W3C  Pennine Times DO U KNOW?

Contributed by Gypsy Jim

I was three years off being born when the current incarnation of the Pennine Foxhounds was founded. Details of the previous ones are sketchy, at least to my knowledge, but I know that one was more North Pennine/Cumbria based, and one more Rochdale.

The latest, and current, have a huge “home” country, though struggle a little for “home” meets, what with the creeping urbanisation, and yuppification of the old villages around the south Pennine chain, where incomers might have one, or two or three fields, full of ragwort, nettles, docks and one pony … and they absolutely don’t want it scaring by a pack of hounds. Not that they agree with “that sort of thing” anyway.

Hence the sociable natures of the various Joint Masters, present and past, have in part led to an evolving list of “away” meets, to the West Country, the valleys of South Wales, Wiltshire, Herefordshire, West Wales, North, and Mid, and every part of Lancashire & Yorkshire (with the possible exception of the East), to Cumbria, Northumbria, the Borders, and various parts of Scotland … I digress.

Although the details of the day elude me now, some twenty or more years later, I do remember asking the whip, Nobby, how on earth he managed to cover as much ground as he did! I was more used to running with the beagles, a sprint, a walk, and then standing around for a bit before doing the same again, and for three or four hours, not all day long. Nobby seemed to stride rather than run, and yet if you turned away from him, and looked back, he’d be gone from one hillside and on top of the next, as if by magic.

I remember my first full day with the pack, and the memory still makes me shiver.

As a young teenager I had endured, and perhaps was complicit in, the Disney indoctrination process. Week after week, so it seemed, bear, fox & wolf cubs were presented in a heart rending story of survival against the odds, against the wickedness of mankind, and how nice it would be if we all ate grass ...  By my mid-teens, though, my anti-hunting inclination was transformed, by a few local days out with the beagles as part of a “find out the facts” process, into becoming a regular follower, then whip. A more complete 180 degrees I couldn’t have imagined … and I wanted to know more.

Not yet being a driver, I had to beg lifts, or walk - it was as simple as that. When I heard that the Pennine were meeting at the Bay Horse, Hade Edge, near Holmfirth, I thought I’d go and have a look, and see how it differed from beagling. This would be about ‘84 or ‘85 perhaps. It was a cold but bright winter’s day, a bit of snow down and the sun in the sky, and a four-mile warming walk to get there. The people were fairly friendly, though I didn’t really know more than one or two from our village, and I kept a fairly low profile, being a little on the shy side.

Paul Whitehead, who was huntsman at the time, was even quicker, and still is to this day as huntsman to the Lunesdale. Incredible to see someone seemingly so casually strolling along cover such vast amounts of ground with such ease.

The music of the hounds, crashing through Holme Styles woods and back to the top of Wildboarclough was magic, though - I do remember that. Hounds marked a land drain, of the old herring-bone type, and the temperature dropped.

I’d never seen terrier work up close before, and didn’t really know what was happening, though got a bit of an idea as time went on. (Some might reasonably say that I still don’t know what’s going on, but that’s another story.) Hounds were sort of held up, though were noisy, and two or three at least kept running forward to investigate the various holes, some newly dug, and some the natural ingresses & egresses of the drain(s). Grim faced and determined men wandered about the fields, with locator boxes, trying to read the position of the terrier(s) … and the temperature carried on dropping. There were flurries of snow, an icy wind, nowhere except behind low dry-stone walls to seek shelter, and my boots were wet & desperately cold … and no sign of the fox.

At one point one of the lads tried to “divine” with a little lead-weight, the location of the terrier, something I’ve never seen since, but not that I recall with any success … and it got colder. What sun there had been was hidden behind great black clouds, the icy wind cut through the inadequate layers I had on, and I lost much of the pain in my feet as the feeling gave way to numbness. After what seemed like hours of standing around, looking hopefully at one or two of the people who’d actually talked to me during the course of the day, hoping that is for a lift, I gave in and set off across the fields to the track, to the road … just as the fox was accounted for. Damn! I was so cold by then that it hardly registered, and I just thought that if I’d set off earlier exactly the same thing would have happened!

Eventually I got to the main road, with the four-mile trek in front of me. Cars, pick-ups and vans, together with an odd Landrover or two, sailed by, some pipping & waving, some not - but none actually stopping. How I made it home that day, I’ll never know, but it turned out, as I moaned a few years later in a pub after hunting, that everyone had assumed I was walking back to my car, and those who didn’t know me then thought I was more local than I actually was! Sure, we’ve all had some bloody cold days out with hounds, but that one will stick in my memory as one of the coldest. It didn’t stop me going again a couple of weeks later - and again, and again.

Looking back now, I can’t express the pleasure and fun that I’ve had with various packs of hounds, but my years following, and eventually whipping-in to the Pennine were particularly special. Home meets, around Honley, Meltham, Marsden, Holmfirth and so on, Devon, North & South Wales, Cumbria, and most of the Peak District, all beautiful places, but don’t they just look even more fabulous with a pack of hounds running across them?

Though I never did hear “Tally-ho!”

Gypsy Jim

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