Guy Fitzearle, the huntsman, did not seem to find a fox all day. Not once were the hounds heard speaking on this very windy day. Eventually they went to Hawling and nothing much happened there except the hounds not picking up and coming up to a sab to say hello. Now if they had laid a drag they would have had a more interesting day.
During the course of the day a blocked badger sett was found and parts of a rabbit warren had sticks rammed down them. Other setts were not interfered with. This is in Gloucestershire badger cull zone 9 with the cull still in progress. There were some very sweet pigs too who also said hello!
Prior to the meet an active badger sett was found to be freshly blocked along with some rabbit holes. A police officer attended as soon as they could and made sure that the sett was made safe for badgers and spent much of the day monitoring the hunt. When the hunt moved off they went first to that area. Then on to Town Street Farm where there has been a lot of funny business in the log piles. Two quad bikes were already parked up there. It has also been signed up for the badger cull.
Roger (the farmer) was decidedly worried as was field master Edward Phillipson Stow and badger shooter / gamekeeper Chris Bowers. Then it was off to Haw bridge where a fox ran towards Town Street through a flock of sheep to mask his scent. Mark Melladay, huntsman, encouraged them on but to no avail as the sheep had been all over the place by then, there was some citronella and hounds were rated off the line. There was some calling back of hounds for ages at Cumberwood Farm. They went on for a while after.
Tonight we are also remembering Barry Horne who died 20 years ago after repeated hunger strikes in prison. The Labour government had reneged on their promise to hold an enquiry into vivisection and he was asking for them to keep that promise.
This area is a moonscape of dug out badger setts. A lone sab’ guarded a sett that is blocked at the Worcestershire opening meet. Sett blocking / earth stopping includes running a terrier through to make sure that any fox hiding is out and about to be hunted. Where badger setts are concerned this means that badgers are also in danger of being mauled or shot by a terrier man, so the killing of wildlife can start long before the meet, sometimes the evening before.
In 2019 at the Worcestershire Opening meet a badger was found shot in the head and her back end mauled. So early in the morning a sab’ arrived and was relieved to find the sett looking healthy and with badger breath coming out of an active entrance. In the next couple of hours a buggy did pass by a couple of times but no one stopped to interfere with the sett. Maybe the car was seen and they were deterred from demolishing the sett, maybe they were just feeding pheasants, we don’t know but more importantly they left them alone unlike on previous occasions.
The meet at 11am was observed and went on for a bit and the farmer came to tell the sab off for trespassing. He was informed as to why the sett was being monitored, of the blocking, that the police and Badger Trust had been kept informed and that this was contrary to the 1992 Badger Act. He said that he did not know that the sett had been blocked and knew nothing of the badger sow who had been killed in 2019 at another sett.
The meet went on for ages and the mounted field were told not to speak to any sabs. They rebelled by saying “good morning”. A long trek back to where the car had been repositioned meant losing the hunt for a while but locals reported road chaos and the police being called. West Mercia did not attend. A frightened deer was seen running down the road in the dusk from Goosehill. The sett where the poor badger killed by the hunt was found was looking active and not in any way interfered with apart from a few hound prints on it.
A sab arrived early in Chastleton at 9.30, but then so did Heythrop stalkers.
The Heythrop are a big hunt so only 50 in the mounted field was by far the smallest seen for one of the biggest days of the hunting calender.
The boxes were parked up on National Trust land and as can be seen quad bikes, without regs, were also driven across the land.
The first port of call was to an unnamed wood where (suprise, suprise) there is an artificial earth. A fox was hunted from there but the sun seemed to effect the scent and he had clearly run through a field of sheep in order to foil his scent. The hounds ran amongst the sheep and were very steady, paying them no heed (unlike some hunts we could mention) but the sheep were clearly very scared.
At Harcomb wood a very clear “Gone Away” was heard towards Chastleton. In hunting language this means that a fox has left the covert, there is no call for it in trail hunting.
Huntsman Charlie Frampton then tried to lift the pack and take them to where the person on point had seen the fox. Some hounds had a different idea as they hunted a second fox who was very small and jumped the stock fencing. At that moment a rider passed him heading him back into the hounds. He escaped… but only just.
The hunt went after the first fox an were lost at Evenlode. It was the usual off to Adlestrop, Peasewell (where they killed in front of us in 2012), Evenlode, etc. They were last seen at Stuphill covert heading to Evenlode.
As per usual 2 stalkers were on duty to follow any sab or monitor. Their role is quite simply to enable the hunt to carry on hunting foxes by doing the following:
1. Wear high viz near us to alert the huntsman and other officials as to where we are and telling them via phone or radio.
2. To make a lot of noise by singing, shouting, clapping, playing music etc, anything to drown out horn calls, hounds anything incriminating.
3. To meander in front of the camera to stop any filming.
4. To chunter on all day about trails “ohh that’s where they laid the trail” etc is a particular favourite.
Why on earth would anyone go to all this trouble if they were following a trail? A fox ran past a sab near Stanway Grounds, hounds hunted another fox near the railway line. Later they were found near a favourite haunt, the railway line which hounds often cross over. Hounds were heard marking to ground and then chased a fox over the B4077 near the war memorial at around 10.45. It is suspected that they killed there. Both huntsman, Ollie Dale and Kennel huntsman, Simon French were off their horses. Terrierman Chris Trotman had his hazard going on the quad and looked worried. With a masked up man nearby who was clearly wanting to go into the undergrowth. Most of all the stalkers response which was to try and push past and in front of the camera.
Ollie was then seen on his feet with the pack walking down the B4077 as the traffic built up.
The meet on the 1st October was in a field near Toad Corner, THE go to place for the NCH. Before the hounds were even unboxed both mounted and foot followers surrounded that covert to “hold up”, i.e. frighten any hunted fox back towards the pack of hounds to “blood” the new entry and to “train” surviving foxes to run. “Aye, aye, aye”, and holloas were soo heard the other side of the covert.
There is a rota in the hunt for at least 2 people to follow any sabs/monitors/other anti hunt folk until the hunt have packed up. The “stalkers”, as they are known, have several reponsibilities.
to stay very close to us on foot and in the vehicle
to create a noise, this is dual purpose. To scare any hunted fox away from passing us and to drown out any sounds that would be evidence of illegal hunting. Talking, playing loud music, singing, coughing etc.
to try and stop us if we get too close to a kill or hounds marking to ground either on a public right of way or not
to make sure that the huntsman knows where we all are so they can be elsewhere or when to leave a hunted fox that we have filmed, to abandon an area so this can be useful
The two out today were polite but kept trying to block the camera and kept chuntering on about “trail hunting”.
The video shows a hunted fox crashing into stock fencing in their panic to escape hounds. The couple in the high viz were on the rota for this morning for staking duty. The hounds came through a few seconds later and got rated i.e. told to “leave it” in a very gruff voice. They responded well and ran back to huntsman Ollie Dale who left to find another fox.
They then hunted a fox to Hinchwick Manor, crossing the border into Heythrop country. If this was a trail then why lay it in the territory of another fox hunt when there were plenty of places in your own? On seeing Terrierman Chris Trotman move sharp on his quad to Hinchwick, and hounds and huntsman looking a bit caught out a bit of a battle of wills took place between sab’ and stalkers re checking the area out. After all they may have killed or marked a fox to ground.
It was wondered why they were blocking the camera and insisting that they were agents of the landowner and at the same time insisting it was a trail. After all, any drag/clean boot hunt we have come across are keen to show us what they are doing. A farm worker was politely asked if the area could be checked and he was very reasonable. The stalkers left the sab to check.
The quad had left.
Back at Scarborough pits they hunted another fox to Lower Slatepits, appeared to lose him and boxed up for home at around 11.00.This is in Gloucestershire badger cull zone 9 in year 6 of culling. The setts that were checked were found to be really active and healthy with no signs of blocking.
On the 4th October a sab’ got in on the footpath where they were hunting along a small brook. “Ware heel” was heard which means at least one hound was hunting in the opposite direction the fox had gone, on a heel line. They moved away from there into some hedges away from the public footpath. The lone sab’ now had 4 stalkers in high viz there to do their utmost to enable illegal cub hunting without the huntsman getting caught out.
One fox came running past quickly followed by another, a brace. They were ahead of hounds who were on their line some way back. Stalkers do have their uses, one is to let he huntsman know if a sab’ or monitor has seen/filmed a hunted fox so that they do not then incriminate themselves by allowing hounds to follow the exact same route. This means that the hunted fox at least gets more time to escape as they will sometimes leave the fox alone, sometimes take the pack further on and hope that they can pick up the scent away from the camera. This is what happened here.
The pack was gathered up and taken on elsewhere albeit right past where the brace had run. They were not amused. The second whipper in even tried to close a gate so the sab would have to open it themselves and it nearly closed on one horse and rider instead. They then spent hours in maize fields ( a crop grown for cattle feed, where foxes often seek shelter) before going back to the exact same place the 2 foxes had escaped them earlier where they hunted for a while before going home. The mantra all day was “we are trail hunting”. If so then why go to where you know foxes are likely to be ? Why go through crops? Blatant cub hunting and saddle slapping heard as well.
A couple of coverts were sprayed with citronella pre meet and a badger sett was checked prior to the hunt meet. It was found to be freshly blocked with fresh spade marks. They do this to stop foxes escaping down them. The NCH have a long history of extensive sett blocking which was curbed by Gloucestershire Police and an expose of the practice in this area by the national press 3 years ago. We saw some improvement with the NCH but now they are up to there old tricks again. We used to often find 5 or more setts blocked by them every time they went hunting which is 4 times a week at the moment and all within areas where badgers are being actively culled!
As this is Gloucestershire zone 9 in the North Cotswolds they have been killing since 1st June in the 6th year of culling. Setts in all nearby zones are checked all year round because the persecution extends way beyond the cull but more people are needed on the ground. We heard that someone living nearer to the meet had found a drain blocked with a boulder as well. It is a really good way to help hunted animals by checking burrows and holes to see if they are blocked when the hunt is near by. If pre hunt then a fox can escape down a drain or big enough hole. If post hunt then you may save the life of a badger, fox, rabbit or other trapped animal who might not be able to dig their way back out.
The morning was warm and there was little scent. They drew blank at Slingate Brake where the hunt followers surrounded the small wood in classic holding up formation. They then went along some hedges to Mocho with the second whipper in saddle slapping vigorously to stop any cub leaving covert. Holding up and saddle slapping are clear signs of illegal cub hunting in that the point is to make it easy for the hounds being entered into the pack to hunt and kill the “weaker” cubs. Leaving adults and bolder cubs to learn to run from hounds.
As it grew hotter there was some hunting near the railway where they have been filmed many times.
If anyone has meets for the NCH these are very helpful even if it is the day afterwards because we can check to see if they have blocked badger setts.
The Croome and West Warwickshire met at Blackmore Park near Malvern at 6.30am. We arrived at the meet and there seemed to be some reluctance for the hunt to move off for 20 minutes or so on seeing us. Two foot sabs went in on one of the many footpaths. Meanwhile the driver remained and was soon accompanied by 6 West Mercia police officers who had been told that we had been wearing face coverings…! Hmmmm, not long ago the police were called if you were not wearing a mask to cover nose and mouth.
It is suspected that someone from the hunt had come up with some particularly imaginative story to get such a response. One officer refused to give her collar number before beating a hasty retreat from the bemused sab who had calmly explained that we were there to protect wildlife from an illegal cub hunt! As if by magic a rider then turned up with a duster on a whip, this is what many hunts regard as a cunning plan to thwart the fact that they are hunting foxes. Get someone to wave a hanky or an old sock about and no one will take any notice of hounds chasing foxes, ripping foxes apart, trashing badger setts, etc. Not exactly fool proof in the week in which the director of the Master’s of Foxhounds Association is on trial but the “smokescreen” was in evidence this morning, well away from hounds.
We have reported illegal hunting and many trashed setts to West Mercia police. They have our phone number so really this was a bit overdramatic. Meanwhile foot sabs witnessed the mounted field wandering off here and there trying to evade them. They ran to one covert nearby and hounds did pick a scent. The hunt followers mounted and on foot did actually start holding up that covert. “Holding up” is when young foxes are deliberately frightened back into the hounds during cub hunting it is a sure sign of illegal hunting, the idea is that adults and bolder cubs will flee regardless and provide “sport for the main season and that the “weaker” ones will get killed by the pack and that the young hounds will learn to chase and kill foxes from the older hounds. Usually this is very noisy with dozens of people banging and shouting but just one silly rider was clapping rather than saddle slapping, the others were somewhat subdued in sharp contrast to what was filmed last week by West Midlands Sabs at this hunt. Anyway, they noticed that they were being filmed, that we were all present and went back to their boxes and home.
Due to illness and other things we have not been as active as normal at this busy time of year but slowly getting back to it. Please keep the meets and info on the cull coming in.
Local badger protectors have been able to check at risk setts. One of us did get to the North Cotswold today, albeit somewhat weaker and limited from a nasty bout of pneumonia which meant staying by the car but even this had an impact as they may have dug out a fox but for the sab’s presence, so always worth getting out if you can.
“I attended in the car. Stayed on road opposite Beauchamp Clump. Very misty could only listen but heard holloas, “tally ho back”, “tally ho over” and hounds speaking, etc. so blatant cubhunting. They went South and found them at Jockey Stables. They took hounds away from me and hunt chairman Jamie Smith arrived donning a high viz on his quad. It is a shame he did not also have number plates as he was on a public road! They had found another fox and I heard them mark to ground very near where our car was parked. A short walk in on the footpath confirmed this in that an attempt was made to position horses to stop a clear view, the second whipper in was on foot in the thick undergrowth and that the hounds were slow to leave despite huntsman Ollie Dale trying to get them out. Eventually he got most of the pack and went back to the meet leaving the second whipper in to get the very muddy stragglers. Terrierman Chris Trotman and chums came through onto the road and did not attempt to bolt or dig out the fox. The area is being checked this afternoon by others who are less infirm”.
Following the news that Animal and Plant Health Agency had issued a warrant to kill Geronimo the alpaca, our sabs have been spreading the word and have been on site for the last few days. From dealing with press interest to supporting Helen, raising awareness of the flaws in the testing system to being up from the crack of dawn to be ready for the would-be alpaca murderers, it’s been a busy time.
There has been plenty in the media (including misinformation from Deathra and George Eustice mixing up which test he was talking about) so keep an eye out for stories online, on the radio and in the papers, and let us know if you are able to attend site and be part of a human shield to protect Geronimo – the warrant lasts for “a month” and was issued on August 5th, so extra hands on deck are welcome!
Update: 31st August ’21
Geronimo, the bTB-negative alpaca, was taken by DEFRA and the police this morning. He is currently travelling in a White Mitsubishi crew-cab pick up with an aluminium horse box trailer. If Geronimo had bTB he would not have survived the last 4yrs since the test was done. They say he must be killed to protect cows, but he’s been kept safely at his home for the last 4yrs, so surely if any damage to others was going to occur, it would have been done already. The farce continues…