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NEUTRAL COVERTS.-SOME OBSERVATIONS ON TWO NEIGHBOURING HUNTS.
NEUTRAL COVERTS have caused more disputes than any other subject in fox-hunting. In the beginning, these coverts are considered neutral for mutual convenience, but it seldom happens but the jealousy of one or both parties makes them a cause for mutual annoyance.
Now, where coverts lie at the extremity of two Hunts, it certainly would be convenient if each Hunt retained the privilege of drawing them, at least when they had lost or killed a fox out of their country in that direction, and it would probably be better if neither pack met professedly for the purpose of drawing them.
This may not, however, apply to so large an extent of woodlands as Takely Forest, which lies on the eastern extremity of the Puckeridge country, and about the centre of the north-west boundary of Mr. Conyers' country. It appears Mr. Conyers first obtained the right of drawing it twenty-five years ago, when, in conjunction with Mr. Houblon, the proprietor of the greater part of the Forest, he agreed to hunt the country between Epping, where Mr. Conyers resides, and Saffron Walden. Some years after Mr. Houblon went to reside in another county, and of course ceased to have anything to do with the Essex hounds; but Mr. Conyers still continued to hunt the country. Before the period above-mentioned the Hertfordshire Hounds had hunted Takely Forest, and still retained their right to draw it when they thought fit. It has, therefore, for twenty-five years been neutral to these Hunts. Last season a change took place in the ownership of the Puckeridge Hounds: they are now the property of Mr. Houblon (son of Mr. Conyers's friend), Mr. Parry, and Mr. W. Wigram. Mr. Houblon is sole proprietor of Takely Forest. Some disagreement has latterly taken place between Mr. Conyers and these Gentlemen in consequence of Mr. Houblon, as proprietor, insisting that he has a right to make what arrangements he pleases as to drawing the Forest, and conceives that he acts fairly if he does not lay more restrictions on Mr. C. than he does on his own Hunt. His terms, we think, were, that after the cub-hunting season neither pack should draw it oftener than twice before Christmas and twice after. Mr. Conyers refuses to be dictated to: he alleges, he has been induced, at a vast expense, to keep a pack of hounds for twenty-five years, sometimes with very little subscription; that the Forest, lying about the middle of his boundary line, and midway between his Epping and Dunmow kennels, is of the greatest use to him; that he has very few holding coverts in his Hunt; that the small coverts in the Roothings are frequently disturbed during the winter season by the stag-hounds; that unless he may draw the Forest at his convenience, he knows not how he can hunt the country at all; that there is in the Hertfordshire country a great deal more holding covert than in his; that it is more out of their draw to come to the Forest-in fact, that they could do without it, he cannot yet he adds, the more the Forest is drawn the better for both parties, as foxes, unless well routed, will not leave it.
The Hertfordshire Gentlemen allege their right to draw it, which is unquestionable; and state that foxes, after the leaf is off, are easily disturbed, as the under-lying is very thin, and the Forest is by no means so sure a find as they could wish it.
Here then they are at issue. We would hardly say both are in the wrong we are much more willing to think both are somewhat in the right. Perhaps more frequent cub-hunting would render the foxes wild enough, and less frequent drawing late in the year might cause them to be more plentiful. We cannot, however, forbear remarking, that we see much peril to fox-hunting in the precedent that owners of coverts should dictate to a Master of Hounds how and when he shall draw those coverts; but we know there can be no question that he has a legal right to make what terms he pleases. Unless a Master of Fox-hounds is left entirely unfettered, he cannot do the thing well: if unrestrained by Sportsmen, he is sure to meet with enough ill-usage from other quarters to derange his plans, and often endanger his chance of getting or giving satisfaction. Mr. Houblon, as a Master of Hounds, must consider this-what he may do to Mr. C. may be done to him; and he will soon learn what difficulties the proprietors of coverts may throw in the way of fox-hunting. Yet if the parties were in the mind to agree, we cannot see why conditions, very similar to those proposed by Mr. H., should not be adopted by mutual consent. Let them meet in good humor to settle the terms: we are sure there is good humor enough in the parties themselves to settle them without any mediation: but if they doubt this, let them leave it to others, and abide by their decision, each party choosing the best-tempered friend they can find. It certainly is desirable that it should be settled.
Every one will confess that a Gentleman who has hunted a country for twenty-five years, at a great expense, should meet with every consideration, and should not have the latter part of his hunting career interrupted by difficulties which he could not have foreseen at its commencement: yet it were ill too to damp the ardor of the other Country Gentleman who has had the public spirit to join with two others in keeping up a first-rate establishment, of a good huntsman, good hounds, and good horses. Mr. Houblon must not be disgusted. As Mr. Conyers justly expects to be valued for what he has done, so must he esteem the worth of Mr. Houblon for what he is doing. In these days great is the worth of a Country Gentleman who lives on his estate among his tenants and laborers. Fox-hunting is a public benefit if it keep Country Gentlemen at home. The Master of Fox-hounds is a public benefactor. We cannot spare Mr. Conyers, or Mr. Houblon, nor Mr. Parry, nor Mr. Wigram; there is room and time for them and their friends to enjoy themselves. Wo to him who encourages them to quarrel, or sows dissension among fox-hunters!
We cannot help saying, we think Masters of Hounds deserve much more consideration than they receive: for our humble selves, we would go a long way to preserve a fox; and, when we hunted, we thought it our duty never to injure sport, but to promote it. We cannot but feel angry with those malcontents who are fond of finding fault with the Master, or the huntsman, or the hounds. The Master of Hounds should be supported and thanked, not thwarted or censured; he has
difficulties enough and annoyances enough to encounter without being vexed by interference or irritated by abuse. Few men know more of hunting than Mr. Conyers: few have had better sport: if he has been less lucky this season, he may be the more lucky the next.
The commencing season of the Herts triumvirate has certainly been productive of great sport. Mr. Parry, the acting Manager, understands the country well: no expense has been spared to render the pack perfect.
The élite of Lord Peters, which have been bought, added to the best of the Puckeridge, will make it perfect if anything can. As the hounds are, they are very superior, and have killed a multitude of foxes, many with excellent runs. It seems, indeed, the principle of Mr. Parry and his huntsman is, as soon as a fox is well started, to determine to kill him. Death is the thing they will not willingly forego-their motto, "Rem facias rem
Recte sic possis, si non quocunque modo rem.”
We think the principle is right. Hounds out of blood will do nothing, but well in blood will draw, and hunt, and run; a fox that escapes them is sure to become a good one, and the sooner a bad one is scalped the better. It is a truth too, though it looks like a bull, the more foxes you kill with hounds the more you will have.
AN OLD ONE.
LORD CHESTERFIELD'S (THE NORTHAMPTONSHIRE) HOUNDS AND COUNTRY, CONCLUDED,
A FEW REMARKS ON THE PAST HUNTING SEASON.
Wednesday, March 6th.-Dunchurch was the place of meeting, but a fall of snow put a stop to all prospects of hunting, and the hounds, which had been quartered there the night before, were obliged to return home. A continuation of frost during the remainder of the week completely stopped all field sports, and although the power of the sun on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in some degree dissipated the snow in the middle of the fields, there was a great quantity in the ditches and hedge-rows.
On Monday, March 11th., many persons went to West Haddon, fancying the hounds might arrive towards the middle of the day, but the frost was not sufficiently gone, and the pack did not make its appearancce. It would have been very awkward riding.
The day after Pytchley races was fixed upon for the Steeple-chase, but I was unable to attend it, having a particular engagement fifty miles off; and this also prevented my meeting Lord Chesterfield's hounds on the succeeding day at Sywell Wood, from which place I was informed they had a good run, and killed their fox. Two were found, and the hounds divided, but they were soon got together. There was a very large Field out.
Friday, March 15th.-The hounds met at the ill-fated Dunchurch -as usual a most unpropitious morning, a drenching rain falling till between two and three o'clock. They drew Cooke's gorse, found, and ran past Dunchurch, where they lost him.-Found a second fox at Crick, and ran him about a mile, when he took to the meadows, which were half covered with water, and as a matter of course there was not much chance of killing him.
Saturday, March 16th.-Welford. As the hounds were drawing one patch of gorse on Hamplow Hills, a fox went away from another: they were laid on, and Pug dodged about from one piece of gorse to another for some time; it seemed very like the running of a vixen. He ran into the Plantation, and back again, with two couples of hounds close to his brush, through the piece of gorse where he got up from. As is very usual on such occasions, the hounds did not appear eager to work. When a fox is disturbed, as this one was, without being found by the hounds, and the confusion is increased by the noise of the foot people, hounds are scarcely conscious of what they are to do. However, they were soon got to stoop, and hunted him from the last-mentioned piece of gorse very prettily to Yelvertoft. Being so far over grass, and up-wind, they went a good pace. At Yelvertoft some ploughed land brought them to a check: a cast was made towards the covert, but he had not gone there: a forward cast hit the scent over the canal bridge, and they picked it bit by bit to Winnick, where they lost him. It was a very bad scenting day. Yelvertoft, Stanford, and several other coverts were drawn blank. There were several Leicestershire men out, but not a very large Field.
Very great difficulty exists in describing the celebrated riders in a Hunt when I can have only a few days to form an opinion of them, and to judge from report may frequently produce erroneous opinions. I am perfectly aware, that, generally speaking, a man obtains the greatest celebrity who rides at the fastest pace and over the largest fences, without any consideration for hounds, or what they are about. When fox-hunting was first introduced, the motive for riding was to observe those beautiful events which constantly transpire in a run-the various shifts and stratagems resorted to by one animal, upon the results of which his existence depends, opposed to the sagacity and ardor of another to destroy the victim. Such is not the object with most of the celebrated riding men of the present day: they ride for fame as horsemen, and neither know nor care anything about hounds.
The superiority of Lord Chesterfield's stud has been noticed before. Mounted as he is, His Lordship cannot fail to be with his hounds, and he appears highly delighted when he observes them doing their work well. Being a heavy weight, in such a country as this, it is obvious in a fast run that His Lordship requires a second horse, and not unfrequently a third.
Mr. George Payne, the late Master of the Pytchley Hounds, is as good across the country as any man in Northamptonshire. Having a fine estate, and having spent a great part of his lifetime in it, he possesses the great advantage of knowing the country: he has a good eye to hounds, and rides powerful well-bred horses.
VOL. XIX.-Second Series.-No. 109.
The Hon. Captain Forester, brother to Lady Chesterfield, is perhaps the hardest rider in the county. The Degree which he took in the saddle in his early youth has given him experience beyond that which most men acquire at his age: moreover, his first studies were prosecuted in Shropshire, a county which I have before mentioned as one where there is a great deal of useful knowledge to be obtained on the practical part of the science of riding to hounds.
Mr. Stubbs-(I must designate him, however, by the familiar name by which he is known amongst his friends, or they will not be aware who I mean, Ginger Stubbs)-has long since established his character as a hard rider, and is well known around the metropolis with the Royal Hounds and the various Establishments which hunt the neighbourhood of Surrey: he always secures a place in the front rank. He has been sojourning at Mr. Russell's, at Pitsford, during this winter, and can ride over this severe country with any man. He had the misfortune to get a bad fall the day after the Steeple-chase whilst "larking," which he is very fond of: the fall confined him to the house, but it is to be hoped he will soon get about again.
Mr. Vere Isham may be truly described as a most extraordinary man: he has passed those days when the fire of youth is supposed to give an impetus to ambition; but he can now ride better to hounds than most of his juniors: he has the credit of never over-riding them, which cannot be said of the generality of hard-riding men. It is a most enviable characteristic, and one which cannot be too highly appreciated.
Sir F. L. Goodricke is frequently in this country: he has been so long and so universally known as a hard rider, that it is scarcely necessary to say more than that he is well mounted, and goes much the same
Captain Child is considered very good in a fast thing: he is fond of Steeple-chasing, therefore he is sure to enjoy a run the more if the pace is greater than usual.
The land in Northamptonshire is in general a fine loam, and although there is a good deal under the plough, it generally holds a good scent. The fields are large, and the fences a great many of them yawners: gaps are of rare occurrence, and it is of little use to endeavor to find a weak place whatever may be the nature of the fence at one part of the field will generally be found to prevail at another: many of them consist of a wide ditch, a strong quick hedge, usually denominated a bullfinch, and a flight of rails. There are also a great many brooks, many of which have a hedge on one side, which renders the brook invisible till you are close to it. Plenty of powder is the best material to ensure a safe deliverance on the other side, and with it most of the fences are practicable to a good hunter. The coverts are, generally speaking, composed of gorse and blackthorn: they are consequently very strong. The country appears well stocked with foxes, and they are a good wild sort. So long as Lord Chesterfield continues to hunt it, an abundant supply is certain to be preserved for him. His hounds have killed about forty-five brace up to this time, therefore there is no reason to complain on that score. Derry, like all other huntsmen, insists on the necessity of blood, and he will persevere and kill his fox if