One man and his dog are a champion combination

For decades few people have been drawn to shepherding and its long days of solitude on windswept hills. But the once lonely trade has never proved more popular as city workers looking for a taste of the countryside flock to sheepdog training classes.

For decades few people have been drawn to shepherding and its long days of solitude on windswept hills.

But the once lonely trade has never proved more popular as city workers looking for a taste of the countryside flock to sheepdog training classes.

At the weekends profes-sionals are swapping their BlackBerrys for a crook and a whistle as they learn

the traditional art of shepherding from a Norfolk grandmaster.

Current world champion shepherd Gordon Watt, of Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, and his border collie York are training anyone from accountants to fitness instructors at regular sessions in west Norfolk.

Workers from Norwich and Cambridge will soon be heading to Mr Watt's home to take part in the residential training clinics he hopes to begin running in October.

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He has about 30 people on

his books so far.

Mr Watt, who will compete in the International Sheepdog Trials in Ireland next month, said that once people tried it they fast became addicted.

"It provides people with a way of getting away at the weekend and doing something totally different from their everyday lives.

"I have got a lot of people who have contacted me who work in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire and want to come and stay when I start my training clinics in Cockley.

"I am training a girl who is just five years old right up to another person who is almost 70."

Mr Watt, 43, has a passion for the discipline that began when he started tending flocks at the age of just 11 and in his career managing flocks across the UK has looked after as many as 15,000 sheep.

It was Mr Watt's lifetime of experience and York's dogged determination that secured them a place on the winner's podium at the English National Sheepdog Trials last weekend, as well as the world and English title in 2005 and the English doubles' title in 2004. Mr Watt owns four border collies including York and is continuing to train up the younger dogs to compete when 10-year-old York retires after the world championships next year.

He set off for the US on Sunday where he will take part in 10-days of judging sheepdog trials and running clinics for shepherds.

For more information on the clinics call 01760 720773.

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