Miss Jorrocks writes: Hounds met at Herstmonceux on 24th October, the guests of long standing supporter Miss Caroline Richardson.
This was our Opening Meet and the enormous field turned out in full hunting fig for our first full day of the season.
The country at Herstmonceux is undulating and leads down on to the flat land of the Pevensey Levels. The country is open and the fences solid, well constructed, and inviting.
Despite the buzz of excitement passing through the mounted followers, and no small number of foot followers, hounds were business like in their approach and set off in orderly fashion.
The first line proved challenging for the mounted field, many of whom were mounted on very excited horses enjoying their first run of the season. The line took us mostly around fields of what appeared to be winter wheat. The crops here took up every inch of space, leaving the narrowest of headlands for the mounted field. Miss Jorrocks' research indicates that 2011 forward prices for wheat are promising and therefore concludes that our farmers are making hay while the sun shines, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor. In any event we tried our very best to stay on the headlands and hopefully just the odd, accidental, hoof print marked our passing. Hounds were quick over the crop, providing good galloping for the mounted field as it tried to stay in touch.
The second line proved more challenging for hounds. The night before having been cold scenting conditions should have been good, particularly across the field of rape that started the line. Hounds started well, but then turned and started hunting heel (the way the Quarry had come, and not the way they had gone). Quite why remains unexplained. Possibly our Quarry, amongst some of the most experienced we have, put in a loop that became confused or perhaps, unbeknown to us, a bunch of ramblers had been through and crossed the line. The Whippers-in were quick to react, getting in front of hounds, lifting their heads, and sending them back to the Huntsman. Often experienced hounds will be scolded for hunting "heel" however our Huntsman, mindful of the young entry, chose to foster their enthusiasm. He gathered them up without fuss and laid them on again in the next field. This was not the easiest of options for hounds as the field contained beef cattle, whose dung and odour would have foiled the line causing them to work very hard indeed. Cheerful, and in good voice, hounds gave a workmanlike account of themselves hunting accurately through the cattle along the banks of the Mill and Iron streams and the River Yotham before catching their Quarry in a field containing Mr Gribble's mixed flock of Suffolk and Mule (Swaledale cross Blue Faced Leicesters) sheep, who looked on in cautious astonishment. It is no small achievement that even our youngest and most novice of hounds is steady enough to be hunted through stock, and a testament to the long hours of work that goes on at Kennels to turn out such a fine and trustworthy pack. It is also easy to forget, as we sit on our horses enjoying the countryside, that we are galloping around on other peoples' workplaces. Many people, who are likely strangers to us, will have got up early to move stock and open gateways, and will finish late putting it all back again. We are indeed very privileged!
At the end of the second line 1 1/2 couple of young hounds were deemed tired and taken out of the pack before they became disheartened, and one hound was taken out for lameness likely due to a thorn in its pad. Rest assured the lame hound will have been thoroughly inspected and treated on arrival home at the Kennels.
The third and fourth lines took us gradually back off the marsh and back on to the arable again, before the Huntsman blew for home and we hacked back along the lanes to the boxes. All tidied away, a delicious Tea awaited us in the farmhouse where treats on offer included a melting beef casserole, which Miss Jorrocks suspects was home reared and a rare treat.
Duly fortified we trundled off, leaving poor Caroline with a mountain of washing up!
Vital statistics: Hounds - 14 1/2 couple. Quarry - 3. Staff - 4. Mounted field - 50! Miles as Quarry ran - 10. Miles as hounds ran - 13. Miles as field ran - 15. Scenting conditions - good, challenging through stock. Going - good. Best hound of the day - Barrister (sponsored by Master Sally Mack).