Exmoor foxhounds meet card

In the bar of the Exmoor White Horse, the walls are hung with hunting But others in Exford have quietly raged against the hunt, "I went to a meeting at which they said about 40 jobs would go but I Paypal and credit card. In earlier times, Exmoor was a Royal Forest and staghunting has taken place here of the farmers and landowners of the moor have continued to meet 3 times a The hunt has also continued to provide a very efficient 24hrs casualty service. It is possible to ride out six days a week (Meet days shown below). We can arrange for Exmoor - Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays Minehead Harriers .

As it seemed not to be doing from my vantage point across the valley. When the chase does happen, the usual outcome is that the stag, at last, turns and "stands at bay", facing the hounds. Then rather disappointingly for those whose imaginations run to tenderhearted indignation or to bloodlust the hounds do not tear the stag to shreds.

There's probably not much else they could do with an irked and antler-waving stag. Staghounds are not giant Scottish deerhounds or hulking, red-eyed mastiffs.

They're just foxhounds, happy and hound-doggy and friendly if you aren't prey. This is an illegal weapon in Britain. But on stag hunts it's legally required.

Speaking of Britain's laws, killing wild mammals with the aid of dogs, as the Exmoor hunt was trying to do, is forbidden. Except when - as I understand the Hunting Act of - it is mandatory. The act contains certain conditions for "exempt hunting" that allow the killing of wild mammals with the aid of dogs - if "as soon as possible after being found or flushed out the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person". No letting it go, even if it's Bambi's mother. The Hunting Act came into effect on February 18a few weeks before this Exmoor meet.

I got in touch with Adrian Dangar, the hunting correspondent for the Field magazine. He said that I shouldn't write about foxhunting, which is the most notable activity banned under the act.

He said that the stag hunters were a doughty and resolute lot, and stag hunting was more of a way of life. I went to Exmoor with Adrian. We stayed with the chairman of the stag hunt, Tom Yandle. He was doughty and resolute, the owner of a family sheep farm of centuries' standing. I went to the meet expecting a scene of American seething, full of the half-suppressed violence that Americans thwarted in their beliefs or their hobbies half-suppress so well.

What I found was a cheerful, natty crowd on horseback listening to a talk from the hunt secretary about strict adherence to the Hunting Act, especially in the matter of using just two dogs. Having just two dogs in the field was exactly the problem. So I was told by the retired grocer and other hunt followers gathered on the hilltop vantage point.

Two hounds were not enough to break the stag away from the hinds. Or two hounds were not enough to make the stag stand at bay. Two hounds were certainly not enough to make what I was told was the music of a pack in full cry. The hunt was moving. Horses were trotting over the far hill. The two hounds did their best in the music department.

There was a spate of elderly, excited driving as hunt followers hurried to find a better view. We parked by a tributary of the Exe.

The stag either did or didn't go into a strip of woods along the bank. The hounds weren't sure. The followers weren't sure. The hunters went into the woods and came out. This sounds as interesting as cricket.

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And to the onlookers it was. The crowd had grown to 40 or more and now included children in small tweeds and small Barbour jackets, and a man selling tea and sandwiches from a van. There was a tense murmuring, as from a golf gallery. The staghounds and stag hunters trotted through a farmyard, and I followed on foot. Some local farmers are not hospitable to the traffic through their property - not hospitable, specifically, to the traffic of me.

I was trying to take notes and make haste and avoid deep puddles and horse droppings, and I wasn't wearing a necktie. The hunt descended into a precipitous dell where I'd have thought the riders would have to walk their mounts. The stag and every trace of it had vanished, and the hunters decided to "pack it in, to spare the horses". Tom, Adrian, and I headed back to Tom's farm in his horse van, a bit disappointed.

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And then came that music I'd been told about: It is a bouillabaisse of a noise, with something in it of happy kids on a playground, honking geese headed for your decoys, and the "wheeee" of a deep-sea fishing reel when you've hooked something huge. A beagle pack, some strong, was bounding across a pasture. Beagling is like foxhunting or stag hunting except that the quarry is hare, and it's done without horses.

Beaglers follow the pack at a very brisk pace - on foot. Hunting hares with beagles is banned by the Hunting Act. But rabbits can still be hunted. Also, for some reason, "the hunting of a hare which has been shot" is permitted.

The pack arced away from us across a broad field. We spent an hour with the beagles. They no more got a bush rabbit than Tom and Adrian had got a stag, but the clambering and clamour of the beagles was a joy. The Yandles gave a dinner that night. Miscellaneous small terriers sat on guests' laps.

Fearful but defiant, in the village where hunting is a way of life

The consensus of the party was that the hunting ban had to do less with loving animals than with bullying people. This was not a class struggle, I was told. The working class was all for hunting, Baroness Mallalieu said. And she was a Labour peer. Nor was it, she said she herself proved the pointa Labour-Tory conflict. Instead, all agreed, a certain kind of today's urban elite was getting back at what they saw as a traditional elitism that had no use, as Tom Yandle put it, for people "with shaved heads and five earrings and their husbands just as bad".

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But, all agreed again, hunts aren't as posh as they used to be - and they never were. In a way, the bullies are understandable. This is the home of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and a number of foxhunting packs are based here or nearby. Evidence of hunting is everywhere. Horseboxes and Range Rovers with "Endangered Exmoor" car stickers are all around and the howling of the kennelled hounds can be heard in the distance.

In the bar of the Exmoor White Horse, the walls are hung with hunting trophies, memorabilia and pictures of the hunt. A sign on the bar says "Hunting First: Here, hunting is in the blood. Statistics vary but a large number of local people say they will be badly affected if hunting with hounds is banned.

Pro-hunting lobby groups assert that it will bring about the end of the rural way of life, that countless people will be made unemployed. The Countryside Alliance claims that 16, jobs would be lost but the Burns report is expected to put the number much lower: Most of those will be concentrated in the south-west, the report will say. Jeanette Branton is the owner of the village livery yard behind the Exmoor White Horse and a founder member of Endangered Exmoor, which campaigns primarily for the preservation of hunting.

Sitting in the tack room amid cartons of hoof oil, tins of saddle waxes and rows of tack, she says: I rent the yard from Lord Townsend on an annual basis and I wouldn't carry on doing that.

I just wouldn't have a business any more. During the hunting season - Exford's is a long one at nine months - she employs two local girls full- time and another two part-time. We have got a blacksmith, a village school. Nearly everybody in Exford of working age is employed in and around the village, which is quite extraordinary.

A ban would spoil Exford, a village like this would go forever. Its sketches, paintings, even duvet covers are all representations of the hunt in one way or another. Mike Bradley has owned the Crown for six years and been in the Exmoor hotel business for 22 years.

It does bring a lot of revenue to the area," he says. The hunting and shooting are at times of the year that without it there would not be a lot of trade. It actually enables us to keep staff all the year round. If that were to go I couldn't earn a living," he shouts over the sizzling as he brands a hot horseshoe into the hoof of Reggie, a hunter. In the village post office, postmaster Dave Whitehouse runs the post office counter, a sorting office with four postmen, and the retail side of the shop.

If hunting is banned, he fears an exodus from the village.