W3C The Hunted Fox  FOXES


About four or five miles from Ambleside on the Hawkshead road is a T junction, turn right here and the road ascends the shoulder of a small water-cut valley finally reaching its destination at the Drunken Duck public house, from whence a choice of routes beyond this story can be found.

If you had been on this road one autumn morning some 40 years ago, you would have found an old Land Rover carelessly parked or, to some, abandoned by the roadside. The occupants stood nearby looking over the wall, down into the shallow valley. Small clumps of trees were dotted here and there and rough pasture grass filled in the spaces between. At the top of the valley stood a small wood, which was sheltering two red deer hinds. The piece of ground, which held the attention of the occupants of the Land Rover was a field of kale, which some enterprising or optimistic farmer had planted. On the down slope of the valley facing, grazed two small ponies and a few young bullocks. Bought by adoring parents for their demanding offspring these ‘steeds’ had a happy life. Gently ridden at the weekend they made merry for the rest of the week and their girth showed the effect.

“It’s coming again,” said Jack, “just under that big oak tree.”

I looked and sure enough there was the fox.

“Girt cub,” I pronounced. “See if t’ bugger does the same route.”

Sure enough, the fox went into the kale field, appeared to dodge about for a few minutes and then emerge in the field where the ponies were. It climbed the slope and disappeared over the brow of the hill into the caravan site beyond. After traversing the caravan site it emerged at the bottom of our valley ready to repeat the journey again. This was the third time we had seen it do this and the following hounds kept suffering check after check as they struggled to hold the line. The fox emerged from the kale field and the two ponies looked at it suspiciously, their flanks heaving from the last time the hounds had passed by.

Jack smiled. “Never been worked so hard,” he grinned.

The hounds, some minutes behind, arrived in the kale field and suffered yet another check. One older and wiser hound followed the boundary of the field and its bark indicated he had found the place where the fox had come out of the field. The ponies and cattle had another gallop round the field as hounds searched for the line tainted by the activity of the occupants of the field careering madly about, disturbed by the hounds. This went on some four times until the frustrated huntsman ‘blew off’ and we went home.

* * *

What follows are a series of articles showing some of the ruses and tricks used by Lakeland foxes to avoid the hounds; some worked, others didn’t. All the articles were written at the time.

Sedbergh Foxhounds

Here several dalesmen in the neighbourhood, hearing the magnificent music of the hounds, were anxious to join in the “fray” the pack going in full cry and viewing their quarry. About this point, he had evidentially given himself a wash, as hounds were given a check, but in a few moments the hounds 'Delicate' and 'Tippler' again struck the scent, encouraging the others, and the whole pack were soon on their way to Cautley crag, where undoubtedly he meant to evade his pursuers by taking refuge in that old well known stronghold.

16th April 1910

Ullswater Foxhounds

Swinging to the left on nearing Harrop Pike, reynard, with the pack close at his brush, crossed Browna Bottom and at Scott Crag took refuge in the crag face. Hounds were unable to reach him, but Jim Thompson at last dislodged him.

20th November 1920

Eskdale and Ennerdale Foxhounds

In grand weather Tuesday yielded some wonderful sport. A quintette of foxes being afoot. Loosing at Dale End Moss a drag heel way* led into Fletcher Coppice, but on hounds being righted they ranged back to Lingmoor and unkennelled above Blea Tarn, through by Side Pike, crossing Blea Tarn road by Red Acre to the top of Blakerigg, where the fox binked* and caused some delay.

11th December 1920

*Heel way: To follow in the reverse direction to that actually taken by the fox.
*To bink: Seek refuge in a crack or ledge on the face of a crag or cliff.

Ullswater Foxhounds

On the open slopes of the fell the fox was hard pressed for a means of escape and tried hard to lose his pursuers by dodging among flocks of newly dipped sheep. Three times this ruse failed. Reynard then took to the water in Whinhow Beck.


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