“Clearing the country” describes a master’s role in getting a green light from landowners or tenant farmers in advance of a day’s hunting.
It is a task dependent on whether it is planned to contain the trail within one large estate or across a patchwork of farms.
Factor in requests from gamekeepers and hobby livestock owners, the impact of weather on farming and the need to keep hunt staff and the secretary in the loop, and masters often engage with dozens of people to organise a single day.
Ledbury joint-master Louise Daly gives her tips for clearing country successfully:
Always contact your farmers prior to going. Preferably three or four days before, not on the morning of the meet.
Listen to what they say and do it if possible. If you have been asked not to go somewhere, ask them the best route round.
If the farmer is in his field, orchard, buildings or on his tractor while you are hunting, stop and say hello — as long as hounds are not screaming — or at least acknowledge him.
If you are apologising to somebody, get off your horse and go and see them face-to-face. Ask somebody to hold your horse so it doesn’t squash them!
Walk bits of your country, as it might have changed since last year.
Autumn hunting is useful to see it and work out where you can jump.
Always ask the farmer(s) before you build a fence.
If there has been a problem, the sooner you go and sort it out, the better. You will sleep better that night as well.
Do not leave gates open and, if a fence has been broken, get it mended straight away.
Always say “thank you” to cars and let people through — it may be the farmer on his way to milk his cows.
If you behave, you will find that the country will stay open. I still hear stories from when my late father-in-law was hunting of when a gate was left opened or sheep let out — they never forget!
Read the full feature about clearing country in the current issue of H&H (22 November 2012)
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