Many members in the
South East were able to take advantage of the beautiful, seasonal weather
to come out and follow the pack when it made its first ever New Year
weekend stay in Sussex.
The plans had first been laid as long as last March, but in the interim period, the groundwork for the meets had been made by the Rileys in Sussex, the Freemans and Olders in Kent, in liaison with John Evans, Jane Blois and myself.
Accommodation was mainly at the next door neighbours’ house, they having obliged by taking themselves off to Venezuela for Xmas, with meals being prepared and served in our house.
The weekend for us really started on the Friday, when the Hipkins arrived in the evening. This was a day of trepidation for us, not due to the impending arrivals, but the weather was as bad as it possibly could be. It had rained for thirty-six hours, the village and surrounding countryside was flooded and, frankly, hunting looked out of the question.
By the following morning, the temperature had dropped ten degrees. Everything was frozen hard, and the sun shone brilliantly by the time we set off to meet at The Black Bull on Romney March. Here we greeted many of our friends in the traditional manner, and by the time the pack arrived from Arkley and we moved off to the Older’s land, The Black Bull was looking rather dehydrated.
The flat marshland was decidedly wet, but it was a credit to the Water Authority that the floods had subsided, and Michael Denis, hunting the hounds, was able to disturb a few bedraggled hares that kept us moving most of the afternoon. After ‘vanning-up’ fairly early, a party of us retired to the Older’s farmhouse where Mrs Older provided gallons or should I say litres - of hot tea around a blazing log fire.
Then followed the long journey back to Sussex in convoy, along the banks of the Royal Military Canal.
On arriving home, we were thankful to my wife, who had spent the afternoon cutting up tripe which enabled us to kennel and feed the hounds without delay.
After cleaning-up and changing, the party sat down to dinner, before retiring to our local, The Merrie Harriers, for the rest of the evening.
The following Sunday morning, most of us were ‘up and out’ to walk the hounds through the village, and out into the surrounding country by 7.30am. Before returning to breakfast, which conveniently seemed to last until noon when, by chance, The Harriers had opened, just across the road.
the afternoon, hounds were vanned-up and taken to a disused railway line
for a lengthy walk. This was followed by afternoon tea next door, with all
sorts of people we had collected on route.
Tea seemed to stretch until dinner time back at our house again; although the hounds were fed sometime in-between.
And soon it was time to pay a visit across the road, again.
On Monday, New Year’s Eve, some of us were up again to take out the hounds, prior to breakfast. But soon, it was time to leave The Merrie Harriers for the meet at The Rose Cottage Inn, Alciston, where once again we welcomed more members of the branch, again in a traditional manner.
This was a typical Downland meet, within ten minutes of Michael Denis putting them into a large field of plough, the hounds had found and took off up a 500ft escarpment, which was the last that those who were not prepared to climb, saw them off for about an hour.
For those who did manage the climb, the scenery was rewarding, with brilliant sunshine and a fifteen mile view in any direction.
While this was happening, the hunt staff brought the hounds back to country, much to my shame, as I had spent breakfast expounding my theory that hounds would not cross a certain point which they, in fact, left two miles behind them.
So much for experts!
After this, the day settled into a more reasonable pattern, and it seemed only a short time before Michael was able to ‘blow’ for home and return to Cowbeech. Here a soup, sausage and chips meal was laid on for us at The Harriers, after feeding and bedding the hounds, of course.
That evening, we were joined at dinner by the Rileys and the Gambells, but we were unfortunately without the Smiths, who by then had left on a long trip back to Yorkshire.
About 10.00pm, someone
suggested that it our duty to go to The Harriers and celebrate the New
I remember that the Gambells went home at a reasonable hour, all sorts of odd characters tried to blow the horn, and we left the pub about two in the morning, before returning next door for a nightcap.
The Rileys decided that it would be prudent if they stayed the night, and it was 3.45am before I gave it best.
Much to my surprise, I awoke without the aid of the alarm clock at 7.00am and yes, I did get it right. The Rileys were still with us and came on parade to walk the hounds.
Halfway through breakfast that morning, a strange phenomenon occurred.
I was suddenly stricken with a hangover!
All too soon, it was to van-up the hounds and say our ‘goodbyes’, particularly to mine host at The Merrie Harriers, where our friends departed just prior to mid-day.
It was interesting to note afterwards, that very few people in the village were aware of what went on that weekend, or that we had sixteen and a half couple of hounds in our kennels.
We were very pleased to welcome our guests, and hope they will come again. I should like to thank my wife, particularly for the time she spent in preparation of the food etc., and all those whose efforts added to our enjoyment. And Jane Riley, who provided a suberb steak and kidney pudding, or was it three, for our dinner on one of the evenings.
Our neighbours came back last weekend. They said, “Do you know, we saw three Bassets in Caracas!”
How lucky they were.
Text by Michael Errey
(Ed. What stamina shown by both man and hound!)
editor Tony Roberts