From February 1999’s issue.

From Iktis
I have always thought that pickers-up should own a trained monkey besides a good retriever. Such an animal could be a real help for recovering lodged birds such as pigeon flighting to roost and woodcock shot in cover. I am sure these intelliegent animals would readily adapt to a fetch-and-carry role, but perhaps they are too mischievous to take the job seriously. Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, a prime experimenter, had little luck when he tried a monkey, bribed from an organ-grinder, in place of the usual piper dog in a duck decoy.

“The fowl absolutely flew after him when first shown,” he wrote, “but when he turned and grinned at them they fled. When he sprang atop a screen and cracked the nuts with which I had tried to pacify him, and then scampered along the top of the pipe, every duck left the decoy for the day. Finally the monkey tumbed into the decoy and nearly died from fright and cold, and I narrowly escaped having to replace him.”

Country queries

I recently moved to the Peak District and have come across what the locals call a dew pond. Can you tell me what dew ponds are, their origins and their use today?

Dew ponds, or rain ponds, were man-made watering holes for livestock, usually sited at the bottom of a hill or an incline. Their effectiveness as a source of water depended on the soundness of their structure and freedom from leaks.

The earth was scooped out to make shallow, saucer-shaped hollows, the greatest depth – about a tenth of the diameter of the pond – being at the centre. The bottom of the pond would be lined with 4in to 6in of well-packed straw; an 8in layer of puddled clay; and finally a hard layer of mortar. The rim of the pond would be studded with large boulders, referred to as condenser stones.

Dew ponds were made until about a hundred years ago when they went out of fashion as piped water and troughs were introduced. Over the years they were used as the village tip or filled in with rubbish and overgrown with vegetation.

James Purdey & Sons has taken over the Laurent-Perrier Wild Game Awards. Richard Purdey, the company’s chairman, stressed that the new award, now called the Purdey Game and Conservation Award, would continue to recognise the enormous conservation value of shooting, both of wild and reared game.

We are delighted to have been able to take over the running and sponsorship of this important award, and with the active support and expertise of The Game Conservancy Trust we are very much looking forward to expanding its scope,” Purdey says. Innovative applications from syndicates, clubs, societies and individuals are invited. “We will consider all applicants irrespective of the size of the project,” he adds.

Entries are invited in March and the judging of finalists will take place in August and Septemeber. The Duke of Wellington will continue to chair the judging panel and the winners will be announced in October. The total prize money is now £7,500.