Hello once again. We are back and this time reporting on going hunting! Cobbie and I planned our first stop on ‘The Big Tour’ to visit not once, but twice.
Out of the five hunts registered with the Master of Foxhounds Association beginning with A, I chose the Avon Vale. The Avon Vale Hunt is a well established Wiltshire Hunt centreed around the town of Melksham. It covers some 30 by 25 miles from West Kennet to Slaughterford, down to Rudge near Frome, along the edge of Salisbury Plain to Urchfont and back to West Kennet. It has a history going back to 1888 when the eighth Duke of Beaufort found his own hunting country too large and decided to loan what is the present Avon Vale Hunt country to Captain Spicer of Spye Park.
The reason behind choosing the Avon Vale came from competing in inter hunt relays. Over several years of taking part in them as a member of the Warwickshire Hunt team, we had come up against the Avon Vale team on a number of occasions — we always found them competitive and great fun
This year, the Warwickshire was drawn against the Avon Vale in the first round of the inter hunt relay at The Royal Windsor Horse Show. We had put a team together who had not ridden together before and we therefore thought we where in for a short day. But luck was on our side. An unusual mistake from the Avon Vale when they dropped the whip in the changeover gave us our ticket through to the next round and ultimately onto winning for the second year in a row. This includes a substantial cheque for the hunt which pleases the Warwickshire hunt treasurer!
It was at Windsor, where I approached the Avon Vale’s joint master Andrew Edwards about kicking off The Big Tour with them. Plans where put in motion.
Three months after Windsor, Cobbie and I set off for the Avon Vale’s evening meet at Brook Hall Farm, North Bradly. We used a trailer for this outing as Cadbury was undergoing surgery! I.e having new skirt lockers fitted. It also kept Cobbie happy.
Stuart had warned me that the meet wasn’t easy to find and that sat nav directions took you into Westbury industrial estate — needless to say I now know what Westbury industrial estate looks like now! On turning around I managed to spot two lorries in convoy, so I joined in. I did start to wonder as the lanes got very narrow and we crossed a ford, but guess what, around the corner sat the hounds patiently waiting. I’d guessed right and had been following the hunt horses from Stuart’s yard.
The meet was in a field at Brook Hall Farm on the edge of Westbury overlooked by the Westbury White Horse.
A field of over 40 riders was led by Mike Smith, senior master and field master for the evening. The draw for the evening involved tree lined brooks and extensive maize fields on the edge of the industrial estate. Unfortunately for hounds and followers, the trails proved tricky to find due to the continuing warm dry autumn we all experienced. Typically the light started to fade and temperatures dropped, then hounds and hunt staff (on their feet) were off!
Stuart blew for home in the fading light. Cobbie was fed and wrapped up for his journey home. I, along with the remaining few, had a very welcome cup of tea and cake back in the tack room, where arrangements were made for an early morning return visit for the following week.
Cobbie and I arrived home at 11pm, both tired and happy, none hours after leaving, 132 miles later. We had had a lovely start to our big tour with The Avon Vale hounds and hunt followers.
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