W3C Rangebarrow Crag HOUNDS







Rangebarrow Crag

Copyright Mad About Mountains


Rangebarrow Crag

Unusually for us we were late; the previous evening it had seemed so straightforward in the pub. Some guy had said there was a fox worrying lambs up the top end of Kentmere, the farmer had failed to shoot it and so the hounds had been summoned. Normally Jack and I would go together, but Bob had requested a lift and so we had duly turned up at the appointed time to find Bob’s house in darkness. The door had been well hammered and his egress from the house had been amid the following sounds; the crying of awoken children, the yowl of a stood upon cat, followed by the breaking of milk bottles on the step. Neighbouring house lights had gone on and as we drove down the street the verbal abuse of our friend’s 'significant other' had followed us, which in Jack’s words did not bode well for Bob’s return. However this was several hours in the future and of no consequence to Jack and I.

We joined the line of headlights moving up the narrow road between the high stonewalls and once at the end of the valley, at a place known as Green End, found somewhere to park. I was glad to get out of the Land Rover with the smell of fumes emitting from the vehicle’s ancient heater, mingled with odours more commonly associated with the tap room the morning after the night before. Our friend however had been totally unmoved by my complaints and after getting out wandered up the lane for a pee. It always used to amaze me as to that man’s bladder capacity and this morning added to his legend.

“What time are they lousing?” (releasing the hounds) I asked.

"Have done,” said Jack as the valley filled with the music of hounds. Our friend returned zipping up his trousers.

“Theer’s t' fox,” he said pointing into the fields below where we stood. We ran to the wall beside the road and looked down to see a big light-coloured fox jogging up the field towards the hedge boundary.

He slipped through the hedge and immediately turned and followed the hedge towards the edge of the field where it joined with another hedge. “Crafty bugger,” said Jack, “it’s thrown the hounds.” The hounds had come through the hedge and continued across the field before running out of scent. Casting around they finally found the line the fox had taken but by now it had gained a few minutes advantage. The hunt disappeared up the valley in the direction of Rangebarrow Crag and shortly afterwards the cry of the hounds changed to one of marking on the spoil heap under the crag. This came as no surprise as the fox having fed and running heavy would look for a place to shelter. Through the binoculars white specks could be seen milling around on the spoil heap. “Gone in,” Jack said. “Are we going up there?” This seemed a good idea on this cold morning and so we set off up the track running up the bottom of the valley that leads under the crag. Our breath came out in plumes in the cold pre-dawn. High on the fell the night had carried a hard frost but in the valley bottom below the frost line it was just cold.

Finally we arrived at the base of the spoil heap and made ourselves comfortable with our backs against the wall. “Could be a long job,” Jack said. This was reinforced by the cry from the crag of “fetch a bar” (iron bar for levering boulders out of the way), always a sign of a long cold sit ahead.

At that moment the farmer accompanied by his three collies strode up, “Did tha see it?” I asked. “See it!” the farmer exploded, “did I see the buggar, course I did.” He spat onto the ground narrowly missing a sniffing collie. “The bloody thing was parading through mi lambing fields not twenty minutes ago.” He paused. “Not a care in the world, even cocked it’s leg on t’ gatepost, I thought to mi sel thou will have summat on thi mind afor long yer buggar.” He stalked off in the direction of the gone to ground fox still vowing vengeance.

And how did it end, you ask? Well, we sat leaning against that wall for most of the morning watching the sun rise and gain height, the sunlight slowly moving down the fell and finally into the valley bottom where we sat joking and gossiping. The morning wore on and the hounds became bored, a couple lay down in the sun and dropped off to sleep, two more slipped away home after making sure the huntsman’s attention was elsewhere. Boredom percolated down to us, sitting with our backs to the wall soaking in the warmth of the risen sun. The digging continued and just before dinnertime halloas on the wind told of the demise of the fox; peace was restored to the lambing fields and the farmer actually smiled. Bob returned to the tranquillity of his home and we went to the pub.

~ ~ ~

Rangebarrow Crag has featured in the annals of Lakeland hunting for centuries; beside our little adventure here are some further accounts.

Ullswater Foxhounds

A fine hound broke its neck on Rangebarrow Crag, while running a fox in Kentmere on Friday. The meet was at Longsleddale and after casting off at Sad Ghyll, hounds worked through Rough Crags to Goat Scar, where a drag was struck at Brown Crag. Reynard broke away and hounds started well together. Taking over the top into Kentmere Pike and down the fell breast by Hart Crag quarries the hunt crossed the foot of Kentmere reservoir. Climbing Ill Bell and down the top into Troutbeck side reynard again turned into Kentmere by Sharrow Crag and the famous Rangebarrow Crag. Charmer, the leading hound, came to grief and fell a considerable distance down the crag, breaking her neck. Fortunately no more hounds lost their feet. The fox took through the quarries and down through the Guards to Tongue Earth, going to ground just in front of hounds. Wear, the huntsman arrived with terriers, but the fox would not bolt. BELLMAN

Westmorland Gazette 17 February 1934

Badgers Still Existent – The record of our fell fox hunting packs week by week often contain items of natural history. The latest point out of the ordinary was the announcement that the Coniston pack, whilst hunting in Kentmere, accounted for a badger in Rainsbarrow, near the head of the valley. According to hunting reported the badger still exists in Lakeland, though it is nearly 25 years since it went the rounds of the daily Press that the last one had been killed in Westmorland. How the statement gained currency I imagine was because someone had written to a paper drawing attention to the locality where the last badger (meaning the most recent one) had been accounted for. Similarly it was in 1916 that the last mart or martin was reported to have been killed. This season has demonstrated that they still roam the countryside. Ravens have long been deemed extinct, yet in one of the latest of the multitudinous books on Lakeland I read that they seem to be fairly common, which I do not suppose any dweller in these parts will for a moment credit. RED SCREES

Westmorland Gazette 13th March 1934

The Ullswater Foxhounds - hunted Kentmere last week and killed three foxes. J. Wear, huntsman, and J. Wilkinson, whip, were in charge and the first meet on Wednesday provided good sport, with foxes numerous. Starting from Kentmere Hall, hounds took a line on Garburn Pass and unkennelled their fox at Raven Crag. He headed for the fell with hounds in full cry and at Rangebarrow climbed this famous Crag to bink in a place where no hounds could get to him. Glory was very keen to dislodge the fox but fortunately no hounds came to grief, and the fox was left.

Westmorland Gazette 1 April 1939

Coniston Foxhounds - A start was made in Ireland Wood on Tuesday, but Royal must have got away with a fox on his own, for he was heard coming down the valley from Kentmere Pike as though the fox was heading for the Tongue borran. He did not go in however and hounds got a check when they all joined in to a slow hunt back from Nan Bield and out into the mist. Some time later a few hounds ran a fox into a rock hole on Ill Bell to be bolted and overtaken, while the others were found in Mardale, visiting Blea Water, Riggindale and Castle Crag before coming back up the lake shore, climbing for Harter Fell and running their fox to ground above Nan Bield. He bolted of his own accord before anyone got there, returned to Kentmere, crossed the dale above the reservoir and was overtaken at Rangebarrow Crag at 4pm.

Westmorland Gazette 14th March 1958

Impromptu Meet for Ullswater and Coniston Foxhounds

AFTER a wild and stormy night, foxes were hard to find when the Ullswater pack met at Hartrigg. After drawing Raven Crag, Ivan Scar and Sheep Crags, the hounds struck a drag that took them up Buck Crag, where they moved the fox.

Halloaed away, they hunted out over the fell wall and then turned up the wind for Garburn Pass before dropping in for Long Green Head, where they joined the Coniston hounds. Michael Nicholson, the Coniston huntsman, took all the hounds to Applethwaite quarry to await the arrival of the Ullswater huntsman and followers.

When they arrived, the hounds were marking. The fox was eventually bolted to give the followers of both packs a grandstand view.

However, after the hounds had circled the quarry several times the scent failed and the packs were separated. As they were being taken back to the hunt vehicle, the Ullswater hounds put up a fox at Kentmere Hall. This one gave them a tremendous hunt out over Rainsbarrow to Ill Bell, where the fox dwelled.

The hounds soon bolted it themselves and ran back through Rainsbarrow to drop in underneath Lamb Fold, where they marked.

Saturday, 16 January 1999

Busy week in Kentmere for Ullswater foxhounds

WHEN the Ullswater foxhounds met at Hartrigg Farm, Kentmere, they were taken to draw the Grassings and then Rainsborrow. They struck a drag high out in Rainsborrow Cove and this took them out over Ill Bell and through over Cove to Froswick. Staying high out, they dragged through Wander Scar to Gavel Crag, where they marked. This fox was soon bolted but only went a short way before going in again, where it had to be left.

Saturday, 15 November 1999

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