities for everyone to try at the Members’ Meeting this year is duck herding.
Titter ye not, GRR has not gone qwackers.
Sure, duck herding and historic motor racing might not obviously go together. And for good reason. Oil on the circuit as we had on the Saturday is one thing, but ducks loose at Lavant? Doesn’t bear thinking about.
However duck herding is a traditional country pastime with plenty of skills on show (mostly by the super-smart Border collies that do the work) and which is ideal to get the feathers flying in the Memers’ Meeting inter-house rivalry.
And of course it is precisely because it is so unexpected that it is right for the Members’ Meeting. Go on, name another race meeting where they herd ducks.
Actually they are not ducks. They are geese. Which, knowing the goose’s fearsome reputation, might make things worse rather than better for some people. But herding virgins and seasoned farming types – all are welcome to have a go at this free activity – have nothing to fear. Nothing can go wrong. Well, not much.
Duck herding began as a way of getting the geese from the fields of Norfolk down to Smithfield Market in time for the Christmas rush. Nothing quite so strenuous for the Goodwood version.
Aim of the exercise here is to herd half a dozen ducks, sorry geese, through some gates and into a pen. This is not done on a wing and a prayer but with the help and assistance of some some totally superb Border collies. What you have to do is stand still and instruct the dogs.
‘A lot of people think all you have to do is shout out, Come Byyyyyyyyyyyyy just like they do on One Man and His Dog,’ David Seamark tells GRR.
‘But you don’t need to do all that, and you certainly don’t need to shout. Dogs have very good hearing and you need to issue quiet, gentle instructions for left and right. And you mustn’t get into a flap.’
They are David’s geese, and his dogs too. He is a farmer from Bedfordshire: ‘This is my diversification,’ he explains. ‘Duck herding is great for team building events and also we do arena displays and it’s a popular activity for birthday parties.’
Any tips from David for would-be herders? ‘You have to appreciate that once you have given a dog its instruction you have to wait until it has finished its manoeuvre before you give it another order. It’s not like having a remote control where you can instantly change direction.’
For some reason known only to David his dogs know their lefts and rights in English, Italian and Spanish. Which should make it interesting when the four house captains make it to the paddock behind Lavant to taken the challenge. Four fiercely competitive racing drivers, from Scotland, Italy, Germany and France – what could possibly go wrong?
Charlie Fraser from Seriously Cool Events, the company that laid on the duck herding for Goodwood, says: ‘Duck herding is a first for the Members’ Meeting but judging from the fun people are having it won’t be the last time.’
Duck herding is free and open to all and located in a paddock behind the Lavant Grandstand – get to it by walking along the path alongside the Lavant Straight or take one of the regularly-run free trailer rides.
One thing for sure…it won’t be a wild goose chase.