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Colne Valley Beagles - Various meets - 2006/07
After what seemed like a very long summer break, with work parties galore, shows and puppies, as previously reported, the season 2006/2007 did eventually arrive. The weather never really altered an awful lot, and scenting conditions were generally as fair to good as in any season I can remember.

The ongoing difficulties that our Masters have battled long and hard with over the years both pre- and post-ban didn’t improve dramatically, in spite of their sterling efforts, we were pretty late in getting going. This really couldn’t be helped, frustrating as it was to staff, followers and hounds alike, but to constantly hear that such & such a pack had had a splendid day on Saturday, or that they’d not only had that splendid day, but that it was their eighth in succession got a trifle wearing, as I’m sure you’ll sympathise. Hounds (and staff!) obviously don’t have “bits”, but if they did they’d have been chomping at them, desperate to get going. This, in spite of it being the second post-ban season, is still new territory though, and it is reassuring that everyone seems to have accepted that things are not “as normal” but in fact very far from it. Every meet is a bonus and another that “they can’t take away from us”. If last season was a “tester” then this one was always going to be more so. The authorities haven’t quite got to grips with the hunting legislation, the antis don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that we haven’t simply melted away like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, and the whole thing is really just as much of a dogs’ dinner as we’ve come to expect from an administration prepared to put bigotry and bias over rationale, scientific evidence, common sense, and who’s Junior spokesman for DEFRA (well he was back then) admitted it was nothing to do with animal welfare anyway….Madness!

I digress. The season 2006/07 had finally arrived. The annual Lakes Trip proved to be another treat, and provided two cracking meets, albeit due to some local issue on the same piece of ground. For the first we ran both packs (CVB & Black Combe) together, and on the Saturday we had the meet to ourselves, both showed our hounds in a very good light as they went about their work in a first rate fashion. The social side was as good as ever and I’m sure will have been reported on elsewhere….Further “away trips” include the ones to our friends at the Hunsley Beacon, the Cheshire, and the Airedale, all of which provided some excellent hound-work, but I think the best viewing, for staff & followers alike, would have to be the Airedale one. High on the Stainforth side of Settle. A huge piece of ground, (I was informed that it had been ‘cleared’ for some seven miles, to the next road!) and again, running both packs together, a tremendous day was had. The distinctly inclement weather did let us down quite a bit, and my early decision to abandon my waterproof turned out to be a huge mistake……

A new venture, courtesy of our friends ‘north of the border’ at the Dumfriesshire Foxhounds, was the invitation to take ours to visit. Two cracking meets were laid on, although sadly didn’t just quite go quite according to plan…the first day, hounds were going like trains, the music ringing out around the enormous belt of forestry, and all was well with the world, when….they were distracted from the matter in hand by something unidentified. Whatever it was took them deeper and deeper into said forestry, and further and further away from the field, a potential nightmare! Fortunately though, in spite of the day being over, as such, before it had really got going, the last hound was eventually brought out (To my huge relief) into the daylight just as it was fading to dusk at ten to five! Socially the trip was very entertaining with a lovely Thai meal on the first evening, after which and by coincidence we met up with the Dumfrieshire FH Committee as they finished their meeting nearby and joined us for a drink. On the second evening we joined them for supper and a thoroughly enjoyable sing followed, and new friends made.

The second day was a little disappointing and in effect was reminiscent of the long walk at Rishworth, although to be fair the countryside we crossed looked absolutely spot-on, and perfect for the anticipated day. When eventually, some two hours after turning out things did get moving a bit, the whole day crashed to a grinding halt when one of our bitches, Cameo, was on the receiving end of a jolt of electricity from a live fence. Being wet through from having just swum through a stream, and not perhaps being in her first flush of youth, her heart couldn’t stand the shock and gave out on her. Steady and dependable, and a proper little character, she is much missed. Eventually we did get going again, but I think the long stop in between, while the owner of the fence was sought out, and the fence turned off, diminished some of hounds’ enthusiasm, as well as perhaps that of some of the field. Still, it was another day out, with hounds, in some cracking country, and in good company, so it wasn’t entirely a disaster.

I must say thank you to Chris and Lenise Bell for making hounds & me as welcome as they did, and for looking after us, as well as to Malcolm Bell, (no relation!) for helping Chris to line up the two meets. We do very much hope to be back!

Personally perhaps the highlight of the ‘aways’ though was without doubt, for me at least, the invitation to re-visit the Nantcol Valley, in North Wales. Although we did lose the second day because of gale-force winds, the meet we did manage was outstanding. High on the hillside overlooking the estuary at Barmouth, “The Mawddach”, hounds simply flew. The scenting conditions were spot on, the weather wasn’t too unkind, and the larger than normal CVB contingent, together with a very good level of local support, were treated to a splendid day’s viewing. The day was followed by a very convivial evening, and the “craic” was good! A huge thank-you to Alun Owen for arranging the meet and for kenneling hounds.

Back home, we had some very good days at Dean Head, from the Jack O’Mitre, Cop Hill from the Rose & Crown, Goat Hill from the Breakfast Meet at Moorlands, Meltham Cop from the Will’s O’ Nats, and the “Billy Ground”. This last is perhaps worth commenting on.

I don’t think we’ve been to the Billy Ground for a couple of seasons, and in the past it has provided some very hard and unsatisfactory days, at least in my time as huntsman. We have always struggled to make a good meet out of it, and have usually ended up going on a long route-march out and up on to the tops, even then the day may have been hit & miss. Odd good runs have been had, but for some reason its nearly always been a struggle.

This particular day, in the week before Christmas, was to be the exception to the rule though. At the meet, or just shortly after we had got going, a well known regular follower asked me if I was going to draw the lower ground rather than just follow the line of the hill, and added that if not then he was going home! It had been the plan in fact, but even so I hadn’t really expected hounds to provide such a top show…..A fast and furious day, and I don’t know how many times we had to climb the hill but it was more than worth it. A brilliant day, but one the memory of which will always be tinged with sadness, as it was the last time I saw Fred Langfield, who had been so insistent as to where I should draw…..Each time I saw him on the the top of the hill he made a point of complimenting the hounds, and was keen to tell me “what a good do” it was.

I have known Fred, with the Holme Valley, the Pennine and latterly with the Colne Valley Beagles, since I was in my mid-teens. Ever ready with a joke, a mint-imperial, or toffee, and frequently, words of advice! If you turned up at a show, a meet, or the pub and saw he was there you knew it was going to be “a good do”. I won’t go on at length, but did want to just say how much you will be missed Fred.

Boxing Day was far more eventful than perhaps we’ve become used to, the sheer size of the crowds following are a blessing and if the truth be known a curse too! Every corner we turned around seemed to reveal another huge gathering of people, and heartening though it is that support for the hunt, and for the broader hunting world, is as incredibly strong as it clearly is, and it really is heartening, it meant that every single step we took was under close scrutiny, every note on the horn questioned, and so on. Although we are operating under difficult times, and doing so very conscientiously, we have to be seen to be doing so. This is vital, not just on Boxing Day, but always. From then, and more recent meets, it seems as if one or two of our followers have slightly patchy memories, (and I know that I can be guilty too!) or perhaps there is another explanation, though I don’t know what it is… but suffice to say there needs to be a little less ‘noise’….The Hunting Act 2004, whether we like it or not is still in force. Lecture over!

The New year’s Day Meet was excellent, if a little dicey at times, especially when a fox left the hill in the direction of Meltham! Fortunately hounds didn’t notice, and the whips were correctly placed to stop them if they had. Again we were a little let down by the weather, but it didn’t put any dampers on the sing afterwards! Bizarrely though the following meet, at South Crosland, saw hounds crossing out through Helme and straight back onto the Cop….I wouldn’t like to say its never happened before, but certainly not in my time.

And so the first-half of the season is past, some very good days, a couple of very frustrating ones, (I haven’t mentioned the incredibly lengthy walk across the moors at Rishworth have I ….?) a lot of songs sung, a fair amount of refreshment shared in some tremendous company! And kennels housing some wonderful hounds, who have given us all an enormous amount of pleasure, with their music and drive on the hills, and with their pace and determination across them.

Thank you to all who’ve done anything for the hunt, either in kennels, in the background support system, the Masters, the Hon Sec, our farmers, gamekeepers and other land-owners, at meets, out on the hills, or wherever.To Mum & Dad for all their support, and for carpeting the cottage kitchen, and countless other things!

Virtually every week has seen new faces turning out, new members joining, and support constantly growing, it is so very very reassuring that we must be doing something right! These hounds really do deserve your support, and do everything that they can to earn it! A big thank you to the team of whippers-in, for all their attention to their duties, not all of which mean that they get to see half as much as the rest of the followers. My job would be very much harder without all your help, and even if I occasionally grumble and grouse, I really do appreciate everything you do! Really!

If I’ve missed anyone out then I’m sorry, but I would like to say one last and special thank-you to Helen for putting up with, as well as supporting in every way, my hunting-life and all that goes with it! I truly couldn’t do it without you, but you know that, don’t you?!

See you all out and about on the hills sometime soon.

Submitted or last changed: Tue, 30 Jan 2007 ; 23:53

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