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o'clock to their friends, "what a fool you are to ride so!"
There has been a piebald gentleman in this line, who has triumphantly reigned through this season. I shall say something more of him hereafter; but one word now. If he prove a good stallion, I hope he will inspire a little more straight-forward blood into his get. Upon second thoughts I will not postpone the matter, for thus he behaved on the 1st of March. He slipped away from one of the Sacombe Park Springs; but, being viewed instantly, the hounds were very quickly laid on, and for twenty-five minutes they had so sharp a burst as only two or three of the toppers could possibly catch a sight of. At the moment of starting, the bourne, or gully, which runs through this district, brought every body to a check it was quickly crossed by two or three of the ready ones. I, in the rear, could not catch; but I could just see a grey, a strong bay, and a dingy dun, with a chesnut, well placed in the race. This was to the farthest of the rough pastures; and if the scent and speed of the hounds had not been quite so flying, I think the short turn that brought the tail in, and saved Harlequin's life, would not have happened. He then set his head homewards, changing his mind by degrees, going straight over White Hills, and across the commons to the Lordship Wood. Here he appeared to think of mending his manners, and we were all shying for St. John's; but turning away at Munden Parsonage, he flew through the adjoining, and up to Coombe Wood, forming the extent of his round; turned short back; crossed the green meadows, and just skirted Munden village; took the Springs in a line back to
the Park; just touched the corner, keeping direct to Wade's Wood, which he was seen to leave by Mr. · Hanbury's servants on the opposite hill. Up to Coombe Wood the pace was more than huntingfine chasing, but not bursting. After that, it gradually declined, not from want of stoutness in the hounds, but from their fox getting more a head, and running over foiled ground. From Wade's Wood he touched the high road within a field of High Cross; turned to the brick-kilns at Old Hall; and near that spot, after a two hours' turn, four o'clock and thoughts of enough finished the day.-(A repetition of two other fine runs, to strangers better than to us, because to them ringing is not so evident.)-There were a number of visitors out, many of whom rode well. After the first burst all the old and good ones took their usual places. record names, without giving all, would not be justice-like; so, my fine fellows, read the chase, and fancy yourselves first!
I don't mean in this cast of reflections to odiumise St. John's, Throcking, and away to Clothall Bury. My survey leaves stony hills and labyrinth lines short of the first fine covert-one at which all Hertfordshire men brighten up their looks. This is a fine part of the Hunt, and of some extent--very distinct from the other, and always supplying plenty of foxes, and not bad runners. No wood has given more fine runs than St. John's. It has an attractive power to a fox, rarely being drawn blank. Lord Essex, its owner, has ever been an active prescrver for his brother sportsmen. It lies ten miles N.W. of Ware.
Farther on come Clothall and the Wallington Springs, forming a
ridge in face of the open country, with Baldock and Bedfordshire on the left, and Cambridgeshire on the right. What native heart has not thrilled to hear a fox-hound at Quick Wood, and a distant halloo to Bygrave! It is four miles to this insulated covert, all open field, and many a burst I have rode to it; but the runs are in a series of years but few that have occurred over this country. I have known of three or four in thirty years, quite into Bedfordshire, and have been at six o'clock at night at Potton Wood myself.
In the early part of this season they found, I believe, (for I was not present,) in Clothall Bury. He flew directly through the Springs, with a streaming scent, and faced the open without a turn. They never checked for one moment, and conquered their fox in a run of eight miles straight, catching him in a small plantation just beyond Odsey Heath in a trifle over forty minutes. The last two or three miles they saw him sinking, with the hounds improving; and I will venture to say, neither Beckford, nor Meynell, nor Tom Smith, nor Osbaldeston, nor even NIMROD himself, could ask for more. It has been described to me by capital judges-some friendly, and one or two satirical ones (having a taste for cockney slander); and they agree, one and all, a finer thing was never rode nor seen, nor could any hounds carry a better head. This was only an entry to a series of fine runs, some of which you shall have in their proper place; but (as if I was hunting) to draw
I now go to Westay, Sandon Row, back to Friars, Bradfield, and Throcking-a chain of fine coverts, and commanding a stream
ing country both right and left; either returning by Moor Hall, towards St. John's; or taking the other line to Hyde Hall, Five Houses, and over the road to Capons. This embraces generally the western side of the high road.
There is one wood I have only named as a boundary, which was famous in olden times--Box Wood: it is too old a friend not to give a nod to. The country is bad if you go into stranger land; but looking, and riding as you look-northerly and easterly-it makes a man think of taking his own line, and keeping it. It is occasionally drawn by the Salisbury hounds, more to keep alive their right, than wishing to intrude: on the whole it is more domesticated with ours. I have often seen horses, blooming at the beautiful meet at the top of the hill, looking very differently two hours after at Clothall, Friars, or St. John's.
We had a pretty skurry on Saturday, March 7, after meeting there from one of the Chesterfield Springs (close at hand). The whipper knew of a bye-earth; and, doubtful of its being stopped, just got upon the edge, when pug appeared, and absolutely suffered the whip more than once to touch him before he would leave home and break. He then slipped behind the hounds, and set his head straight for Bramfield Park, taking Box Wood, Hyde Hall, and the edge of Aston Bury; left our country, and with that left us behind-an extremely pretty thing for thirty minutes. But the sun then shone, and away went scent, and away went fox. The hounds were blown at the first check, and I think George was too.
Having mentioned Capons, I must just give a word of that dis
trict, lying between the two roads, before I speak of the Essex side of the country. This is a magnificent covert, about two miles to the right of Buntingford; has ever been a most valuable head of earths for breeding; and, in recording books, been subject matter of some of the finest runs in the country. I have heard Mr. Bell (one of the oldest Hertfordshire sportsmen of this day) say that his journal presents histories of more fine runs from this wood than any other. Of late years it has not been so fertile. Oh shooting! shooting! it is all owing to pheasants! Fly which ever way he may, a fox can't go wrong. Have but a scent, and if you don't cry peccavi, or your horse, it matters not which, before you can reach tracts of coverts, or chance of changing, or change of soil, I doff my hat to you. Placing myself once more at Puckeridge, I must now talk of other appearances and characters --a field I confess more congenial to my own particular taste; and teeming altogether with more bold and of wilder features. I will leave what I call the home district from Esly Park, near Ware, to Standon-the interior of which is nearly allied to its opposite neighbour, of Munden breed.
To begin with one of our meets the village of Darsell, about the thirty-mile stone, on the Barkway road, for Turks Wood, Hormead Park, and so on-leaving Hadham to take care of itself, with all its bothering springs and turn-about gentry in them. I beg of any of my readers who know it as well as I do, to take a glance from Turks to Albury-across to Hadham Park-perhaps (which I can never forget) to Maddoms, and even to Littly one way or the other-to
Hormead, through the Pelhams to Bearden Park, Battles Wood, to Broom, at the edge of the Newmarket road-or with a wider wheel to the left, take Beeches, and shoot away at once smack to Scales Park, and the whole of that wild track-I say, cast your eye over this panorama, and then make your choice for a fine run, over large fields, through a country not over-peopled-over fences strong, but something to look at-with ditches for horses to see-over ploughed land certainly-but all alike, deep at times, but always sounder than a loose gravel with clay-and, if no atmospherical carrying prevails, always giving fine scent. It matters not to me how you will direct the pencil for a fifty minutes' chase-for if you can ride, you may choose your own way, and see as much or as little of it as you please. It must not be for less than an hour, or you would not do justice to my excellent breed of foxes, nurtured and watched with anxious care in Hormead Park, with my friend John Chapman for one keeper, and the right-hearted Mr. Barnet for the other. There must be a charm in nature: it is a spell over one's blood, born in its birth, that binds one to native soil and climate. This I suppose gives my enthusiasm in thinking and speaking of this district-Bearden Park! It makes my heart beat to write it-and a run to it, or from it, in any part of this country to any given point-all of which I have rode over--is not to be excelled in any ploughed country in England.
This beautiful covert has become a victim of fashion, and another victim to the taste of battueing. I remember when it was the wildest of the wild, never entered but by
fox-hounds--impassible to a horsewith four or five-year olds lying all over it, and never failing to hold a fox that wanted all the stout callings to kill him. Now, there's a fine ride in it! Now, pheasant shooters for ever! School boys at Christmas rabbit hunting! and this at Bearden Park!! profanation!!! You may draw and draw, and hope and hope; one little corner looks like peaceful rest; all other parts cut up-NO FOX!-and you stroll down the green ride by the side dejected and forlorn! at least it was so with me, and not long ago! This is a comparison of old days with younger ones; but the latter come not out in despair: for this year some capital runs have occurred from it-of which you shall hear anon; and it is pleasant to bear record, that, though the wood be altered in face and keeping, yet that its visitors inherit the spirit and game of its old air and climate. The proximity of the situation to the large tract of woodlands, taking Scales Park as the head, must always supply it with good foxes. It is from these districts -districts in which a man may easily lose himself-that the best blood emanates. They want force and scent at first to drive them; but when a pack of hounds gets well settled to a woodland fox, he is sure to fly; and he is as sure to give them a lesson to keep steady, and reserve all their force and speed to catch him. This is an immense covert, and surrounded by companions of no less growth. In my early days it was my pride to go to Scales; and to go when half the world were afraid of it-afraid they should never get home again. It was generally hunted in the middle of the week therefore, and generally too in the spring of the
year, to save the more valued countries. It has its treats and its defeats-as all other big objects have. I have known both often and often: worried with bad scent and many foxes; charmed with a brilliant find, and intoxicated at a break through Chrysall, and over the open; been left with a tired horse, and never out of the infernal rides ; and been left with a tired horse, after some as fine runs, with whohoop at the end, as ever were seen. All this I have known-and one thing more worth hearing, and I have done. I saw from this wood one of the longest chases ever known in Hertfordshire on a 9th of April, which you shall have an account of in my next-and from my friend Bell's journal-who was one of six or seven who rode it.
The tract of these woodlands is great; consisting of Scales Park, the Claverings, Chrysall, Rofay, High Wood, and Rockalls, besides collaterals. They have ever been a
valuable resorting depôt for young hounds, and a great assistant when supplies run short in the best countries. No country devoted to fox-hounds has been so invariably preserved, speaking generally by all the proprietors, as for this Hunt; nor do I believe an avowed enemy exists even in these days of temptation. But all promises and all friendly intentions vanish, when long tails and green coats reign together; and if a fox should be by chance seen in a trap in a battue-day, a blind eye is immediately turned towards it, and no farther observation made than “Hie on, Rover !" These remarks thrust themselves upon me, after knowing this particular chain has been drawn blank more than once this year. I remember Tom Hubbard's saying well, one day in
one of these woods, more than twenty years since," they have brought them there pheasants into the country; we shan't soon have no more foxes!" He was a superb huntsman, to be talked of by and bye.
It really is grievous to have such a beautiful district as this barren; besides its being, or ought to be, as it were a warren to the whole Hunt-it is so finely situate for capital sport. From Scales to Bearden-from Rockalls or High Wood to Broom-or from Claverings or Pond Bottoms to Capons or a chevy through Rofay, Chrysall, to the How, and, perhaps, over to Pounce Wood-these have been and why not again?-but not without foxes!
This chain runs in a line from the village of Barkway on the Cambridge road, to within a short distance of Audley End, the seat of Lord Braybrook; some part of which is in his manor; others be long to Mr. Wilkes, of Toftsboth of whom are in high keeping of character as preservers of game. Foxes and they, therefore, it cannot be said, are in friendship's bonds.
I have now described the largest division of the Hunt; but there is still another, which may be called an outsider of a fine character, entirely in the county of Essex. Before I touch on this, Audley-End House, that fine oldfashioned mansion, which displays itself in picturesque beauty close under Saffron Walden, and seen to great advantage from the New market road at about the fortymile stone, brings to my recollection an extraordinary anecdote of fox-hunting: and, as variety is always pleasing, I will stay my map drawing, and tell you of a circum
stance-a preserved record-well bound.
Many years ago (I forget the period), one evening as the keepers were returning from shooting, they heard hounds running in Balsam Wood, to the left of Walden town. Knowing that their own pack, kept at that time by Lord Suffolk, were not out on that day, with the lateness of the hour, they returned to the covert, and shortly fell in, with a hurdle of hounds, tired, although still holding a scent; at last they were caught, quite exhausted, and brought home. The letter O on the side puzzled all the sportsmen of the neighbourhood, and it was some time before the mystery was unravelled. At length, it was discovered (through an advertisement) that a pack of hounds, kept in the low part of Kent-and by one of the ancestors of that capital sportsman, Sir Harry Oxenden of the present day-had found a fox in the woods of Lord Darnley; and, after a bustling run, lost him in the vicinity of Gravesend. three hounds before us brought the fox, however, across the Thames; and, wonderful to relate, must have held a scent on, through the whole county of Essex, to the spot where they were found-more than sixty miles, as crows fly! Whether they changed their fox or not is immaterial; the fact is no less extraordinary than true-and it proves, in a remarkable manner, what perseverance, what uncommon powers of lasting with tip-top blood they must have possessed. Lord Suffolk's hounds drew Balsam the next morning, and found the tired fox, which they killed in a few minutes. The late Mr. Thomas Pennystone (Steward of Audley) knew this fact, and I have heard