Plumpton family taste success at Crufts with their Irish Water Spaniels

Judy and Oscar Hempstead

Judy and Oscar Hempstead - Credit: Archant

Three generations of the Hempstead family from Plumpton in East Sussex scooped success at this year’s Crufts with their Irish Water Spaniels. Meet Judy, 10-year-old Oscar and their beloved gundogs

Ask people to name a gundog breed and invariably they will say a Labrador or Springer Spaniel or perhaps a Cocker Spaniel. The Irish Water Spaniel is not a dog that instantly springs to mind. These unusual creatures have webbed feet and an amazing curly coat to protect them when they are working. Tall and strong, they are impressive to look at and wilful by nature, making them a more challenging breed to train. They will, however, reward their owners’ patience and gentle training with years of loyal service.

Judy Hempstead and her son Oscar from Plumpton in East Sussex regularly compete at working trials all over the country with their Irish Water Spaniels, as well as attending show classes at numerous events including Crufts, where their Cuvana kennel name is well-known for producing prize-winning dogs.

Judy grew up helping out at her father’s kennels learning to groom, train and generally care for the show dogs, mainly Cocker Spaniels and American Cocker Spaniels. When she was 12, Judy saw her first Irish Water Spaniel, which belonged to a biology teacher at her secondary school, and instantly fell in love with the breed. After much cajoling she persuaded her father to let her have her first Irish Water Spaniel, a bitch called Coinross Cherry Blossom. Encouraged by her teacher, Judy began to show her dog and developed a further interest in the breed when at 16 she moved to live and work with family friends the Climpsons at their kennels in Sussex. Eddie Climpson introduced Judy to Working Gundog Tests and she also learned to work dogs in a natural environment using Labrador Retrievers. After breeding a first litter and keeping a bitch puppy called Kelbi, Judy began competing in working tests and fun events like the gundog scurry.

Following her first job with the Climpsons Judy had a varied career, but her jobs always involved dogs. She continued to keep her beloved Irish Water Spaniels and now works as a practical agricultural lecturer at Plumpton College. Judy is also involved with Agricultural and Game Management taster days for school leavers, where the dogs accompany Judy to give students a chance to learn the basic skills of handling working gundogs.

Away from work, Judy is the event organiser for the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club and regularly gives talks and demonstrations at large national events such as the CLA Game Fair. She shares her love of this breed not only with her son Oscar but also her stepmother, Sue Hempstead, who has enjoyed much success both in the show ring and in working tests with her dog, Zac. Sue is continuing this trend with Zac’s daughter, Caz.

Judy’s 10-year-old son Oscar has inherited his mum’s love of dogs and as well as helping with the Irish Water Spaniels he now has his own dog, a black Labrador called Skya.

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Oscar is an ambassador for the Young Kennel Club and was nominated last year for the Sean McAlpine Award for his work with dogs. In September 2012 he passed the Gundog Working Certificate run by the Kennel Club, a wonderful achievement, especially given that he was the only child handling a dog that day. Oscar was in a class with 11 adult handlers, one of only seven people achieving their certificate.

The Cuvana Irish Water Spaniels continue to go from strength to strength. Their most recent success was at Crufts earlier this year, where they took home a huge haul of accolades. They won show classes for Best Any Variety Spaniel Dog with Judy’s dog Quill and Best Any Variety Spaniel Bitch with Sue Hempstead’s Caz. In the Gamekeeper Classes they took Best Gundog Team to complete a fantastic family achievement. Judy’s 18-month-old bitch was first in the breed class for Working Bitch and Oscar was fourth in the Gamekeeper’s junior handling class with Quill.

For more information on the Irish Water Spaniel breed visit or Irish Water Spaniels

A versatile gundog, it was originally bred as a wildfowling dog to work on the marshes, bogs and rivers of Ireland.

Excellent nose, eyesight and hearing.

Irish Water Spaniels are suitable for all types of shooting,as drug and explosives detector dogs, they have competed in agility, working trials and obedience and worked as PAT and therapy dogs.

Slow to mature, can be headstrong and wilful.

Good family dogs because of their companionable nature. Playful and resourceful.

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