A SHEPHERD from County Durham will represent the region when he takes part in the finals of a national sheepdog contest next month.

Philip Schellhorne and three-year-old Gunnerwell Ted will put their skills to the test as they go against about 50 other shepherds and their dogs in the English Nursery Final.

The 68-year-old started shepherding six years ago after watching sheep dog trials at a country show.

Since then he has gone from strength to strength and following a successful run this season was one of three to be nominated by his club, the Northern Sheepdog Association, to compete in trial.

Former lorry driver and professional wrestler, Mr Schelhorne, of Ferryhill, said: “When I started I thought ‘I might be okay at this’ but I have been very lucky by finding the right type of dogs that wanted to work for me. This year has been my best year.”

He added: “The very nature of the sport, when you are dealing with two different animals, is one wants to run and the other wants to kill - it’s hard to control it all.

"Even the best in the country can make a mistake but I’m confident that I will do it well. I think I can win it.”

The hobby farmer has 100 sheep and three dogs, Gunnerwell Ted, Roy and West Roughlea Rob, which he trains regularly.

He keeps the sheep on 25 acres of land at West Roughlea Farm, Ferryhill, which he rents for free from retired farmer Robin Walker.

The grandfather-of-one spends time on the farm most days but will ease off on training with Gunnerwell Ted ahead of the final as the dog will be “under immense pressure”.

At the final, at Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith, on Sunday, February 24, Mr Schellhorne will have to instruct his dog to round three or four sheep through objects, gates and into a pen before splitting them up.

He is looking for sponsors to help cover expenses. Anyone who is interested should call 07982264389.