THE annual Countryside Day takes place at Kelso Racecourse on Sunday, with a line-up of entertainment featuring ferrets, collie-herded ducks, local hounds and birds of prey.
The racecourse’s managing director, Richard Landale, said: “I am delighted to welcome and support the people who work so hard to help keep our diverse and delightful country sports alive and flourishing. It will be a great treat to see them in action and will, I hope, add greatly to everyone’s enjoyment of the day.”
There will be a cross-border contest when the prize-winning Jedforest Hunt, current champions, will seek to defend their title against the Percy Hunt in a battle for the John Manners Foxhound Championship Trophy.
Based at Abbotrule House near Hawick, the local 52-strong pack had a successful show season this summer, including scooping two trophies, for the group and brood bitch classes, at the Scottish Hound Show in Langholm and winning the North Tyne Show championship at Simonburn in Northumberland.
Master Stuart Trousdale said of the Jedforest Hunt hounds: “They’re bred for the area: on the lowland, they’re a heavier steadier hound. Out on the hills you need a more leggy and athletic hound.”
The Border Hound Trailing Association returns to the popular racecourse for the fourth year when the specially-bred hounds will demonstrate their speed and agility over the track. The summer sport takes place in the Borders when the animals race up and down hills, clearing dykes and fences and any other obstacle in their path to win.
Loch Lomond farmer and sheepdog handler Mark Wylie and his Drakes of Hazard display team of collies and ducks will be entertaining audiences when he instructs his Border collies to guide the Indian runner ducks across and through obstacles such as the “golden yolk bridge” and the feather-ruffling “tower of doom”.
The sheepdog trials prize-winning handler has also appeared on television when Blue Peter presenter Matt Baker and his Border collie Meg, more used to rounding up sheep on Matt’s family farm, tried their hand at drake-herding under Mr Wylie’s guidance.
Also on Sunday the man who supplied owls for the Harry Potter films will be bringing birds of prey and ferrets to the racecourse. For James McKay, who appears on the BBC’s Live and Deadly television series, will travel up from Ashover with his wild animals so children can experience them up close. The ferrets will be racing through a series of tunnels throughout the afternoon with a little help from some young race goers and zoologist Mr McKay, former CEO of the UK’s National Federation of Zoos, will also be on hand with his ferret road show so children can ask questions and handle the creatures.
Gates open at 10am and the first race is at 12.15pm.