Heads down, they set to work methodically drawing away from us. Their huntsman, Tony Wright, quietly rode beside them. Unbound by occasion, these hounds are granted the luxury of all the time in the world to do themselves justice.
There was no whipper-in, just a handful of very hardy riders wrapped up against gale-force winds and forecasted heavy showers. A brave rainbow shimmered on the horizon and within its silhouette deceit of golden plover lifted ahead of hounds, swirling as though it was a still summer’s day despite the wind taking away our breath. We crossed the road to Holcombe Burrows where this end of the coombe kept out the wind so seemed eerily silent. At last, a chance to catch up with the subscribers. Nearly all were former masters.
Mark Sprake, Old Surrey, and Burstow ex-master spoke effusively about sport. Simon Richards, a vet, and his wife Pauline relinquished the helm of the thrusting Warwickshire country for the vagaries of Exmoor just last season. Pauline was away for the Dulverton West’s opening meet but former MFH Simon was more than happy in quieter company.
Charmian Green, fellow ex-Warwickshire master, follows in her car. She held office with the Exmoor from 1989 to 1990, which was sandwiched between her exemplary mastership at the Warwickshire from 1981 to 1989 and 1990 to 2018.
Felicita Busby is another lady not easily swayed in her principles or etiquette on the hunting field. Both are protégées of Capt Ronnie Wallace – well known for singling out and fostering those he felt were destined to keep foxhunting on the true path.
Felicita has been in the mastership here since 1993. She was joined in 2009 by Angela Ingram – herself an ex-master of the East Sussex and Romney Marsh. Unfortunately, a sore back kept her in the dry that morning.
And so the close-knit connections continued: Helen and Paul Martin live near kennels but move in the new year to help at the Western. Carolyn Keeling was out on her daughter’s cob. She is well known in the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ country where her partner Geoff Peters held office.
Always just out of touch – a step ahead of everyone else – is Peter Lyster. This gentleman, at 85, has followed hounds since the 1960s. He was part of the 1970s infamous Meynell mastership with Dermot Kelly and Capt Drury-Lowe. There he was one of the fastest men across the country; not much has changed nigh-on half a century later.
AN INVISIBLE CONNECTION
PETER thinks nothing of driving from Cambridgeshire; subscribers commute from all over the country. Most keep their hunters at White Horse Yard in Exford with Rebecca Branton.
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