And so back into England! Quite right too I can hear you say, this is a website called For the Love of Hunting England, what were you doing spending all that time in Wales? Never mind I am back on track again and heading for the Ludlow. The Countryside around me, like that of the Teme Valley is a Foxhunters dream, so it is easy to imagine why Ronnie Wallace was drawn to hunting both of packs early in his career.
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I am visiting the Ludlow for two reasons, firstly to visit Oliver Hill, recently retired Master and Huntsman of the United who is a Godfather to our eldest and has moved there temporarily. Secondly, I was keen to catch up with my good friend Oliver Dale, the Joint Master and Huntsman and to hear more about his successful tenure, here at the Ludlow.
Oliver was born and brought up in the Fitzwilliam Country and it was when I was either field mastering or hunting the Fitzwilliam hounds that he and a gang of three other children started showing real enthusiasm for the chase! With Oliver this was not surprising, as not only was his father keen but his grandfather, Reg Dale, had hunted the Curre for many years. I have followed his progress with interest and what I saw at the Ludlow pleased me immensely. As a child on the hunting field, being in the right place is never easy, especially if the Master wants you to do something quickly, however it is the way to learn the basics of what it is all about and stands one in good stead for the future. Anyway, he obviously learnt what to do somewhere and he has shown great determination and dedication in his time at the Ludlow, something his family are renowned for.
Oliver’s career started by hunting a pack of harriers which a group of farmers and us hunting enthusiasts formed after the disbandment of Betty Gingell’s famous Cambridgeshire Harriers. These became known as the Granta and it was here that several young men cut their teeth learning the great skills of hunting a pack of hounds. Kennel huntsman Tony Ball who had served a long stint as huntsman of the Cambridgeshire Foxhounds gave Oliver and the others a great insight into kennel management which would have stood him in great stead. Hunting out on the wild old Cambridgeshire fens is somewhat different to hunting in Shropshire. However combining the experience of the two has not only proved successful for Oliver, but many of ‘The Greats’ started their careers hunting the Trinity Foot Beagles on the Fens.
Back to the Ludlow where the Kennels were a real credit to Dave Finlay and the hounds that I saw interested me greatly. As you will note from the photos, whilst there is a considerable amount of Welsh influence, the pure English has had a very beneficial effect. It would appear that the combination has produced a very level and workmanlike pack of hounds.
There are several names that are synonymous with the Ludlow, such as Mr Childe of Kinlet (Flying Childe), Rouse Boughton, Wallace, Arbuthnot, Palmer and Inglesant. Some of these went on to fame elsewhere, however others, remained resident in the Country and they are the ones who have done much over the years to provide stability, something that every Hunt needs. As I was fortunate enough to see next door at the Teme Valley, it is that word continuity which really does make a difference. Unless it is your wish to go on and hunt the flying Countries of England then there would hardly be a better country anywhere than the Ludlow. The farming community are hugely supportive and in the middle is the Downton Estate which is totally dedicated to the cause of hunting. Now in the hands of the Wiggin family whose great contribution is very well recognised, Downton for many years was home to the Rouse Boughton family who were Masters of the North Ludlow and the Ludlow for a considerable number of years.
So now in the twenty first century with all the problems that are facing us, we have a very good example of the younger generation keeping the ship afloat. Standards here are being kept to the highest degree. Those famous names which have gone before and have learnt their trade here at Ludlow, would be very proud to see this.