Coronavirus: Pigeon racing first sport to return after lockdown – BBC News

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Image caption The 4,465 pigeons were released from Wicksteed Park in Northamptonshire

Pigeon racing has become the first sport to return after the lockdown restrictions were eased in England.

The Barnsley Federation of Racing Pigeons released 4,465 birds from a park in Kettering at 10:00 BST for them to fly the 90 miles (145km) home.

Organiser John Greenshield said he expects his 35 pigeons to start arriving at his allotment in Hemsworth about two hours later.

The sport has beat horse racing and snooker to be the first to resume.

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The government approved the return of domestic competitive sport behind closed doors from Monday, for the first time since mid-March.

Guidance states it is up to individual sports to assess the risk and consult athletes, coaches and support staff.

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Image caption The birds were transported to the park on lorries before being released

Mr Greenshield, 72, said he was not expecting the restrictions to be lifted so soon and many of the birds were not ready to race.

He 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 people would be able to see the birds flying north, probably following a route close to the A1, before breaking into smaller groups near the Nottinghamshire-Yorkshire border.

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Image caption The released birds belong to a number of different keepers

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