Mallard makes jumpers duck out at Sedgefield

The Sedgefield Duck!

The Sedgefield Duck!

Sedge: a grass-like plant with triangular stems and inconspicuous flowers, growing typically in wet ground. Sedges are widely distributed throughout temperate and cold regions.

Field: you don’t need me to tell you the meaning of field.

I realise this sounds rather like a David Mitchell explanation of one of the subjects for a lecture on The Unbelievable Truth, but it really does fit the bill today.

There’s a jumps card at Sedgefield this afternoon, and the horses are a bit short on fences to jump. They’ll be missing out the final fence because that hasn’t been repaired after suffering damage at the last meeting. That’s fair enough, but how about this for a reason to leave a fence out?

The first fence after the grandstand is out of bounds today to protect a nesting mallard, which is nurturing six eggs. She caught the groundstaff by surprise as clerk of the course Phil Tuck explained. He said, “We raced there on 2 May and she wasn’t there, but in repairing the fences one of the groundstaff noticed a nest with five eggs. An hour later there were six and she’s sat tight ever since.”

Tuck and his team are happy to let nature take its course over the month or so it takes for the eggs to hatch, but in fact they have little choice in the matter. Alison Enticknap, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, “It is illegal to disturb the nest of a wild bird. Galloping horses in her vicinity are unlikely to cause a disturbance; she’ll probably just sit tight. When they settle in they don’t come off their nests for much.”

Today is Sedgefield’s last fixture before its summer break, so by the time they resume racing in August, everyone will be hoping that the birds have flown. And isn’t Sedgefield just the most appropriate course for such a happening? After all, apart from the serendipity of the course name, Mallard used regularly to fly up the tracks just a mile or so to the west of the racecourse as she hauled trains between London and Edinburgh.

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