John Holliday: Dancing in the rain *H&H Plus*


  • The rain for which we yearned last season has come to our corner of England and we are enjoying two years’ worth in a few short weeks. Vast areas of Lincolnshire are submerged and Leicestershire is thoroughly waterlogged. Cattle are stranded outside and huge swathes of land are left fallow, leaving farmers glum at best.

    The apparent folding of the Atherstone this season has come as a great shock to many. It would appear that a number of factors and personalities have come together to contribute to an unfortunate situation.


    Perhaps the writing has been on the wall for sometime. Many years ago, when I first came to Leicestershire, the few days I experienced with the Atherstone had me surprised by the volume of roads and traffic in some parts. The country has changed out of all recognition since Siegfried Sassoon’s evocative description of his season with the Atherstone (thinly disguised as the Packlestone) in his Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man.

    I think it is important that the people who run hunts recognise when a hunt is struggling, whatever the reason, and the need to take appropriate action. If enough country is carved up by roads or lost to urbanisation then, however significant the pack is, the nettle must be grasped.

    I understand discussions are underway regarding hunting the most viable areas of the Atherstone country and I am confident that a suitable way forward that retains some of the Atherstone’s proud history will be secured.

    Remaining vigilant

    Sadly a few packs haven’t been keeping an eye on their local council’s agendas, despite many reminders from the Countryside Alliance. I mentioned recently that a motion to prevent the Belvoir meeting in Grantham on Boxing Day had been defeated during a council meeting.

    Moving a meet should be a decision that is only yours to take. If you are happy with the location of your Boxing Day or New Year’s Day meet, and it is safe, jolly well make sure you don’t lose it! Stay alert to the threat from malicious accusation; it is the same people causing trouble nationally, picking on sympathetic or weak councillors and using them to pursue their own agenda.

    It is the same modus operandi across the country — emails questioning councils about road closures, health and safety concerns and expenses incurred combined with a nasty campaign of cyberbullying, almost entirely by people outside of the area concerned. Grantham’s council had to have a secret ballot because of the threats they received and the fear of recrimination from voting to save the meet.

    This highlights more general concerns over cyberbullying. Businesses and individuals are constantly targeted, as are large landowners, such as the Forestry Commission and National Trust. All this nonsense is spouted by a few organised, persistent people.

    A simple answer

    So what to do about the weather? Well, it will dry up eventually. In the meantime, cheer up and get yourselves out hunting. At least hounds are enjoying magnificent scenting conditions — we have already chalked up several trail hunts in the teens of miles; we have not had a bad scenting day for two months!

    To quote AJ Lawless, “I know the rain is cold my dear, but dance in it a little while you wait for the sun.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 21 November 2019