Report From Lancashire Huntsabs.

On Saturday we visited the Blencathra Foxhounds – having heard that they had been meeting at Mungrisedale for the past week, we knew that they would once again finish one of their ‘prestigious’ Carrock weeks by meeting in the area. Visitors from far afield come to watch the hunt illegally killing small animals during Carrock week, staying at the local Mill Inn or at Near Howe holiday cottages.

A local resident informed us that the hound van was seen leaving the kennels at around 8.30am, where it travelled to Near Howe for a coffee morning. When we arrived, supporters had already started positioning themselves east of Eycott Hill, a Cumbria Wildlife Trust area. Huntsman Barry Todhunter obviously intended to get there by hunting through White Moss SSSI and then heading east towards the dribbling ghouls who were waiting. However, his plan was foiled by our presence, and he resorted in desperation to his usual Plan B, heading west to the car park at the top of Swineside. Our spotter on Bowescale Fell was able to convey this information to us from their vantage point. Presumably the hunt had laid several emergency trails just in case they had to change their route. As usual, hunt vehicles blocked the road to deny sabs access to the area, but foot sabs were able to get through. Other foot sabs travelled round to the Blencathra Centre and made their way on foot towards Swineside, effectively cutting off any plans for Todhunter to hunt the wide area within the sabs view.

Todhunter had moved quickly along the Cumbria Way to escape sabs and was forced towards Coombe Heights, where he disappeared and stayed hidden. Hounds were kept quiet all day, and bemused support were left without the gory spectacle that some of them had travelled miles to see. He made his way along the Cumbria Way under Great Lingy Hill and headed east towards the top of Carrock where he hoped to put on some sort of show for the supporters, however sabs made their way up Carrock and he was forced to move on again, this time onto LDNPA land, on a day that the Blencathra wasn’t licensed for.

At the end of the day, feeling thoroughly humiliated, Todhunter as usual did not want to be seen descending the fell by sabs – support began to line the Calebreck road and the hound van was driven down Swineside in an attempt to pick up the embarrassed huntsman and his hounds, but one of the sab vehicles also got there, parking next to Larry Slattery, who has become very camera shy since he retired as joint master (coincidentally, this followed an incident where a fox was seen being pursued by hounds into a reservoir, where it was killed by the hounds.) Hunt support attempted to block the sab car in but failed, as other hunt support radioed the hound van and told them to take another detour to avoid the sabs. The hound van then had to drive around to Wood Hall we believe, as the sab car was once again blocked by support vehicles.

For a hunt that claims to be following a trail, the Blencathra act in desperation to avoid being filmed. They allocate at least 12 of their supporters to follow sabs, either on foot or in cars, radioing Todhunter constantly so that he can escape whenever sabs are near. Shrek-alike James Robinson is always on hand with the quad bike to whisk the ailing huntsman across the fell tops and away from sabs, so Todhunter probably spends more time on his son-in-law-cum-terrierman’s quad than he does on foot.

Here’s a report from a new sab –

‘I was unsure what to expect when I went out sabbing for the first time. I was excited to start helping to protect our wildlife, but I was also worried about confrontations with angry huntsmen and hunt supporters or, even worse, seeing a fox being killed. As it turned out, none of my fears came true. While there were a few nasty comments from hunt supporters, with lovely supportive sabs behind you and the knowledge that you’re doing the right thing, you can brush it off extremely quickly. And while we did spot the hounds once they never went into cry, so thankfully no foxes were killed.

Something that did surprise me was how desperate the hunt was to avoid us. We walked almost 10 miles across the lakes trying to locate them, while another group of sabs was searching from the other side. Not only that, they also sent out what can only be described as spies to (not so discretely) lurk around keeping an eye on us. The fact that they are able to move about at whim and are so intent on hiding their activities from us proves that they cannot be trail hunting.

Seeing first-hand the tricks hunters will use to continue their vile illegal hobby, and how much it ruins their day when we stop them, made the long trek across the fells very worth it. I’ll definitely keep sabbing!’

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