This year’s Boxing Day meet was a poignant one for the West Street Tickham, who are in their final season before disbanding and dividing the country between neighbouring hunts.

The West Street Tickham decided to amalgamate with the Ashford Valley and East Kent due to financial pressures and the lack of sufficient country during the shooting season.

Secretary Sarah Leggatt told H&H that, after some initial “wittering”, hunt supporters had accepted the decision and were concentrating on having some “jolly good fun” during their last season.

“Tickham people are very pleased that hunting will continue and they will have access to Tickham country,” said Mrs Leggatt.

“The Ashford Valley are changing their name to the Ashford Valley Tickham, which is lovely, and the East Kent are talking about becoming the ‘East Kent with West Street’, so the names don’t get lost.”

Hounds will be drafted to other packs at the end of the season and it is hoped that huntsman Paul Saunders will find another job in hunt service elsewhere.

“We are planning our final meet, which will be a testimonial for Paul. Tears will be shed, but we can’t dwell on that,” said Mrs Leggatt.

Tim Easby, director of the Hunting Office, has applauded the West Street Tickham’s decision. He is urging other hunts grappling with difficult conditions to consider doing the same.

“If you haven’t got enough country to hunt two days a week properly — without visiting the same bits of country too regularly — then you really should look at how you’re operating,” he said.

“Some people — especially our enemies — would say it’s bad news. But the reverse is true; it is a sensible and positive way forward.

“Hunting is the glue that sticks rural communities together; that’s why it’s important to keep standards high,” added Mr Easby.

Mrs Leggatt said members of the various hunts had been making “a real effort” to get to know each other.

As a postscript, she said her Jack Russell has been mated with a bitch belonging to the wife of one of the Ashford Valley masters.

“Inter-hunt relations are going well,” she joked.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (28 December 2012)