Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

rably-headed animal. Brow, bray, tray, and two on top, on one horn, and an upright on the other.

THURSDAY, 22nd.-Our intelligence from the old keeper again led us to Badgeworthy, where a fine stag was said to be lying in the heather, which is particularly high in that place: as we neared the hunting-gate leading into the common, a herd of hinds and calves were seen moving about in the distance, and although many in their minds devoted young and old to destruction, for being so much in the way, yet really lit was well that they were there, for the purpose of showing the excellent discipline of the hounds. Twenty different scents must have been crossed, and not a hound broke away; a little dash perhaps now and then, but a well-timed rate from the master brought them back again to the huntsman's heels, until at length up rose the finest deer I ever saw some five hundred yards before us, and away went the pack to the cheer, nor did they stop racing for thirty minutes, in about which time the covers at Brendon were reached ; round about these, in the Lyn, and in the woods for some short time, and then up the opposite hill to Countisbury, along the edge of the cliffs nearly to Glenthorne, and down to the water between there and Lin ton. To all appearance the sport was up, and a boat put out to secure the deer, but (a most unusual occurrence) he left the sea, and ascended the cliffs to return Brendon-wards. Two and a half couple of hounds, with Mr. Newton Fellowes, Jun., met him, and put him back to the waters of the Lyn, to a pretty good tune: that part of the pack which had been left at Brendon Barton in the morning was now let out, and with the others from the cliffs made about thirty couple, which soon brought him to bay, and this king of the forest suffered death in a small spot of ground by the river's side, embedded by the hills and rocks. Those who took part in the proceedings were of course rather too excited to stand aloof, and admire the picture, but it must have been a grand sight, and worthy of Landseer's pencil: the antlers were the best I ever saw in this part of the world; brow, bray, and tray, wonderfully long and perfect, and three on top, on one horn, and two on the other. How rarely does a deer's head appear quite perfect! I only have seen two, whose points were good, and yet both horns alike. A sporting farmer named Snow, had been promised this head, and no doubt some day I shall have the pleasure of quaffing divers cups under these same antlers, for the possessor, notwithstanding his frigid nomenclature, is by no means wintry in his nature.

SATURDAY, 24th.-Two stags had been seen some way within the forest, somewhere near Exbottom. They had moved off, however, before our arrival, but not long enough to prevent the hounds going off pretty freely with their scent, and

in a short time they began their usual pace. In goes Mr. Knight, up to his horse's belly in black bog-a fair warning; so off jump some dozen or so, and after a little running the unsafe ground is passed, and the hounds are running to our right, with the gentleman who had been bogged getting on pretty good terms with them: nicely had our leading man piloted us; be dropped us quite alongside of the pack, which had been making a bend in our favour the whole way. Thinking that now all was as it ought to be, I got careless, but was reminded that my eyes must now and then look downwards, by suddenly finding myself on the ground, with my cap flattened, and my little thorough-bred plunging in a bog, with a girth broken. After repairing damage, by way of a shot I cantered to Brendon, and was just in time to see the hounds running hinds, calves, &c., &c. One of the stags crossed however to the opposite hill, only three couple with him ; he ran over the Countisbury hill to Glenthorne, and towards Culbone, where he beat us ; the other deer, with eight couple, took another turn on the forest, but also was too good for his pursuers.

TUESDAY, 27th.—A brace of deer at the farther end of Badgworthy; a fine rouse, away though Badgworthy Wood, with only Mr. Henry Sandford and another riding with them : on coming to the further end of the cover, a most notable stag broke close to me, three on top both sides; by dint of holloaing I brought seven and a half couple after him, and from that spot to Horner Wood not a check occurred, and racing pace; only myself and the whip lived with them for the entire run, Mr. Brown, of Porlock, and Mr. Ley chimed in for a short time; but when the check took place at Cutcombe (for that at Horner Wood was only a minute or so), not a man came up for ten minutes. I should say the time was an hour and twenty minutes. This last check saved the deer's life; he had been headed by an old woman, and making sure that he had gone to water, a long cast was made down a brook, and more than twenty minutes passed before we again hit off the line: then over the enclosures to Luckwell and Exford, not without frequent checks however, and the horses being all done, the prospect of securing our chase got very distant. A mile or so above Exford, some men laid hold of the stag, but he was then a little too strong for them, and broke away

and out of the water. About an hour afterwards came the hunters, at a pace which only got slower the further they went, and the stag eventually beat us, getting back to Horner Wood. This run was the fastest and straightest I ever saw with these hounds to the check, it took us not less than twelve or fourteen miles, and some seven miles or so afterwards ; but it is difficult to calculate distance in an open, uncultivated country: my horse was quite knocked

and I had to make a walk of it for sixteen miles. Mr. Jeffries Esdaile lost a valuable horse; and the day was so severe altogether for horses and hounds, that the bye-meet intended for the following Thursday was obliged to be given up; and no further hunting took place until SATURDAY, 31st, when Badgworthy Wood was drawn by the pack, and a fine stag found by himself, as the keeper suspected would be the case. The run was not straight, but we got to Brendon, and crossed to Countisbury, and over the hill by Glenthorne, where he went to sea for a short time, and then out again; the hounds checked at the place he took water, but the huntsman getting off, went down over the cliffs to the beach, and after casting along it a mile or so, hit off the scent into Culbone Wood, where they fresh found, and came down in view through the breakers to sea. The pack swam at least a mile out, and only stopped when some men in a boat drove them back: a boat also put out from a ship lying at anchor near shore. I was half afraid at one time that they would be first in, but the Glenthorne boat, after a quarter of an hour's chace, flung a rope round his horns, and brought him back in triumph. Some years ago, a deer went to sea near the same place, and was actually taken by a Bristol trader, and shown in Bristol as a curiosity --a pleasant_sight for the hunters on the shore. Thus ended the sport in the Exmoor country.

up,

TUESDAY, SEPT. 3rd.—" Hawkridge.” A deer, beautifully harboured by the harbourers ; but for some unaccountable reason the master would not draw for it, and went away quietly to North Barton Wood. No find. Then Mountsey, and ran a hind and calf to Marsh Wood, whipped off, and at three o'clock found the stag just where he ought to have been roused at eleven : ran by Dulverton to Baron's Down; changed on a hind, which went into Haddon; another change upon a stag, and ran him about till dark. A most unsatisfactory day.

Friday, 6th.—“Anstey Burrows." Stag harboured at Molland: found a hind first, then another : one went away like shot; it was thought advisable to lay on to the heel of her, and take the chance of running up to the lair of the stag: but it did not answer, and the pack soon settled on a hind, and after a turn or two in cover, went away on the western side, and flung out the whole field. Away we went after them, pounding along the roads, just catching enough glimpses of the hounds to induce perseverance; but the pace was so great that no one came up with them beforé Castle Hill, Lord Fortescue's seat, was reached; a turn or two amongst the fallow-deer, but the bounds were not to be tempted, and sticking close to their game, killed her at Swynnbridge, four miles from Barnstaple, not less than sixteen miles from the cover in which they found. It would have been glorious, had anybody been with them; but, as I said, nobody saw it before Castle Hill. I was obliged, together with others, to put off the return to my domestic circle until the following morning.

TUESDAY, 10th. “Park-end Gate, Cothelestone.” The harbourer had most cheering news. Two brace of stags-so he averred--being in Cockercombe. It took the people who knew most about the deer quite by surprise to hear such a report, as it was thought that there was but onc good stag in this part of the country; but no one doubted the truth of it, as Blackmore, who has been employed all his life in this business, seldom is deceived. No time was lost-at halfpast ten a move was made towards Quantock farm, where the pack was shut up: two couple of hounds were taken down the cover,

and first of all put up a fox, no blame to them for running it, as it is their winter game. They were soon stopped, and in a little less than half an hour were pushing along after deer; two broke near me, one a three-year-old, which went away over the hills like wind, the other a splendid fellow, who preferred going back again into cover; I laid all the tufters on him, and as soon as they had driven him

was

from the wood, galloped off for the pack, notwithstanding that there

a larger deer in cover, which we had not moved. He crossed towards Ramscombe, and hearing the tufters' voices no longer, considered no doubt that he had done them, but the pack soon told him his mistake, and taking a ring round Seven Wells, crossed back to Cockerccmbe, to Parson's Plantation, and thence slipping away from all the field, racing pace, to Cothelestone, through the covers there in a ring, to Buncombe Bottom, and the fir plantations on Broomfield Hill, back again to Cothelestone, and down to the pond in front of Mr. Esdaile's house. Of course the commotion was great, the foot people surrounding the water; [had it been otherwise I think he would have come out again directly. I jumped into the boat, upon seeing which he immediately took off again and galloped away in full view of hounds and men before the drawing-room windows. I saw he must come back to water again, he was so fat; and after ringing through the covers, and doing a little bit of enclosures, the hounds were again yelping after him in the pond. His body was very large, and his head very fair: three on top one side, two the other, but he had missed both his brays—a very common thing about here and in the Dulverton country; whilst on Exmoor, on the contrary, out of ten stags nine will have those branches. As the run was very round about, every body who had met the hounds fin the morning was present at the take, and were greatly delighted at the sight. The weight of his haunch was 42lbs., and proved venison of a most delicious flavour, at least such was the decision of a party, some of whom flattered themselves that they knew what was venison.

THURSDAY, 12th.—“Crowcombe Court." Deer had been lying in Crowcombe Heathfield during the whole summer, and Blackmore was sent the previous day to see what they were, but, to my astonishment, reported that no deer had been in the cover for three weeks. I had moved two myself there exactly three weeks before, and thought it very odd that they should have decamped without any reason, as the cover had been very quiet: however, the following morning a stag was harboured at Plainsfield, just below Cockercombe, and relying upon there being no deer at the Heathfield, we went to find him. The meet was beautiful, as those that know the place can well imagine ; the house not only looked the old English mansion, but the good cheer that filled the large breakfast-table of Mrs. Carew, and the gathering of red coats round it, was evidence that old English hospitality and old English sports bore sway within its walls. After walking the hounds about for the ladies' inspection, the pack again adjourned to Quantock farm. The harboured deer unfortunately had been disturbed by people picking sticks, and there did not appear to be another in cover. The pack then drew Bagborough Plantations on speculation ; in fact, it is always a lottery whether

you

find a stag or not, unless he is harboured: this was blank, and then it was determined to try the Heathfield, and there at five o'clock was found a good stag, and two or three other deer, proving that Mr. Blackmore had been rather at the alehouse the day before, than searching the cover. It was half an hour before we got away, by Trowbridge and Heddon, ascending the Quantock Hills, between Bicknoller and Crowcombe, across the heath to Holford, and a turn towards Dane's Burrow, where the hounds were stopped, as it had got too dark to ride to them. It was an excellent hour ; and had the harbourer done his duty on the previous day, the deer would not have been let off so cheap, for at the pace the hounds went, on gaining the open, another hour of daylight would have seen him at bay. Some gentlemen from the west were left nearly forty miles from home, and sought refuge in the neighbouring hostelries. After a week's rest, the hounds met on Saturday, 21st, at Yard Down, for the Barnstaplefair Hunt, a turn-out affair generally productive of more fun than hunting. I did not join them, not much to my loss, as I afterwards heard.

The following four hunting days were given to Dulverton :

On TUESDAY, 24th., the large cover of Hadden was drawn, and, as luck would have it, a stag was moved; for had not fortune been favourable to "us, the pack of puppies which were flung into cover, ten couple I believe, and only three old hounds among them, would not have brought it about. However, in an hour or two thirty couple of hounds were roaring at a fine fellow, who almost instantly went away. He gained a good start, owing to some difficulty with some hinds and a fox; however, it all righted, and a run commenced which was destined to finish at the exact spot where finished the day's sport from Crowcombe, the meets being full twenty miles apart. The pace was excellent over Brendon hills, but slower through the stiff enclosures, and improved again towards the finish. The time was about four hours, and the line taken was as follows :- Leaving the cover by Upton, across the enclosures to Brendon hills, to Nettlecombe ; 'a bend to Leigh Cliffs and Treborough, into the enclosures again, to Woodadvent, Orchard Wyndham, Williton, Highbridge, ascending the Quantock hills by Weacombe, across the heath to Holford, and whipping off at Dane’s Burrow, from want of light. The extreme points are about eighteen miles distant from each other ; the route taken, as will appear by consulting a map, by no means quite straight; it was too long, but still was very satisfactory to the hunt, as it showed that the deer cross backwards and forwards from Quantock to Haddon, and thus holds out prospects for many a future gallop from one to the other country. The hounds did not arrive at their kennel until one o'clock in the morning, and the sportsmen betook themselves to the best hospitality they could find in the neighbourhood.

FRIDAY, 27th. --On doubtful intelligence of a stag, the whole pack were thrown into Berrywood, and finding a hind first (the odds 10 to 1 on such a proceeding), of course went away with her, leaving the stag in covert. Haddon was the deer's point, and that gained, we changed more than once; one hind went well away, but trusting to a tally by a person who ought to have known a hind from a stag, the master ordered the hounds to the holloa, and a good gallop was lost, as the other deer was seen going across the country to Maundown. I believe the hounds went away from cover very late, but most of the field went away previously, as sport looked bad.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »