W3C Will it Bolt?  FOXES


Pinch Crag
The fox was found in Pinch Crag






The	sheepfold
The sheepfold








Hounds dropped in bank
Another view of the sheepfold








Hounds dropped in bank












At least I was warm
At least I was warm

The hounds crossed the ridge and began to drop in bank. Snatches of music reached us a thousand feet below, sheltering from the biting wind behind the old sheepfold. Half a mile further on than the hounds and 500 feet higher the snowfield began. It had been there for weeks - it was winter in the Lakes.

This site is composed mainly of my childhood memories of following hounds in the late 1950s and all through the 1960s in Lakeland. The one memory that persists all through that time is being cold. It may be worth stopping for a moment to describe the type of clothing I would be wearing on that winter's day. Money was tight in my childhood, one wage supported three and there were occasionally little luxuries, but not many. Fancy walking gear was not one!

My boots were the type known as Commando sole, heavily covered in dubbin, a total waste of time on wet rock and slippery grass. Most people wore nailed boots but they were quite expensive and small feet keep growing. A pair of no longer suitable school trousers, a T shirt, thin checked shirt, old school sweater and some kind of jacket. Occasionally an old pair of pyjamas underneath. In my pocket was a sandwich. I'd have had a cooked breakfast prior to leaving home. No drink, "plenty of watter int beck", although a problem high up where there are few becks and even fewer springs. You soon got to know where you could get a drink on the fell. In my pocket I had a plastic mac in case it turned nasty! A pair of hand knitted woollen gloves, hand knitted balaclava and a cut down walking stick completed my attire.

No optics to view proceedings. Dad would let me borrow his glasses, and occasionally other people too, but you might have them taken back quickly if something happened!

This morning we had been caught out - for some reason we had stayed in the valley bottom. Normally we would be on the high ground which usually entailed an early start. Once on the top it was easy to follow depending, of course, which way the hunt went, whereas in the valley bottom you were limited. By the time you got onto the high ground the hounds could be miles away.

Anyway back to our story - the fox having had a run around "our" valley had climbed out and dropped into the next one. A chase around the bracken beds and a lung-bursting climb out back where he came from had convinced him of the need to go to ground, which he did in a mass of rocks under the summit. The music of the hounds changed to one of marking.

The fox had no sooner "gone in" than I was off, striding out over the frozen ground not waiting for the inevitable discussion about what to do. I was so bloody cold anything to get a bit of heat going. I looked back to the small procession following me. Obviously of the same mind! We were never great "attenders" at holes, prefering to sit on the fell and wait for the bolt (if it came). Today however was different. There is an unwritten rule about arriving at a borran or hole - come at it from above or to one side taking great care not to knock anything down on those below you. Common sense determines the choice of route. If you come straight up from below the fox may bolt and to our minds deserved a sporting chance no matter what it had done! Sadly this was not always followed especially in hunts of later years, and the sight of a veritable procession of followers taking the "direct" route with the chance of "baulking" the bolted fox would have driven the "older" followers to distraction.

We climbed the steep fellside, soon passing from the shadow into the bright sunlight. The place where the fox had gone to ground got nearer. There were a couple of followers and Chappie as well as the hounds. If you read his bookHark Forrardon several occasions he speaks of taking hounds well back and allowing the fox to come out. This was the way I saw him do it on many occasions but it did happen now and again that, so eager were the hounds, it was difficult to keep them back and I seem to recall that on one occasion a hound got into a borran and was lost - I think he writes of it. In later years this practice was not followed by some hunts I went with, and you had the scene of hounds, followers and terriers almost "fighting" to be in at the mouth of the hole or borran with resulting chaos. Perhaps the demise of the whipper-in by some hunts contributed to this, as a man could not supervise, work and control hounds at the same time.

We found a rock close by the hole and got out of the wind. It was nice to be warm, the 1000 foot climb had done the job. "Will it bolt?" someone asked.

"Aye," came the reply, "it's near the entrance now, terriers in behind it."

Soon afterwards the fox appeared in the rock pile and looked around, a hound saw it and the occasional baying became almost a scream as they rushed down the fellside. The fox took off running down the fellside, in leaps and bounds twisting and turning over the grass and rocks. The tide of white followed gaining slowly, one hound forged ahead and caught the fox, together they rolled down the grassy slope locked together for a brief moment before being overtaken by the remainder of the pack. It was over in a second and somebody began to whoop.

"One less at lambing time," someone commented as Chappie blew the hounds back, "what's happening now?" "We will go and lait another," was the reply.


40 years plus later, I sit with my back to the sheepfold. As I do for this site I'd gone back to try to refresh the memory before I write. Of the four who sat there that morning I was the only one left, but it was easy to recall the chatter and the occasional laugh. In my mind's eye I could hear the music of the hounds and see them coming in bank.

This morning was in late spring, bog cotton was out and a skylark had risen into the blue sky. I was dressed a bit differently today, the dubbined boots. My wrist watch tells me my altitude and has a barometer. I sipped an energy drink and my jacket of the type worn on Everest cost almost as much as the GDP of a small African state. I had a mega hole in my bank balance .... but, by God, I was warm!!!!

WAFWebsite manager

Unless stated otherwise all images and text on this site are copyright of the owner and may not be reproduced without permission.
 Site created: 20.04.08 © Cumbrian Lad 2008-2017. All rights reserved. Email me