June 1, 2020 11:07:54 AM
Pigeon racing has beaten snooker and horse racing to be the first sport to return following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.
More than 4,000 birds belonging to members of the Barnsley Federation of Racing Pigeons were released from a park in Kettering on Monday morning for a 90-mile sprint back to South Yorkshire.
Organiser John Greenshield watched from his coop complex on allotments in Wombwell, Barnsley, as his 35 pigeons began to swoop in from the south.
The first arrivals landed out of the almost clear blue skies one hour and 52 minutes after they set off from Kettering.
Retired miner Mr Greenshield, 72, said the green light came earlier than many expected and so many of the birds are far from “match fit”.
But he said the return of racing will be a blessing for many in his community.
Mr Greenshield said: “This is a very strong ex-mining area and I worked in the pits for 41 years.
“So many people have lost people in the mines or are living with illnesses.
“The whole current situation has got people down and there are a lot of mental problems.
“The racing is something for people to get out of bed for. People are really looking forward to it.
“I think it would have killed some off if there hadn’t been racing until next year.
“It’s like putting oxygen back into the area.”
Mr Greenshield said the birds would have flown north along a route close to the A1.
He said they probably would have broken into smaller groups around the Blyth area, on the Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire border.
Mr Greenshield said there was a headwind, which limited the times, but he was pleased with the morning’s flying.