Charles Frampton: It’s going to be a busy summer *H&H Plus*


  • For most masters of hounds, 1 February has become a very significant date in their diaries. Days hunting are mainly coordinated around shooting dates, so the end of the shooting season allows many hunts to access land that they have not previously been able to hunt over.

    This is often perfect timing as the wet vales that have been hunted regularly throughout  the season begin to close down as harrowing and rolling need to be done and stock returned to the fields. In lots of places the move to the higher, well-shot ground is essential at this time of year.


    With the sudden availability of more country, many packs increase the number of days they are hunting. This, of course, comes at a time of year when horses, hounds and staff are all feeling a little weary from what has been an incredibly wet and open season so far.

    A positive approach

    Two weeks ago we had our point-to-point, which has become quite an event. January is a good month for racing but not the best for a picnic out of the boot of your car. Our brilliant organising team have come up with a great solution to beating the weather — a big, heated family tent. This is now filled with picnic spots, tradestands and bar.

    Putting on a racemeeting takes a lot of organisation, time and people to run it on the day. For a few hunts this will be one of their main fundraisers but, with costs spiralling, many will be happy to break even.

    Sadly, horses do not need to qualify out hunting anymore, but with clever thinking and a positive approach hunts can ensure the bond between point-to-pointing and hunting stays strong.

    Looking ahead

    By now, most hunts will have managed to make arrangements both for masterships and staff for next season. There are the inevitable last-minute decisions that will lead to a final flurry of changes. With lots of good jobs on the list this year and a shortage of candidates to fill them, we must look once again at recruiting.

    The Hunting Office’s bursary scheme continues to provide a positive base from which to start a career in hunting. In recent years, several ex-jockeys have made their way into hunting and proved their worth; maybe this is a solution for the future.

    The Heythrop hounds have been based in Chipping Norton for nearly a hundred years. Like many hunts, urbanisation has grown around us, making day-to-day operations more difficult. The hard decision was made to find a new site and, after three years of looking, we have finally found a new home.

    With planning permission granted, the huge task of building new kennels, stables and staff accommodation is all very daunting as well as exciting. Thankfully, there have been several hunts that have recently undertaken this brave task and built fantastic modern facilities in the past few years.

    There have no doubt been lessons learnt on the way, and everyone has different ideas about how they would do it. The use of modern materials and techniques makes the process that much quicker, but our challenge now is to build and move before the new hunting season. With a new team and new kennels to build, it’s going to be a busy summer.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 February 2020