W3C Broad Howe HOUNDS

Coniston Foxhounds: watching a hunt from Broad Howe Borran
Coniston Foxhounds: watching ahunt from Broad Howe Borran


Broad Howe Borran after its meeting with explosives
Broad Howe Borran after its meeting with explosives

Broad Howe under the mist
Broad Howe under the mist

It's a steep pull from Troutbeck Valley bottom to the top of Thornthwaite Crag via Scots Rake—used to be able to do it in one but not now. I sat on a rock and looked at the view. You could see for miles on that clear morning. However my eyes were drawn to a line of crags over the valley—I was looking at Broad Howe borran.

Apparently a landslip at some point in geological history, Broad Howe is well known in hunting circles. Robert Clapham was obsessed by the place. Whenever hounds were in the Troutbeck Valley he and his wife would go up there and try to keep the fox out. It features too in his famous book Lakeland Grey, for some 50 years the best 'observational' book on fox behaviour until Running with the Fox by David McDonald came out in the 70s—but I digress.

As I sat there the years rolled away and I was back, a lad who had taken a day off school to follow the hounds. There was myself, Anthony Chapman (Coniston Huntsman) and a couple more. "Now mi lad," he said, "if you see a fox, shout like hell and bang thy stick on a rock." "Yes, Mr Chapman." (Always 'Mr Chapman' in those days; respect, how it should be.) He was my hero. We didn't have football or pop star 'heroes', hardly anyone had TV and fewer a car. Our heroes were Teasdale, the fell runner, or Dunglinson, the Cumberland and Westmorland wrestler.

Anyway, we separated on the borran. During the morning two or three foxes appeared. We shouted and hit the rock with our sticks. We might as well have tried to plait the mist that blew in and out for all the good we did. The foxes got into their underground bunker and finally we went home.

That's one of my memories of Broad Howe, but there are others, it's infamous; terriers lost and rescued, explosive used (the picture in the Memories section was taken after explosive was used to rescue a terrier—it altered the borran considerably). In those days if a terrier got stuck there were always men who would go up to help, usually for as long as it took one way or the other. Some had access to explosives and an iron bar.

On 2nd February 1921 the Coniston found an otter lying in Broad Howe Borran; it bolted and was caught. The circumstances surrounding this are unclear, how the hounds found it, and how it came to be there.

Problem with these borrans and all the other bad spots is no one recorded much in writing, it was all consigned to memory and as the years go by memory fades. I lifted my pack and continued the ascent.

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