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Colne Valley Beagles - Second Half 2007/08 - 2007/08
These are my thoughts and not an official statement.

I’m writing this some four weeks after the Closing Meet of 2007/08, and three after the bonus By-day courtesy of our friends at the Catterick Beagles. The uniform has been brushed down, pending a trip to the dry-cleaners & tailors to sort out a repair or two to the jacket (Split lining in the sleeves) which isn’t bad considering I’ve been wearing it for seven years. (Not continuously obviously!) New breeches have arrived, and unlike the cuckoo so have the first work-parties….

Gone are the days of a lull in kennels activity, a breathing space in the aftermath of the season proper, Saturdays in particular have seen the place become a hive of activity, and while the workers are keen, they are but few and could really do with a bit of company….Please, if you can spare an odd morning, or even just an hour or two to lend a hand to proceedings it would be much appreciated. Simon has again taken the helm as chief project manager, and has a list of prospective works as long as his arm…..For those who feel this might be beyond them, there are always walls to paint….

But we have put behind us another season. Another “Post-Ban” season too, and who’d have put a bet on that ten years ago? Our ever faithful band of followers have carried us through some dark days, firmly quashing the nonsense being perpetuated on the over imaginative grapevine that the CVB's days are numbered. They’re not, we’re as strong as ever and our support keeps on growing, and I for one can’t tell you how heartening that is. Things have been difficult as most will know, “home” meets have been in short supply for one reason or another, the political climate having made one or two large corporate land-owners over sensitive to their PR images and so on. But an awful lot of work does go into diplomacy, relations with the powers that be, and somehow Stewart keeps managing to pull ever more elusive rabbits out of his hat and arrange and produce enough meets, and enough meets of quality to keep things together. A more or less thankless task sometimes, as I’m sure he’d agree, but one which he can be justly proud of.

"A day spent with the CVB can be many things, but always entertaining…" I’m sure I heard a follower from another pack say as I got back in to earshot with about a quarter of the pack, while the rest were having a fabulous time thank-you-very-much in hot pursuit of what might as well have been a dozen deer, shortly before the hounds I'd retrieved decided that standing around waiting was far too boring and they’d rather be off having fun with their pals….I hesitate to name our hosts that day, but I can assure you that "entertaining" wasn't remotely one of the words going through my mind at the time. Not for the first (or possibly the last) time have we been christened the Colne Valley Staghounds. In the normal run of things this fact would be too embarrassing to relate here, but as we have virtually no resident deer population on our own meets neither hounds nor staff are used to dealing with them. A contributory factor may be that one of our predominant blood-lines (More or less half the current pack in fact…) emanated from Brighton & Storrington Galloway ’98 who was drafted by Wayne O'Brien precisely because he had such a fine nose for venison! I sometimes have to question my thinking there, perhaps not the best choice of stud to use…

The entertainment has been prodigious in all sorts of ways though, hounds have given some tremendous days, in all weathers, and have worked well and nicely together as a pack. Our ever-evolving team of formal and informal whips and helpers have worked very well together, and deserve everyone’s thanks for their dedication both on & off the hunting field, and helped to make one or two run of the mill days into memorable ones. On top of all that Jonny has even started to stand up and give us a song when called on, I wonder if we can now work on Sarah to do the same when she hasn't got her Master’s hat on…? In such ways are traditions carried on, and it’s fabulous that they do….Even if I have absolutely no idea what "To me ring domma do domma dah, work for me daddio” actually means, whether the Thin Lizzy or Dubliners version…..Or Jonny's.

I admit I do know what "There’s whiskey in the jar" means though.

As in previous reports it isn’t really my intention to recount the second half of the season meet by meet. There were some days that really did stand out as worthy of mentioning though, just in case you weren’t there. Even if you were, I always think it’s nice to have those memories rekindled by the telling.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Definitely not when you can say that you hunted with Fred Langfield, who as most of you will know we sadly lost last year. In his memory the Holme Valley Beagles, of whom Fred was a regular follower, as well as the CVB & Pennine FH, hosted what was to be a Joint Meet at Brushes, near Stalybridge. Unfortunately Adrian, the HVB/Ecclesfield huntsman was recuperating from surgery so for the inaugural event we had the moor to ourselves. The fog, or low cloud really, threatened to curtail hounds’ exercise, but thank Fred & St Hubert the bit of breeze that there was sufficed to allow just enough visibility to “get forrard” and a cracking day was enjoyed by both Holme & Colne Valley supporters together. Our sincere thanks to Andy Kelly, the Brushes keeper, and a long time supporter of all three packs, for making the necessary arrangements. Fred would have been in his element, and it wasn't for nothing that I carried a packet of Extra Strong mints in my pocket.

Another invitation meet, this time right on the Rockwood/Ecclesfield boundary, near Langsett/Midhope ,was one of, (if not The) best meets of the whole season though. A huge field saw our hounds perform at very close to their best, in country to die for. Miles and miles of open space, unfettered by roads, houses, railways, or more or less anything, all conveniently in a landscape that made for some excellent viewing even to those who couldn’t venture too far away from where we turned out. I’d like to tell how the hounds stuck to their trail, how hunt staff bust their guts to keep with them, and how magical the echoing bursts of music were as they came down the valleys to the field below, but you really had to be there. You also had to be in the Dog & Partridge afterwards…..and that might not have been conducive to even the best of memories….Suffice to say that it was a day well worth remembering.

A couple of very good days at the Goathland Hunting Festival were spoiled a bit for me, fortunately after the event, by the onset of what I can only think must have been a migraine, or something akin to one. Two very fast and hard meets, Monday & Tuesday saw hounds excel though, and it was only on the second day when they ran into an area which I can only describe as bursting with game that we had to curtail things and call it a do. Good hound work, good crack & good company and fabulous country, what more could we ask? In my case “more painkillers” might have been the answer. I hope I never have a headache like that ever again….Our sincere gratitude must be expressed to the Goathland FH, the Ampleforth Beagles, and everyone else who made the festival happen, as well as to Mark & Shelley at the Postgate who always make us feel so very, very welcome. (They’re open all year round you know? Go on, treat yourselves!)

Last year’s enormous moor-fire at Cupwith has seemingly done the place the world of good, especially from the beagling perspective. What was knee, or even waist deep heather has made way for new growth, and new (Or very old in fact) grounds for hound exercise. A tremendously busy day there, from the Rose & Crown, surpassed expectations at least ten-fold, and after a number of years of more or less disregarding this meet as having much beagle-sporting merit to speak of we can hopefully look forward to some interesting times ahead. Once again, you kind of had to be there.

A very interesting day with the Cheshire Beagles saw both packs running together, and it was a pleasure to see how far Charlotte Murray & Eric (?) have brought the pack on in recent years. Admittedly neither they nor us took a full complement of hounds, but all worked nicely and went well. Unfortunately it could be said "too well" as they left the area we were meant to be in, and one particular point will stay with me for a long time…That'll be when staff and field had become separated by more or less a mile, and staff and hounds by goodness only knows how much. As half the pack turned back towards the meet we managed to hold them up and watch Jonny disappear along a road, and in towards the nearest village in hot pursuit of the rest…..As it turned out things did get a bit “hairy” and to avoid upsetting one of the Cheshire’s farmers we had to call it a day…..

The official Closing Meet saw nearly the wettest and coldest "horriblest" day imaginable, but those who wrapped up in their oil-skins & jumper (Sorry “Chip-Shop” John, couldn’t resist!) saw hounds perform admirably, and working together, text book style, they must have circumnavigated Goat-Hill, and Wort's Hill at least six or possibly seven times, just magic. Even though, yet again, we came in absolutely soaked to the bone, after a particularly long and hard day, it was truly a fine way to end the season.

OK, it wasn't quite the end….The pack I wasn’t going to name in one of the earlier paragraphs, in fact the Catterick, generously did give us a day, but I think I might have said enough about that already! Apart from the fact that it was followed by an impromptu "Sing-off" between us & them, though we did have to allow "singing from the book” to keep the job going, still, very good fun & in very good company.

Without such good friends, the Cheshire, the Airedale, the Catterick, Ecclesfield/Holme Valley, and so on, and so on, the CVB would really be in dire straits, and I don’t mean playing second guitar to Mark Knopfler either. I really do hope that in time, as one or two, or more of our home meets do come back on to our card, as they surely will, that we might be able to repay some of their incredible hospitality, all in the name of beagling.

As some of you will know, when hounds aren't out following rabbits, trails, or exercising, they get walked out. Daily, all year round. As I mentioned in my last report I "killed" my old bike riding down the wood at kennels a bit too hard & fast for it’s slender road-worthy (but not wood-worthy) construction…So following receipt of the generous Boxing Day cap, (A very belated "thank you!") I decided that I’d have to invest in something a bit sturdier. So don’t be surprised if at any time in the South Crosland area you see a bright red mountain bike surrounded by beagles….you have been warned. Even the pups have got used to it now. Since the clocks have now gone to "British Summer Time" (Exactly when does that start? There’s still snow on Holme Moss as I write this after all!) I’m mostly taking hounds out in the evening, so if you too have a trusty & sturdy steed that you think might be up to the job of hound exercising, and that you are too of course, then by all means let me know.

The end of the season clearly doesn’t mean that everything grinds to a halt, there are plenty of summer events to attend, jobs to be done, and much more. I remember one of my first ever riding lessons when I was told by Sue Riley, (still going strong at Sycamore Stables, Thongsbridge) that the first lesson is that horses aren’t machines. Nor are hounds. They are living things. You can’t simply wrap them up in tissue paper, box them and put them away now that the season’s over. Nor can you do that with kennels, nor the spirit that makes up the CVB. They/it/we all need a good coat of looking after, and making sure that things are kept up to. That maintenance is done, that support, comradeship and bonhomie is fed & watered (!) and sung about and nurtured. There has been a Colne Valley Hunt for many generations, there have been highs, and there have been difficult times, not just recently but decades ago, and yet, because of you we are still here. We are here for you, and for generations to come. I sincerely hope that that is so.

Others will no doubt have reported on the internal changes evolving in the management structure of the CVB, and the reasons perhaps behind them, but with thanks to all, Farmers, Keepers & land-owners, followers, supporters, members, committee, Masters, Hon Sec, the central concern of all remains a thriving healthy & happy pack of beagles, and for many many years to come let it remain so.

I look forward to seeing you at kennels, or at a social, or a show, or wherever, over the summer months. The season 2008/09?

Bring it on!


Submitted or last changed: Thu, 10 Apr 2008 ; 10:02

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