Thursday, 10 April 2014

We had a crafty fox

We had a fox that's crafty, and the hunt they could not catch,

The North Staffs Hunt lawn meeting at Seighford Hall 1960

This went on for couple of seasons, no other fox to match,
Gave them the slip every time, along the brook he walked,
Then back to Moor Covert wood, where he put up and stalked.

Over the years you get to know the wildlife on your own "patch" so to speak, the rabbits at one time, there was literally thousands about, with grass fields along side the woods bare of grass for a hundred yards out.  And its no good growing kale or mangels  anywhere near a rabbit warren, or try to grow oats or wheat unless they were a field or so away. Then Myxomatosis hit the rabbit population and brought then almost to zero.
Pheasants were not too a plenty, as they relied on what they hatched naturally. There was two older men who took the role of game keeper's, and they always kept the Magpies in check as they would take eggs and young poults, some times trapping them and often shooting them, and there did not seem to be many birds of prey about either.
There were never many Badgers about in them days, I've no doubt they would have been kept to reasonable numbers by the keepers.
Foxes seemed to be in good numbers with an earth in most of the larger woods, and an artificial earth in one of our smaller woods, this was always kept open when they were hunting when the natural earths were stopped.
At one time ( it was in the 1960's )there was a crafty fox that dodged the hunt for two or three seasons, he was put up from the Moor Covert wood, his wood, adjoining our fields. This was always the first to be drawn as it was near the railway line and foxes were encouraged to chase westerly direction into the heart of the estate land.
From a vantage point in the village church yard, you could see the top end of this wood, and often see from the distance when the fox had been flushed out, chasing across a field then through a small wood and on across two more fields. By the time all the hounds had started hollering and picking up the scent, the fox was a couple of fields in front of them and the hunt followers on horse back a fields distance behind the hounds.
After a half mile chase, this one fox always turned and headed for the back of the village and paddled along the shallow brook for quite a way then into the house back gardens. From there he turned into a direct route back to his own wood, this took him through the back of Church Farm where I farmed at that time, often going up the stack yard, but more than once came through the farm yard through the cattle and past me while feeding stock.
From there he went through the Church yard and along within twenty or thirty feet of the spectators who witnessed just what he was doing, then another quarter mile back to the Moor Covert.
The hounds lost the scent every time at the brook, and the huntsman was reluctant to let the hounds into the well cultivated gardens to try to pick up the scent again. After five minuets milling about the hunt gave up and went on to draw another wood.
On his outwards run the fox was lobbing along fairly quickly, but on his return run when the hollering hounds went quiet, the fox was doing little more than a slow trot. He would have not run more than a mile each time out.
This was repeated about three times each season, and for more than two seasons, it was thought he must have died of old age, or caught by the hounds inside his own wood, too slow to get away from them.
It got that spectators would talk to the fox, as he passed by them, and a good group go up there especially to see this old fox in action
Hunting has now been banned and no more meets on the village green, it was not too bad a mess on the turf fields where they chased when there were only ten or twenty horses, but towards the end when there was a danger of the hunting ban, it got up to ward a hundred followers. The hunt would encourage most of these to follow lanes and tracks, so as to minimise the damage.
While it was a good spectacle looking from the distance, what with the three or four red jackets and others meticulously turned out in black jackets and light coloured jodhpurs, and the horses highly groomed and newly shod, a greater proportion of then latterly had no idea of how to behave in respecting gates and crops. So thankfully the ban came about, balking the hooray Henry's and the hooray Henrietta's from gathering in huge numbers to parade the fields and tracks. I was always for the hunt and supported them over the years until the number of followers suddenly went up.

 We Had A Crafty Fox

We had a fox that's crafty, and the hunt they could not catch,
This went on for couple of seasons, no other fox to match,
Gave them the slip every time, along the brook he walked,
Then back to Moor Covert wood, where he put up and stalked.

They block the earths the night before, keep fox out on the top,
Then put the hound in at far end, and draw the wood none stop,
Out pops this crafty fox, cross the field through Ash Pit wood, 
On again across some fields, the hounds pick up the cent its good.

Hounds a hollering two fields back, can see from Church Yard hedge,
Fox he disappeared across the back lane, for the brook I pledge,
Walked down stream to the gardens, turning back towards the wood,
Heading up the Church Yard, along by where hunt spectators stood.

Not in any hurry now, trotting back from where he came, 
The hounds have stopped a hollering, and lost the cent again,
Happened every time he's put up, he knew a trick or two,
This crafty fox he must have died, of old age, the hunt he did outdo.

Owd Fred

In fresh snow, of which we don't have very often or for very long, it's always interesting to see the foot prints of hungry wildlife, and where they are going almost invariably looking for food.
Foot print of people, the size of their feet, and how many, and where did they go. It's the same with vehicles with different size tyres and should they really be up there.
The prints in mud which we seem to have for a good proportion of the year, you notice if someone else as been up the lane since you went last, any fresh cattle foot prints, and which way did they go, and are they my cattle that have escaped. Without knowing you have become a tracker

 Tracks Across Fields

Tracks across the fields, and tracks off down the lanes,
In the snow in the mud, fresh tracks still it rains,
Paws n' feet n' hooves n' boots, wheels with grippe tyres,
Big and small, heavy and light, not long then they expire.

Every print has a tale to tell, on who has crossed your path,
See the direction that they went, and if they're causing wrath,
Follow to see where they go, and if they came back that way,
Intruders can see, up to no good, or if they're out to play.

All the prints tell a tale, the pattern they leave behind,
The claws on paws and the gait of the stride aligned, 
There's webbed feet and long toes, belong to who knows,
And there's birds that land, and take off like the crows.

There's cows and there's calves, and horses with shoes,
See how many have passed, that way from the clues,
Tyres leave prints be it bikes or cars, tractors and all,
Speeding and skidding, or getting stuck when they stall.

You can read every where, who's has been up that way,
Prints and tracks tell a tale all and every day,
You may be alone, but someone's been up there,
A crossing of tracks, in the lane be aware.

Owd Fred

The English country gentleman galloping after a fox- -the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

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