Graham Simpson, joint-master: “We shall be meeting on the 19th and will probably organise varied activities, such as hunt rides, paperchases and other general ‘jollies’ until the end of the season. We shall keep going and review the situation at the time of the election.”
DART VALE & SOUTH POOL
David Higson, joint-master: “We’re meeting on the 19th on the point-to-point course. We shall maintain the interest to the end of the season with hunt rides, but we won’t be trying trailhunting yet. We’ll keep hounds for as long as possible. We have a unique pack of West Country Harriers and we won’t let them die out. Next season we plan to see how the land lies, but we’re not taking this lying down.”
Sheila Castle, joint-master: “We’re meeting on the 19th and will just go out for a ride afterwards, but we won’t keep hounds out for long. We’re not going to take risks with them until we’ve trained them to hunt a trail, which is what we plan for next season. We’re a small pack and a £5,000 fine would finish us off if something went wrong.”
David Dunn, joint-master: “We held a meeting and offered our members various options, including selling the kennels and shooting hounds or employing our huntsman part-time; they voted unanimously to keep the pack and the hunt intact. We’ve written to all our farmers and have had a good response. We’re going to remain positive and keep going because we’re not just a hunt, we’re a community.”
Graham Wedd, chairman: “We’ll meet for exercise on the 19th, but we’ve got nothing planned after that. It will depend on the outcome of the hearings. However, we’re certainly planning to keep going as a pack.
“We are a small outfit, quite low-key, and we haven’t got huge overheads, it’s just a question of how the insurance will work. I personally can’t risk breaking the law and nor can others — it has too many implications if you run a business.”
Geoffrey Biggin, hon sec: “We will be doing what presumably everyone else is doing, keeping going, but within the law. We’ll meet on the 19th, parade through the town and will keep meeting until the end of the season. The plan is to keep everything together, but obviously finance will be an issue. We have a lovely country that should be suitable for trailhunting, but we also have a Bloodhound pack in the area.”
John Martin, hon sec: “We’re meeting on the 19th and plan to go for a ride afterwards. Our season finishes on 2 March anyway, so we’ll have a few rides until then, with a view to trying trailhunting next season. We have no plans to cut back over the next 12 months and we’re hoping that everyone will take up trailhunting.”
Tim Holt, chairman: “We shall meet on the 19th and then go exercising. Our supporters have kindly offered meets until the end of the season when we shall go on hound exercise. Our constitution will change to only doing those forms of hunting that are within the law. Our country lies within the Exmoor National Park, which has been extremely supportive, but we also have some National Trust land and are waiting for a directive from HQ. Our intention is to keep the pack intact for the next five years at least.”
Moyra Major, joint-master: “We shall do rides for the rest of this season and try trailhunting in the autumn. We aim to keep going for another year at least. We’ve written to all the farmers to assure them what we will be doing is legal. But I am worried about the idea of bolting a fox and shooting it; somehow, that goes against the grain and contradicts everything we’ve done before.”
Annette Grundy, joint-master: “We will meet and go for a ride on the 19th. We’ve had terrific support and everyone is on side to continue. We’ve planned lots of extra summer social activities to keep everyone together.
“We’ll do trailhunting next season. It’s not going to be easy because we’ve got very open country and a lot of hares, but our huntsman Boyce Keeling has postponed his retirement and will be working with his young hounds over the summer. Our farmers have been 100% supportive, as have the shooters — we’re a big shooting county. We’re optimistic that we can survive.”
PENDLE FOREST & CRAVEN
Tim Bannister, joint-master: “We’ve already started hunting a trail and we think we’re working it out. We’ll have a big meet on the 19th, with lots of farmers, gamekeepers and all sorts of other people. We shall keep trailhunting until the end of the season and into the next. We’re not losing any hounds, horses or staff — all five masters are unanimous on that.”
David Eaton Smith, acting master: “We’re meeting on the 19th to exercise the hounds and will then finish for the season — we usually stop in early March. I have eight couple of puppies back in kennels that will be introduced to a trail this summer and will go trailhunting once a week next winter. I’m convinced that we’ll be able to go out once a week only. In areas we’re confident are hare- and fox-free, the older hounds will go out on rabbit control. Farmers are very supportive and realise now that allowing a legal hunt on their land won’t affect their payments, but we still want to give them a few months to get used to it.”
TAUNTON VALE HARRIERS
Alun Thomas, master and huntsman: “On Saturday, we’re meeting at the Catherine Wheel [pub] in Hemyock, which is where we met on Boxing Day. We’ll go for hound exercise, then we’ll carry on meeting on Mondays and Thursdays as normal until the end of the season on 7 March. That’s a week earlier than normal — not because of the ban, but because our point-to-point is early.
“We may also use two hounds and a gun. We have to be brave and keep the whole thing alive, although it’s not going to be easy — but we’re made of stern stuff. Our kennel-huntsman Claude Harris was born at the South Devon hunt kennels. He’s 60 this year, so normally he’d retire. But he’ll continue part-time and live in the cottage. We’ve got three bitches in whelp. If you stop breeding hounds you’re really closing the door.”
VALE OF LUNE
Vicky Atkinson, joint-master: “Our current situation is that 16 February will be our last day’s hunting and after that we’ve got to rethink our plans.”
Lavinia Wells, joint-master: “We’re meeting on the 19th at Somerleyton Hall, which is an ideal place to have a ride afterwards in the park over a few fences. We shall meet as normal until the end of the season on 12 March. We intend to keep within the law and we’ll try a mixture of hound exercise and trailhunting. The challenge will be to provide a pastime that is as traditional as possible, but legal.”
WESTON & BANWELL
Robert Carnell, chairman: “We shall meet on the 19th at the same place we do for the opening meet and will go out on hound exercise afterwards. We don’t know if we’re meeting after that, but our season ends in early March anyway. Next season, we’ll try trailhunting; we realise that we may need to draft some of our hounds and get new ones in for this. We want to keep the hunt intact; we’ve had a lot of support from farmers and our fields have doubled since the ban was announced.”