Major General Andrew Ritchie, chairman: “There is no question that we won’t adhere to the law — we’re a military pack. We’ll wind down hounds for the remainder of the season because we don’t want to confuse them, it wouldn’t be fair. We are to convert to draghunting next season and will join the MDBA. We’ll then draghunt across Salisbury Plain with a new licence from the MoD. Our subscribers were unanimous in choosing to switch to a draghunting pack.”
Lee Cade, joint-master: “We’re going to go trailhunting and keep within the law. We’re hosting a big meet at the Fox and Rabbit on 19 February. We’re waiting for the outcome of the hearings before we plan for the next season; we’re determined to keep going.”
John Norman, joint-master: “We hope to continue with some trailhunting and expect to do something on 19 February. We only have one full-time member of hunt staff and he’s staying on for next season. Something may have happened by then; we may have had a change of government!”
Owen Jones, chairman: “We’re meeting on the 19th for some hound exercise. This will mark the end of the season for us and we’re finishing about a month early. We’re talking of having a trail pack in 2005/06 and our part-time huntsman is keen to keep going.
“There are a few organisations — the NFU, FUW, NSA and CLA — who are keen to put fox control as a welfare issue on the agenda in the Welsh Assembly. The lamb loss after the ban will be significant and a pack of hounds is essential in this area.”
Patricia Bromell, joint-master: “We’ll work within the law and hunt the trail of a fox. We’re finishing a little earlier this year — probably around 12 March. Our huntsman is retiring at the end of this season and he will be replaced by our whipper-in; we will probably make do with an amateur whip next season.”
SOUTHDOWN & ERIDGE
Julia Caffyn, senior master: “We’re continuing to our end of season on 16 March, meeting twice a week to pursue legal activities and try trailhunting a fox-based scent as well as legal forms of fox control. However, at this time of year hounds are used to hunting a strong dog fox scent — they’re fit and sharp and may not take easily to an artificial line, so they will have to be led into it gradually.
“We’ve had tremendous support from our landowners, and 370 came to our farmers’ dinner. We’re continuing the vitally important flesh collection. We’re keeping hunt staff on; our whipper-in is leaving but we’re getting a new one. Like everyone, we’ll have to look at hound numbers but it’s crucial to preserve breeding lines because we’re going to do everything we can for a repeal of this Act. We anticipate saboteur activity, such as videoing.”
Marek Kwiatkowski, chairman: “We’ll be undertaking activities within the law and will see how things pan out. Our meeting on Saturday is as our meet card.”
Jenny Stafford, outgoing MFH: “We’re meeting on the 19th and going off for a fun ride. We’ll do a few more meets this season, but are already restricted due to lambing. There will be a new team of masters for next season and the plan is to go out midweek and flush and do trailing, hound exercise and rides on Saturdays, to keep the paying public happy. We do have quite a bit of forestry, where I think they may be happy for us to do trailhunting, and although we don’t have many hunting farmers, they’re mostly sympathetic.”
Alison Brown, joint-master: “We have a joint meet with the Ilminster Beagles on Saturday, near one of the busiest roads in Somerset, so we’ll be very visible. We’re going for hound exercise on supportive farmers’ land and will finish at a pub.
“We’ve got meets until our usual end of season in mid-March. We may try some experimental mock hunts, and will continue a pest control service with two hounds and a gun because we have a lot of sheep farmers and a lot of shoots. We have a letter in the pipeline to our farmers.
“We have two hunt staff — huntsman and groom — and are looking for a kennel-huntsman or whip. We’ll breed a few hounds this year and have put one bitch on already.”
Rodney Ellis, MFH: “We’re meeting on the 19th at Serena Rothschild’s at Oare, Pewsey, and I think there’ll be so many people there we’re quite worried about having enough to drink! After that, we’ll go on a mock hunt over some jumps for a couple of hours. We’re going to keep going with some hound exercise until the end of the season.
“We shall be keeping hounds and keeping everything intact at least for a year. One problem is that we have a lot of MoD land; the ministry would like us to register as a draghunt, but that’s not an option yet.”
Capel Bevan, MFH: “We shall have a big meet on the 19th, but no hunting. We’ll probably go on hound exercise to finish the season and if farmers report trouble we’ll visit them with two hounds and guns. We have a lot of sheep farming in our country and a lot of support, so we’ll keep going and breeding hounds in the hope of the ban being overturned one day.”
John Plummer, hon sec: “We’re in the same quandary as everyone else. We’re more sure of next season, when we’ll try hound trailing, than how we’ll finish this one. We’ve been asked to continue to meet and we’ll probably go hound exercising in full hunting dress to make our presence felt. And because we have a lot of sheep-farming in our country, we will continue to offer pest control.”
Julie Nicholls, master’s wife: “We’ve got a list of meets that runs until the first week of April, two days a week, as normal. We’ll be trying to hunt with a fox-based scent but, like everyone else, it’s going to be a slog to get it right. Draghunting is definitely not an option. Next season we’ll offer a pest control service once a week, plus trailhunting. Our farmers have been bricks; they don’t want to see us fold and we’ve got more support than ever before.”
James Harris, joint-master: “We shall be meeting on the 19th and will keep going until the natural end of the season, hunting within the law. Our main concern is to provide a service to landowners while providing a mix of activity that keeps subscribers entertained. Landowners have had to put up with so much, and we’re desperate to put their minds at rest that the responsibility for keeping within the law lies with us.
“The main emphasis will be on fox control. We have a bigger concentration of sheep in this area than in parts of New Zealand and are in the middle of lambing — we get calls from farmers every day. We plan to keep all the hounds; if they can’t hunt, as they’ve been bred to do for 500 years, their quality of life will go down and they’ll pine.”
David Barber, joint-master: “We shall meet on the 19th and do something afterwards. We’re very lucky with our country; there are few restrictions and every farmer has agreed to give us permission to go hunting legally. We’ll keep hounds together for at least two years and, somehow, I’m sure we’ll win this battle.”
Barbara Ford, master’s wife: “We’re having a lawn meet on the 19th, but what we’ll do after that hasn’t been decided. We’re still having meetings, taking advice from the CA and waiting to see what happens.”
Edward Thorburn, master: “We’re meeting on the 19th and will do a short exercise afterwards before using two hounds to flush out foxes to a gun. We’re in a difficult position in that on two out of three days we hunt on Forestry Commission land, but we’ll try to do something on Saturdays until the end of the season. We have a meet planned at our MP Peter Atkinson’s house.
“We’re in the process of contacting all our landowners; we plan to keep everything together for next season, but whatever we do will be utilitarian. I’m not into this trailhunting idea; our farmers want us to do something useful.”
Matt Smalley, chairman: “We’ll be meeting on the 19th and will be encouraging as many as possible to come — we had 3,000 out on Boxing Day and have been greatly encouraged both by the support of landowners and that of the non-hunting local general public.
“We’ve made extensive plans and amended our constitution so that we can continue to act within the law, as much as we bitterly resent that law. We’ll be trying a combination of hound exercise and trailhunting and have been in touch with other packs that have already experimented. We’ll also be offering legal fox control to farmers.”
Anne Fenwick, MFH: “We shall be meeting on the 19th, at