On Saturday some of our crew joined Devon County Hunt Sabs to sab the Eggesford Hunt at North Tawton. Here is the report from DCHS – photos also courtesy of DCHS (visit their facebook page here):
We had unfinished business with the Eggesford and hear that huntsman Gary Boon is leaving soon, so we took a trip to see them at The Barton, North Tawton. Although the Eggesford’s ‘country’ is massive, it is quite bitty with lots of areas where they have no permission to hunt. This includes land surrounding today’s meet, as many of the local landowners won’t have anything to do with the hunt. Some told us how disgusted they were that the Eggesford were being hosted here. At the meet there were drinks and nibbles and a visit from Santa, before hounds were boxed up and driven 2 miles up the road to Crooke Burnell.
Here sabs were ridden at by hunt riders and a female sab sustained an unprovoked assault by a man who claimed to be the landowner. Not content to simply let sabs head out to the road, he launched himself at her and grabbed her face. He spent the next several hours pointlessly tailing our vehicle and seemed frustrated that his demands for the police to arrest and remove us were ignored. When you’re hosting an illegal hunt and assaulting a woman, do you really need reminding that you’re the one on the wrong side of the law?
(a video of the assault can be viewed here)
Huntsman Gary Boon donned a less conspicuous black jacket and began drawing the river valleys between Sandford Barton and Halse Farm. Foot sabs were dropped off near the railway to get closer to the hunt. Horn and voicecalls gave away the hunt’s position, but hounds only briefly went into cry.
At around 1pm everything seemed to move north and briefly out of sight of foot sabs and the landy crew. By the time we had driven round, the assembled hunt had crossed the main road and were milling around in a field near Stone Cross. Boon was off his horse and quadbikes were lined up along the hedge. Shortly after we arrived, they moved off. We checked the hedge to ensure they hadn’t hunted to ground.
The hunt carried on north towards Ashridge and various quadbikes and support vehicles blocked the road to stop us from following. We picked up our foot teams and took a fortuitous drive to the west of Ashridge to avoid being blocked again. Here we came across several hounds on the road. More were milling around in the neighbouring field, but there was no sign of the rest of the hunt. We spent the next hour with the wayward hounds, soon amounting to about half the pack, and the landy team slowed traffic on the road to prevent any nasty accidents. Where were the hunt staff in the meantime??
We could hear Boon’s gathering calls in the distance, quite a way to the north, and after a while he got some of his terriermen to drive around the area to help him call the stray hounds. It took him forever to gather the pack, by which time riders and support vehicles had given up and gone home. There was little scent and Boon’s fruitless horn-blowing had probably left him feeling quite light-headed, so he finished early and we followed what was left of the hunt as they hacked all the way back to the kennels.