W3C The Following Piece "Happened" Prior to the Ban MEMORIES


The flashing hazard lights further down the motorway were visible for some considerable distance before I arrived at the scene. You could have seen it coming when some Muppet in a BMW 4X4 went by some minutes before doing in excess of 100mph southbound, in the outside lane. Fortunately I had seen his approaching headlights and temporarily postponed overtaking the two trucks having their own little race. "The beamer" sped by me and disappeared into the murk.

A few miles further on he had "lost it" and took out a truck; the two vehicles had then hit another car and after leaving a trail of debris, come to a stop.

The motorway was blocked and by the look of it for some considerable time. There was nothing to be done but switch off the engine and get comfortable; I mentally gave thanks that I had had a meal before leaving as the sandwich crust in my pocket would have given no sustenance at all.

The long day was about to become a lot longer, it was a good twelve hours since I had passed this spot northbound on my way to the meet. I'd made good time through the light traffic and arrived in time for a cup of coffee and a gossip before hounds were put into the fell head behind the white washed farm house outside of which we stood.

The hounds spread out across the steep rock strewn fell side with its clumps of dead bracken, a dark brown in the soft morning light; an occasional bark suggested that a fox had been about during the previous night. I looked up at the big crag at the head of the dale.

"Wonder if the bugger is laying up yonder," I said to the farmer standing next to me.

He studied the crag for a while. "Known 'em to," he said, "mind you they follow them bracken beds over theer."

The hounds neared the base of the crag and upon reaching the boulder field a sudden crash of music indicated they had hit the line of the fox. This was confirmed by a watcher high on the ridge above giving the view "halloo" and indicating with his walking stick the direction taken by the fox. The hounds climbed the steep fellside beside the crag, their barking reduced to an occasional yelp such was the steepness of the ascent. From the valley below the huntsman's encouraging cry of "gerraway, gerraway" added to the drama unfolding. Upon reaching the ridge the hounds having regained their breath collectively "gave tongue", their cry echoing around the fells. They disappeared over the ridge in the direction of the next valley and their cries faded and silence returned.

"Day's done," somebody said, "not come back now."

The farmer looked at him. "Might do," he said, "there was a litter of cubs around, it won't go far."

Thirty minutes and much gossip and banter later, the farmer who had been searching the fellside through his binoculars saw the returning hounds on the other side of the valley dropping in-bank.

Whilst I sat and mused, work got underway to free one of the trapped drivers and before long the increasing sound of an approaching helicopter could be heard, the machine circled and then gently set down on the (closed) northbound carriageway. I had always been in awe of the skill of the pilots of rescue helicopters ever since the time I was briefly in the Ambleside Mountain Rescue team and had seen them close to on a couple of occasions. The guy flying this one maintained the standard.

The machine sat idling until the casualty was freed and transported over the crash barrier and into the helicopter which took off and disappeared in the direction of the admitting hospital.

I went back to the hunt. The hard pressed fox descended the fell side, jumping a wall into the pastureland and tried to weave through a flock of sheep in the forlorn hope it would throw hounds off the scent. It was all to no avail though as a black and tan hound guessing his ruse rapidly cut down the distance between them and as the fox attempted to jump the field wall, the pack grabbed him and within seconds it was all over.

The farmer standing next to me smiled. "One less of the bloody things come lambing time," he said. "Will you come for a bite o' dinner?"

Finally the road was opened, debris were swept up and the remains of the vehicles involved dragged onto the hard shoulder, engines were started and we began to crawl forward; a large, red faced policeman waving us on, cursing the rubbernecking drivers. Before long I was up to 70 mph and going home.

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