4th December ’19 – Radley College Beagles (and Surrey Union Hunt)

There was rumour of the Heythrop Hunt being in the Churchill area, Oxfordshire, on Tuesday evening. It was clear that they had been there but were not seen all day. 6 blocked badger setts were found during sett-checking the following day and, presuming that the hunt had blocked them late Monday/early Tuesday, most were still blocked with the badgers not having managed to dig themselves out.

As the worst blocked sett of all was made safe hounds could be heard and with a little searching the Radley College Beagles were found hunting a hare. Bear in mind that the fox hounds had hunted the exact same area the day before, wildlife get very little respite in the area.

When sabs were seen the hunt packed up and the last blocked sett of the day was found in the sunset. Bear in mind that on Boxing Day from their meet at Chipping Norton the Heythrop Hunt will hunt the same area and the same setts will be blocked yet again. Sett checking can save lives; please get in touch if you want to do this.

Meanwhile, another sab found herself down in Surrey for work and, in true sab tradition, the local group treated her to proper hospitality… taking her out to a hunt meet.

We ended up at the Surrey Union today who we were tipped off about and we got there just before midday (it was a late meet most likely due to the thick mist this morning) just south of Newdigate. Our sab became part of a running team with a couple of the locals and the hunt, having realised they had visitors, left the meet late and ran away miles to the north east and past several coverts they normally draw through.

With other sabs heading to intercept the hunt we very quickly caught up with them in a woodland where, initially, the hunt staff drew through completely oblivious to the fact that three of us were literally standing the other side of a hedge from them. Just after being spotted (some time later) we noticed hounds chasing a deer into the woods and told huntsman that they were rioting on the deer – huntsman encouraged the pack on, telling the sabs that “they’re not even going that way you silly woman”… when they clearly were. The deer got away and, as hounds were taken away from the wood, they rioted again and chased another deer into a fence before hunt staff managed to stop the pack.

We anticipated that they would hunt back towards the meet and sabs were waiting for them not far from there just minutes after they set off from the wood to the north (as they had ridden back at speed to try and escape us) – we stuck with them, hunt drawing blank, until they packed up.

Really good day with fantastic communication making us as efficient as possible. We alerted the hunt to two sheep who were running away from the pack and quad and towards a main road (probably due to gates being left open by the field…). A fox and a deer both got away from the pack unnoticed just before the end of the day with sabs covering the line. Aside from a bit of colourful language and strange theories from hunt staff and landowners it was otherwise a fairly uneventful day!

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