Charles Frampton on rural policing, a building project, mental and physical health and showing support during lockdown
In 24 years of hunting hounds, this is normally one of my busiest times of the year. But for most of us the opening meet was to be the last time we hunted since new lockdown rules have stopped all hunting in England until further notice.
The lack of any formal meet was sad for all those who come to show their support, especially foot-followers and those from the local community. For many of us, hunting forms a huge part of our social lives at this time of year and, like so many other activities, this is simply on hold for now.
Our opening meet was made more exciting by the presence of a police helicopter, which proceeded to hover above us for 45 minutes. This was accompanied by a quad bike and other support vehicles. It was difficult for us all to understand the level of resources that had clearly been deployed.
I had made a call to the police a few weeks earlier about the disappearance of our own quad bike from the kennels, with limited response. Sadly, as the helicopter drowned out the sound of the hounds and the police quad bike hurtled around on private land, three lorries were broken into and property removed. All were reported, yet no officer attended the scene.
We have been lucky enough to have had a very good working relationship with our local police and wish to continue to do so. Let’s hope that this heavy-handed approach to rural policing will be spread further than the trail-hunting field.
We have started to build our new kennels. The previous lockdown prevented us from getting on with this, but with a renewed energy the contractors are now on-site and things are beginning to take shape.
The opportunity to build new kennels does not come along often and is a considerable challenge. It is with great sadness that we are moving out of Chipping Norton after more than 100 years, but times are changing and the need to have better working conditions for the staff, purpose-built facilities and good hound and horse exercise had to be addressed.
For many hunts, the cost of maintaining old buildings is hugely draining on funds. There have been several new kennels built over the past 20 years and it has been fascinating to see what has been achieved. Time will tell if we have made the right decisions, but for now I am just happy to see the culmination of five years’ planning emerging out of the ground.
I find myself thinking about the horrible time when foot and mouth plagued the country. Hunting did not resume until January the following year, but social gatherings and fundraising still took place. Hounds and horses had not been prepared for hunting and cost-savings had been put in action to shore up hunt finances.
The present situation is very different. We were fortunate to start our season and now we have had to stop. This causes its own problems for the hunt staff as they continue to maintain the mental and physical health of their charges. Members have shown commitment to their hunts by paying a subscription; this commitment is more important than ever with the loss of many fundraising events. Remember that we are members of a club that operates 365 days of the year.
Hunting will no doubt resume before too long, but for now we must do all that we can to support our local communities and their businesses in the run-up to Christmas.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 November 2020
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