Charles Frampton of the Heythrop on the importance of hunting over the Christmas period...
The mere thought of Christmas scares me. This year, however, I have enjoyed it more than I normally do for many reasons.
My daughters have been excited for weeks and have been amazing in all their preparations. I have managed to avoid wrapping a single present and have done all my shopping online with their help, so the dreaded shopping trip has been avoided.
When does Christmas really start? The answer for my 13-year-old twins, the Frampettes, is the Christmas Eve meet. I hadn’t really “got it” until now, but for them and many more this is the meet not to be missed.
The girls got up earlier than they would do on Christmas Day. All the horses and kit had been prepared the night before and the lorry sailed out of the yard hours before the meet. There wasn’t a raised voice in the house, just the sound of carols playing in the background. They stood beside me at the meet brimming with excitement about the hedges they were going to jump.
The field swelled with horses and footies alike, all smiling and passing on season’s greetings. This was it — good day or bad day, this is the start of Christmas.
‘Chipping Norton was buzzing’
As everyone knows, this is a busy time for all those involved with running a hunt. There is little time off and with the Boxing Day meet to prepare for, Christmas Day is very much a work day. Hounds and horses need attending to before church and a delicious Christmas lunch or dinner.
What is it, though, that makes the Boxing Day meet such an event? Ours is held up in the town. The hounds have been in Chipping Norton longer than any human resident and many people have grown up hearing them in the morning or singing on a summer’s evening. We are part of this community and it is very much part of us.
We trotted up into town, the pavements were lined with people and as we turned into the square a massive crowd cheered and clapped at our arrival. Our generous hosts provided refreshments while we sat surrounded by thousands of people.
The coffee shops brimmed with people, the pubs were full to capacity: Chipping Norton was buzzing. We, the hunt, had brought this to our town and for that I felt very proud and honoured.
As I write this on 27 December, the papers are full of pictures of people in red coats, hounds and smiling children on shaggy ponies. This day is a celebration of hunting and should be treated as such; it is a tradition that will carry on against all odds. People will turn out in their thousands to the Boxing Day meets to support us for many years still to come.
The best present
By the time this issue of H&H comes out, New Year and the second part of the hunting season will be upon us. No doubt, 2020 will bring new challenges to hunting.
But, for now, the cheering and clapping as I left our town with its hounds has made a very fine Christmas present.