Racing community rallies round
Pigeon racing has proved a great source of comfort to Lincolnshire man Daniel Parker. He tells Kate Chapman how the sport helped him keep a positive outlook after a tragic motocross accident left him paralysed.
Despite the life-changing injuries he sustained last year, the 23-year-old from Tallington, near Stamford, is optimistic about the future and is determined to live life to the full while continuing to pursue his passion for the sport.
The pigeon racing community has been rallying around Daniel too and The Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) is helping to raise funds for a new bespoke loft for his birds so he can access it in his wheelchair in order to care for them more easily.
“My motocross accident was life-changing, but I am determined to live life to the fullest and continue enjoying pigeon racing,” said Daniel, who previously worked as a roofer.
“It is a brilliant sport that is truly inclusive of everyone. I can’t thank my parents Kay and Tom enough for being so supportive and for the generosity from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association for helping raise funds for a new pigeon loft. It will truly help to change my life.”
Daniel has always loved the great outdoors and was inspired to start keeping pigeons when he was a youngster by his Dad, who is a gamekeeper.
He was 12 when he bought twenty Birmingham roller pigeons after visiting a local farmers’ market over the county border in Melton Mowbray.
On returning home that day, he immediately set about converting an old shed into a loft and made it suitable for his new birds. A few years after buying the Birmingham rollers, Daniel’s family and friends, who took part in pigeon racing, gave him a selection of young racing pigeons and the following year, he decided to join the racing community himself.
Once he’d taken part in his first pigeon race and placed third, he says, he instantly fell in love with the sport and was hooked.
“I got the pigeons in the first place because my Dad’s a gamekeeper and I just thought they would be a bit different to the other birds, like pheasants, that he looked after.
I’ve got about sixty pigeons at the moment, I’m not really sure what it is about them that draws me to them, but I love the buzz I get when waiting for them to return,” says Daniel, a member of the Stamford and District Pigeon Club.
“Even more so if you get a big load coming back together, I always feel on edge when there’s someone I want to beat – it can get quite competitive! After getting that third place in my first race I was determined to get a first.
“The average pigeon flies at around 50mph and the races they take part in vary anywhere from 80 to 560 miles in distance.”
It was in March last year that Daniel’s world was turned upside when he suffered life-changing injuries following a motocross accident.
He damaged his T4, T5 and T6 vertebrae and as a result has no movement or sensation from the stomach down.
“I was on a motocross all day, riding about the fields where I am allowed to go, it was just a bit of a hobby, and I was just wheeling off this mound when the bike stalled, the front wheel stuck on the mound and I went over the top and landed on my head,” he recalls.
“I spent five months in hospital and came home at the end of July and am now back living with my parents who have built an annexe for me as I’m unable to get upstairs.
“Things are probably as good as they are going to get now, but I’m just finding that everything seems to be such hard work – things like transferring myself on and off my bed to my wheelchair, getting in and out of vehicles, even getting dressed in the morning, but I will get there.”
Once he has a new adapted car and has started driving again, Daniel is hoping to attend the Matt Hampson Foundation Centre, in Melton Mowbray, where he will have access to specialist machinery to help him build his upper body strength, which will help him to move about more easily.
In the meantime, he is keen to keep focusing on his passion for pigeon racing, after his parents helped him last year, racing his birds for him while he was in hospital.
Proceeds raised from the British Homing World Show, an annual event held in Blackpool – the largest gathering of pigeon fanciers – have been donated to the funding of a new pigeon loft for Daniel.
It will be bespoke and adapted to make access easier for Daniel in his wheelchair. It will also contain an automated nest cleaning box.
“The pigeons are just something I seem to connect with, I just love being outside with them and the wider pigeon racing community has been great,” added Daniel.
“The birds can take a lot of looking after though and when you have youngsters they create a lot of mess, but this will make things easier and mean I can do things myself.”
Ian Evans, CEO of the RPRA said: “Daniel’s story is incredibly sad, but it is hugely inspirational as well. Everyone at the RPRA and within the pigeon racing community are proud to support Daniel and ensure he can continue to take part in the sport he loves. He is a real credit to our community.”