W3C Dissent GARN YAM







Fells in mist


Fells in mist


Fells in mist

February 2011 marks the anniversary of the Hunting Ban. For the past two and a half years this site has recorded the doings of famous huntsmen, heroic rescues and the general goings on of the Lakeland hunts. However, as on the home page it states quite clearly that the site is a historical record only and is not intended to be used by the pro- or anti-hunting lobbies, it seems therefore only fair to give a short account of those who dissented against hunting in Lakeland.

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I was glad to leave the high fell with its thick mist and light rain which was soaking me insidiously. High up the fell a hunt was going on along the rolling fell side, but the mist was too thick for me to see any of it. The fox that had plagued the poultry keepers of the Blue Hill area of Ambleside was about to get its comeuppance before it graduated to the local lambing fields, however you could only hear the hunt.

I climbed the old moss and lichen covered wall and dropped down to the top of the wood, the tree branches bare in early spring. Sodden turf squelched under my boots, and the visibility had not improved, the clag overhead was about tree top height. I descended further into the wood, and paused to listen. The hunt was quite near now, the music of the hounds echoed in the woodland.

I saw the fox before he saw me, jogging in-bank as it followed the track; I dropped down to my knees and remained motionless as the fox passed by only a few feet away. Big drops of water clung to his fur and a few flecks of saliva to his muzzle. I remember thinking how unconcerned by the proximity of the hounds he appeared, he glanced at me as he passed following the path down towards the lakeshore below.

Hounds were too close to holloa, I wouldn’t have anyway because it would distract the hounds and also I had been brought up with the mantra, “If you want to halloa, think, think again and if you still want too, have another think.” In all the years following hounds on the fell I can only really recall ever doing it once and then God knows why, quickly dropping down behind a convenient rock in case anyone had seen me.

The hounds passed by soon after, almost running to view, slightly above the line the fox had taken, as the scent must have moved even in such a short time. They all disappeared down the track with the odd lingering bark and I followed, shortly afterwards the sound of hounds marking carried up to me as I sheltered as best I could under a leafless tree. Normally I avoided holes and borrans, much preferring to sit on some vantage point and watch operations from a distance, but this morning the weather was so bad I decided to go, if only to get a bit lower and perhaps out of the weather.

The fox had gone to ground in a old drain in a garden near the lake shore, a couple of followers were ahead of me as I climbed through the wire fence into the daffodil covered garden. I’d only taken a few steps when I heard the sound of the horn blowing off, Chappie appeared with the pack around him, he was trying his best not to knock any daffodils over, but the following hounds had no such scruples and a trail of flattened stems marked their passage. He must have seen the expression on my face. "Lady doesn’t like hunting,” he said and headed back towards for fence.

This was the first time I had ever come across anyone who objected to hunting, I knew they existed of course. Conversations over the years in our living room and huddled under some rock waiting for hounds to return to our valley occasionally centred on it. Usually it was about farmer so and so who had stopped hounds crossing their land, this may be due to some injustice from the hunt in the farmer’s eyes, perceived or otherwise, but there it was. That morning I gave up and went home to dry off.

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Dissent was really nothing new, it had always been there, but as the post war economy improved and more people began to live and holiday in Lakeland it got more vociferous. The quiet fells of childhood saw an increase in walkers and climbers due in no small part to the writings of the taciturn, unsociable Wainwright, now well on the way to beatification in the eyes of some. Some people new to Lakeland followed hounds, most didn’t and some didn’t like it and made their views known in a variety of ways. The section of newspaper reports which follow are to illustrate some views different to those in the hunt following villages, where on occasion the whole village turned out to follow the hunt.

The items that follow are taken from the newspapers for the year 1933, the material reproduced is available to all and does not imply the packs concerned were the only ones who were targeted. There is no reason for choosing 1933, it just happened to be the year I was researching at the time and just happened to come across the three pieces in this thread; there were article(s) against hunting most years.

In July 1933 the Rector of Burnsall wrote in the Yorkshire Post complaining about the Kendal and District Otter hounds hunting in the river the day before, he wrote:

Into the general question of the utility of otter hunting I have no wish to enter. But I am moved to make a protest against the utter inhumanity of the proceedings of the hunt yesterday.

This piece drew several replies. Some referred to activities the writers thought more cruel, while one correspondent pointed out the cruelty of otters to fish. Several others supported the view of the Rector of Burnsall.

In October the Ullswater Foxhounds featured in both the local and national press with the following story:

The occasion was the opening meet at the White Lion Hotel, Patterdale, and the fox was roused in Birkfell on the eastern shore at the head of the lake.

Scent was poor and the hounds had difficulty in holding the line amongst the juniper bushes. The fox climbed Placefell, and after returning to Birkfell was lost for some time. J Wear (huntsman) searched Long Crag under the impression that reynard had “binked” on a ledge and hounds reached the far end of the crag when reynard dashed from hiding and made down to the lake. He entered the water, and was seen by followers to be swimming some distance from the shore. He returned to land, however, but after running another quarter of a mile hounds lost scent at the lakeshore in Scale How wood. There was no more scent in the vicinity and the obvious conclusion was that the fox had again entered the water and been drowned.

The incident drew angry letters of protest in the “Daily Telegraph”, “Daily Express” and the “Yorkshire Post”.

The week after the newspaper featured the following piece by “Dacre Hill,” Grasmere, who writes: -

Sir, - It may interest your readers to learn that the fox was not drowned in Ullswater lake, as reported. It escaped and is still alive on the fells.

The Deputy Master of the Ullswater Foxhounds was drawn into the controversy.In an interview last week–end Mr. C. R. Farrer, Deputy Master and secretary of the hunt, said, “The fox after a grand run, certainly disappeared, but it was never seen in the lake. There were two boats out at the time. It is ridiculous to suggest that the fox committed suicide. We have received some rather abusive letters, and they are not justified by the facts.”

Things became so heated that the British Field Sports Society was roused to comment using an argument that was aired right up to the introduction of the ban in 2005.

Mr. James Fitzwilliam, secretary of the British Field Sport Society writes:

Some of the protests raised against the recent hunting of a fox in the Lake District merit a reply. How accurate the report may be I do not know, but the writer who speaks of the animal being hunted by "dogs, horses and men for four hours”, can know little of the conditions of hunting in Cumberland, as in this particular hunt it is quite impossible to follow hounds except on foot owing to the very wild nature of the country. It is by hunting alone that foxes, which take a heavy toll every year of the farmers' lambs, can be kept down. To attempt to shoot them would be futile, as one might scour the countryside for many days without ever seeing the sign of a fox.

Finally, in November 1933 the Westmorland Gazette carried a report where a passing motorist had deliberately spoilt a hunt, by “baulking” the hunted fox allowing it to escape. The following week this letter appeared:

Sir, - In last week’s Gazette my name was mentioned as having baulked the fox on Grisedale Moor road on the day of the hunt. It was true. It was my painful experience to see the poor hunted and well nigh exhausted animal trotting down the road behind me. I couldn’t but think this way of hunting and hounding the poor thing to its death was a most cruel one.

Why could it not be shot, mercifully at the outset? To this the reply is that it would not be sport. Well all I can say is that surely England and Englishmen would be the better for the elimination of such cruel and bloodthirsty sport, -

Yours, etc.,

(Mrs) M. H. Phillips

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