19th October ’19: North Cotswold Hunt / Ledbury Hunt

Well that was a long day! We did the North Cotswold Hunt this morning, kennel-watching at 6.45am and out with them until they packed up just after midday. We then dropped by a shoot, checked badger setts in the North Cots cull zone, had lunch, checked more setts, got home, got a call that the Ledbury had been spotted, headed over, checked setts in the West Gloucestershire cull zone and then headed home after the Ledbury Hunt packed up. In the dark. With children and pony club and newbies out. Many on dark horses and wearing dark clothes.

North Cotswold Hunt: Jamie Smith

We caught up with the North Cotswold Hunt on what we believe was their newcomer’s day on Saturday 19th October. Judging by previous seasons, and where else the hunt have met recently, we had suspicions that they may be meeting near Wormington and, sure enough, as we drove through the area, hunt boxes came towards us. Car parked up nearby, we walked inland as there are various areas inaccessible by vehicle.

Early on we could hear hounds picking up around Wormington Grange and Ryefield Farm (which has had numerous bTB breakdowns and yet hosted hunt meets while they did not have a TB-free status on several occasions). Hunt staff brought hounds across towards Wynniat’s Coppice but a couple of hounds picked up on a deer who was trying to get away from them and the pack went straight back across the road… where hunt staff tried for some time to regain control of them!

Jamie Smith (you may recognise this name from recent outings where he has grabbed and tried to trip one of our sabs, lied about being an agent for various landowners and been fairly cr*p at hide and seek) saw sabs and decided to do his new trick of playing rugby on his portable radio really loudly. This kind of tactic – making noise through playing music, phone ringtones, loud conversations and running vehicle engines – has been used by a few hunts to stop sabs and monitors hearing the hunt (hounds speaking, horn and voice commands, figuring out the location of a hunt inland) and to prevent foxes running in our direction. Evidence of the tactic was used against the Heythrop Hunt by the independent Hunt Monitors, POWA and the RSPCA when they were taken to court for illegal hunting.

Far from making us ineffective, dealing with the tactic is challenging us to think of ways around it. Of course it is harder to gather evidence and intercept when hounds chase wildlife as any noise can ‘head’ (scare) an animal back into the hounds or scare them from their hiding places. Sabs split so that only one of them had to deal with Jamie and the other could deal with the hunt properly. Throughout the morning the noise that Jamie was making helped move the hunt on a couple of times, forced a rider with a skittish horse to move away from an artificial earth she was stationed at (thereby making it possible for a fox to escape into it if necessary – and we could be present to prevent the hunt from flushing them back out of it) and annoyed a few landowners and members of the hunt who wished to hear the hounds and enjoy the countryside.

Jamie likes to try and gather evidence of sabs trespassing, though he is known to lie about being landowner / agent and lie about where the hunt are allowed to be (Guiting Quarry for one example…). He is also often unaware of where he is and of the location of public rights of way and, on the 19th, he tried to stop a sab from using a footpath into Rushbrook Coppice and, had there not been a sign directly behind him, he would likely have blocked / grabbed her again. Hounds picked up on a scent in a pheasant pen in the wood (an odd place to lay a trail…??) and sab rated them off it, huntsman deciding to gather the pack and do a runner for Mocho Coppice.

The hunt went straight past Mocho, sab followed by Jamie still and another sab at the opposite treeline. Into Childswickham, around the roads and straight back towards Mocho on a failed mission to shake us. Hounds drew blank in the Coppice but picked up in nearby fields (terriermen’s quadbike running over and damaging root crops) and sabs stayed nearby to intervene if necessary. Meanwhile Jamie was getting told off by a landowner as hunt staff, hounds, and Jamie’s quadbike had all been trespassing!

If they treat landowners who aren’t even anti-hunt like this, they’re going to have even less respect for anti-hunt people…

Back through the land towards the meet and hunt members, including Jamie and Malcolm, tried to fool us into thinking they were packing up. Back to the car, we drove round to Manor Farm Buildings where the hunt were doing their last few draws. As they packed up (one whipper-in down as his horse was lame) the remaining hunt staff returned to Manor Farm to box up, leaving at least 3 hounds behind who were not under control – see next section.

An interesting morning out and evidence gathered of the hunt’s activities.

North Cotswold Hunt: Malcolm Farrow

We would like to introduce Malcolm Farrow, oft seen around the North Cotswold Hunt kennels on open day and out at the hunt. Generally polite and up for a chat, he is married to the secretary of the hunt, Gina (if you live in the Cotswolds you may be thinking that the name rings a bell – she runs Gina Farrow Property Consultancy with her friend).

He spent much of the morning at yesterday’s hunt meet following one of our sabs round on foot, chatting about poaching and speciesism and keeping an eye on her (another sab got Jamie Smith’s company… more on him – again – soon).

As the hunt packed up at Manor Farm in Wormington, 3 loose hounds were seen coming out of nearby Manor Farm Buildings behind which the hunt had finished their hunting for the day. The 1st whip had already taken the remainder of the pack to the hunt box but had left these behind and no one was on the road to slow down potential oncoming vehicles. When questioned, Malcolm said that’s what he was there for, but he had only come down the road because sabs had driven down to ensure the hunt were packing up…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Malcolm stated that it’s all about ‘chance’. That should inspire confidence in locals who already that morning had to deal with the hounds hunting a deer across a road near Ryefield Farm and those who have had the pleasure of loose hounds being left behind at various meets by hunt staff, running on to roads, into private gardens, chasing wildlife, etc. with no one there to stop or control them.

‘All on’ (said in the video) means ensuring you have the whole pack with you before moving off. A sensible thing to do, particularly around roads. Unfortunately we see time and time again hunt staff (huntsman and whippers-in) calling for hounds when they’re on the opposite side of a road or just leaving an area without every hound or taking more than 10 minutes to find and round up the pack because hounds just aren’t paying attention to them.

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