05/11/16 – West Somerset Beagles and West Somerset Hunt
The 5th of November was a day of firsts for us, on our first proper foray back into the heart of the west somerset badger cull zone….it was a frustrating day in some respects but not a complete loss.
Whilst on our way to what we considered to be a dead cert opening meet location for the Minehead Harriers, we got wind that there was a hare hunt taking place in the vicinity so we looked around and there they were….the West Somerset Beagles hare hunting on the Holnicote Estate near Porlock. No sooner had we said ” hello, we heard there was some hare hunting going on” then a quilted fellow with a whip got rather redfaced and hurried off talking on his radio and the lil dogs were packed up and hurtled back up the A39 from whence they came. Shame, didn’t even get a chance to see them chasing each others tails, next time eh?
So back to the original plan now the Holnicote Hares and other animals were now safe once again…off to greet the Minehead Harriers on what is a traditional opening meet day at their traditional venues in Porlock but they were nowhere to be found. So we hunted the hunt and after an hour or so of checking out most of their favourite spots decided we would have to let them go, frustratingly as we knew they were out and about but they were very well hidden, so off we went to plan B…to another hunt we had only met once before when their terriermen were caught sett blocking, in the same village as Badger 200 from year 1 of the cull and the illegally killed churchyard badger in year 4.
The West Somerset Hunt had met at the Raleighs Cross Inn on Exmoor earlier in the day and we knew some of their hunting ground, often given away by the blocked badger setts we come across. With Horse boxes parked along the B3190 and Chitcombe Rocks lane we set out in ever increasing circles until we found them, several miles away not far from Wimbleball Reservoir.
The hounds were clearly being hunted as we followed a tooled up quad to where the main gathering was, vehicles parked up in fields overlooking a valley with riders on point at the top…the quad was directed over the top of the hill and down the other side. We dread to think why but its pretty obvious but there was no way of getting to that area…and now out of sight would have been hard to find him again sadly. We immediately attracted a following of our own, recognising a couple of supporters of the very violent Cheldon Buckhounds…seems any animal torturing will do for some. A few whoops and horn calls and the hounds were well on their way out of that paricular area, this time we joined them on a footpath where hounds were clearly interested in a line which zig zagged through the undergrowth, “didn’t you see the trail layer” asked the Hunt Master “didn’t you see him? he’s laid three trails”…the hunt must be congratulated on layng such an authentic trail, you’d never guess it wasn’t made by an actual fox running and trying to hide where an actual fox would go…amazing. There is where the trail literally went cold as from then the hunt were just hacking back to the meet and active hunting ceased. Apart from the usual lame attempt of an angry terrierman trying to (accidentally on purpose) knock one of us off the road and some rather strange noises emitted by a couple of riders the hunt were fairly polite which makes a change, but just why a “trail hunt” requires three equipped terriermen on quads we don’t know.
Update: Both the National Trust and the Police were informed about the West Somerset Beagles – it transpires that they did not have a licence to (trail) hunt on National Trust land.
09/11/16 – Minehead Harriers
With a midweek morning free for three intrepid sabs we thought what better way to spend our free time than to toddle off to see where the Minehead Harriers were having their fun, seeing as though we missed them at the weekend. And we were just in time to see a couple of riders unbox at the kennels and head towards the 11 o’clock meet which was in a field adjacent to Totterdown Farm, near Timberscombe.
Around 10 riders were having drinks and nibbles before setting off on their “trail hunt”, which seemed to require four quads, two of which fully equipped for digging out. From Totterdown Farm the hunt headed up and over Timberscombe Common and then into woods on Croydon Hill, which is managed by the Forestry Commission …no unauthorised vehicles allowed but apparently this does not seem to apply to terriermen quads and other followers, so two sabs followed on foot to see where they were off to. One terrierman in particular was none too pleased to have our company as he saw fit to attempt to remove the facemask of one female sab, whilst using some particularly foul language.
Hearing the sound of the hunting horn we moved past the rabble and onto where George was calling his pack together – as he went through a veritable a to z of names, he resorted to a hound head count with the help of his whipper in, when it was eventually established that two of the hounds had decided to have a little quiet time elsewhere (hopefully they were found later). We were quite happy to hang around with the pack enjoying lots of interaction with the very friendly hounds, who for the most part looked in very good health (unlike the very skinny and poorly looking pack with the Modbury Harriers a couple of weeks before).
After a while some of the riders caught up and the group then headed in the direction of Broadwood Plantation before heading out of the forest via Nutcombe Bottom, owned by the Crown Estate. By now it was around 1.30 and with other commitments soon needing our attention we were weighing up our options when we heard another hunt was holding up in a woods known to us, so we headed off to find the West Somerset Hunt, given away by a female follower (keen on amateur photography) parked up at the side of the road near an accident black spot on the A39 at Bilbrook.
Two female riders headed straight out of the track from Fernacre straight onto the main road, giving little attention to traffic, after one asked the other “is this the same lot as last time?”. A little further along the rest of the hunt (up to 15 riders and over 20 hounds) were coming away from the Black Monkey Lane area towards the main road, and with quickly deteriorating weather (becoming very wet and poor visibility), they decided that it was a good place to cross the road to head towards Sandhill Riding Stables on the other side.
With clear trepidation from one or two of the hunt members concerning the safety of the crossing , the hunt went ahead stopping traffic, at one point changing their mind about halting the Number 28 Taunton to Minehead Bus and allowing it and following vehicles to continue, how gracious. Whilst the hounds were kept behind a shut gate a small field away from the main road for some of this time, worryingly they did not wait for a clear road before allowing the pack through as can be seen from an accompanyng still – traffic was still flowing fast as hounds came through the gate just 20 or so metres away. With some traffic halted, the hounds thankfully made it safely across the very busy and dangerous road and we had to unfortunately depart, with heavy rain and hail we hope both the Minehead Harriers and the West Somerset Hunt also headed home, as the wildlife of that small part of West Somerset would not have stood much of a chance with two hunts within a couple of miles of each other. Setts in the area were later checked and found , with some relief, to have been left untouched on this occasion.