with Horse and Hound

James Barclay, ex-MFH

james barclay

This Is Hunting UK: A Pro-Active Voice

james barclayJames Barclay, while Master of the Fitzwilliam Foxhounds (UK) from 1987 to 1999.Where now? This is undoubtedly one of the most frequently asked questions that we huntsmen have to consider during a hunting day. Where had our quarry gone, where to draw next, etc, etc? In this piece, however, I am going to use it in a different context, perhaps the most important one of all, and that is, Where is hunting going now?

Despite our opponents’ belief that they had won the most tremendous victory over us nearly eleven years ago, hunting is still here, and in whatever form it takes, it's popularity has never waned. What a pleasure it is to see people from every angle of society still coming together at a meeting of their local pack of hounds. And why shouldn't they?

We occasionally hear the comments, "It's not like it used to be,” or, “ Look at that lot, they haven't a clue what they are doing!" However, our record says more than that, and there is much to be proud of; but there is one thing for certain and that is we cannot afford to relax for one moment. Pushing our activities under the carpet is not going to help us in the long term. Let us go out and stand up for our beliefs, be keen to share them with those who are interested enough to listen. And there are plenty out there—if we play it correctly—who want to do exactly that.

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A Sporting Tour Through Merry Old…Part 1

IMG 6936Master and huntsman Adam Esom and the South Wold Foxhounds midst the sugar beets in Lincolnshire. / James Barclay photo

Join James Barclay---an ex-Master of five English foxhunts---for a personal and revealing tour of elite hunting establishments through Middle and Eastern England. Part 2 to follow.

This last summer has been one of the busiest for a while with a fair share of weekends spent judging various Puppy Shows, which is always a pleasurable thing to do, but sadly does nothing beneficial for the waistline! It is always nice to look at hounds during their restful period, and we can soon start to gauge what there is coming on from behind the scenes and start to assess the breed’s general standard.

On that note, it is a great relief to see a lot of nice hounds about, as there was a time after that dreaded day in February 2005 when the Hunting Act became law that many packs cut right back to a minimum.  However, to see that confidence returning is most reassuring to all of us who take the breeding of the Foxhound seriously.

Now the time had come to dust off the camera and get out there and firstly to take some early morning pictures of hounds on exercise. This is a wonderful time of year as, given the blessing of some good weather, harvest starts to move, and with those dewy late summer mornings and a hint of mist in the air, our countryside comes to life in a way any true hunting man knows. So visits to Badminton, Belvoir and the Bicester were a particular pleasure this year, as last summer, I had decided to cover most packs in the Eastern Counties as well as the Midlands.

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A Bright Finish to a Challenging Season

summersgill.ds staghounds.barclayHuntsman Donald Summersgill (right) and staff with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds

As I sit and write this on the 6th of May, finally we can say we have had two days of really good weather! The sun is shining, there is not a cloud in the sky, and the birds are in fine voice. A proper English early summer’s day, which even if I say it myself we richly deserve.

However, wherever I look there are fields of oilseed rape at half the height they should be, the wheat and barley crops are as thin as I have ever seen in my lifetime, and, what is more, the weather forecast for the next day or so is for high winds and rain. The rain believe it or not is much needed even after the wettest winter on record, but the wind is something we can well do without. We have just come out of the driest April in nearly a hundred years. Never mind; I hope that you all had a good end to season and that your weather is behaving rather better than ours.

The weather notwithstanding, I think we have come out of this last season pretty well. Having had two fascinating days beagling towards the end of March with the Christchurch and Farley Hill and the Royal Agricultural College, my season came to an end with the Exmoor Foxhounds and the Devon and Somerset Staghounds at the end of April.

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An Introductory Letter from England

puckeridgePhoto by BothSidesPhotography

As our respective seasons come to an end in the northern hemisphere, I would not be sure how the weather has been behaving itself in the US, but here in England and the rest of the UK, we have experienced one of the wettest years on record. Coming on the back of one of the driest in memory it certainly has given Masters and those who are at the very sharp end of hunting considerable challenges in keeping the ‘tamborin a rolling.’ In some areas the season was curtailed by just a few weeks, in others the use of roads and tracks has been an obvious answer. However, the most gratifying aspect of all is to find that our farmers, be they arable men or stockmen, are still the greatest friends to hunting.

Coming from a family who seems to have been involved with the sport for rather a long time has been a privilege to say the least. This is largely due to the very large cross section of people we have worked with, the hounds we have bred, and those vulpine friends of ours who have kept us on our toes for many a year! It has not only been our way of life for four generations of our family, it is far more than that. Hunting seems to be engrained in us, and if you think that as a member of the Barclay family you can escape from it, that I can tell you will not be looked upon as an option!

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