*** loose hounds mark to ground at active badger sett while remainder of pack were hunting elsewhere * terrierman Tom Stokes stands on badger sett and prevents fox going to ground during hunt ***
We headed out today as we’d been given a tip-off that the Ledbury Hunt would be meeting at Hunter’s Hall, Castlemorton Common. They went out the back of Hunter’s Hall and drew through a crop field, picking up and running on to the Common where they lost in some gorse when we believe fox ran through a herd of unimpressed cows. A representative from Fox hunt off Malvern Hills was out, as well as some of the wardens from Malvern Hills Trust and we kept an eye on the hunt while they returned inland and drew through the crops again.
Out the other side of the land and towards Castlemorton village, into an area where sabs had checked on badger setts earlier this morning and pre-sprayed the area. Huntsman Mark took hounds through a covert then on into the village and across the road, watched by sab driver… but sabs inland realised that a small group of hounds, now nowhere near any hunt staff, were marking to ground at an active badger sett (and had been whilst hunt staff had been in the area several minutes before – why did they leave them there?) We checked on the entrances and put up a camera to watch for activity, made sure hounds had moved on and then left the land, running into the hunt on the road.
We mentioned the loose hounds and the hunt moving off despite obviously not being ‘all on’ (having all of the hounds) and had smart-arse comments made back about “well they’re all here and safe now”… seconds later hunt master Louise Daly and one of the whippers-in went back into the village to pick up a loose hound (pictured). When a sab commented to Vicky (huntsman’s partner and groom) later that the whipper-in was a bit crap, she replied with “so are the sabs”. 1. That means that she agrees he’s a bit crap. 2. If the hunt aren’t chasing foxes then we don’t need to sab – we wouldn’t sab artificial trails, so is that you admitting to illegal hunting Vicky?
On inland again and to Hillend where sabs rated hounds off a fox and terrierman had finally switched to his quad (he had been driving a 4×4 around the Common as they do not allow terriermen or quads on there). Second-horsing occurred and Vicky did some silly swerving to attempt to stop sabs passing the hunt box. We caught up with the hunt again easily and kept an eye on them near the Welland Road where hunt supporters pointed out a fox excitedly and around Grove Farm and Keyses Farm. Once out of the area hounds picked up in another crop field, supporters again excitedly pointing out a fox… who was headed back into the crops and away from a badger sett that terriermen Tom Stokes was parked up on… hounds chased through the crops, over several fields and a road and inland the other side and back towards Hillend where we believe they lost the scent with a mix of sabbing, the terrain and exhaust fumes getting in the way.
Back to the Common at the end of the day and, in front of the wardens, they gathered the hounds neatly, crossed a road safely back into Hunter’s Hall and proved that they can keep the hounds in control when they want to (to pretend to the MHT that they’re polite and sensible and hunting within the law…).
They’re not blocking setts as much as they used to, but they are still stopping foxes from escaping into them where they can – but one terrierman can block a large number of setts overnight and in the early hours of a morning… he can only be on one badger sett at a time during a hunt. We are reviewing our footage of Stokes on the sett, Vicky’s driving without due care and attention and of the hounds marking to ground. In the meantime, give Fox Hunt off Malvern Hills a like and keep an eye on their page for their report of the day!