17th February 2017
Joint meet with the Warwickshire Hunt
So it was to be one of the first times we would see the Ledbury hunting in Forthampton Estate as the shooting season has only just finished. And then we found out that we were to have the added pleasure of the Warwickshire coming over for a joint meet.
Will Goffe, huntsman for the Warwickshire, moved to the hunt from the Ledbury a few seasons ago, leaving us with Mark Melladay. Goffe knows the area well and went straight into his usual hunting technique of letting the hounds go and then riding vaguely nearby whilst they hunted on. He marginally escaped an illegal hunting charge just before his departure after footage was filmed throughout a hunting season by members of 3C and West Midlands Sabs, so it would be interesting to see how he’d act around us now.
Part of the way through the day, hounds picked up right by the A438, a busy road that many will know from the Gloucestershire badger cull, going into full cry from Voulter’s Wood and along the hedge line before crossing the A-road (which was now packed with riders, car support, horse boxes, an uninsured and overloaded quad bike and several locals and ‘normal’ road users caught up in the midst).
Fox was filmed running back towards Sarn Hill, hounds right on his line, but our priorities lie in stopping the chase. We held hounds up for some minutes before they crossed into the covert the fox had gone into, again right next to the A-road, and one sab was shoved around by an angry Chris Bowers and friend. If you’re going to push sabs and then try to justify it by saying they’re trespassing Chris, don’t shove them when they’re on roads and footpaths as well or where’s the incentive to remain on public land?
Fox broke cover and ran up into the trees on the hill and a sab ran up and sprayed his line, ready with a whip in case of a chase, but away from his location. A second fox broke cover soon after and followed the same line, a third fox breaking cover and running along the hedge line by the road and along towards Bredon School. Minutes later and we had Melladay and Goffe in sight along with most of the hunt staff (some looking rather concerned) with the last known direction the hounds were taking being the motorway…
Some time later and hounds were gathered safely, 2 sabs following towards Tirley while a third chased down the quad bikers who had headed towards the motorway after the hounds had chased the fox there. With sabs having Bicester Boy company, we think they warned the hunt that the sab was looking for terriermen as the quad moved off and rejoined the hunt as she got near. Who knows… They know we’re thorough at least! Hound and hoof prints and quad tracks headed for log piles in a wood by the motorway.
With Robin Smith-Ryland second-horsing just before 3pm we knew we were in for a standard Will Goffe extended day. Sab in Tirley was sitting quietly and listening for the hunt and a fox broke cover, almost coming face to face with her but not breaking his stride. Hounds picked up nearby, but she had thoroughly covered his line which slowed them down on the scent. A huge circular chase ensued just a few minutes later with holloa’ing, whips and smelly farmyards breaking up the chase here and there, but as we headed towards Haw Bridge as the light faded and hounds sprinted on, we feared the worse for the hunted fox who would now be exhausted.
Splitting up, one sab ran inland (where a fox was chased to ground a few seasons back) whilst others covered a nearby track and the main road (where we’ve had to slow traffic down to avoid hunt casualties in the past). In the twilight, hounds were running around in a thin strip of scrub next to the road and on the road itself, but we rated them as they checked… Goffe wasn’t grinning manically and seemed tempted to encourage them to carry on hunting, so it certainly seems that the fox had managed to make his escape somehow with a little help now and then from us. The hunt finally packed up and headed for Townstreet Farm just after 6pm!
We weren’t with them all day and we had eyes on the terriermen intermittently, so, as always, there are no guarantees… But we know that some foxes made their way to safety whilst the hunt managed to make themselves look like the arrogant bullies they are when it comes to ‘insignificant’ things like, say, road safety and basic manners.
Was interesting to have Will back in the area for the day and to find out what’s it’s like to be outnumbered about 100 to 1, but we’re ‘looking forward’ (so to speak) to business as usual again on Monday.
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