Miss Jorrocks writes:
On Sunday February 8th hounds met at Clements Reach Farm, Meopham – the guests of Mr Fred French.
This was a change to the printed card and took us from the wetter, low lying Weald ground further up the country on to drier going. Nevertheless after the recent cold and miserable spell we were lucky indeed that Mr French let us go.
The country around Meopham, in the shadow of the sprawling metropolis of London, is open and given over to arable. This makes for a good galloping day, with lots of optional jumping set on the headlands.
Thus the field of about forty in total was divided into two, jumpers who wished to push on under the competent auspices of Paul Hollis and the non jumpers, an altogether more discerning bunch, under the kindly leadership of Master Sally Mack.
Hounds were quick and diligent and the first hunt was both long and swift ending near to The Cock Inn were glasses of port awaited us in the car park as we let our horses rest.
The second and third hunts brought more of the same although the third hunt had additional interest for the non jumpers as we mistook our gaps, jumped a smallish rail to escape some rabbit fencing, and promptly found ours elves stuck on the other side. The fence, the other way on, was altogether much less inviting and there were anxious mumblings from the group all of whom had been careful, selective jumpers all day. In the end it was agreed that the fence would have to be rebuilt and two nimble and athletic followers promptly dismantled the fence and reassembled it on the other side of the wire under the direction of those of us who had remained firmly in our saddles! In the end the new fence was deemed suitable for ladies such as Miss Jorrock, who regular readers know is a lady of a certain age and of a nervous disposition, and everyone streamed over and soon we were back with the main field.
The fourth hunt was shorter and took us back to the boxes, where the horses had minimal mud to be removed and not long after we were at tea where all sorts of dainties awaited us in the slowly extending daylight. Indeed, at some points in the day, the weather was positively Spring like turning Miss Jorrocks’ thoughts to the May Ball, which she hopes is already in your calendars – Sunday May 3rd for those not sure.
Miss Jorrocks is particularly grateful to Mr Hollis and Master Blagg for putting on such a suitable day for her especially as Master Blagg was already committed to a point to point where, she understands, he had a most satisfactory ride.
See you all next week.
On Tuesday 23rd December hounds met at Baron’s Grange, Iden – the guests of the Ramus and Wheeler families.
This is our annual fancy dress meet, aimed primarily at the children, with adults also in attendance. A field totalling 71 assembled at the Grange in varying states of fancy dress – some not at all and in proper hunting gear, some sporting just some tinsel and some in full on fancy outfits including fairies, a dalmation, a reindeer, a bloodhound (very fitting), a Christmas pudding, and a holly sprig. Miss Jorrocks appeared in her interpretation of a Christmas tree, complete with Christmas angel. Thus, we must conclude, that should the Martians have chosen now to land on earth, and at Iden, they would very quickly have rejoined their space ship and left us for good!
Stirrup cup and savouries circulated in generous abundance and Miss Jorrocks ate her own bodyweight in sausage rolls, onion rings and potato wedges. Well we are, after all, in training for Christmas Day! Parish notices and multitudinous thank yous delivered by dismounted Master Alex we set off to hunt - hunting 4 quarry with 10 ½ couple of hounds.
Miss Jorrocks joined Master Blagg bringing up the rear and regrets to inform her readers that soon her Christmas angel was fallen as she jiggled about in the wake of Master Blagg’s enthusiastic point to pointer. For the rest of the day the poor angel hung by some threads from Miss Jorrocks hat and was consigned to the bin on returning home. Nevertheless, Miss Jorrocks was pleased with her ensemble and grinned cheerfully at Master Blagg as she bobbed along at his side all wrapped up in purple tinsel.
We were joined at the back by 5 year old Olivia on her grey pony being led by her Mum on Mary, a horse in training to be the best behaved horse in the world. Miss Jorrocks thought their conduct exemplary and has returned home to polish her own manners in time for the Boxing Day Meet which, as everyone knows is a “big day” in any hunting calendar. This polishing includes:
1. Resolving to call the Master “Master” at all times - even when being tormented by Master Blagg.
2. Paying careful attention in gateways and on bridges to the needs of our field members.
3. Being prepared to do her share of gates if required – although being a lady of a certain age and of a nervous disposition Miss Jorrocks now relies on nice young gentlemen or children to the deal with the complexities of gates – unless of course the only alternative gate opener is a Master or (heavens forfend) the Huntsman, who should never, ever have to open a gate!
Anyway, back to our day at Baron’s Grange we enjoyed four excellent hunts across a mix of arable and orchard and some lovely timber before regrouping in the yard for a tea including sausages and Joy Ramus’s famous meringues.
Miss Jorrocks is also delighted to report that 5 year old Olivia finished her day off the leading rein and was positively beaming at the end of the day which, we all have to agree, is what it is all about.
Merry Christmas one and all see you on Boxing Day!
Miss Jorrocks writes:
On Sunday 14th December hounds met at Firle Place, the guests of Viscount and Lady Gage.
A field of about 40 assembled in the lane by the village and then swept up the long drive to the house behind huntsman and hounds for a very traditional meet in front of the house. The recent rain meant it was polite to stay as much as possible off the Viscount’s lawn, so we ranged ourselves along the gravel and soon Mrs Woolgar was amongst us with trays of stirrup cup and savouries. Miss Jorrocks enjoys most particularly Mrs Woolgar’s savouries as all are home made and taste truly delicious. Indeed both Miss Jorrocks and those around her felt the need to try at least one of everything!
Having dwelt for a while in this timeless setting Master Clare made our thank yous to our hosts and their staff and we were off up the hill. We were two distinct fields, the jumpers with Master Clare and the non jumpers with Master Blagg who made, Miss Jorrocks learned, an amiable and kindly master leading his charges gently round. Miss Jorrocks, despite being a lady of a certain age and of a nervous disposition, spent the day up with the jumpers – much of it hard on Master Clare’s heels. Miss Jorrocks mare is perfectly capable of dealing with hunt timber with no input at all from Miss Jorrocks, which was just as well as the wind was brisk on the hills making communication between the bridge and the engine room tricky. At one point, as she hurtled down the hill feeling her face flatten as if by G force in the wind, Miss Jorrocks felt obliged to plead with her mare to go a bit slower. A plea roundly ignored as Miss Jorrocks continued to go “ooohhh” and “aaahhh” bobbling about on top as we galloped to keep up with hounds.
Hounds and quarry were on excellent form and we were either up with the hounds or enjoying spectacular viewing nearly all day. Four hunts in all, the latter slightly curtailed as the quarry were showing signs of succumbing to the cold wind and steep climbs and descents required to lay their trail. Thus we finished just short of the Firle Beacon, where we came across some poor Duke of Edinburgh trainees out on an exercise who both looked despondent and miserable whilst we, on the other hand, were full of chatter and pleasure as we hacked back down the lane to the boxes.
A quick wash down in a heavy shower of rain and then we all walked up to tea before trundling home Miss Jorrocks hopes to write our thank you notes.
Miss Jorrocks, being a lady of a certain age, still uses the written thank you and would encourage all who hunt with us to acknowledge the kindness and hospitality of our hosts with a little note in the post. Savouries and stirrup cup don’t make themselves and many of us are complete strangers when we turn up, quite literally on the doorstep, to be fed and watered! How nice then to know, when the washing up and tidying away is all done, that one’s efforts were both appreciated and enjoyed.
Should you wish to write to Viscount and Lady Gage you should address your envelope Viscount and Viscountess Gage and begin your card or letter “Dear Lord and Lady Gage”. Miss Jorrocks is so proper!
See you all next week.
Miss Jorrocks enjoys a day watching the hedge hoppers at Larkins Brewery
On Sunday 7 th December hounds met at Larkin’s Brewery, Chiddingstone – the guests of Mr Docherty.
This is a “serious” day in the Coakham calendar as it takes in Mr Stephen Gribble’s hedges and all manner of hunt jumping. It is really not a day to which Miss Jorrocks looks forward with particular relish being, as regular readers know, a lady of a certain age and of a nervous disposition. Nevertheless, having received a telephone call from her friend Mrs Baker, who is recovering from a broken collar bone, enquiring as to whether or not Miss Jorrocks would be out Miss Jorrocks decided that she would, indeed, go out and she and Mrs Baker could not jump together. Thus Saturday morning saw Miss Jorrocks running back and forth like a small, and mildly demented, gnome as she made good her preparations.
Sunday dawned fine, dry and mild and Miss Jorrocks set off in moderately cheerful mood. An early arrival at the meet, in order to secure good parking, Miss Jorrocks had plenty of time to set up her little camp and be ready for the meet. The meet was quiet and genteel with stirrup cup and sausages and gentle conversation. Master Sally made our thank yous to our host and land owners and we were off.
To ensure they would be in no danger whatsoever from any jumping Miss Jorrocks and Mrs Baker went straight down the road to the end of the first hunt, where they joined in for the final hurrah across the last two fields. They found this strategy quite delightful and for the second hunt were squired by Mr Gribble, who led them round his farm at excellent viewing distance from his magnificent hedges. Miss Jorrocks and Mrs Baker finished this hunt by inspecting the recently jumped hedges close to and agreed they were not suitable for ladies such as themselves although, in the sunshine that smiled upon us, they agreed the hedge row would make an excellent picnic spot!
The third and fourth hunts brought traditional hunt jumping and Mrs Baker and Miss Jorrocks rejoined the field as full time participants although Miss Jorrocks positioned herself at the rear of the field, with Master Blagg, just in case. The fourth hunt finished over an upright rail, which nearly caused Master Blagg to fall as he jumped it sideways having been slowed down by Miss Jorrocks cautious approach. He managed to stay on, but it is a mystery quite how as he was 9/10ths out of the saddle as he came across the field.
A long hack back through the village of Chiddingstone concluded the day before tea in the brewery. Miss Jorrocks set off for home and reflected on her weekend, which she decided had been very fine. Not only had she enjoyed excellent hunting in good company but she had also bought new wellington boots, with steel toe caps, of which she was exceptionally proud - so much so that she spent some time at tea inviting people to step on her toes. Simple pleasures do indeed make Miss Jorrocks’ world go round.
Miss Jorrocks enjoys a lovely day on the St Clere Estate
On Sunday 29 th November hounds met on the St Clere Estate, Heaverham – the guests of Mr and Mrs Ecclestone.
This was a Master Blagg “special” designed for all with both jumping and non jumping fields, each with its own field master – Master Blagg for the jumpers, and Master Sally for the non jumpers.
The day dawned grey and dismal and threatened the stunning views promised in Master Blagg’s description of the day. For once, it seemed, it wasn’t raining and it certainly wasn’t cold so Miss Jorrocks was in good fettle as she set off for one of her local meets. The car was laden with all of Miss Jorrocks hunting necessities together with savouries for the meet and thus Miss Jorrocks was sure to be timely in order to do setting out.
As promised parking was ample and Miss Jorrocks was told she could park anywhere she liked, which she did only to be moved very promptly by Master Blagg who wanted her parked somewhere else (from where she was moved again, but that’s another story!). He did seem to be getting his breeches in a proper twist about parking, to the point where Paul Hollis had to come to the rescue with a calor gas container, which he used as a roundabout when directing the traffic.
Eventually everyone was arranged to Master Blagg’s satisfaction, we’d been fed, watered, and parish notices read including a vote of thanks to our hosts the Ecclestones, Mr French the farmer, and Mr Wickins who had moved lots of sheep to let us through.
Thus a field of in excess of 60 set off to hunt with many visitors in our number. Miss Jorrocks decided she would do some jumping, which she determined would require “doing riding”. Her mare took great exception to such a turn of events and immediately stopped at both the first and second fences much to Miss Jorrocks’ red faced embarrassment. Clearly the front end controls had been over applied so Miss Jorrocks dug deep in her pony club training and tried a kick at the third fence. Her mare ground to a halt and Miss Jorrocks pulled to one side bewildered, at which point her mare trotted up to the fence and popped over. Miss Jorrocks’ mare is firm in her opinion that Miss Jorrocks is a pure passenger, travelling first class, and really should not be getting involved in mechanics of the operation. The same is true of Miss Jorrocks’ collie dog, who much prefers Miss Jorrocks not to dance – even in the privacy of her own kitchen when making savouries for the meet. Poor Miss Jorrocks, a lady of certain age and of a nervous disposition, still seeking something at which she is “good”!
The day progressed at a rapid pace with some long, galloping hunts. The masters worked hard to keep us up with hounds and we were rewarded with some excellent viewing, particularly on the last hunt where hounds fanned out below us like a timeless tapestry.
Earlier in the day Miss Jorrocks had learned quite how timeless this is as the Huntsman gave her an impromptu lesson on “taking” the quarry, meaning they are caught having reached their allotted point and “killing” the quarry, which means hounds have caught them at any point beforehand in the open. This harks back, Miss Jorrocks learned, to hunting a carted stag which was, quite literally, carted from place to place and then taken home to the kennels and looked after until the hounds went out again. The Huntsman drew the similarities of moving the quarry about for us to hunt, but he drew the line at taking them home to the kennels to be looked after!
As the days are drawing in quite rapidly we were back at the boxes soon after 3.00 p.m., with some tired horses to tidy away before we had our tea and set off home having had a lovely day with, as Master Blagg had promised, something for all on this beautiful estate.
Miss Jorrocks enjoys a freezing day at Jevington
Nigel Goddards photos from the Jevington meet
On Sunday 23 rd November hounds met at Oxendean Farm, the guests of Mr and Mrs Carr.
This was an impromptu meet on the Downs – everywhere else being too wet to contemplate.
Miss Jorrocks woke to torrential rain of biblical proportion and immediately sent a textogram to the kennels asking if hounds would go out. “No rain here”, was the prompt reply, “see you later”. Oh well, thought Miss Jorrocks and set off.
Let’s be honest, the day was wet and, at times cold, and only those of us who had to be out – Huntsman and staff, who had no choice, and those of us, of which Miss Jorrocks is but one, who really do need to make more friends who like indoor pursuits, like jigsaw puzzles on rainy afternoons, ventured forth. Enquiring idly of a fellow rider what else one could do on a November Sunday Miss Jorrocks learned that one could have been watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “Yes, yes!” cried Miss Jorrocks’ inner sloth, “we could be at home, cur dog at our feet, watching the Grand Prix and eating chocolate!”. Instead Miss Jorrocks was sitting in the rain, drinking whisky mac, with the rain dripping rapidly off her hat and down her neck. Soon her undergarments were also damp and everything was just a touch, well, squelchy.
In all about twenty souls braved the elements and what a day we had! Our Huntsman remarked that he had rarely enjoyed such scenting conditions and the configuration of the Downs made viewing easy and pleasurable and we saw some excellent hound work. Our two Quarry, Paul and Andrew, set some wonderful challenges for the hounds and, when running, the miserable conditions paled in to insignificance.
Four hunts made up the day with just straightforward timber to jump, which gladdened Miss Jorrocks’ heart for she is, as regular readers know, a lady of a certain age and of a nervous disposition. As the Hunstman blew for home and we hurried to hot tea in a barn Miss Jorrocks concluded, that whilst the sofa doubtless had attraction for many of you, you missed a cracking day.