Leading English wool handler, Devon-based Hilary Bond has enjoyed a great competitive season this year, topped by being named world champion earlier in the summer.
A working farmer from Bovey Tracey, Hilary was named world champion in May this year at the World Shearing Championships, Gorey, Ireland, when she was 30 points ahead of her nearest rival.
Hilary started out in wool handling in 2003 and was quickly hooked on competing, having originally learnt the skill to help improve wool handling in her family's own flock of Blackface, Wensleydales and Whitefaced Dartmoors.
"I was lucky to have learnt from Kelly Mudge, herself an expert wool handler and a real inspiration to me when I started out."
Following her first BWMB training course Hilary competed at the Devon County Show in 2003, coming second to former world champion, Bronwen Tango. "That was when I really became hooked, I realised I had a chance to develop my skills further and could compete with some of the best in the world. While wool handling may look like a simple task it is a skill you never stop learning and developing, from 'throwing’ the fleece right, to using the broom.
Hilary has since represented England every year from 2003 to 2014 and in that time has developed her skills to the level required to clinch this year's world championship title
"It's a varied skill, but my strengths lie on gaining good points on the table and the oddments box, but I can sometimes be let down by my speed. It's an area of my skill that I continue to strive to improve," she adds.
Commenting on her world championship win Hilary said it had been a dream come true. "It's been one of my ambitions to win the World Championship. "Winning at the World title was a real honour and I couldn't have done it without the support of both my family and friends and also the whole of the English shearing and wool handling team.
"Despite having a belief that I could win at the World Championships, the encouragement of the team, including Steven and Ann Lloyd, and my fiancé Tom Harding gave me the inspiration I needed to win."
Miss Bond says as well as being an invaluable skill wool handling has also given her the chance to travel and meet new people across the world. Indeed it was at the wedding of her instructor Kelly Mudge that Hilary met her fiancé Tom Harding. "I'd encourage anyone to give wool handling a try. It's a lifelong skill which offers great opportunities to continually improve and help add value to British wool which is a world class fibre," she adds.
"I'm going to enjoy the next couple of years being world champion, but I am looking forward to defending my title at the next World Championships in New Zealand in 2017.
"But anyone wanting to compete needs to be prepared to work hard and be dedicated. As with anything you have good days and bad days, I always use the setbacks as an inspiration to improve and motivate me to do better next time," explains Hilary.
BWMB shearing training manager Colin McGregor says Hilary's success should be an inspiration to others looking to succeed in wool handling. "It is a skill which can often be overlooked, but correct handling and wrapping of fleeces can make a big difference to their end value and to the returns farmers receive. Hilary is one of the very best at what she does and has to be rightly recognised as such."