Into Full Swing

Amidst the excitement of the hunting season proper getting underway, it’s been a week or two since I last put pen to paper.

Opening Meet has been and gone with all its fanfare; a red-letter day matched by burnished gold trees, those greenish blue autumn landscapes so particular to our surroundings and plenty of glasses brimful of burgundy port.

All of the polishing, grooming, soaping and brushing is rendered worthwhile when the rural fraternity comes together to inaugurate the sporting year. One-hundred and forty-nine horses turned out to follow hounds, a respectable field, but an insignificant number when compared with the crowds of pedestrian supporters who make their annual pilgrimage to Inwood House. There are some wonderful photos on Emma Harris’s website.

Always a sport of contrast, my hunting this week has given me plenty of solitude. Far from the festive host of Opening Meet, I managed thoroughly to lose myself at Sticklynch on Tuesday and spent a lonely couple of hours tracking the hounds several miles from our trailer where I’d returned because one of our party had lost a shoe.

Despite the frequent frustrations there is something very special about scouting across country — just rider and horse. Corbally and I found ourselves completely alone on the Glastonbury Festival site. In lieu of 100,000 revellers, a few sheep meandered around the iconic stone circle with the ghoulish tones of distant horn adding to the surrealism.

With impractically patchy mobile phone signal, it was also a fairly rigorous test of field craft, essaying my knowledge of the country and skills of observation. It’s remarkable how misleading a distant horn call is. I sat for some time in the corner of an apple orchard aurally tracking Mark’s progress through covert before feeling confident enough to backtrack to the road and reunite with relief!

Of course, with rediscovery came the news that it was time for hounds to go home! The truth is that pleasure of hacking the mile or two back to the hound lorry in the rusty light of the afternoon made the effort well worth my while.

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Please note, throughout our website we use the term fox hunting to mean all of the activities carried out by our participating hunts operating within the constraints of the Hunting Act 2004.