Update 11/03/24

March 11th, 2024

I received a heart-warming letter this week from teacher Kent Shirky at Beech Grove School in Nonington, Kent, and it reads:

Dear Mr. Sutton,

“I started our school loft project here at Beech Grove five or six years ago, with no previous knowledge or experience in the sport. From the very first time I reached out to the RPRA, all the staff and especially Richard Chambers have been a huge support to us, first stepping us through the process of getting registered with our first club in Nonington, as well as a generous donation, and of course, answering my many questions as I learned what it takes to care for, breed, and train, racing pigeons. As well as that, especially the 2 sponsorships that Richard was able to secure: the iPigeon ETS system, and Bamfords, who continue to supply free corn each year. It is quite clear that under normal school budget restraints, a project such as a racing pigeon loft would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, so thank you for making it possible.

“Each year more students are involved and become first interested, and then captivated by watching the life cycle unfold, from the first eggs being laid, to the babies hatching, holding the young birds, giving them each a name, training them, and then the thrill of racing. It is clear also from your report that Richard himself has taken on a lot of extra work, so I want to underline the good work he has been doing and finding time for my calls and supporting each of the school projects in between and on top of his other work.

“We were delighted to hear that we are receiving the schools award for last year, the students can’t wait to get their hands on the trophy! This year will also be the first year we are competing in the RPRA One Loft Race, and we are very proud that we will be breeding our own youngster for that, here at our loft from our own stock. I am sure it will add another layer of excitement and interest come the summertime. Well done to you and the team for getting the new location secured and the loft set up in time.

I would like to thank Mr Shirky for his positive feedback, as it highlights just a small proportion of the schools the RPRA have been able to support over the years. All this has been funded by the RPRA One Loft race, which was the aim since its conception over 20 years ago. It gained such a huge support from our members that in just one week of taking the loft entries it would be sold out. Some of the participants would be considering the prize monies available, but I would like to think the vast majority entered the RPRA One Loft to support the great work which has been done in lots of schools and projects to highlight this wonderful hobby of ours.

The past two years have been very difficult with the entries far lower than previous years, and there are now very many other one lofts to choose from. I have nothing but praise for anyone offering an alternative as a private business, that’s life. If it is well run and competitive, it makes us all want to be the best whilst giving lots of options for the fanciers. I do hope that although the fanciers are getting more choice in several locations around the UK and the Europe, they will also find the finances to continue to enter the RPRA One Loft in a support for the Future of the Sport projects.

Once we had gained planning permission at the new location in Sleaford work began to erect the loft in time for entries from the 18th March. We had originally given out a date of the 11th March but planning ran on for a couple of extra weeks which set us back, but we are now well on track and on my visit last Friday, the 8th March, one loft was fully erected with box perches being fitted in the sections and the second loft was just beginning to have the tiled roof fitted. From Monday the 11th we will have both lofts up and watertight, with nothing stopping us from receiving arrivals on the 18th March, taking them right through to the middle of May.

We do have the very real problem of lack of support now, and I understand those fanciers who would normally take part are waiting to see if we can get the loft ready in time. It is up, it will be ready, but we cannot operate with a very low entry, we desperately need your support. If you have been pondering, please enter your teams now as it will make a much bigger difference in the first year at Sleaford than any that may follow. It is our venture, belonging to all the members, for the sake of our sport and future fanciers.

Read the letter from Mr Shirky, look at the photo of the kids with their trophy, and be a part of something special.

Chris Sutton