PIGEON fanciers from Hartlepool took on fellow enthusiasts from across the region in one of the biggest events of the racing season.
Town fanciers prepared their young pigeons and sent them off to Maidstone, in Kent, to take on other pigeons from throughout the North East.
The town was not celebrating a victory, but one of the pigeons finished the race in a hugely impressive 16th out of the 12,000 pigeons competing.
Pigeon racing isn’t judged on a first past the post system.
The time it takes the bird to travel the distance back to its home is measured and the winner is the pigeon with the highest velocity.
Lew Hubbert, 67, has been a pigeon fancier in the town for 35 years.
The retired industrial training manager, who lives in the Fens area of Hartlepool with wife, Pat, 67, a retired school cook, won a prestigious gold medal in a race from France in 1988.
The dad-of-two says he has a huge passion for the sport, but says unfortunately numbers are on the decline.
“There is no doubt that numbers are dwindling,” he said.
“Youngsters used to get involved when they would go along to the club with their dads and think it was a good idea to start the sport.
“But I think as the working men’s club culture dwindles away, these sorts of sports are going with it.”
Lew, who has a patch at the Burn Valley allotment site, admits the sport is very expensive, but says the standard in Hartlepool is high.
He added: “Despite the numbers dwindling, we do have a lot of pigeon fanciers in Hartlepool, a lot of people have a real passion for the sport.
“The season runs from April-September but looking after the pigeons is a 12-month job, they are athletes.”