W3C The Master Shops at Asda MEMORIES


A bank of mist slowly rolled down the fellside, covering the land in its damp, quiet grip. I had noticed it forming on the heights above and buttoned up my jacket before it enveloped where I stood blocking out my view of the fell head off to my left. I’d been standing there a good hour now, at first oblivious to the cold, northerly wind that had sprung up soon after I arrived at the spot, but as time wore on my attention was drawn to the increasing cold until the fact emerged that I was bloody frozen. The hounds had been on a cold drag for the best part of the preceding hour, slowly working out the twists and turns the fox had made during the night. For some nights now this fox had descended to the valley from his laying up place high in the fell head to attack the local poultry houses. He had on several occasions been successful and after one “visit” three people had, that morning, disturbed the Master's visit to Asda by accosting him on his journey around the isles to demand retribution.

A bye day had been available and so retribution it was, and this was how I came to be standing 1700 feet up on a cold winter’s day. A breeze got up and the mist suddenly cleared.

Another twenty minutes went by and the slow moving hounds were now in the bottom of a big boulder field which fell away from a high crag towering above, when suddenly a guy standing further up the ridge from where I stood began to “halloo” and point with his stick.

I followed his guide and there was a big fell fox in hard condition trotting under the crag; it paused and looked back, before moving into a ghyll to the right of the rock face. I had been over the area with the binoculars several times and never saw the fox which must have been lying down among the rocks. Too late for recrimination, at least there was now a chance of getting warm again. I began to climb the ridge, slowly at first as my leg muscles started to get warm. The fox came out of the ghyll and topped the skyline briefly before descending into the next valley just as the hounds reached the bottom of the ghyll, their music echoing off the nearby crag. Shortly after they too disappeared into the next valley and all went quiet.

Finally, well warmed up I reached the ridge and was able to look in to the next valley. No sound reached me and a good look with the binoculars revealed nothing except three Land Rovers climbing the steep road into the next valley to this. The hunt had passed through the valley and continued into the next one, the hounds were on to a “straight necked yan” and the smart money was on it not coming back. With a sigh, I sat down in the lee of a boulder and took a sandwich from my pocket and considered my options. Basically there were three, the first being sit tight and wait... too cold; the second follow on... too far behind; third... drop off the fell and go home... very appealing. The report of the hunt and outcome if known would be in the local paper on Friday anyway. I found a second sandwich and sat considering the options. The valley below me continued away for some distance ending in the Scafell range, a lot of which is over 3000 feet high; being near the sea it is said to attract rain and looking at the mist shrouded tops I did not disbelieve. I was joined by a lad I went to school with and his terrier just as I finished the sandwich. The terrier looked hurt.

“Now then”, he said, “what’s the craic?”

I looked at him. “Put it up in’t crag,” I said, “climbed out by yon ghyll and gone to god knows where.” He stroked the terrier for a while. “Thought that,” he finally said, “saw t’ car hunters garn ower t’ pass, job’s a bad un.”

I nodded. “Give it ten minutes see if owt develops,” I replied.

Well, we actually gave it twenty but nothing did, our eyes were drawn to the white washed building, with a sign hanging outside, which, allowing for a bit of a detour, was on the way home, the smoke coming out of the chimney a further inducement. Without a word we stood up together and picking up our walking sticks, descended the way we had come.

~ ~ ~

Postscript: I never found out what happened to the hunt, don’t think anyone ever did. The hounds returned to kennels in dribs and drabs over the next day or so apart from those the huntsman gathered in that evening. The fox never returned to the hen houses, well, not that one anyway, and the Master shopped in peace again.

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