To be asked to speak at the South Pembrokeshire Hunt Dinner was an honour enough in itself but to to spend the weekend in what is delightfully known as, Little England beyond Wales and have a day’s hunting with their Hounds was a real privilege. I have often heard people talk about this part of the world but never before been fortunate enough to visit.
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I arrived at Whitland Station on a Friday afternoon and was met by Hugh Harrison Allen who not only is Joint Master, but owns the hounds. A charming and most jovial chap whose family have had a very long involvement with these hounds which goes back many years. Within five minutes of alighting from the train, we were in the pub, and I was receiving my first briefing about my visit; where we would be hunting, the country, who would be at the dinner etc., etc, all of which was a considerable help.
It has to be said that although the vast majority of hunting people have a reputation for being friendly, the South Pembrokeshire would be very close to the top of the Premiership. Creselly where I was to stay, is where Hugh’s family have lived for many years, and from the moment I walked in the front door I was reminded of my old family home which was also littered with hunting pictures and memorabilia. Masks of foxes that had given long hunts over the years were in pride of place in the great respect that is held for the vulpine species.
After a cup of tea, six o’clock soon came and we were on our away down to the Creselly Arms where I had the pleasure of meeting not only the Huntsman, Simon Jones but a very large group of good solid hard working people. Undoubtedly, the Creselly Arms is the central hub of the local community and many of those who hunt, play an important part of that community. Despite the efforts made by certain politicians to extinguish us from society, exactly ten years ago that week, people power has a unique strength of its own and can make Governments look incredibly stupid. When one is lucky enough to witness these people in their home surroundings, you realise just how genuine they are. Whilst, we have not seen repeal yet, the ill advised decision that particular Government took, made them look pretty brainless in my mind.
The next morning dawned cloudy but dry. It was the day of the Hunt Supporters Meet at Jeffryston Downs. The venue was just a simple lay-by on a junction of two roads. However a large crowd gathered and Pembrokeshire hospitality soon started to flow. Welsh cakes, sausages and port were handed round with nobody being left out. At 11.15 Simon Jones moved off. A busy day was enjoyed with hounds trying very hard on what was a difficult scenting day. Hounds and huntsman however never stopped trying all day and put up a very impressive performance. It was interesting to note that Simon is fortunate enough to be such a good practitioner on the hunting horn and uses it sensibly, which is important as in these wooded valleys the hounds need to know where the boss is. Too much horn blowing and hounds become unsettled, too little and they lose contact and ultimately confidence.
After a short rest and relaxation it was off to the Hunt Dinner at which the Hunt Supporters had most kindly asked me to speak. I cannot think why as there are many more experienced Speakers closer to home which they might have chosen, however it was a pleasure for me and the experience was something I much enjoyed. I didn’t hear too much snoring during the evening so that was a good sign!
11.00 the next morning found me back on my way to Lincolnshire. Travelling across country which had been very easy on the Friday, was a nightmare this time, taking approximately nine hours to get home. However, it did give me time to reflect on my visit to Little England beyond Wales. One I could not have enjoyed more and the inconvenience of train travel on the way home was only minor compared to the fun the trip had given me. Further more, I believe I must have done something right as I have just received an invitation to judge their Puppy Show. So back I will go in the summer with the greatest of pleasure.