Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Taking a stand against fox hunting

I remember a conversation with Dawn at the beginning of the year in which we pondered our reaction in the hypothetical situation of a fox hunt storming past our house.

The conclusion was along the lines of 'there's nowt we can do so let them get on with it' but I discovered today that the reality is a little bit different.

When faced with 50+ baying, bloodthirsty hounds and about 20 hip-flask wearing lah-de-dahs on horseback in full regalia (and a bugler), it turns out that I get a bit shouty.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for pest control and the protection of livestock and what have you, but I'm not a fan of ripping foxes to pieces with hounds. I think it's cruel, barbaric and totally abhorrent. Call me a townie all you want, but it's my blog so sod off.
Presumably hunting with hounds is still illegal (the last I heard it was, anyway, but politicians can be fickle and morally bankrupt so-and-sos) but I'm not naive enough to think it doesn't still go on out here in't country, even though they'll call it something deliberately ambiguous like 'running the trails'.
A pack of dogs accustomed to scoffing warm, twitching fox for lunch doesn't switch to dining on tofu overnight and the horse-straddling harbingers of doom, who feast on the still-beating hearts of their dogs' victims, won't just make do with an apple.

I'm exaggerating, of course.
They're quite partial to a Granny Smith from time to time.

"I say, Gertrude, can you smell commoners? Most unpleasant.
Tell that stupid dog to turn around."

I spotted one such horse rider hanging around by the gates for a few minutes this afternoon while I was working in the Living Room, which I thought was curious. Another joined her and about 10 minutes later I saw a whole flock of them heading down the public road in the direction of the house. I don't know how these things work, but they seemed to be accompanied by a smattering of people in 4x4s, so I nipped out to speak to the one who looked like he was in charge of the ground crew - presumably the Master of Foxhounds.

I made it very clear that the hunt wasn't welcome through our gates and I even closed them in front of him so he could get the point. In retrospect I wish I'd put both ground bolts in on my side, but I had forgotten about them.
Not fancying a confrontation I went back in the house only to see the gates swing open and a yowling tsunami of four-legged death sweep through, followed by at least a dozen Horsemen of the Apocalypse tally-ho-ing past the skip.

Yes, Your Honour. His left foot was definitely on our property for a considerable amount of time, so I shot him
Fast forward 30 seconds and I'm having somewhat spirited words with the fella I'd spoken to at the gates, who was telling me which areas of the property I owned and which ones I didn't. Me! A considerable amount of furious indignant gesticulation was taking place, it must be said.
Some of the whippers-in (I've been Googling my terminology) had gathered around and some were heading off down the track towards our neighbours' house alongside the Hunt Master - which is definitely private property, regardless of what Mr Gobshite was telling me. The dogs were off and howling in the woods somewhere, probably decapitating a squirrel and parading its head on a stick.

Things were beginning to get a little too loud (and eyes were at risk from angry finger-pointing) when the scarlet-clad Hunt Master towered over me astride his noble steed and apologised for the inconvenience. He said they were just "running the trails".


£6.75 from Sainsbury's
Yes, of course I checked!
It all calmed down after that and to cut what could end up being a long story short, they went back out through the gates and an old chap with very few teeth knocked at the door a couple of minutes later to offer me a bottle of port by way of an apology. One of the four-wheeled entourage must carry a case or two to appease the downtrodden underclass.
No Stilton, though. Disappointing.

A bit later they came yelping and bugling around the side of the front garden and disappeared in to the woods from there. Nothing I can do about that, I suppose.
Oh, and just as it was beginning to get dark someone came by in a 4x4, parked smack-bang in the middle of the track at the side of The Lodge and disappeared in to the gloomy trees blowing his bugle and, so it sounded, yodeling. That's not a euphemism - he'd lost a dog.

The thing is, I think the hunt was within its rights to come through, assuming those in charge had Crown permission.
They're correct in that they weren't on moy laaaand (although they were technically in our back garden at one point... despite the fact that it looks like the rest of the track), and they were right in that the access track itself - and the gates - is Crown Estate, at least until they get to the totally privately-owned part of our neighbours' property. They said they had permission to go through the land although nobody could provide any written proof and we'd had no forewarning (which isn't a requirement, I know, I'm just saying).

Nevertheless, we have one third of a three-way responsibility for maintaining that part of the track which surely means that we also have a say in who comes and goes?
I don't know. I'm thinking out loud. Maybe. Maybe not.

We've emailed the Crown to clarify the situation but I've got a feeling I know the answer already...

Introducing Stretch. Stretch is a fox who lives near our front garden and on our NatureWatch CCTV camera

EDIT (Wednesday 18th)

I spoke to someone today who regularly walks his dog past The Lodge and we got talking about the hunt, which he'd spotted heading towards the house (he saw me 'having words', too). Apparently shortly after they were here the hounds managed to get hold of a fox towards the bottom of the estate... and there was only one winner.
Well, 50-odd winners, technically.

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