Having worked hard at opening up the country, hunting on the Shotley Peninsular eventually became a little easier although we were somewhat wedged in with it being approximately only four miles wide! We also had to contend with a very intensive shoot who decided rather unfairly that access should be completely denied. This was particularly difficult to swallow as there were hunting connections here which could, if they had wanted to, made life very much easier. However those who farmed the Peninsular could not have been kinder or more supportive. Hunting on early September mornings along the banks of the Orwell and Stour Estuaries were quite something and memories of them are just as vivid as our trips out to Horsey Island. Although this was a part of the world which was not heaving with foxes, there were always enough to make it interesting and worthwhile. It was just a matter of getting to know where to look for them and despite the shoot trying to clear up even the last one, they failed to do so. This came down to the fact that their neighbours had a much better attitude to management of the species than they did. We were helped considerably in this direction by a top class butcher called Peter Hollingsworth. He and his family were well respected in the area and his enthusiasm for the chase and the love he held for the area was a well known fact. This certainly made a difference to me and much less difficult than if I had been going in cold. It also had other benefits as being a single man at that particular time, I greatly valued a pack or two of his sausages to take home after hunting! All in all this had been another very worthwhile experience and it is extremely gratifying to see over thirty years later, despite all the challenges hunting has faced, the Essex and Suffolk Hounds are still welcome on the Shotley Peninsular.
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At the previous year’s Point-to-Point I was introduced to an Essex and Suffolk stalwart, Major Taylor, and his two daughters, Jill and Lucy. Jill worked in London and was the non hunting one then, whilst Lucy was a travelling cook and a most enthusiastic subscriber. It was several years later when I had got to know Lucy somewhat better, she told me, that when we met and as I was shaking her hand, I looked straight over the top of her head at somebody she was sure I would far rather have been talking to! I am not sure this was true, but be that as it may, it occurred to me that a cook was probably a person worth getting to know! After all it was very hard work hunting a pack of hounds and looking after oneself as well! It is also important to remember that one hundred percent concentration is vital when you are hunting hounds, however the odd lapse is bound to occur, and so it was when my Joint Master Mary would send a certain girl on to the end of the covert we were about to draw. Flying past me going like the bat out of hell it could only have been one particular person, and I soon learnt that she happened to be a speed fiend and would go from nought to seventy in three seconds and that was just on her little mare Marney! The pair of them had a habit of being right up beside our Field Master all day, particularly when the pace was fast and furious!
International relations are very important in every walk of life and hunting is no different, so when a group of Frenchmen came over to pick up some hounds I decided a little help in entertaining them may be required. I therefore plucked up courage and asked this young lady if she would be prepared to come over have supper and converse with them in French. She duly obliged and charmed the Frenchmen and a certain English man in demonstrating almost fluently her enthusiasm for “La Chasse”. The Frenchman departed and still over thirty years later remind us both of the first time they were fortunate enough to meet Lucy. Her enthusiasm for the sport never waned but occasionally her lack of diplomacy got her on the wrong side of the Master. Towards the end of the season George and Mary Paul went visiting to Devon and Cornwall with half the pack leaving me to carry on at home but somewhat short of hounds. We were hunting with fourteen and a half couple up on our borders with the Suffolk when a roe buck leapt up right in front of them and away went two and a half couple of young ones! Lucy roared off in her normal way accompanied by Richard Wilson, one of our best subscribers, they eventually returned with broad smiles exclaiming that they had just “enjoyed the best hunt of the season!”
As our season drew to a close in Suffolk, George was still away with his hounds so it was left to me to finish up. Our last meet was held at the Layham Queens Head and what a day we had. We covered a huge amount of country and never stopped running all day and I have to say I was very proud of the hounds. We finished up hacking back down the main street of Hadleigh at ten minutes to seven and just as we were about to turn down towards the Kennels, we were met by approximately fifty motorcycles heading towards us. It was the Hells Angels! On approaching us they slowed right up, stopped and turned off their engines. The lead motorcyclist then took off his helmet and asked most politely what time did the pubs open in the town. “Seven o’clock” I said. What was to happen next really left its mark on me, as there we all stood for the next few minutes chatting away, with no antagonism whatsoever. That certainly taught me not to judge a book by its cover! Later that evening I was picked up and taken to an end of season dinner party and was seated next to Jill Taylor who soon was to become my Sister in Law. I am afraid I rather disgraced myself and quite how I was forgiven I shall never know! Throughout each course I was wide awake, probably banging on about what a good day we had and then between courses as the plates were cleared I went out like a light. My punishment was to be nudged hard in the ribs and from the other side of the table a severe glare!
Life went on with many happy memories and then the day came. Lucy and I were returning from the Easton Harriers Country late one Friday evening when I stopped my car on a stretch of road very close to where the Battle for Winston Green had taken place. Plucking up the necessary courage I leapt into Lucy’s car and asked her if she would marry me. Thankfully the answer was in the affirmative and so off I went happily back to my digs at the Kennels in order to be ready for our Point to Point the following day. However before I could even think about going racing, I had to go and ask the Major if I could marry his daughter. Bravely I asked the question not expecting the swift reply, “which one”? At least this made me realise that I was dealing with a family that amongst other things, had a certain sense of humour! We were not to be married until the next April though, so it was important to concentrate on the job in hand – hunting the Essex and Suffolk Hounds and looking after their country, to the best of my ability. There will be more of that and the exciting days ahead in Ramblings Seventeen.