As a trainee at Lincoln’s Inn firm Wedlake Bell, Nigel Davis acquired a taste for open, green spaces. But there was one thing lacking from nearby Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Gray’s Inn Gardens – sheep.
For just as the lawyer, who now runs Nigel Davis Solicitors from his farm in Derbyshire, was preparing to qualify into his chosen profession, he was also developing an interest in something else that would become a lifelong passion – sheepdog trialling.
A move to the countryside in 1975 allowed him to indulge this passion and now, after more than a year’s planning, Davis is preparing to play host at this year’s World Sheep Dog Trials near his firm’s second office in Cumbria.
“I’m chairman of the organising committee for the World Sheep Dog Trials which are being held in Cumbria,” says Davis, pointing out that this will be the first time the event has been held on English soil.
Although Davis will not be herding sheep himself at the event, he has been working behind the scenes organising the trials since taking over the chairmanship in January last year.
And with just a few months to go until the triennial event takes place in September, final preparations are being made for what Davis terms the “World Cup or Olympic Games of sheepdog trials”.
“We’ve got 240 dogs from 24 countries taking part,” says Davis, adding that dog handlers are flying in from such diverse locations as Brazil, the Faroe Islands and Japan.
With each handler bringing their own dog to the four-day event there will be plenty to keep the UK’s quarantine officers busy. But thankfully, says Davis, competitors will not be bringing their own sheep.
“The sheep are all from Cumbria,” he says, adding that, despite being chased around the Cumbrian fells for four days solid, the animals are unlikely to be fazed by the event.
“The sheep are used to being farmed; they’re flock sheep,” he says. “They’re used to sheepdogs rounding them up and being chased. It’s not like they’re fetched from the fell on the day of the trial.”
Having been involved in sheepdog trials for more than 30 years, often as a competitor, Davis is a past secretary of the Derbyshire County Show and the Brailsford Ploughing and Hedgecutting Match, and is currently secretary of Dovedale Sheepdog Society.
And with Nigel Davis Solicitors focusing on agriculture law, Davis was a natural choice to serve as legal adviser to the World Sheep Dog Trials – which he says he is proud to do on a pro bono basis.
“When the Earl of Lonsdale [who owns the Lowther Estate, where the event will be held] asks you to do something like that, you obviously accept,” he says. “It’s a great honour to be asked to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
With sheep and sheepdogs playing such a prominent role in Davis’s life it is no surprise that he farms Rough Fell sheep, as well as Hereford cattle, on the farm that doubles as his firm’s headquarters.
The bulk of the firm’s three partners and total staff are based at the Derbyshire smallholding, sharing the 25 acres with Davis’s flock and herd, with the remainder working out of an office in Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria.
The set-up, says Davis, is ideal as it allows him to farm on his land while ensuring all his farming clients get his full attention.
But how does Davis manage to perform such a demanding role and also find the time to fit in all his sheepdog-related commitments?
“I get up early,” he says.