John Holliday: Stop wittering and get out there *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The shock result of the general election was a disappointment for all field sports enthusiasts. We were in sight of the finishing post and then fell three out. But now the dust has settled and we have had time to reflect, things are not so bad; we are certainly no worse off than before.

    The animal rights lobby has its sights on game shooting as well as hunting and it is sad to see it receiving tacit support from much of the print media and the BBC.

    There is, however, no appetite to return to the Hunting Act and a recent London rally to support “strengthening” the legislation garnered fewer people than you see queuing outside any chip shop on a Friday night.

    We have coped admirably to date and will continue to do so. A solution is still achievable, so we must keep playing the game to win.

    Steelworks and surtees

    Tony Wright, the Exmoor huntsman, parked his long-suffering motorcycle and joined Emma Thompson MFH, Co. Limerick, to judge our puppy show in early June. Although Mrs Thompson brought with her some Irish weather, it failed to dampen spirits.

    I was very pleased to be asked to help judge the Braes of Derwent puppy show. It was my first visit for 30 years to the place where I began my professional career.

    The hunt country of Jorrocks and James Pigg has become somewhat gentrified since the closure of the mines and steelworks, but otherwise has remained unchanged — a pleasant surprise. I think Surtees would still recognise his old home.

    A proper festival

    After the East of England show ceased in 2013, the hound show had to make its own way. Since then, the Peterborough Festival of Hunting has really found its feet, not only as the premier hound show, but also as an annual celebration of our sport.

    It is a very enjoyable occasion where one can catch up with old friends as well as stock up the tack and valeting rooms, and, if there is time, view the odd hound or two.

    The horse classes have really taken off and add greatly to the interest and enjoyment for visitors. It may soon be the case that more than a single day is required to stage this event.

    I was, naturally, keeping a sharp eye on the old English ring. It is unfortunate that the modern foxhound classes run concurrently, and one is forced to choose.

    Hounds in both rings were of the best quality. In an era when so much has changed, when one could easily become discouraged, it was good to note that the quality of hunt servant remains equally high.

    Certainly the huntsmen in the old English ring were all experienced men in, or coming into, their prime. I’m sure that the ghosts of the great ones from the past, who have graced this famous show down the ages, would have nodded their approval.

    In short, we have top-quality hunt staff (“straight goods,” as Nigel Peel would say), top-quality hounds and horses (for those who require them) and it’s odds-on for an early harvest.

    So let’s stop wittering and get out there and enjoy our hunting.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 August 2017