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FOXHUNTING ON THE LAKELAND FELLS ***




Produced by MFR and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from
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FOXHUNTING ON THE LAKELAND FELLS




[Illustration: BRUCE LOGAN, ESQ., M.F.H., MASTER OF THE CONISTON
FOXHOUNDS AND THE WINDERMERE HARRIERS.]




FOXHUNTING ON THE
LAKELAND FELLS

BY
RICHARD CLAPHAM

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE
RIGHT HON. J. W. LOWTHER
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

_WITH 43 ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS
BY THE AUTHOR_

LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
FOURTH AVENUE & 30TH STREET, NEW YORK,
BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, AND MADRAS
1920
_All rights reserved_




DEDICATED TO

BRUCE LOGAN, ESQ., M.F.H.

MASTER OF THE CONISTON FOXHOUNDS AND WINDERMERE HARRIERS

WITH BOTH OF WHICH PACKS I HAVE ENJOYED SO MUCH GOOD SPORT DURING THE
LAST TEN SEASONS IN THE FELL COUNTRY




INTRODUCTION

BY THE RIGHT HON. J. W. LOWTHER, M.P.


That portion of Cumberland and Westmorland, which is popularly known as
the Lake District, is the holiday ground of a great number of persons who
delight in its splendid scenery of mountain, wood and lake, who enjoy
roaming on foot over its uplands, climbing its peaks, driving in motor
or charabanc along its sinuous valleys, rowing or sailing on its lakes,
and sketching or photographing its picturesque views, which present
themselves to even the most inartistic eye. But these folk belong to the
family of “Hirundinidæ”—swallows—they are summer visitants.

To my mind, the Lake Country, always beautiful, is more beautiful at the
other three seasons of the year. In the spring and autumn the grasses and
mosses of the upper slopes and of the smooth round shoulders, the bracken
of the lower slopes, the larch woods creeping up from the valleys, and
the emerald green of the lush meadows present finer contrasts of colour
and more variety of shade and tone than the monotonous green of summer;
whilst in winter the snow-capped mountains look higher and grander and
more inaccessible, the effects of light and shade are more varied, and
even on the lower slopes, by reason of the lower altitude of the sun
and the prolongation of shadows, the folds and crinkles of the mountain
bases are more distinctly seen. Visitors, however, are comparatively few,
for days are short and often wet, the attractions fewer in number, and
accommodation in the remoter spots not easily available. But those who
come, and are fortunate in their meteorological experiences, are amply
rewarded; and, if they are able-bodied and active, can enjoy the hunting
which some four or five packs of hounds afford.

To most people “hunting” connotes horses and riders, and red coats, and
breeches and boots. The Lakeland hunter, however, sees none of these
things. At most he will catch an occasional glimpse of the scarlet coat
of huntsman or whip. A horse would be as much out of place at a meet of
a fell-side pack as a hippopotamus, and be about as useful. Breeches
and boots would be an impossible handicap. The iron horse, the bicycle,
takes the place of the covert hack, knickerbockers of leathers, and
shooting-boots of tops.

The mountain packs of hounds were instituted or taken over by the farmers
of the district for the protection of their flocks from the depredation
of the numerous foxes, which frequent the fells, and at times take a
heavy toll of the lambs in the spring. But to business has been added
pleasure. Business, however, comes first. A day’s hunting is always
something of a lottery, whether it be in Leicestershire or in Lakeland,
and it may be at once conceded that the Shires produce more prizes than
the fells; but, on the other hand, the fells never result in a “blank”
day. The climatic conditions, propitious as they are for scent, often
militate against complete enjoyment of his surroundings by the follower
of the hunt. He must be prepared for a very early rise, a long day in the
open air, a steep climb, a dreary trudge up or down interminable slopes
of grass or moss, a scramble across shifting screes, long waits, biting
blasts, heavy showers, drenched garments, the descent of mist, or the
loss to sight and hearing of the pack and all its followers. All these
calamities, however, do not often occur in combination. Let us look at
the brighter side of things. Then the sportsman may enjoy a glorious
outing, a steady climb, when every 100 feet of ascent seems to strike a
purer stratum of invigorating air, a gradually expanding view of distant
mountain tops, a glimpse of the Solway or the Irish Channel miles away,
and when the summit is reached a magnificent panorama of peaks and
precipices, of vast stretches of smooth uplands and diminutive lakes.
Then comes the satisfying sense of “something attempted, something done.”
There is also always the chance of having selected a spot from which a
good view of the hunt may be obtained, when the fox can be seen crossing
the breast of the opposite hill with the hounds stringing out far behind,
the anxiety whether he means to come this way or cross the opposite
skyline. If all turns out luckily the music of the pack grows gradually
fortissimo, the fox slips quietly past, but is rolled over in full view.

It is not my intention to attempt a record of the doings of any of
the fell packs, of one of which (the Blencathra) I had the honour of
being for several years the Master. I need now only express my great
regret that parliamentary duties in London coincided unfortunately
with the foxhunting season in the Lakes, and limited very severely my
opportunities for the enjoyment of the sport, which I commend to all who
are still sufficiently young in spirit or vigorous in body to enjoy this
healthy pastime. Young and old alike will find in Mr. Clapham’s pages an
invigorating description of the sport, as well as a record of minute and
extensive observation of the habits and idiosyncrasies of the four-legged
participants in the pursuit and a keen appreciation of the beauty of the
surroundings in which Lakeland hunting is carried on.




PREFACE


Whilst there are a good many books descriptive of foxhunting in the
Shires and the provinces, there are few works entirely devoted to sport
in the rough fell country of the Lake District.

It is, therefore, with the idea of filling this gap in hunting literature
that I venture to pen the following chapters. Foxhunting on the fells
differs in so many ways from sport in the riding countries that perhaps
this book may serve to interest the man from the Shires, even if it does
not tempt him to visit the fells and see something of the sport for
himself.

For the man of slender purse the fells will prove a happy hunting ground
indeed. There is little cause to worry about ways and means in a country
where subscriptions vary from 2_s._ 6_d._ to £5. All you want to enable
you to follow hounds is a stout heart, a stick, and a “piece” in your
pocket, and if luck favours you, as it assuredly will if you go out often
enough, you will find yourself becoming more and more wedded to this
wild country, which, in sunshine or storm, has so many attractions for
those who are not afraid to tackle it in all its varying moods.

R. CLAPHAM.

TROUTBECK,
WINDERMERE,
_April, 1920_.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE COUNTRY 1

II. THE FELL FOX 23

III. THE FELL HOUNDS 47

IV. HUNTING ON THE FELLS 70

V. REMINISCENCES 99




ERRATA


Page 24, line 16: _for_ twenty-one _read_ twenty-three.

Page 110, line 2 from bottom: _for_ sixty _read_ thirty.

Transcriber’s Note: the errata have been corrected.




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


FACING PAGE

BRUCE LOGAN, ESQ., M.F.H., MASTER OF THE CONISTON FOXHOUNDS
AND THE WINDERMERE HARRIERS _Frontispiece_

FELL HUNTING COUNTRY: THE HIGH STREET RANGE, FROM TROUTBECK PARK 4

FELL HUNTING COUNTRY: THE HIGH STREET RANGE, FROM WANSFELL 4

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: HOUNDS AND THEIR HUNTSMAN CLIMBING STEEL FELL,
IN THE SNOW 10

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: A KILL IN THE SNOW ON STEEL FELL, NEAR GRASMERE 12

CHARLES WILSON, ESQ., EX-MASTER AND HUNTSMAN OF THE OXENHOLME
STAGHOUNDS 14

(Mr. Wilson formed this pack in 1887, and was Master and
huntsman for over thirty seasons)

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: AFTER A KILL IN THE LOW COUNTRY 18

(An admiring audience of boys looking at the fox)

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: BRUCE LOGAN, ESQ., M.F.H., AND ROBERT LOGAN,
ESQ., DEPUTY MASTER 20

BROAD HOWE: A “BORRAN” OR EARTH AT THE HEAD OF THE TROUTBECK
(WINDERMERE) VALLEY 28

(This is a very strong place, and is typical of the
fell-country fox-earths)

LOOKING INTO BROAD HOWE “BORRAN” FROM ABOVE, AFTER MEN HAD WORKED
FOR A WEEK TO RESCUE TWO TERRIERS, ONE OF WHICH DIED BELOW GROUND 28

THE ARMISTICE 38

A THREE-WEEKS-OLD FOX CUB 40

FOX CUBS, THREE WEEKS OLD 40

A DOG-FOX CUB, TEN DAYS OLD 42

(Note white tag to immature brush)

MISS HILDA CHAPMAN (DAUGHTER OF ANTHONY CHAPMAN, EX-HUNTSMAN OF THE
WINDERMERE HARRIERS) AND HER PET FOX, “JACKY” (THREE YEARS OLD) 42

“CRACKER,” LATE OF THE CONISTON PACK: A BIG HOUND OF THE FELL TYPE 50

“MISCHIEF,” LATE OF THE CONISTON PACK: A BITCH OF THE FELL TYPE 50

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: THE PACK 54

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: THE PACK IN KENNELS AT GREENBANK, AMBLESIDE 54

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: THE PACK WITH THEIR HUNTSMAN. OPENING MEET,
OCT. 11TH, 1919 58

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: AT THE “TRAVELLERS’ REST” INN, ON THE SUMMIT OF
THE KIRKSTONE PASS (1469 FT.) 64

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: WAITING FOR THE PACK ON THE FELL 64

BLENCATHRA FOXHOUNDS: ON RIGHT, GEORGE TICKELL, ESQ., EX-DEPUTY
MASTER (1907-1919) 70

(Mr. Tickell has hunted regularly since he was a boy at
school, thus covering a total of nearly seventy years. He is
“still going strong”)

FELL COUNTRY HUNTSMEN: LEFT—GEORGE CHAPMAN, HUNTSMAN, CONISTON
FOXHOUNDS. RIGHT—JIM DALTON, HUNTSMAN, BLENCATHRA FOXHOUNDS 74

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: JOE BOWMAN, THE HUNTSMAN 76

BLENCATHRA FOXHOUNDS: GONE TO GROUND ON ARMBOTH FELL 77

BLENCATHRA FOXHOUNDS: AFTER A KILL AT RAVEN CRAG, NEAR THIRLMERE
LAKE, NOV. 7TH, 1919 77

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: OPENING MEET AT BROTHERSWATER, OCT. 11TH, 1919 80

(Joe Bowman, the huntsman, talking to two of the field)

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: JOE BOWMAN, HUNTSMAN (SINCE 1879), WATCHING
HOUNDS AT WORK IN LOW WOOD, NEAR BROTHERSWATER. OPENING MEET,
OCT. 11TH, 1919 84

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: “GONE TO GROUND” 86

(Hunters working their way into a “borran”)

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: B. WILSON, THE WHIPPER-IN, WITH FOX KILLED IN
SCANDALE VALLEY, OCT. 11TH, 1919 87

“PINCHER” AND “MYRTLE,” TWO CONISTON HUNT TERRIERS 90

“JUMMY,” A TERRIER WHICH DID MUCH GOOD WORK FOR THE CONISTON HUNT 90

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: GONE TO GROUND BELOW HIGH PIKE IN THE SCANDALE
VALLEY, WINDERMERE LAKE IN DISTANCE 92

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: WATCHING A HUNT FROM BROAD HOWE “BORRAN,” AT
THE HEAD OF THE TROUTBECK (WINDERMERE) VALLEY 96

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: ROUGH GOING NEAR DOVE CRAG 102

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: GEORGE CHAPMAN, THE HUNTSMAN, WITH FOX, AFTER
A KILL IN GREENBURN 104

BLENCATHRA FOXHOUNDS: ERNEST PARKER, THE WHIPPER-IN, AFTER A KILL
AT RAVEN CRAG, NEAR THIRLMERE LAKE, NOV. 7TH, 1919 105

ULLSWATER FOXHOUNDS: OPENING MEET, OCT. 11TH, 1919. LEFT—W. H.
MARSHALL, ESQ., M.F.H. RIGHT—B. WILSON, THE WHIPPER-IN 107

(Waiting for a fox to bolt from an earth below High Pike in
the Scandale Valley)

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: HOUNDS AND THEIR HUNTSMAN IN THE SCANDALE
VALLEY 110

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: AFTER A KILL NEAR CONISTON 110

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: AFTER A KILL IN WOUNDALE 111

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS: AFTER A KILL ON NAB SCAR, RYDAL 111




FOXHUNTING ON THE LAKELAND FELLS




CHAPTER I

THE COUNTRY

“The hills and the rocks are calling
With the wind, their passionate lover,
‘Come up, come higher and higher
Where the clouds greet one another;
Come up where the mists are swirling,
Come up from the valley and glen,
We will sing for you there a song
That is not for the haunts of men.’”


Of the many visitors who roam the mountains of the Lake District during
the summer months, comparatively few are aware of the fact that the
said mountains are the favourite haunt of foxes, or that the latter are
regularly hunted during the autumn, winter, and early spring. A panoramic
view of the fell country of Cumberland and Westmorland seems hardly
compatible with the generally accepted idea of a hunting country, yet for
all that this rugged district affords grand sport with hounds. I have
more than once when speaking of fell foxhunting been asked the question,
“How do you manage to get about and keep in touch with hounds on those
awful hills?” The answer is simple, “On foot.” Except in some portions of
the low ground, riding to hounds is impossible, so the man who would see
something of the work of the mountain hounds must be prepared to face the
hills on Shanks’s pony.

Rising from the dales at an angle of from 45 to 70 degrees, or even
steeper, the fells tower skyward to a height of 2000 feet and over.
On the lower slopes large intakes, rock-strewn and often studded with
scattered thorn trees, divide the dales from the fells proper. Above
these intakes the ground rises abruptly, and one reaches a country
of rocks and crags, deep ghylls and watercourses, with scree-beds
strewn broadcast beneath the taller cliffs. The latter are seamed and
intersected with ledges, known in local parlance as “Benks,” on which
is often found a luxurious growth of heather or bleaberry scrub. It is
on these snug well-sheltered ledges that the hill fox loves to make his
kennel. Protected from the wind, with a wide view of all the ground below
him, Reynard curls up where the sun strikes his couch, and sleeps away
the daylight hours.

Here and there on the lower slopes are larch plantations, and straggling
coverts of oak and hazel. In these woods foxes lie up, though the fell
fox proper prefers to have his kennel at a higher altitude, where chances
of disturbance are less. Lower still, where the huge intakes merge into
smaller enclosures, the number and size of the woods increase. It is down
in this low country that a mounted man can see something of the sport,
for though the nature of the ground and the fences prohibits riding right
up to hounds, there are plenty of side roads, bridle-tracks and the like,
by means of which it is possible to keep in fairly close touch with the
flying pack.

Much of this low ground is heather land, and everywhere the bracken
flourishes in wild profusion. In summer it is waist-high, and even
taller, and in early autumn when it changes from green to russet-brown
and yellow, it hampers the footsteps of the man on foot, and, owing to
its dryness, makes scenting conditions very difficult. For this reason
hounds seldom visit the low ground until a fall of snow or heavy rain has
somewhat flattened the bracken beds.

On the lower slopes of the high fells the bracken is equally luxuriant,
covering acres of land which would otherwise be good pasturage for the
little Herdwick sheep. Foxes, particularly cubs, are to be found in these
bracken patches, where they lie and creep about unseen on the approach of
an intruder.

On the summits of the high tops the ground is generally fairly level,
covered with a short, thick turf.

On some of the mountains, such as the High Street and Harter Fell, there
is a very considerable area of this fairly level ground. Such high-fell
tracts are known in local parlance as “good running ground,” for across
them on a decent scenting day hounds can press their fox severely.

It will easily be understood that the approach to these high tops is
impracticable for horses, and even if one reached them on horseback the
return journey would be fraught with even greater difficulty and danger.
On foot it is a different matter altogether. Every one of the fells can
be climbed by some fairly easy route, and, once on the tops, the going
is good. No matter at what time of year one rambles on the fells alone,
it should always be remembered that there is a certain amount of danger,
however small. Without in the least wishing to “put the wind up” the
reader, I may say that accidents are liable to happen, and a sprained
ankle is quite sufficient to place a man in a very awkward position,
particularly in winter, when the days are short and the weather far from
good. Still, one can travel the fells for years without meeting with
the semblance of such a contretemps, if reasonable care is taken when
crossing rough ground.

[Illustration: FELL HUNTING COUNTRY: THE HIGH STREET RANGE, FROM
TROUTBECK PARK.]

[Illustration: FELL HUNTING COUNTRY: THE HIGH STREET RANGE, FROM
WANSFELL.]

When hounds are out there are always local hunters scattered about the
various tops, and if the visiting sportsman follows the lead of one of
these men, he will come to no harm, though he may come to respect the
walking powers of a dalesman ere the end of the day.

Having once reached the tops, it is wise to stay at that altitude, unless
hounds are practically viewing their fox, and driving him hard towards
the dale. It is much quicker to go round the tops than to make a descent
to the dale and then climb out again. When necessary, a descent can be
made down some grass slope, and a long slide down a loose scree-bed will
sometimes gain the same end with less exertion. A certain amount of
practice is necessary to enable one to travel the fells with ease, but
one soon gets the hang of walking fast on steep ground, and descending
the latter at speed.

Everything depends, of course, on one’s physical condition, and the
character of one’s footgear. Unless heart and lungs are sound, and one is
in some kind of training, fell climbing is astonishingly hard work, and
becomes much more of a toil than a pleasure.

Thin boots or shoes, with smooth soles, are useless as well as dangerous.
What is required is a good stout shooting boot, well nailed to prevent
slipping. If anklets are worn with these they will prevent grit and small
stones from entering the boot tops. Shoes are not to be recommended, as
they give no support to the ankles. The clothing should be fairly thick
and wet-resisting, as the weather on the high tops in winter is often
pretty wild. Loose knickerbockers are better than knicker-breeches, as
the latter restrain the free action of the knees, and, therefore, make
climbing harder. A stick of some kind is a great help, but I do not
recommend the long, alpenstock affairs which are sold to summer visitors.
On steep ground there always comes a time when a long stick trips its
user, and a stumble of this nature may easily lead to a very nasty fall.
An ordinary stout walking-stick is the best, as there is little or no
chance of getting one’s feet mixed up with it going downhill.

On the high fells the exigencies of the weather have far more influence
on sport than they have in the low country. At an altitude of 2000 feet
snow is apt to be deep, while the frost is often extremely severe.
Snowstorms, unless unusually heavy, seldom stop hunting, but when the
snow becomes frozen, and the crags are a mass of ice, it is unsafe for
either hounds or followers. The greatest bugbear of the fell foxhunter is
mist. Once the tops are shrouded in an impenetrable grey pall there is
nothing but the cry of hounds to direct you, and when the music gradually
fades into the distance you stand in a silent world of your own, not
knowing, if you are a stranger to the fell, which way to turn.

However well you think you know every foot of the ground, it is
surprisingly easy to lose direction, and unless a lucky chance places you
in touch with hounds again it is wise to get below the mist and discover
your whereabouts. As a rule, however, if you are on ground you have often
visited before, you will recognise landmarks such as peat hags, cairns,
watercourses, etc., which will give you the lie of the land and enable
you to go ahead.

Occasionally the fells are what is locally known as “top clear.” At such
a time you climb steadily upwards to find yourself at last clear of the
clinging grey vapour, and beneath you lies an apparently endless sea of
white, stretching into the far distance. Out of this ocean of mist rises
peak after peak of the mountain ranges, looking like islands dotted in
every direction. If the sun is shining at the time, the glorious panorama
will well repay you for your strenuous climb.

Most people have heard of the “Spectre of the Brocken”; well, I have seen
exactly the same thing from the summit of Red Screes, which overlooks the
top of the Kirkstone Pass.

I was standing on the summit of this mountain one winter’s morning,
whilst hounds were working out the drag of their fox on the breast far
below. The mist was rising from the lower slopes like a grey curtain,
while the sun shone against my back, throwing my shadow on to the screen
of vapour. There it became enlarged to enormous proportions, and as I
moved the huge shadowy giant aped my actions, until I began to think I
was “seeing things.”

I have at times seen some extraordinarily fine rainbow effects amongst
the crags, just as the rain began to cease and the sun broke through the
clouds.

Next to mist, rain and wind, particularly the latter, handicap followers
of the fell hounds. Rain wets you through, but you don’t mind that; it is
all in the day’s work, but when it is combined with a driving wind which
stops your breath and all but lifts you off your feet it becomes rather
too much of a good thing. Once on Wetherlam I saw two coupled terriers
lifted bodily off the ground by the wind, and the huntsman’s cap suddenly
left his head and departed swiftly into thin air. If it be freezing at
such times your clothing, eyelashes, etc., become coated with hoarfrost,
and the icy blast penetrates to your very marrow. In the face of such a
wind you have to constantly turn round to get your breath, and all sounds
beyond the shriek of the gale are obliterated.

Shelter where and how you will, and strain your ears to the uttermost, it
is impossible to hear the cry of hounds unless they happen to be very
near you. Even on a still day sound is very deceiving. All the hills
throw back an echo, and you can easily imagine hounds to be on the far
side of a dale, when in reality they are on your own side, but under and


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