February “fill dyke” has lived up to its reputation, the problem being that the dykes are already full. As I write, the River Smite has been transformed from a stream to a likeness of the mighty Mississippi, and the vale of Belvoir resembles the bayous of Louisiana. Careful consideration is being given as to how far toward spring we will continue to hunt this season.
A few weeks ago, we accepted an invitation from the “canny lads” of Northumberland to hunt the Tynedale country, a treat indeed. We enjoyed an excellent day — after a hunt of over two hours, the mileometer had reached double figures.
The evening brought its own adventures in “Toon”, aka Newcastle-upon-Tyne, beginning with supper and concluding in the early hours with only my second-ever visit to a nightclub.
Hunt exchange meets are very popular but not always without consequences. Several years ago, the Belvoir hosted Chris Ryan’s famous Kerry beagles, the Scarteen. A good day was had, leaving the vale looking as though a hurricane had passed through. Some years later, I commented to Chris that the event had put paid to other visiting hunts for a few seasons and the fencing-man used over 100 rails repairing the damage.
“I tink you’ll find that was your chaps trying to keep up with ours!” quickly came the response.
The Tynedale return fixture was held this month with the meet at Sheepwash near Harby. Their impressive bitch pack hunted beautifully all day and had a good morning, entertaining a large field of more than 100 followers.
They threaded their way across the Harby hills and those with sufficient horsepower, given the deep going, were treated to a decent eight-mile hunt in the afternoon.
A huge vale hedge was made considerably more inviting with a hole created by Charlie Shirley-Beavan’s not insubstantial proportions cartwheeling through it. His hunting horn remains there still, lost, presumably flat and buried.
The Gin Bar at the newly converted Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle provided nourishment and well-earned liquid refreshment as a fitting climax to an enjoyable day.
In a successful effort to forestall the effects of Storm Dennis, the Debdale Lodge meet was brought forward to 9am and we were safely home before the worst of the weather arrived. Neither did it do anything to put off the revellers at our hunt ball later that same evening. Anyone leaving dishevelled could scarcely blame the gales.
We have changes of staff here at Old English HQ. After four seasons man and boy, Lewis Chutter is looking forward to his new position as kennel huntsman to the Heythrop and on 1 May, we will welcome Sam Jones in his stead.
Elsewhere, former Belvoir first whipper-in George Pierce replicates the careers of the brothers Anyan, Frank and Ken — home-grown Belvoirites — who between them hunted the Blackmore Vale for 35 years. It is to be hoped that George’s sojourn at Charlton Horethorne will be equally memorable.
With Chris Edwards hunting the Cottesmore, former Belvoir whippers-in now occupy three of the top appointments in hunt service. As our Geordie friends would say, “Howay the lads.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 February 2020