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Crowds expected to flock to Haughley Park’s English National Sheepdog Trials arriving in Suffolk for first time

PUBLISHED: 15:54 06 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 06 July 2017

Ed Hawkins pictured in Chelsworth.

Ed Hawkins pictured in Chelsworth.

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England’s top of 150 English sheepdogs and their handlers are set to descend on Suffolk in July for a celebrated competition.

Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.

Haughley Park, near Stowmarket, will play host to the English National Sheepdog Trials as they come to Suffolk for the first time in their history, over three days from July 28-­30.

Competitors will be vying for a chance to represent England at the annual International Trials on September 8-­10. Alongside it will be Suffolk on Show, a showcase of crafts, food and entertainment from all over the county.

The English Nationals take place over three days and the five highest scoring competitors from each day win a place in the England team. At the end of the third day’s competition, there is a runoff between the winners from each day to find the overall English Champion and the England team captain.

During the lunch break each day, while the singles competitors and judges rest, Brace teams compete before the Brace judges to find the English National Brace Champion. They also have the honour of representing their country at the International Trial.

Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.

Competing will be Suffolk’s own Ed Hawkins, a professional shepherd who lives in Nedging and works at Semer and Haughley. Last year Ed qualified at the English National Sheepdog Trials in Castle Howard, Yorkshire to be part of a team of 15 in Wales, competing on his own and with the English team against Wales, Scotland and Ireland. He also took overall first place in the open competition at the 2016 East Anglian Sheepdog Society trials at Ickworth, and featured on ITV’s Flockstars, in which he trained celebrities to run their own sheepdogs.

Ed, who grew up in Combs and does not come from a farming background, took up training sheepdogs at a very early age after he was introduced them on a family day out at a country fair at Thornham Walks when he was six years old.

“There was a sheepdog trial organised by East Anglian Sheepdogs Society. I watched and decided, there and then, that that was what I wanted to do.” Even though he didn’t have a dog at the time, Ed’s parents nurtured his interest and members of the society helped him learn.

“Then, when he was 12 he got a border collie puppy of his own, learned to train it and has never looked back. He currently has about 10 dogs, including Troy, who will be competing with him at the World Trials in Holland two weeks before the Haughley event. Ed’s interest in training sheepdogs led to his career as a shepherd. He looks after flocks for other sheep owners and runs 300 of his own ewes at Haughley Park. He loves the outdoor lifestyle it provides, and the same goes for sheepdog training.

Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.Ed Hawkins in Chelsworth.

“At a very young age I saw something in the relationship the trainer has with the dog, and in the dog using its hunting instinct ­ it’s almost primeval. It just clicked with me.”

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