The season started well and with the exception of the odd day has got better and better. No singularly exceptional days that seemed worthy of a report but everyday a good hunt or two.
Our Boxing Day crowd was at least double the size of anything we've seen in recent years with an estimated 2000+ people plus 120 mounted. It was a magnificent day but unfortunately the ground was too hard to hunt for very long. Hounds did have about half an hour, putting a fox to ground, before the decision was taken that conditions were too treacherous to continue. We then paraded hounds at the finish of the Forest Point to Point which had been delayed due to the weather. A truly memorable occasion with two New Forest Boxing Day traditions coming together to support one another. There then followed an emotional handing over of the horn by Paul Woodhouse to his son Michael, who has whipped-in to him for several seasons. It was a bitter sweet moment for Paul but a decision he made himself, wanting to give his son a chance to hunt hounds as huntsman, just in case "proper" hunting comes to an end soon. It was also a fairly emotional moment for all our regulars. Paul has been with us for over 12 years, 6 as our huntsman. He has shown us some great sport, looked after our hounds magnificently and been a loyal member of staff. Happily, he is not leaving us but will continue in a different role. We have seen Michael grow up and because he's taken over from his father occasionally, when Paul was unable to hunt hounds, we know he can do the job. We are all looking forward to watching him hunt these wonderful hounds. We are also delighted that he will be staying on next season whatever form that takes.
Michael's first day, appropriately enough New Years Day, gave us one of the best days this season. After a very generous meet at the High Corner Inn - with a field of over 80 -huntsmen put hounds into Broomy Inclosure. They found immediately and had a good hunt up over Amberslade Bottom, round the bog of Broomy Plain and back into Broomy before going to ground. This gave the myriad of foot followers a very good view. At about 12.35 hounds found a fox in Holly Hatch and there then followed just over an hour of fast and furious action. Hounds ran their quarry along Dockens Water to South Bently before crossing the stream and heading up across Fritham Plain, over Hiscocks Hill and along White Shoot to the pen in Sloden. Here it took a little while to get the hounds out of the pen, but once they were all on they were soon back on terms running through Sloden before turning right handed over the drift way and back along the edge of Alder Hill, Amberwood and Island Thorns to the fields at Eyeworth. Here their pilot turned right handed, up through Gorley Bushes and down to Queens North. The fox then seemed to set his sights on Sloden again but he was headed by some of the field turning him across the Plain below Green Pond and back down to the Eyeworth fields. He then turned again through Gorley Bushes and on to Fritham village. It being a glorious day, the world and his wife were out walking at Fritham. It was difficult to get hounds through so the fox was given best in the fields by the Royal Oak. A convenient stopping place! About a 11/2 mile point but 7 or 8 as hounds ran and almost without a check. Hounds had two more hunts before end of day. Beginners luck or not for Michael - it was a great way to start the year.
After a difficult early part of the season and a
bout of the cough over the Christmas period, hounds finally got into
a rhythm by the end of January. Our huntsman, Paul Woodhouse,
suffered a nasty fall on 17th January leaving him with a couple of
cracked ribs and a fractured coxis. We are lucky that Paul's son
Michael is our whipper-in and he was able to take over the horn from
his father. He has shown some excellent sport particularly on 7th
February when we were entertained very generously by Ian Thew at his
cottage deep in the woods near Burley. Hounds were put in to draw
straight from the meet and they were immediately off to a crescendo
of music. They ran swiftly to the old pen at Anderwood where, in
spite of putting up a second fox, they soon accounted for theirs. The
next couple of hours was quite quiet until hounds put up a fox in
Blackensford Bottom. They hunted him very slowly through Backley Wood
and into the end of Soldiers Bog. Here they seemd to lose the scent
completely, inspite of being taken quickly to a view and a holla.
There was a second holla back in Backley Wood but I was delighted to
hear this young huntsman say that he didn't want to keep lifting
hounds from holla to holla, so we went to a fresh draw at Harvest
Slade Bog. Hounds immediately picked up and after 200 yards - which
turned out to be heel line - they were soon hunting hard up to the
top of the bog and along Ridley Plain before turning back down over
Blackley Plain into Harvest Slade Bottom. Here, whilst the hounds had
a long check the Forest keeper told us that when hounds were having
such a hard time in Soldiers Bog he'd watched a fox slinking all
along the hangings of Backley Wood, up over the Old House Road and
into Harvest Slade Bog - so it was almost certainly the same fox
hounds had picked up. From Harvest Slade Bottom the huntsman cast
hounds over Dog Wood Bottom into Berry Beeches. Here they were
suddenly back on terms and they roared away round Old House into
Mouses Cupboard and on to Beech Bed, almost back to where we'd met,
but our pilot turned right handed and headed straight for Woods
Corner. Just before there, he turned right again and up into Berry
Wood. He came out into the open and started to go right handed along
the top of Harvest Slade Bog but turned left, went over the bog and
up into Ridley Wood. All this at a cracking pace without a check and
huntsman and whippers-in were hard pressed to stay with them. Hounds
checked in the wood and as the A31 was only 600 yards away and horses
pretty tired our quarry was given best. A very interesting hunt
which, taken from where hounds picked up second time was a mile point
but about 5 as hounds ran.
10th February from Burbush turned into a better day than expected -
this being a restricted piece of country bounded by the A35 and
ribbon development. After a first hunt out of Shappen Bottom hounds
did a circuit at Holmsley Ridge, over to Whitton Pond and back to
Shappen Bottom where another brace was put up causing hounds to split
three ways. They were soon up together again but finally lost their
pilot at the Holmsley Game Farm. After a frustrating couple of hours
in Holmsley Inclosure where so many foxes made it difficult to keep
hounds together, we went to draw the gorses at Dur Hill Down. Here
hounds found straight away and after initially heading for Dur Hill
Inclosure the fox turned back across the Down, over the road and on
to Whitton Bottom. Here he turned up towards Magpie Green where
hounds got held up for a while - possibly something to do with
bonfires at Thorney Hill. They eventually got back on terms, ran up
to Holmsley Ridge turned right handed beside the gravel pits and on
to the Game Farm. Here he crossed into the east side of Holmsley
Inclosure and hounds were stopped just before the sawmills by the
A35. A 2 mile point.
We had another busy day on the 14th February as we did on the 17th
from Cadmans Pool. Lucy Higginson was out with us then so I will
leave her to write up that day. Paul Woodhouse will be back hunting
hounds as from 21st February. He can be very proud of how his son
coped in his absence - and he has a lot to live up to!
February 12th 2003
We had to change our meet from Tuesday 11th to Wednesday 12th
February because many of us wanted to attend the funeral of Nick
Smith. Nick being a valued committee member and much missed.
Sadly this resulted in one of the smallest fields this season when
about 25 people met at Cadmans Pool. Only sad because the day turned
into one of the best ever in recent times for our hounds.
Business began at Broomy Bottom when hounds accounted for a fox
within about 3 minutes of being put in to draw. Huntsman then took
his hounds into Holly Hatch Inclosure where they soon got on terms
with a fox which ran out of the Inclosure into Anses Wood and along
Dockens Water to South and then North Bentley Inclosures, before
going on to Mr. Winters fields at Fritham. Hounds got badly hampered
here trying to get through sheep wire and the fox eventually had to
be given best.
After the long hack back to Holly Hatch hounds where put in to draw
again. They soon picked up another pilot - at 11.50am to be precise.
Initially he took hounds along Dockens Water it seemed in the
footsteps of the first fox, but when he reached South Bentley he
turned up on to Fritham Plain. He crossed the Plain and when straight
on into Eyeworth Wood and beyond up towards Bramshaw Telegraph.
However before the Godshill Road he turned right handed down to Howen
Bottom and on into Howen Bushes. He turned right handed again below
the Royal Oak at Fritham and back up to Fritham Plain via Gorley
Bushes. From here he turned down over Hiscocks Hill into Island
Thorns up towards Studley Castle but before the top of the Inclosure
he turned almost back on himself crossing the gravel track above
Fritham Bridge. He clipped the corner of Amberwood Inclosure, crossed
the driftway and straight up through Sloden . Here huntsman and 1st
whipper-in did a flying change on to second horses and followed
hounds down across Rakes Brakes Bottom and back to Holly Hatch.
Hounds checked for the first time but soon got back on terms running
up through the Inclosure into the open of Broomy Plain. After a wide
circle on the outside he came back into Holly Hatch and eventually to
ground. It was now 1.40pm, we were within a few hundred yards of
where the hunt had begun. The 1hr 50 mins in between had been
amazing. We've had more interesting hunts watching these hounds but
it is a long time since we've had such a lengthy sustained fast pace.
Hounds must have covered almost 12 miles with hardly a check. Most of
the field had very tired horses and were ready to call it a day but
we staggered on for another hour drawing Broomy Inclosure where a
brace were roused. Hounds hunted one well before putting it to ground
At 2.40 we did call end of day and the 45 minute hack back to the
boxes gave everyone time to contemplate and wonder how much Nick
Smith had to do with such a memorable day in this his favourite part
of our country. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt - nice one
A late hunt on Saturday 23rd November (Ipley Manor), turned out to be
the beginning of a bit of a purple patch for our hounds. That hunt
was from Rowbarrow Gate in the area where we'd had one of our best
runs last season. This little fox took us on a circuit of Old Frame
Wood but turned back to the railway line where we'd expected to have
to stop hounds. But our quarry was seen running the driftway to the
open ground by Bishops Dyke where we turned right handed over to
Halfpenny Green, through Little Honey Hill and on to Penerley Lodge.
This could also have been the end of the line due to private ground
and part of the Beaulieu Estate shoot. However, our pilot set off in
a straight line through Stubbs Wood, Moon Hill and Hawkhill
Inclosures before finding refuge in a small hole beside Hawk Hill car
park. It had only taken about 40 minutes, was well over 4 miles as
hounds ran through heavy going and there were some very tired horses.
A week later we met at Eyeworth Lodge and after a very generous meet
hounds found immediately in Eyeworth Wood. This hunt was spoiled by a
big field in a very difficult small place and a fox that insisted in
running in tight circles. However, hounds later gave us two good fast
hunts from Sloden Pen. One took us to Holly Hatch and the other to
Alder Hill, both by circuitous routes. There was then a quiet period
giving horses an opportunity to gather a second wind. At about 3.10pm
hounds found in Holly Hatch. Scent was screaming at this point and
there followed a fast and furious chase of about 40 minutes without a
check, through Anses Wood to South Bentley. He broke up towards
Fritham Plain but quickly turned back down to Dockens Water and to
where he'd been found. He then tried the other side of the stream and
ran across the open below Cadmans Pool, through South Bentley to the
bottom of North Bentley Inclosure. There some of the hounds split on
to a fresh fox but the original one went through North Bentley and
these hounds had to be stopped in the open on Janesmoor Plain - it
being past finishing time under our licence. The other hounds were
stopped in Eyeworth Wood and it was quite dark by the time we got
hounds up together to take them home.
On Tuesday, 3rd December from the Turf Cutters at East Boldre we
started the day on Beaulieu Heath and hounds treated us to a text
book 2 hour hound hunt on Bagshot Moor. They didn't go far but
watching them work out the line through the gorses and across the
bogs was a joy - if one ever needed to remind oneself why we follow
hounds - these two hours answered the question. We finally had to
give this fox best but, happily, from 3 hunts in the woods during the
afternoon, hounds got their reward with a fox they surprised lying up
in the bracken in Hawk Hill.
On the following Saturday we were invited to a meet at the Fighting
Cocks at Godshill, where the biggest field this season assembled.
Hounds found their first fox beyond Cockley Hill towards Hive Garn.
They ran down the bog into Pitts Wood out on the west side and
through the gorses at Long Bottom towards the fields at Blissford.
However, he turned back and returned to Pitts Wood up on to Great
Cockley Plain, over towards Little Cockley Plain and set off for a
second time through Hive Garn, into Pitts Wood and out into the
gorses on Long Bottom. This time he succeeded in getting to the
safety of the Blissford fields. Hounds quickly found again in
Thompsons Castle and ran their fox swiftly back to the badger sett in
the fields next to Abbotswell car park. Fortuitously, hunt staff took
their second horses before drawing through Alder Hill. Hounds found
in the top of Amberwood just inside the fence line at Ashley Cross.
They did a quick circuit of Amberwood down towards the river, turned
right-handed into Alder Hill and the fox was headed almost back where
he'd been found. So he did a second circuit of Amberwood and Alder
Hill and this time did get back to the corner where he'd been
disturbed. Hounds were about 5 minutes behind him at this point, but
they followed him down through Amberwood and crossed the river and
driftway into the edge of Sloden Inclosure. They ran up the side of
the pen, out of the Inclosure and into the open on Fritham Plain.
They then took a line over Rakes Brakes Bottom across Dockens Water
and into Holly Hatch Inclosure. They followed him through the
Inclosure, up into the open on Ocknell Plain and down towards Broomy
Bottom before heading left handed over to Slufters. As hounds crossed
the road it was almost 3 o'clock. Horses were pretty tired and
Slufters was too close to the A31 for comfort in the circumstances,
so huntsman called end of day. Horses and hounds were 4 miles from
their box - as the crow flies - so the field had a good hour's hack
back during which to contemplate a red letter day. The last hunt had
been a 3 mile point but must have been at least 7 as hounds ran.
Here's hoping this purple patch continues.