The day finally arrived. We drove to Bala, Wales, for the historic dog sale, with Elgar and Claire. It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Wales with everything around us just waiting to be enjoyed!
Elgar pointed out many landmarks on the very scenic route that we took to Bala. Some of the roads were no more than one (small) car wide. It was a very nice tour! It is so beautiful - from green valleys up to high barren areas -- all with loads of sheep (mostly Welsh Mountain breed).
The dog sale itself was like a step back in time, for me. Part country social event, part livestock auction. Sheep were let out at the top of the field, just like in a trial. The handlers had a certain amount of time to work their dogs on the sheep as they saw fit. The sheep were pretty lively Welsh Mountain yearlings and most of the dogs had probably never seen anything so mobile... then when a bell was rung by the auctioneer staff, the handler was to call the dog off while bidding continued. An exhaust person took the sheep off the field while the bidding went on...and the handler and dog stood in front of the crowd until bidding was completed. The auctioneers sounded just like the ones I knew from the states, and their cry was very familiar to me but with a Welsh accent. The feverish pitch of the auction grew as the day went on...but the buyers were confined to a smaller group that crowded close to the sales ring. The rest of us were there for the social occasion. I could see that folks came out to the sale as a kind of rite of spring - to greet their fellow handlers and friends in a country fair type of atmosphere.
The first several dogs went so cheap, that the sellers passed them through without selling. A few dogs sold high but there were questions in our little group of onlookers as to whether they were real and actual bidders, or not... a typical auction. There were buyers on the phone, we were told. Carefully, we kept our hands in our pockets and avoided eye contact with the ring men! We picked out a few dogs that we liked, and several that we didn't really care for - not the dogs' fault but perhaps they were put in over their heads, or their training level, or their handlers were nervous and didn't present the dogs well. All in all it was all about the presentation. Dogs who couldn't fetch the sheep down the field, for instance, we said, no thanks (not that we were buying anyway). Our new friend John Dyke was there, so we saw him again, and he introduced us to several gentlemen who provided enlightening commentary on each dog, and one of them even converted the guineas price of the high sellers into British pounds and then into American dollars for us... astounding. :-)
At the dog sale, we ran into Sue Main in the line to get coffee and sandwiches, and it became then a double treat! Sue was so warm and friendly, just as she has seemed online. Standing in line, we heard a voice behind us exclaim, "Gloria!?!?!? I thought I heard American voices!"And it was Sue. :-) We met her lovely grandchildren and enjoyed hanging out with her for part of the morning. It is such a small world, this sheepdog world... and the coffee/tea and sandwiches were served on china plates by vendors wearing what I would call white lab coats...it was all so civilized, despite us in our wellies, standing out in a sheep field!
Gloria bought a crook from a local gentleman selling sticks at the trial. I think she got the best stick that he had by deciding early on that she wanted it and not waiting for others to snap it up. It is a very handsome piece with a carved black horn handle carved with a thistle on it, and a hazel shaft. It had just a nice feel to it.
|At the crossroads between The Hand and The West Arms-Chirk was invaded by the Normans 1000 years ago!|
|beside The West Arms :-)|
|A lovely field behind The West Arms, where E told us they used to hold a regular sheepdog trial... now sadly lost to time|
|Gloria and her prize new stick|
|Dogs being shown on the field at Bala|
|The exhaust pen at the Bala dog sale|
|If you wanted to buy a puppy there were probably ten choices, or more, to be had out of the back of vehicles and all well bred pups|
|Vehicles lined up against the field barrier to watch the Bala dog sale from prime positions|
Once we had our fill of the dog sale (we did not say to see the young dogs in the puppy pen), we bid our goodbyes to Sue and to other new friends that we had met recently, and continued on our tour out to the location of the original first recorded dog trial -- at Bala -- and what a setting...wow. It is also the site of the first World Trial. At Bala, there is also Wales' largest lake, natural and not man made.
|Bala dog trial site|
|The stone and the plaque|
|Looking down from the stone back to the road to our car|
|Elgar and Gloria discussing the stone|
|Bala dog trial location (!!!)|
|Close up of the plaque. Everything is spelled out in both languages, wherever you go in Wales|
|Traffic jam, Welsh stle, en route from Bala to the Vivod Estate|
|At Vivod, on the field used for the trial, Elgar points out to Gloria where the course is run|
|Claire and Gloria at Vivod...surely this is close to heaven! :-)|