Harewood House and a sad story
The house stands tall like it has erupted from the ground it looks out onto the abandoned lake that at some point would have been a pleasurable area for the family to enjoy. With sweeping hills with tree lined tops and a gentle stone track meandering through the estate. Many years ago this track was the main work road for the estate and it was named the coal road. One would presume it was the original road that serviced the estate. The small stone bridges that cross each water course must have taken years to build but now sadly left unattended and unloved with weeds and moss growing all over them. If you ever get chance to visit the house take a look at the estate from the terraces the view will take your breath away. You will feel the breeze in your face just as royalty would when a garden party were arranged. The more grand the view the wealthier they were meant to be. Inside the house are pictures and ointments from all over the world again this is to demonstrate wealth. There are vistas of trees that make the land look bigger. I have spent many happy times at Harewood manly with the keeper Tim Rothwell. I actually worked there for over a year helping rear partridge and bring polts on ready for the shooting season. Some days it was hard work but in the main due to the place it was all worth it. I also trained the agents of Harewood house dog there, she was called whispa she was a lovely black Labrador puppy when I first met her and eventually was a well-trained dog that would sit at the peg and enjoy many shoot days. I remember when I took her back after training her. I had to show her owner Christopher how she was and what she could do. I met up with Christopher in a large field that sloped up to the keeper’s house. We had woods either side of us and behind a pond with lots of geese and duck on. Before Christopher came to see her I had placed a memory retrieve right next to the keeper’s cottage for an example of a dog working at distance this was around 300 yards. Christopher arrived and he got out of his car. We said our hellos and I asked him to stay back whilst I demonstrated whispa. I did some directional control with stop whistle, some distraction retrieves and some from the dummy launcher. I finished the first part of the demonstration with the memory I placed some 30 minutes ago. She took the line and completed the retrieve. I did not expect anything less to be honest as she was a great dog. We then walked over to Christopher to discuss some training. We then went into one of the woods where he asked for a blind to be put out. Well this was relatively easy blind and she did it with ease. Christopher was exceptionally happy with how she was and thanked me. She passed away in 2021,
she was a very good dog with lots of experience under her belt. I was very lucky to be able to hold training days at Harewood and utilised the many areas it had to offer. Some of the areas we used were not accessible by the public therefore our training days were always never interrupted. One where I loved to train was the trout ponds. Still holding some fish too. I presume the ponds were also a place of entertainment for the Harewood family many years ago. There were two lakes that were fed with fresh running water from the land. Both had a water fall that the water would cascade from one to another. It went on through the estate to feed the main pond. This was a great drive on shoot dates however in winter they would freeze over and sometime it then became very dangerous. As the head picker up if any birds landed on the ice I would not let the dogs attempt any retrieves. The last thing I would want to do is compromise the safety of a dog. We would later collect with a boat if required. This particular drive was a busy drive and I had picked ups stood well back as the birds were plentiful and high. Last thing we needed to do was stand by the guns collecting dead birds. We needed to be right back collecting the birds that were hit but failed to land straight away. We normally had 3 drives before lunch and then one drive after. We all wished that we could go straight through but it was how they wanted it. On one particular day it was cold and wet moody on foot but the agent insisted we were to have two drives after lunch much to the beating and picking team dismay. However we were there to do as we are told and that's the end of it. It was getting close to the pheasants going to roost but one last drive was to be had. This drive was called east gardens. It was a little pleasure ground to the side of the main house. The wind was pushing in the wrong direction leaves were blowing across the field and the diminishing light was not with us. The guns lined up in the grass land in front of the house. We always had to make a call to the house to let her ladyship know that we were about to break havoc on her quite afternoon tea. I was stood quite far back in the open field it was the first time I had been in this area, it was before I worked there so it was all new to me. I could hear the beaters coming through the woods with the odd pheasant pushing out away from the guns. Our beater bus driver was asked to stand on the corner of the wood banging his stick on the old steel fence to try and push the birds towards the waiting guns. Some birds went to the guns but many came out and went with the wind away in safety. I saw a gun raise to the sky with a towering cock bird about to feel his lead, first shot was fired nothing and the gun pulled through and hit it with the second barrel. I saw the bird come down hard with a wing down and when hitting the floor it set off running at pace towards the lake and wood. I turned and sent Duke for the runner. He was a mighty strong dog with so much power I watch on as he shot across the field to pick the runner. What I was not aware of was the ha-ha wall. If you don’t know what one of these are it's a ditch at one side and a 6 or 7 foot wall at the other. This was to prevent and deer or cattle enter the garden and trashing any of the ornamental flowers from across the world be destroyed. Duke hit the wall as hard as he could head on. I heard the Yelp from him and ran straight away towards where he was. When I got to him he had blood coming from his mouth and he was trying to pull himself out of the ditch with only his front legs. I jumped down into the ditch to get him and he bit me on the arm as he was in so much pain I got him and took him to the truck where we headed straight to the vets. Unfortunately after an x-ray it was found he had snapped his spine and was unable to use half of his body. This was the saddest day of my life. I had to have him put to sleep. I held him whilst they injected him and he went to sleep. One of the helpers in the vet put him back into my truck. I was heartbroken the dog of a lifetime taken away so soon. I headed home and rang my wife to tell her the news. I could hardly talk and soon cut the call off. By now it was dark and rain banging down so hard the wipers on my truck were on full the lights of other cars and tears in my eyes were overwhelming. I got to the Motorway and within ten minutes of driving the whole of the motorway came to a standstill. 2 hours I was sat in traffic with my dead dog behind me. I could not think of anything worse. At that point I decided that I was done with dog training done with owning dogs I could not cope with what inevitably comes with every dog that being the end of life. This is why now I retire my dogs to lovely homes early. Eventually I got home and took him into the garden and dug a hole. The rain was still coming down but I needed to do it as I could not leave this while morning. The day I lost Duke has never left my thoughts. I have also had some amazing days at Harewood too that will never be forgotten. Unfortunately Harewood no long has a shoot there and when this was announced it was a very sad day. The friends, the teams we had were truly amazing. One thing from this was I gained a friend, he is a little odd but he is still a good friend Mr Tim Rothwell.