The World at One, BBC Radio 4’s daily news and current affairs programme, is celebrating its 50th anniversary by asking famous folk for their suggestions of things which make Britain excellent. There have been some terrific responses: Germaine Greer suggested our beautiful native bluebells, Jude Law our country’s theatre, writer Neil Gaiman said that the way we British apologise has become an art form of which nationally we can be proud; someone even nominated British hypocrisy (whatever that is for, as a spaniel, I couldn’t possibly understand). Our suggestion for The World at One at 50 celebration is ‘The great British gundog’, by which we mean all the wonderful gundog breeds native to these islands, from English Setter to Welsh Springer Spaniel (which is the alphabetical order found in Championship Shows).
Renowned for hard work, dedication, loyalty, determination and love of the countryside, we are also by nature ever-devoted and sweet-tempered, loving and kindly. Beautiful to look at, we come in a range of sizes to suit all kinds of accommodation, in a matchless range of colours and coat-types, typically very easy to care for. Whether it’s the English Pointer, so elegant and neat, needing little or no grooming, or the Golden Retriever – like the boys seen here with me – with their magnificent heads and swishiest tails, the working Clumber Spaniel, so strong and tireless in the field, or the busy energy of a little Cocker, like yours truly: you simply cannot get away from the fact that we are a group of pedigree breeds without compare. Not for nothing is Gundog Day the busiest day at Crufts!
It is worth noting that fashion for foreign gundog breeds has led to a sharp decline in numbers of some of our native ones: the beautiful English Setter, which comes in a range of delicate colourways, has dwindled in popularity , with few litters of pups registered at the Kennel Club last year and unfortunately it is rarely seen outside of the show ring these days. If you have never seen one, take a look at this lovely Gordon Setter, a black and tan beauty of such poise and splendour. There is something about our soft and generous mouths, our generous dewlaps, common to our group, which adds to the sense that we are beasts you should trust: you will be safe with us beside you. There is something so tried and true about us all; we have been at the feet of those we love for generations, crowding round their fires and helping them to bring home the dinner, be it rabbit or pheasant, which we are always more than happy to share, of course. Every day Newman and Barnaby make strangers into friends when they greet them, smiling, on the beach; I am always myself, loud and proud to be a little spaniel, but part of a gundog team led by the person we all adore.
If you are interested in The World at One, or in registering your nomination for something British to be proud of, you can find out more on their website: