W3C Anecdotes GARN YAM

 

 

Tarn Hows
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Johnny Richardson
Johnny Richardson, Blencathra Foxhounds
© P Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joe Wear

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :

The Nodding Horse

Jack climbed the wall and dropped onto the road. I followed him. Behind us there was a screaming hunt in progress in Brathey Woods, but we could see nothing due to the lay of the land and the trees. We were debating what to do when we heard the sound of approaching hooves. Around the corner came a fully tacked up riderless horse. Its head nodded as it passed us, so we nodded back.

"What should we do?" said Jack (who wasn't a Cumbrian). "Nowt, " I said, "I don't want the bluddy thing and I know nowt about 'em anyway." The horse disappeared up the road. Soon after we heard the sound of running footsteps. The rider, a local we knew, appeared; he was red in the face and sweating, his riding boots were several sizes too large. "Hasta sin mi oss?" "Aye its up t road." "Got off t bugger for a pee," he said, "it kept garn." He ran on.

This chap was well known, he owned a local riding school, apparently had some kind of alcohol problem and had taken to visiting the pub on horseback.

One year I used to go out to Tarn Hows to train - it was different to running up and down the fells. This riding school (referred to above) was nearby and I would often see a line of horses nose to tail as the tourists explored the area. Initially I didn't think anything of it, but the chap leading would often dismount and go in the (then) undergrowth. I came to the conclusion he had a bladder problem, but one day I came across a stash of scotch which explained it all. Nevertheless, he was a nice guy who always had a word for you.

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :


The Flying Fox

The main reason I started 'following the hounds' was my father's promise that I would see a fox. This didn't prove to be the case and we attended several meets in a variety of weathers all to no avail. We saw plenty of hounds and heard plenty of 'music' but of the fox we saw nothing. Seemed pointless to me, I could have been playing football with my mates on a Saturday morning, but here I was wandering around with my Dad, hoping to see something that was proving very elusive.

However one morning a fox went to ground in a boulder field near the aptly named Fox Ghyll in Rydal. We were below on the road and soon arrived at the spot, although I had to be lifted over this large wall (I was aged 5!).

A crowd had gathered, hounds had been taken well back and were as quiet as they were likely to be. Anyway the fox emerged, Chappie shouted, "Let that lad have a look, Lanty". The next thing I knew was Lanty Langhorn picked the fox up and threw it to my feet.

I don't know who was more surprised, me or the fox, but I know who recovered first, as the fox shot off down the stone heap and cleared the wall, followed by the hounds from which it subsequently escaped. Since then I suppose I have seen hundreds of foxes in many situations and places and even to this day the thrill remains.

Lanty was a small wirey guy, who rode a motor cycle and passed away in 1970, a great follower of hounds and writer of hunting songs, he seemed to be in almost constant competition with a chap called Peter Martin and some great songs came out of this rivalry.

He is memorable to me for a variety of reasons but the most amusing one being, at the end of a hunt Lanty picked up the fox which promptly bit his backside! It was at a place called Hollywath Gardens.

Kept my father amused for weeks!

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :

A Day With the 'Cathra

The 60s were far behind now and it was in the mid 1980s. I was working in Manchester, still running but now on the roads instead of the fell. That year I was having a good season especially over the half marathon distance and my fitness was high. I'd come up to Ambleside to see relatives, and a chance meeting with an old friend led to the pub and then a session at his house at closing time, with several we had met in the pub.

Sometime in the early hours, it was decided to go with the hounds that morning. My mate said, "We will go with the Blencathra. Johnny Richardson (the huntsman) is getting on a bit. It will be easy to keep up with him, even after this lot." He poured another Scotch.

A couple of hours later we arrived at the meet. I felt ill. We chatted to a few people we knew and then went over to pay our respects.

"Morning Mr Richardson." "Hello lads, having a day with a proper pack? Bluddy hell, you look rough" (my mate was being sick behind the wall) "too much ale?"

"Which way you garn? " I asked. He pointed up the fell with his stick. It looked very steep.

A few minutes later hounds were released into the fell and we set off behind Johnny. Soon all you could hear was our breathing and the occasional click as the tip of our walking sticks caught a rock. The occasional bark suggested there had been a fox about in the night but long gone.

Before long, my jacket was over my shoulder and shirt open to the waist, sweat ran into my eyes, the pace quickened, a few minutes later I'd had enough, my lungs felt as if they would explode, I couldn't get enough air in. I slumped on the wet grass."Not bad for an old un," Johnny said and strode away followed by my mate for another 50 yards till he too had to sit down.

We never saw Johnny or the hounds again that day, they disappeared into the mist, dragged upto and unkennelled the fox and by all accounts had a cracking day, but we didn't see it. I came away with a bad hangover and an increased respect for the walking capabilities of a fell huntsman regardless of age!

Johnny Richardson retired in 1988.

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :

Joe Weir

In the section Hunt Songs the first song up is The Six Fell Packs. I was lucky enough to know or meet three of the huntsmen named. Anthony Chapman and Johnny Richardson are mentioned elsewhere on the site, so that leaves Joe Weir.

Joe Weir hunted the Ullswater Foxhounds for a good number of years, retiring at the end of the 1970/71 season; in fact he was only the 4th huntsman the pack had had since the amalgamation of the Patterdale and Matterdale hounds in 1873. Perhaps I have not mentioned the fact previously but a fell pack was there to kill foxes, 'sport' being a secondary consideration, unlike some mounted packs where the huntsman was expected to show 'sport'.

At killing foxes Joe was one of the best as the records show. We went "ower t top" (over the Kirkstone Pass) to hunt with the "Ullswatter" a few times but I'd never been introduced to the great man, only watched him in action so to speak.

It was at Rydal Hound Show where I was introduced to him, a few years before his retirement. A squat, incredibly powerful man. "This is my lad, Joe," said my father. He shook my hand, "Dusta like hunting?" he said. "Aye, Mr Weir." "Good lad," he replied patting my head. I still have the dent in my skull to this day, such was the power of his hand. Goodness only knows what he did to one of his prize winning hounds later in the day!

A short story perhaps, but to me it was the equivalent of a child of today meeting Beckham.

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :

Sunrise

I stood outside our house in the darkness. It was a clear cold night, hundreds of stars were out and a half moon shone overhead. No doubt there would be a frost on the high fell but here in the village the temperature was just above freezing.

Soon Jack's old Land Rover appeared and I climbed into the front. He crashed it into first gear and we set off for Grasmere, along the darkened roads running beside the two lakes of Rydal and Grasmere itself.

A few hours before we were drinking in The Rule when somebody said there was a fox worrying lambs at one of the farms beneath Helm Crag at Grasmere and the hounds would be out first thing. Too late to ring Mr Bruce (the MFH) for a start time, we decided to go early and sit on the borran just under the top. Before long we were parking up and got out of the vehicle into the darkness. Over the Rydal Fells, a faint lightening of the sky showed.

Up the road we walked, no one spoke, only the clicking of our sticks on the tarmac, and the sound of our breathing. Leaving the road we climbed onto the fell through the intake gate ('intake' is the boundary between cultivated or grazing land and the fell proper). The light was coming up now and you could see down into the bottom of the valley. An occasional car drove over the pass below us. The darkened bulk of the Rydal Fells behind us and Steel Fell to the right loomed in the darkness, as the sky above lightened.

As we made height the ground changed to frozen as we reached the frost level and our boots crunched on the hard ground. At the borran there were two local lads sat. "Been up here long?" "No, about half an hour." One of them had a flask, one cup between four but hot coffee.

The sky was lightening very quickly now. The palette of colours that is the dawn was well represented, and the detail on the fell across the valley was becoming more visible. By now we were scanning the fell and fields below with our binocculars, looking for any sign of a fox. The light was good now, the sky a shade of red, you could pick out detail in the valley floor. "What's that?" somebody said and described the position of a depression in the fields below. "Looks like an old cock fighting pit," somebody else said after we had all had a look. "Didn't know that was there, bet it's a few years since that was used."

So next time you're on Helm Crag, Dear Reader, see if you can spot it in the fields below! Of course, having the right lighting condition is a help.

Suddenly the sun exploded up over the Western Fells, a golden ball in the blue sky. Sunlight began to move down the fellside towards the valley below. It began to get warmer.

A Land Rover made its way along the farm track 1000 feet below, you could faintly hear the trailer bouncing. It stopped in the farmyard, the occupants got out and went into a huddle with the farmer. "No rum and coffee for them," somebody said. "No," said Jack, "and no breakfast after if they don't get the bugger."

The figures went to the back of the trailer and dropped the ramp. A host of white appeared and the gate to the lambing field was thrown open. Hounds spread out white against the green of the field, an odd bark and then a wave of music as they struck the line - a Lakeland morning had begun.

: The Nodding Horse : The Flying Fox : A Day with the 'Cathra : Joe Weir : Sunrise :

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