A Piece from the Past
This article was written by the then Joint Masters Neil Wates and Nigel Budd, founders of the Coakham Bloodhounds, back in 1979.
With the advent of motorways and the intensification of agriculture many parts of England, particularly in the South East, are becoming difficult if not impossible for foxhounds to hunt effectively. More and more 'no go' Hunt areas are springing up which foxes can enter freely but hounds and followers venture into at their peril.
The demand to enjoy the ancient sport of riding to hounds continues to increase whilst the capacity of the country-side to meet it decreases. We therefore felt that there was a creative opportunity to found a new Hunt in the South East which would combine all the arts of venery together with a controllable quarry.
We looked at various possibilities before finalising on hunting 'the clean boot' - i.e. the unadulterated human scent - with crossbred bloodhounds. Basically we feel that this is the least artificial method of hunting organised quarry. We derive great pleasure from watching - and listening to - bloodhounds at work: but the pure bloodhound is a noted individualist very difficult to pack and rather too slow in open country. We therefore chose a bloodhound crossed fellhound which has far greater speed, remarkably improved jumping ability and yet keeps the deep voice and marvelous scenting powers of the pure bloodhound. Having started in 1976 with 21/2 couple we now have seven couple of entered hounds and 16 unentered puppies.
Our season opens in late September: we hunt three days a fortnight - Sundays and alternate Thursdays. A typical day will start at 1.30pm and will consist of three hunts of up to five miles each. We usually work with the same quarry - an experienced cross-country runner - and only one member of the field usually will know the route he has taken. Ideally this person is not the Huntsman but it is essential that one person does know the route since should the hounds lose the scent completely we can scarcely go and draw the next wood in the hope of flushing out an unsuspecting hiker!
Our overall objective is to provide our mounted followers with the traditional thrill of riding across natural country behind a driving pack of hounds, to provide our foot-followers with an exciting view of the same and to treat our farming hosts with that same knowledgeable consideration and courtesy that their generosity demands of every hunting man.