Autumn hunting meets delayed by late harvest

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Hunts up and down the country are being forced to stall the start of autumn hunting because of the unusually late harvest.

This summer’s washout – June was the wettest on record – decimated the outdoor show calendar and kept much of the countryside under wraps. It also stunted crop growth and has prevented farmers from accessing their waterlogged fields.

Secretary of the North Shropshire, Annabelle Dibble, told H&H: “My husband is a farmer and the situation is getting desperate. We are still waiting for a dry spell to start the harvesting.

“Traditionally, we should have started autumn hunting on the August bank holiday, but everywhere I look there are still fields of standing wheat.”

In the West Country, the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale’s first autumn meet was delayed by a week, but secretary Vicky Mathews said that, until the nearby fields are cut, future dates will need to be planned week by week.

“There are still a lot of unharvested fields around us that we would normally hunt across, so we will need to liaise with farmers on a daily basis before we can do any route planning,” she said.

In Hertfordshire, the Puckeridge has managed to begin hunting on time – just.

“Things were looking very dubious a couple of weeks ago, but fortunately we’ve had 10 dry days around our area and most of the fields are now cleared,” said joint-master Diana Pyper.

H&H hunting columnist Nigel Peel, who is joint-master and huntsman of the North Cotswold, said hunts need to be patient.

“This is a difficult time for farmers and it would be a terrible mistake to start hunting before all the corn is cut,” he said. “We need to bide our time now – we can look forward to plenty of extra days once the weather settles down.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 September, 2012)