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Full text of "Staghunting, with the "Devon and Somerset," 1887-1901 : an account of the chase of the wild red deer on Exmoor"

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TUFTS UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 




9090 014 534 966 



Webster Family Library of Veterinary i\^edicine 
Cummings School of Veterinary fvledicine at 
Tufts University 
200 Westboro Road 



^ 



STAGHUNTING 

WITH THE 

"DEVON AND SOMERSET. 




Hlxgrv Times. 



STAGnmTING 

^ WITH THE "p 

"PEVO/i-'SOi^ERSET' 

AN ACjCOVMT op 
THE CftASE OF TTiE 

WILD RJ&D DEBR 

BY 

PHIUP EVERED. 

ILLV^TRATED BY hi.M. I.O/AAS 



Cn/lTTOi^WINDVS j JAMES OCQMMIJ^ 
LOAIDO/N. EXETER 

^■r^ 1902 ^^ 



Contents. 



CHAPTER I. 

Introductory. — The Chase as it appears to-day — A Galloping 
Camera — How the Tyro gets entered to the Sport — 
Where the Tripod Fails — The Loneliness of Exmoor — 
Asking the Way. 

CHAPTER II. 

The Opening Meet at Cloutsham^-The Concourse on 
Cloutsham Ball — The Parade in the Field — Notable 
Figures — The Master and His Staff— Kennelling at 
Cloutsham Farm — The Day's Proceedings — The Taking 
of the Stag. 

CHAPTER III. 

The Dulverton Side of the Country — Winsford — Tufting in 
the Exe Valley— The Big Rivers— Haddon Hill— The 
Harbourer's Cottage — Hartford Mill — Bittescombe — 
Chipstable — Molland Moor — Bury Village — A Pool in 
the Haddeo. 

CHAPTER IV. 

Dunkery — How the Moor Rides — The Graveyard — Fog 
Frost and Snow — The Moorland Streams — The Horner 
Woods in Winter — Luccombe Allers — The Cutcombe 
Coverts — Sweetery and Bagley. 



X Staghunting with the 

CHAPTER V. 

Mr. Basset's and Colonel Hornby's Great Runs — A Memorable 
By-day on the Forest — From Haddon to Wheal Eliza. 

CHAPTER VI. 

The Black Stag of Badgworthy — From Black Pitts to Bratton 
Court — The Great Quantock Stag —The Oldest Stag on 
Record — From Oare to Bratton Fleming — Mr. Sanders' 
First Big Stag — The Opening Day of 1895 — From 
Popham Wood to Badgworthy — Eighteen Miles on the 
South Forest — The Great " Nott " Stag — A Run from 
Hawkcombe Head. 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Run of Half a Century — From Hawkridge to Glen- 
thorne — A Stag's Soliloquy — The Opening Day of 
1900 — -Brendon Hill and Ehvorthy. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

The Boldness of Exmoor Deer — Their Noiseless Tread — 
The Tufting Pony — Dust — The Madding Crowd — The 
Countisbury Clifts — Sunset on the Sea. 

CHAPTER IX. 

Dunster — Hunting in Hot Weather — A Dream of the Past — 
View Holloas — Another Graveyard — An Extraordinary 
Trophy — Porlock Weir — The Boat — Sheepkilling — 
Drowning at Sea — The Senior Pack. 



Devon and Somerset. xi 

CHAPTER X. 

Remarkable Heads — The Record Weig-ht — Souvenirs of 
the Chase — Takings a Stag" — The Severn Sea — Beacon 
Fires — Horner Mill Wheel — Venison — The Rutting 
Season — Crippled Deer — Slotting — Warrantable or 
Otherwise — North Hill — Black Game. 

CHAPTER XL 

On the Moor — Unkennelling — Kickers — Off at Last — The 
Sounds of the Chase — The Deerpark — The Water Slide — 
Awkward Paths — Point to Point Races. 

CHAPTER XII. 

Culbone Plain^The Deer Fence — Devices for Protecting- 
Crops from Deer — Nig-ht Watching- — The Tiverton Stag-- 
hounds — The Quantock Staghounds — The Barnstaple 
Country — The Stowey Road — A Chase on the 
Quantocks — Over the Cliffs — " Trugg- Rich" — The 
Watchet Hind. 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Increased Speed — Blanching a Stag — Slowley Wood — Kings- 
bridg-e — The Mineral Railway — The Steart Stag- — Tame 
Deer — Ways and Means — The Venison Feasts^ — Time- 
Honoured Customs. 



List of Illustrations. 



Chiefly from Photographs 

by Mr. H. M. Lomas, including a few by Mr. G. M. C. Lr.'^RD. 

The whole from blocks by the Art Reproduction Co. 



1. Hungry Times ... .. Frontispiece. 

2. Horner ... ... ... P^ge 2. 

3. Drawing out the Tufters ... ... 3. 

4. Tufting on Winsford Hill ... ... 8. 

5. Sno7v Clouds over B ration Ball ... ... 14. 

6. On Haddon Hill ... ... * 16. 

7. Meet at Venniford Cross ... ... 18. 

8. On the Culbone Road ... ... 19. 

9. ^^ Hounds, Please'" ... ... ... 24. 

10. Kennelling the Pack, Cloiitsham ... 28. 

11. Anthony Huxtable ... ... ... 34. 

12. Sidney Tucker on Horner Hill ... 38. 

13. Parsonage Side ... ... ... 43. 

14. Meet at Chilly Bridge ... ... 44. 

15. Horner Stream ... ... ... 45. 

16. Winsford ... ... ... 50. 

17. Coming over Dunkery... ... ... 54. 

18. Stag going up Horner Water ... 58. 

19. Jim Wensley ... ... ... 64. 

20. Bury Ford ... ... ... 68. 

21. " /y She There?''' ... ... ... 71. 

22. The Graveyard, Dunkery ... ... 72. 



XIV. 



List of Illustrations. 



23. Boggy Place on Diinkery ... p^^g*^ 

24. Horner Woods — Viera towards Dunkery 

25. Waiting for the Pack on Stoke Ridge 

26. Meet near Culbone Stables ... 

27. All Ready to Begin 

28. Badgworthy Wood 

29. The Pack at Cloufsham 

30. Culbone Stables: Anthony rides off ivith Tuftcrs 

31. Near West Anstey 
T^2. Men with Dead Stag 
Z2\- ./"-^'^ Killed 

34. Lankcombe 

35. The St. Audries Head 

36. Cloutshani Ball from Webber s Post 

37. Lord Ebrington brings out the Pack to Lay On 

38. The Master arid A?ithony on Stoke Ridge 

39. ^^ Going to Rouse Him'' 

40. Croydon Hill 

41. On the Way to Luccombe 

42. Near Whitstones — G. Barwick and J. P. Goddard 

43. The Late Mr. Joshua Clarke 

44. The Porlock Weir Boat 

45. Labourers with Dead Stag ... 

46. Waiting for the Stag under Countisbury Foreland 

47. At Porlock Weir 

48. The Meet — Dunster 

49. Hounds are Quarrelsome To-Day 

50. Lard Ebrington and others on Porlock Weir ... 

51. Fishermen with Stag after Kill — Porlock Jl'cir 

52. Dead Stag: Hurlstone Point in Distance 

53. The End of a Good Run — Minehead Cliffs 



73- 
87. 
92. 
94. 

95- 
[02. 

[06. 

18. 

30- 

:35- 
56. 

Ti- 

[60. 
169. 
78. 
[88. 
[90. 
[91. 
202. 
222. 
223. 
230. 
238. 

243- 
244. 

245- 
252. 
258. 
264. 
268. 



List of Illustrations. xv. 

54. Horner Water ... ... P<^g^ 274. 

55. 77?t' Pack Running ... ... 276. 

56. They Have Him! ... ... ... 277. 

57. T/ie Water in the Valley ... ... 278. 

58. T/ie Coup de Grace ... ... ... 286. 

59. A Crippled Deer takes to Water in the Bray 296. 

60. What has becotne of the Field? ... ... 306. 

61. Full Cry over Dunkery ... ... 308. 

62. Anthony's Last Hind — April, igoi ... 309. 

63. Unkennelling- at Ley Farm ... 314. 

64. A Kill in the Doone Valley ... ... 324. 

65. The Anchor Hotel, Porlock ... ... 328. 

66. Ashley Combe ... ... ... 330. 

67. Water Slide in the Doone Valley ... 331. 

68. Mountsey Hill Gate ... ... ... 340. 

69. A Check ... ... ... 348. 

70. " Trugg'' will Soon be Here ... ... 354. 

71. Meet near Venniford ... ... 358. 

72. The Meet at Slowley ... ... ... 360. 

73. A Pool in the Haddeo ... ... 361. 

74. Kingsbridge ... ... ... 370. 




Horner. 



CHAPTER I. 

Introductory. 

The Chase as it appears to-day — A Galloping Camera — 
How THE Tyro gets entered to the Sport — Where 
THE Tripod fails — The Loneliness of Exmoor — 
Asking the Way. 



The present work 
is an attempt by- 
col labor at ion of 
the camera and the 
pen, to reproduce 
some of those de- 
1 i g h t f u 1 scenes 
which fall to the 
lot of the favoured 
few who pursue 
the wild red deer 
of West Somerset 
and North Devon. 
The classics of 
staghunting on Exmoor, CoUyns' " Chase of the 
Wild Red Deer," and "Fortescue on Staghunting," 
have brought the general reader well acquainted 
with the history and origin of this noble sport, 
and the latter author's charming *' Story of a Red 




4 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Deer" has touched a chord which appeals to all 
the lovers of the moor and its wild streams and 
woodlands ; but a description of modern stag- 
hunting, as it survives to-day, has so far remained 
unattempted, except in the columns of the papers, 
wherein the object is rather to detail the course 
of each particular run, than to lead the reader 
through the most beautiful scenerv of the wild 
West Country, and amongst the most stirring 
nioments of the chase. 

The ditticulties of obtaining satisfactorv studies 
•of the more interesting phases of such a sport as 
this have only been surmounted by repeated effort 
and much persistence, the hazv atmosphere of 
the moor, the exceedingly rough and rugged 
nature of the ground to be traversed, and that 
at a high rate of speed, and the natural craft 
of the noble animal pursued, have all militated 
against the successful use of the camera. While 
the ordeal by photograph has become more and 
more familiar to all hunt oi'hcials of recent years, 
and while every voung lady's album contains 
snap-shot groups taken at the meets, it is the 
endeavour of the author of the present volume 
to describe mainly those scenes when the long- 
legged tripod and the kodak alike are far away 
and "the hunt is up." 

The Editor of Coiiiifry Life has pioneered 
the way in reproducing scenes of the Devon and 
Somerset Staghounds in motion, and to his kind 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 5 

permission is due the introduction of a few of 
the illustrations of the field in motion. While 
the ancient canons of the sport are as far as 
possible rigidly adhered to, the conditions of 
modern staghunting are in many respects vastly 
different to those under which IVlr. Bisset, of 
famous memory, pursued his deer. 

For several years past a superabundant herd, 
and the hard times experienced by the hill 
country farmers, have made it a matter of 
absolute necessity to take as many deer as 
possible with hounds, in order to save them 
and their companions from a much crueller fate, 
so destructive are their ravages among the scanty 
crops when urged by cold and hunger in the 
long mid-winter nights. Similar causes have in 
other times, and where there was no powerful 
and wealthy organization to avert disaster, led 
to the extermination of historic herds of red 
deer, but the combined efforts of the original 
pack and that of Sir John Heathcote Amory, 
appear to be fully equal to the requirements of 
the present time on Exmoor, supplemented, as 
they will be, by an ancillary establishment upon the 
Ouantocks and possibly by another at Barnstaple. 

A steady improvement m the type of horse 
ridden by the visitors who flock to Exmoor in 
the late summer and autumn makes the front 
rank fuller from year to year, and where the 
going is good and when scent is indifferent, it 



6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

is indeed a difficult task for a master to obtain 
and keep sufficient room for his pack, in which 
to hunt the foil of their nimble and wily quarry, 
and to puzzle out his numerous twists and turns 
on the sun-baked heather, or amongst the stony 
tracks and intricate paths of some hot and airless 
woodland. When once the tyro has mastered 
the initial difficulties of the sport his interest is 
aroused by the moorcraft and woodcraft dis- 
played, or at any rate constantly exercised by the 
harbourer and huntsman, the whipper-in and 
the many others who play subsidiary parts in 
the long drama of an autumn day's staghunting, 
and if he be something more than one of those 
who at all times only hunt to ride, he will 
endeavour to see what he can of those parts of 
the day's doings that involve the most science 
and call out the most skilful manoeuvres on the 
part of those providing his entertainment. 

Of the harbouring he naturally can see little 
and hear less, since it has necessarily to be 
performed at uncanny hours, and its result kept 
private, lest there should be a rush of footpeople 
to the lair of the harboured stag and a con- 
sequent destruction of all chance of sport for 
the day. 

Of the process of tufting he will endeavour 
to see what little he can, from some hill-top or 
other coign of vantage sufficiently distant from 
the huntsman to make it quite certain that no 




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5-H 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 9 

harm can be done by his presence, and in this 
as in some other matters he will find it a vast 
assistance if he can enlist the good offices of 
one of those local sportsmen, and they are not 
numerous, who really know their way over the 
country, and at the same time understand what 
hounds are doing and what the huntsman's object 
is likelv to be. 

It is indeed surprising at how great a distance 
the slightest sign will be read aright by the 
trained evesight of such a pilot, or from how far 
his practised ear will detect the faint echo of the 
horn amongst the dense green woodlands, while 
a print in the soil of a bridle-path or a splash 
on a waterside stone will convey to him no end 
of useful information. 

When the tufting has ended and the master's 
horn has blown the signal that lets loose the 
eager pack, he will take care to get as near as 
he can to the actual scene of the lav on, no easy 
matter amongst a hurrying August held. He will 
recognise, if the present volume should reach 
his hands, some of the scenes which met his 
interested gaze in the last autumn of the nine- 
teenth century : the kennelling of the pack, the 
trotting out to draw with the tufters, the stopping 
of the same, the bringing on of the pack, and 
the pursuit of it by himself and others over 
undulating plains of heath, with steep hillside 
paths and woodland rides to follow. 



10 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

After this he will come upon some closing 
scenes, where the gallant quarry betook himself 
at last to the only refuge left him, the cooling 
stream, or the deep salt waters of the Severn 
sea. On the banks of Badgworthy, beloved of 
honeymooning couples, he will recognise the 
boulder beside which a stout forest stag breathed 
his last, and again on the pebble beach at 
Porlock Weir he will hear his spurs clinking 
as he scrambled down to see what manner of 
head the stag bore that the boat's crew were 
bringing in with such pride from the waters of 
the bay, 

Exmoor in its way is a countrv of magnificent 
distances, that often indeed seem much greater 
than they really are, bv reason of the Norwegian 
sort of atmosphere that generally prevails over all 
the wettest and boggiest expanses, and it is just 
those distances and the gloomy light that prevent 
so many a thrilling episode from becoming 
printed historv. 

Some dav, perhaps, it may become possible 
to obtain a sun picture of one's dearest friend 
parting company hurriedly from his horse, the 
first bound of an antlered monarch of the moor 
as he leaps in alarm from his lair amongst the 
tall green ferns, the sweep of ear and stern as 
the pack drives across the plains of heath, or 
the expressions on the faces of the field, as they 
come suddenly and in haste upon soft ground. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. ii 

While the earHer scenes of the chase are 
seen to more or less advantage by the greater 
proportion of the mounted field, and by many 
a score of the more enterprising of those attend- 
ing the picnic meets on foot or on wheels, it 
is what happens later on that has a more special 
interest for those who for one reason or another 
cannot be actually in the front rank. When the 
great eager hounds have streamed away over the 
purple plains of heather at Langcombe Head, 
when the long extended line of bobbing heads 
has passed and gone beyond the distant skyline, 
the twang of the horn has evaded the reach of 
the keenest ear, the drumming of a thousand 
steel shod hoofs on the sunbaked peaty soil can 
be heard no longer, it is then that the many 
who are left behind, and the many who still 
ride the chase by the aid of memory, would fain 
see what is happening, as the old, old contest 
goes on between cervine speed and craft and 
endurance on the one hand, and the hounds' 
wondrous instinct coupled with human skill on 
the other. 

From hill-top to combe and from splashing 
ford to lonely wilderness of grass and fern, by 
lane and field and woodland to tumbling river 
and deep rocky pool, the chase goes on. A 
gleam of sunlight between the soft grey moor- 
land clouds throws out everything in a moment 
into most brilliant colouring ; what was just now 



12 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

grim and sombre becomes all at once a picture 
so entrancing, and so full of movement by reason 
of a rift in the skv and the sudden advent of 
the chase in full cry, that it may well be carried 
home in the mind's eye to form food for reverie, 
or to lighten the dull, dark days of winter. 
When the elements are propitious there is no 
English landscape more beautiful than that of 
Exmoor proper, and there are times when the 
moor has very weird and impressive aspects, 
which are onlv seen by the very few whose 
occupation calls them to its lonely wilderness 
in times of storm and tempest, blizzard and 
thundercloud, or under a frosty mid-winter 
moon when the whole expanse lies white. 
While the colouring of the Quantock combes is 
generally more vivid, Exmoor is clothed for the 
most part in neutral tints, and its chief charm 
lies in its desolate loneliness and wide range. 
The network of railways which elsewhere covers 
English ground is here far distant ; here are no 
cottage chimnevs at the corner of every other 
field : here are no busv farmsteads and creaking 
ploughs : onlv grass and rushes, heath and fern, 
the whistle of a nesting curlew, the harsh croak 
of that diligent fish poacher the heron as he 
flaps up disturbed from his banquet of small 
trout, or the whirring flutter of blackcock and 
greyhen as they rise with their brood from their 
feeding ground amongst the whortleberry stems. 




Snow Clouds over Bratton Ball. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 15 

It may be in part the prevailing loneliness which 
renders the hill country farmers so cordial in 
their welcome to the visitor, whether he bestrides 
a hunter from the shires, or tramps cheerily 
afoot in quest of health and sport combined, 
but certain it is that one of the first impressions 
to be produced on the mind of the visitant is 
that of the courtesy and good nature of the 
inhabitants whom he meets when afield. 

'' English as she is spoke " on the moor is 
often a sore puzzle to unaccustomed ears, and 
the dialects encountered vary much with each 
watershed and county, but in time, the quaint 
idioms and the ways of thought of a bygone 
age, when steam and electricity had not yet 
served mankind, become familiar, and the man 
from ''up country" can understand and make 
himself understood without undue delay. One 
point will always istrike the traveller over this 
country of long and hilly miles and many cross 
tracks, that the native who answers his anxious 
queries can never appreciate his difficulty in 
understanding the directions given, or in follow- 
ing them out to the desired goal. The instruc- 
tions that would be ample for a West Country 
man born and bred, are often sadly confusing 
to a native of a distant county or a Londoner 
out for a holiday, while the local estimate of 
distance always seems to err on the hopeful 
side. In the dark, or in fog, it is absolutely 



i6 



STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 



necessary to get off the moor as soon as possible, 
if one is without a trusty pilot, no amount of 
general knowledge being of any avail when the 
usual landmarks are invisible. Alike to those to 
whom Exmoor is an open book, and to those to 
whom wild red deer are strange and unfamiliar 
beasts, this little book is addressed in the hope 
that it may present some phases of Exmoor at 
its best. 





Meet at Vennikord Cross. 



CHAPTER II. 

The Opening Meet at Cloutsham — The Concourse on 
Cloutsham Ball — The Parade in the Field — 
Notable Figures — The Master and his Staff — 
Kennelling at Cloutsham Farm — The Day's Pro- 
ceedings — The Taking of the Stag. 



Much has been 
written, and that 
by many an able 
pen, of the great 
annual gathering 
that takes place 
on a little rounded 
hill - top between 
Dunkery and the 
fertile vale of 
Holnicote, when 
for one day, at 
least, in all the year " everybody who is any- 
body" within half a county's length makes picnic 
upon this spot that has seen the Devon and 
Somerset Staghounds in all their glory from such 
time as the memory of living man runneth not 
to the contrary. One of the chief reasons of the 
unfailing popularity of the opening meet is doubt- 
less to be found in the fact that it affords the 




20 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

very first opportunity after tfie enforced idleness 
of summer for the foregathering of all the various 
sorts and conditions of men that go to make 
up a modern hunting field. Then, too, nearly 
every master of foxhounds throughout the 
British Isles is as yet free from the cares of 
cub-hunting, and many of them wend their way 
to Cloutsham, where they are sure of meeting 
a number of their confreres. A sprinkling of 
American visitors are sure to be found amongst 
the throng by the time the pack appears, some 
of them tourists only, who have chanced to find 
themselves at Lynton or Lynmouth, or perhaps 
at Minehead, just at the time of this great West 
Country festival, and others members of Hunt 
Clubs in the land of the star-spangled banner. 
Austrians and Russians, Belgians and Germans, 
Frenchmen, Portuguese and Spaniards are at 
times to be found amongst the throng, and 
occasionally a "coloured pusson" or two join in 
the first mad rush of the season. Exmoor is a 
land where everything depends upon the weather, 
and a heavy thunder shower or two in the earlier 
morning hours will keep hundreds of picnic- 
makers and cyclists away from the meet, thereby 
lessening the crowd of vehicles and decreasing 
incidentally the dangers, as well as the humours 
of the traffic which for a couple of hours before 
mid-day pours up the rough and narrow lane 
from the Porlock Vale, or down the sandy 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 21 

moorland road from Exford, or over the stony 
track that crosses the heights of Dunkery itself 
from the direction of Cutcombe. If the morning 
be showery and the dust in consequence well laid, 
while a fresh westerly breeze sweeps from the 
Atlantic straight over these moorland heights, it 
is surprising how fresh and bracing the air can 
be at this altitude of a thousand feet or so above 
sea level ; horses that have been jaded and listless 
enough in the dusty and airless lanes below, 
arch their backs and caper on the close-cropped 
greensward of the hill-top ; men who have felt 
themselves growing old and stiff amongst the 
heat and turmoil of London in July, forget their 
cares as they grip bridle-rein and saddle once 
more and inhale, unconsciously, ozone unmixed 
with coal smoke ; even the cheek of beauty loses 
the pallor that is becoming enough elsewhere, 
and warms to the touch of sun and wind. Many 
a portent has arisen at the opening meets ; a 
white Spanish mule has been ridden, not only 
into the meeting field, but also after the hounds : 
a German band, with brazen instruments and 
uniforms complete, has applied in vain for ad- 
mission, for, be it remembered, the historic field 
and the farm and all its surroundings are private 
property, and are only thrown open to the Hunt 
and its many followers by the courtesy of the 
owner. Sir C. T. D. Acland. Many a four-in-hand 
has braved successfully the perils of the mountain 



22 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

roads, and every sort of char-a-banc and brake 
brings its contribution of foot people to swell 
the throng. Some cyclists laboriously wheel their 
machines up the last long ascent from Horner, 
while others more wisely leave them in safe 
keeping below and climb the remaining distance 
unencumbered. Breakdowns and minor accidents 
are plentiful, but not more so than one might 
expect, having regard to the difficulties of the 
way and the curious collection of vehicles and 
tackle pressed into the day's service. 

A few years since a newly-married barrister 
and his bride had the misfortune to break a leg 
a-piece in a carriage accident of this description, 
and a little later on were to be seen attending 
the meets on wheels, duly strapped and splinted, 
and were naturally the recipients of unstinted 
sympathy. A few ladies ride " en cavalier " with 
the Staghounds, and the art has three exponents 
at the present time ; it might almost be wished 
perhaps that the practice might become more 
general, so trying are the hills and the hot 
weather to tender withers. Tandems of all 
heights and sizes hnd their way to the meets, 
and the author remembers to have seen a well- 
appointed donkey tandem threading the green 
Quantock tracks, and a tandem of skewbald cobs at 
Cuzzicombe Post, with pairs in curricles not a few. 

The time of the year being mid-August, it is 
not surprising that there is a great diversity of 




0^ 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 25 

opinion as to the most suitable attire for the 
occasion, and inasmuch as the Hunt uniform is 
worn only by the master and two servants and 
the honorary secretary and by Lord Ebrington 
on certain days, all that has to be attained is a 
garb sufficiently cool and at the same time 
serviceable. Straw hats of any rigid shape are 
undoubtedly a mistake, as they invariably blow 
off directly business begins. Many ladies wear 
light coats of white drill, and one enterprising 
sportsman attired himself in a spotless suit of 
duck not many summers ago, and was promptly 
set down in the columns of the Spoiiiiig Times 
as " one clad in white samite." A few khaki 
garments were in evidence amongst the field in 
the summer of 1900, and a certain number of 
invalided troopers with uniform and cowboy hats 
complete were to be seen. 

The assemblage on Cloutsham Ball sways to 
and fro as interest centres now in one spot 
around the paraded hounds, now in another as 
the tufters are being drawn from the pack at 
the kennel door, now from side to side of the 
Ball as the progress of the tufting sets various 
deer in motion, and anon surges in a crush 
towards one or other of the gates of exit when 
the day's chase begins. 

It is popularly supposed that a big run is not 
intended by the powers that be on the opening 
days, but that they sometimes take place and 



26 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

are heartily welcomed by those who take part 
in them, will be well remembered by the one 
hundred and ten who saw the finish of the 
first run from Cloutsham in August, 1900. On 
this occasion a right good forest stag with four 
points atop took the most desired of all direc- 
tions, and led his pursuers across the open, 
disdaining to touch covert, straight from the 
western end of Dunkery to the banks of Badg- 
worthy Water. 

Some years before, to wit in 1891, there 
was much difficulty in getting any warrantable 
stag away, and the pack was not released until 
after four o'clock, but a very fine run ensued, 
and a stag with three and four atop was taken 
at half-past seven o'clock between Combe Park 
and Watersmeet, where the Farley Water tumbles 
down from rock to rock to join the East Lyn. 
In 1889, too, a right royal stag with three and 
four atop went away from Horner to Hawk- 
combe, Culbone and Yenworthy Common, being 
set up and taken in the East Lyn under Southern 
Wood, after a chase of two hours and forty 
minutes. The time of year of course militates 
against great performances on these occasions : 
stags are still in the velvet and the extreme tips 
of their horns are hardly as yet set, and the 
plague of flies is to them a very real fact. The 
pace, moreover, that makes hound pant and 
horses sob and lather, tells with equal effect on 











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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 29 

the old and heavv stag whose well tilled haunch 
and fiank bear eloquent testimony to the suc- 
culence of the ripening corn, the potatoes and 
apples and juicy mangold wurtzels, amongst 
which he has for so long made his nightly 
feasts, choosing alway the best with nice dis- 
crimination. 

Still, if only a stag can be roused that will 
head for the moor, that will be the one most 
welcome to the master, and the ringing echo of 
his horn will soon be audible above the clatter 
of plates and glasses and the general hum of 
conversation as he gallops down upon the farm 
intent on releasing the pack. 

Meanwhile there has been ample time for a 
general survey of the throng : and what study 
is so interesting as that of one's fellow man ? 
The footpeople packed themselves in densest array 
where the master and his servants sat on their 
horses with the pack grouped in front of them 
on the sward about half-way down the slope of 
the familiar field. All the carriage horses have 
been taken out and tethered in long, close 
packed lines all down the hedgerows, or crowded 
together in the roomy shelter of the farm 
buildings, but some acres of the slope imme- 
diately below the general line of vehicles are 
occupied by hunters being held in readiness or 
moved slowly up and down until wanted. No 
sooner has the master given the order to kennel 



30 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the pack than there begins an eruption of table- 
cloths to be spread under the shade of the 
carriages, upon their cushions, across the knees 
of their occupants, and in fact in every con- 
ceivable fashion according to the entertainer's 
fancy. 

Amongst a field so heterogeneous, and gathered 
from so wide a sphere, it is not surprising that 
to many, one of the chief delights of the day is 
the making acquaintance, bv sight at least, with 
personalities never otherwise encountered, and 
habitues of the Hunt often find their time 
pretty fully occupied in answering such ques- 
tions as " Oh, do tell me who that curious 
looking old clergyman is?" or ''I say, my boy, 
how about the pretty lady yonder in the grey 
habit ? " With the succeeding years it is the 
actors of this play who change, and not the 
scene : each year some well known and res- 
pected faces are seen no more : famous men in 
other fields perhaps are seen once or twice and 
then fate keeps them busily employed else- 
where : others whom memorv recalls as amongst 
the front rank have since made name and fame 
and helped the growth of the Empire. Sir 
Alfred Milner has been entered to the sport ; 
Sir Evelyn Wood knows the look of the moor ; 
H.H. Prince Galitzin is quite at home with the 
tufters amid the mazes of the Quantock wood- 
lands and can hold his own when the great 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 31 

hounds are driving at their fastest ; the Duchess 
of Hamilton knows her way on Dunkery ; Sir 
WiUiam Karslake has for many a year been a 
member of the Hunt Committee, varying the 
toil of government at Somerset House with the 
welcome relaxation of a gallop over the heather 
and the grass ; Lord Poltimore is to be seen at 
the Cuzzicombe Post meets, which lie nearest 
to his North Molton residence at Court Hall ; 
Sir C. T. D. Acland, the owner of the field 
and of some very large slices of red deer land, 
is generally to be found at the first meets, and 
Mr. Luttrell has not far to come from Dunster 
Castle ; while Viscount Ebrington, the ow^ner of 
Exmoor proper, chairman of the Hunt Com- 
mittee and field master on those days when 
Mr. Sanders himself carries the huntsman's horn, 
is sure to be present. 

Mr. Nicholas Snow, the proprietor of the 
famous sanctuary for deer, has come across the 
moor ; the member for West Somerset, Vice- 
Chamberlain and Treasury Whip, Sir Alexander 
Acland Hood, has travelled from Saint Audries ; 
Mr. Basset, of Watermouth Castle, and former 
Master of the Staghounds, is to be seen ; and 
the Baroness Le Clement de Taintegnies is 
dispensing hospitality to an admiring circle. 
Amongst masters and ex-masters of hounds, who 
naturally form a large section of the field, the 
Hon. J. L. Bathurst, the Hon. C. W. Bampfylde 



32 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and Sir W. R. Williams, are well-known figures 
at Cloiitsham. 

The master, Mr. R. A. Sanders, took the 
hounds on Colonel F. Hornby's resignation in 
the spring of 1895, and has increased the number 
of hunting days from three to four each week, 
being the first master to hunt the hounds himself, 
which he does on one of the four days while 
the huntsman enjoys a much needed rest after 
the other three. Mr. Sanders contested the 
Eastern division of Bristol at the General Elec- 
tion of iQOO, and considerably low^ered the 
previous Liberal majority. In 1901 he became 
an alderman of the Somerset County Council. 

The field-master, Lord Ebrington, who only 
appears in scarlet on the fourth, or master's clay, 
in each week, succeeded Mr. Bisset in the 
mastership, and held ofBce until Mr. Basset 
took command in 1887. 

The huntsman, Anthony Huxtable, who figures 
largely in the illustrations, has been in the service 
of the Hunt for twenty-five years, and has 
known five masters. He retires at fifty years of 
age, having carried the horn for twelve years, 
acted as whipper-in to Arthur Heal for nine 
years, with four previous years in the Hunt 
stables. Born in Kentisbury parish of working 
parents, he was brought as an infant in arms to 
Driver Cott, and made his first acquaintance with 
Exmoor, as seen from horseback, when riding on 



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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 35 

the pommel of his father's saddle at Larkbarrow, 
where the latter served for some years as bullock 
herd to the late Sir F. Knight. Pursuing many- 
avocations, Anthony became in turn farm boy, 
milk carrier in Barnstaple, teamster, iron miner, 
peat cutter and drainer (in which capacity he cut 
many of the forest gutters that he has since had 
to ride over), quarryman, 'bus driver and billiard 
marker, showing an all-round aptitude, and 
directly controverting the old adage that rolling 
stones gather no moss. He has led the way 
in many notable runs. The whipper-in, Sidney 
Tucker, was promoted from the Hunt stables at 
the same time as Huxtable became huntsman, 
and has contributed very largely to the latter's 
success, and to the good sport generally shown. 

The harbourer, Fred Goss, was appointed by 
Colonel Hornby, in 1894, on the death of Andrew 
Miles, and has a wonderfully successful record^ 
one of his best achievements being the harbour- 
ing of six warrantable stags in six successive 
davs in one week in the autumn of 1900 for 
Mr. Sanders and Mr. Amory. 

The late Andrew Miles entered Mr. Bisset's 
service in July, 1862, and went to Haddon to 
live six years later as Lord Carnarvon's game- 
keeper. He harboured for twenty-five years 
under four masters, and located over five hundred 
stags, succeeding Blackmore in his important 
ofBce. 



36 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

The duties of treasurer, secretary and ad- 
ministrator of the deer damage fund are combined 
in the person of Mr. Phihp Evered, who was 
elected on the resignation of Mr. A. C. E. Locke 
in 1894. 

KennelHng the pack is a very ordinary and 
necessary function, and when the body of the 
pack has been consigned to a cool and airy 
building, and the desired number of hounds, 
generally from four to tiye couples in the stag- 
hunting season, have been called out by name 
hy the huntsman, he leaves the kennel door and 
counts over the chosen draft. One of the Hunt 
second horsemen has his first mount, generally 
a tufting pony, in readiness, and the master 
usually takes this opportunity of checking ofi 
by name each hound that is to take part in the 
all -important duty of the clay. Near by the 
harbourer is waiting, ready mounted to conduct 
the huntsman to the lair of the forest king, 
that he has been watching for hours past with 
the trusty Zeiss glasses, now slung from his 
shoulder. These glasses were presented to him 
by a subscription raised amongst the followers 
of the hunt a few years since, and are of the 
greatest assistance to him in his arduous and 
difficult calling. Through a vista of trees a gate- 
way can be seen from the kennel door at 
Cloutsham, with the outline of the moor on the 
western end of Dunkery just visible, and it is 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 39 

in some such direction as that that a stag must 
go if he would keep to the open. KenneUing 
and drawing the tufters does not take long, and 
then the day's proceedings begin forthwith : 
harbourer and huntsman jog off with their nine 
or ten hounds to rouse the stag, while master 
and whipper-in betake themselves by other paths 
to the most advantageous spots for viewing the 
stag awav, and for stopping the tufters until the 
pack and held arrive on the scene. While this 
is one of the most interesting parts of the day's 
work, it can only be seen from a distance by 
the held in general, as it is absolutely necessary 
for the Hunt servants to have the paths and 
woodland rides to themselves at this juncture, 
and, moreover, a stag may be very easily blanched 
at this point, and all prospect of a good day's 
sport ruined by an injudicious move, or the 
appearance of a. body of horsemen between the 
stag's lair and the open moor. 

A glowing spot of colour in the hot sunshine, 
one may often see, from Cloutsham Ball, Sidney 
Tucker sitting motionless on his horse, while 
Anthony draws some dense patches of covert 
below him on Parsonage Side. In the depths 
of the combe the Horner water bustles down 
toward the sea, which it reaches at Hurlstone 
Point, a bluff headland in the distance. In a 
few minutes, if all goes well and the harbourer 
has judged correctly, Sidney's attitude will change 



40 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

to animation as he gallops over the roughly 
carpeted ground to stop the tufters, while the 
welkin rings with his piercing view halloa. Then 
with a white handkerchief he signals across the 
leafy depths of the East Water combe to the 
master, Anthonv joins him on the hillside to 
wait by the panting tufters until Mr. Sanders 
brings the pack and its following multitude, and 
then when due law has been allowed, and the 
great hounds have taken up the scent and are 
streaming awav over the purple slopes of Dun- 
kerv, he drops back to the tail of the Hunt to 
bring on straggling and timid hounds, so that 
as manv of the pack as mav be shall be in at 
the death of their noble quarrv. Of the run 
itself, of the checks and turns, of the stratagems 
of the stag, of the thousand and one incidents 
which befall in the hurrv and rush of some two 
or three hundred horsemen and horsewomen 
over a wide extent of rough water-worn Jiillside 
and moorland, subsequent chapters and their 
accompanving photographic studies must tell. 
Let us pass on to the last scene but one in the 
day's drama, when the gallant stag finds himself 
at last outwitted and outpaced, and betakes 
himself to his last refuge — the biggest water 
he can find. 

At this time of year, the second Tuesdav in 
August, the moorland streams are small and 
shrunken, Horner water or Badgworthv are 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 41 

mere babbling streams, and their neighbours 
Exe and Barle have but few pools worthy of 
the name throughout many miles of their higher 
reaches. 

But the deer know well where the deepest 
swims are to be found, for they are hot-blooded, 
thirsty creatures, and go down to drink and roll 
in the limpid streams each night as soon as 
darkness falls, and again finish up their nightly 
wanderings with a bath in some sequestered 
mud-pit as a slight protection doubtless against 
their enemies the flies. 

As the dreaded cry and the echo of the 
relentless horn draws nearer and ever nearer, 
the hunted stag trots wearily down the stony 
river bed, leaving a tell-tale splash on the 
rounded boulders, refreshed for the moment by 
his bath but with lowered head, closed mouth 
and heaving flank : then Sidney views him, and 
the wooded valley, erstwhile so silent, suddenly 
Alls with music as the pack comes hurrying 
round the bend above, while the clatter of four 
times a hundred iron shod hoofs upon the 
stonv riverside track rises to the topmost oaks 
on Ley Hill. Now some harvesters throw down 
their pitchforks and run from the golden stubble 
to the green meadows, and go yelling down the 
yonder bank, for amongst West countrymen 
those who cannot ride a-hunting dearly love to 
be in at the death. Running in the water while 



42 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the hounds run on the banks, the stag's stride 
soon shortens and he turns and stands at bay, 
a noble picture. 

It is always the object of the Hunt staff to 
secure the stag and put an end to his sufferings 
as quickly as possible, and while the horns are 
still in the velvet this is no very difticult matter, 
especially as in hot weather hunted deer are 
as a rule quite exhausted when set up. But 
when the rivers are swollen wdth an October 
rain, and the fighting instinct is aroused in the 
cervine breast, capture is quite another matter, 
and is attended wnth quite sufficient danger to 
render it a verv thrilling occupation, and one 
not likely to be undertaken by a novice. First 
and foremost in this difficult art is the welter 
weight of the Hunt and a member of the Com- 
mittee, Mr. Philip Froude Hancock, who is 
equally ready to come to close grips with a 
fighting stag in the narrow Quantock combes, 
the deep cold flood of the river Barle, or 
amongst the mighty boulders and hanging ledges 
of the Countisbury cliffs. To many a pursuer 
of carted deer this is a moment of intense 
interest, when a stag with his horns on, and 
knowing full well that his last moment has 
come, is approached single-handed and deftly 
laid upon the ground. An instant later and con- 
sciousness has left the noble beast, and in due 
course the four slots are awarded by the master 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 



43 



to some of the many aspirants for these coveted 
trophies, and the two tushes become the property 
of some member of the tield who has a fancy 
for a unique scarf pin or set of sleeve Hnks. 
Then the hounds are sent home to Exford, the 
crowd slowlv separates on its various homew^ard 
ways, a cart comes for the carcase of the stag, 
the head going to the kennels, the hide to the 
huntsman, and the venison to the deer pre- 
serving farmers near whose land he was found, 
and the lengthening shadows close over another 
opening day. 



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CHAPTER III. 



The Dulverton Side of the Country — Winsford — 
Tufting in the Exe Valley — The Big Rivers — 
Haddon Hill — The Harbourer's Cottage — Hart- 
ford M ILL — Bittescombe — Chipstable— Molland 
Moor — Bury \'illage — A Pool in the Haddeo. 




Thou 


G H 


there 


are 


many 


parts 


of red 


deer 


land, 


and 



though the 
great stretch 
of hill coun- 
try that lies 
between 
Barnstaple 
and Bridg- 
water contains manv separate areas where the 
deer mostly congregate, the two main divisions 
are popularly known as "the Dulverton country" 
and "the Moor." Now the Dulverton country 
lies all along the line of the Devon and Somer- 
set railway between Wiveliscombe and Filleigh 
stations, which follows for many miles a singu- 
larly cold and unprohtable line of marshy vales 



46 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

where clay and rushes and neglected fields 
predominate. From this hard and fast boundary, 
which the deer will not cross if thev can help 
it, many a snug secluded combe runs up towards 
the moorland heights, with wooded banks and 
tinkling streams and deep winding lanes leading 
up to little lonely farmsteads, to which few 
but the postman and the country doctor and 
the yaluer of deer damage know the way. The 
trend of the brooks is all southward ; here the 
Tone and the Batherum, Haddeo, Exe and 
Barle, Brocky and Mole and Bray all tumble 
towards the midday sun, until at least they haye 
dived beneath the embankment of the railway, 
and each riyer has its woodlands "where the 
dun deer lie." 

Dulyerton people are proud, and justly so, of 
their staunch and consistent support of the chase, 
and though their own moors are small and their 
side of the country may be termed the woodland 
side, still they are neyer better pleased than 
when one of their deer leads hounds all across 
the great stretch of West Somerset's westernmost 
corner and reaches the Seyern Sea after a couple 
of hours' headlong gallop from the neighbour- 
hood of their thriving town. 

A better train service and greater residential 
amenities, as well as a more liveable climate, 
have no doubt much to say for the preference 
shewn for this side of the country as distinct 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 47 

from the moor itself, where hunting quarters are 
by no means over abundant and locomotion is 
a matter of difficulty and serious forethought. 
The extreme western end of the Dulverton 
country forms in fact a district by itself, which 
might as truly be claimed as appertaining to the 
moor as to the woodland district, inasmuch as 
deer, when roused in its strongholds, betake 
themselves to the open quite as often as they 
elect a course over the enclosures. One large 
covert, known as Bremridge Wood, is tunnelled 
under by the railway, and at this point deer 
freely cross to and fro, and hence no doubt it 
is that they lead hounds far down into the 
heart of Devon and bring their panting pur- 
suers to the brinks of the salmon haunted 
Taw, to find themselves confronted by another 
obstacle in the line of the London and South 
Western railway between Barnstaple and Exeter. 
At the other extreme or eastern end, the 
Wiveliscombe coverts lie well in sight of the 
Quantock range, but with the red tillage lands 
of the Bishops Lydeard vale and the West 
Somerset railway in between, and it is only 
occasionally that deer head that way. Every 
now and then, however, they seem to remember 
that there was once a red deer land upon the 
Blackdown Hills, and try to make their way 
towards the tall column of the Wellington Monu- 
ment ; but once the deer has left his native 



48 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

hills and struck out across a cultivated vale, if 
the hounds are anything less than an hour 
behind him the end is fairly certain. 

In quite recent years an opening meet has 
been held at Haddon, on an occasion when, 
owing to the decease of the late Sir Thomas 
Acland, Cloutsham was closed ; but the space 
available proved barely sufhcient for the con- 
course that assembled to celebrate the unusual 
event. 

Of all West Country villages there is none 
more picturesque than Winsford, and none more 
truly central for staghunting. It is served too, 
by one of the best kept roads in the whole 
surrounding country, and whether one measures 
the average distance from the pretty thatched 
inn, that swings the sign of "The Royal Oak," 
to the meets, or to the usual places such as 
Horner, or Porlock Weir, or Hartford Mill, at 
which deer are wont to die, it is only challenged 
by Exford as a desirable and convenient centre. 
On the dav of its great annual meet, however, 
the village becomes blocked with traffic, and it 
is only with the utmost care and difficulty that 
hounds can be piloted through the maze of 
vehicles when they move off to begin the day. 
"The Royal Oak" once witnessed a sensational 
finish to a run, which at the time caused much 
local excitement. A stag from Haddon ran by 
the Exe valley to the Allotment preserves, and 



E 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 51 

then, finding his strength faihng him, crossed 
the fields of Halse farm and came down dead 
beat to the back of the village and rushed into 
the premises at the rear of the hostelry. As the 
leading hounds closed in, he essayed to scale a 
low and convenient roof, but slipping back, 
made the best of his way to the back entrance 
of the inn, and there in a gloomy passage 
encountered a waitress bearing a tray of glasses. 
Curious to relate, the tray was not dropped, 
and the stag seeing an open doorway, passed 
into the best sitting room which was prepared 
for guests, while the ready witted Hebe closed 
the door. Thus trapped, the stag was easily 
secured, the field watching the proceedings 
through the narrow window panes. The Wins- 
ford villagers have been born and bred amongst 
the deer, they are never far away from their 
sight and thoughts, and they are always anxious 
that, on their great day of the year, a warrant- 
able stag should be forthcoming, and if possible 
should be induced to break from the silent 
recesses of Burrow Wood and should cross the 
ferny slopes at the foot of the Devil's Punch- 
bowl, where the assembled field of horse, 
foot and carriage folk may look down from the 
heights above and get a bird's-eye view of the 
whole affair. Old stags, however, are most 
peculiar in their likes and dislikes, and not un- 
frequently, alter harbouring in a particular covert 



52 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

for several years in succession, will unaccount- 
ably desert it for a number of years, to again 
take to it long after the original tenants have 
met their fate, and have left only their heads to 
adorn the walls of castle, manor house, or 
shooting box. 

Sir Thomas Acland's beautiful stretch of 
heather that runs from Comer's Gate to Red 
Cleave is perhaps the very soundest of all the 
glorious galloping grounds with which Exmoor 
abounds ; the heath is short and rabbit holes 
are few and far between, and except for Bradley 
Bog there are hardly any quagmires to be found. 
Surrounded by coverts large and small, the deer 
have ample shelter and have the wooded valley 
of the Barle in easy reach, while the Hawkridge 
strongholds form a sure retreat to which a 
quarter of an hour's gallop will bring their flying 
feet. 

The Exe vallev, by whicii the county road 
follows the winding of the river below Wins- 
ford, becomes verv familiar indeed to the field 
towards the end of the average staghunting 
season, for the reason that every stag that finds 
himself hard pressed in the Dulverton country 
is morally certain to pass between Chilly Bridge 
and Weir on his way to or from the great 
Haddon woodlands. One of the worst points of 
this same valley, from the hunter's point of view, 
is the very fact of its excellent road, which, on 




o 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 55 

a sweltering August afternoon, well sheltered 
from every possible breath of air and baked 
with pitiless sun glare, produces a cloud of dust 
that must be seen and felt to be dulv appre- 
ciated. For a long two miles river and road 
wind ever side by side down this romantic 
valley, while the great woods overhang the 
depths, reaching on one side in one continuous 
chain of dense greenery that touches the skv 
line, and falls with great abruptness right down 
to the dancing water. While the great hounds 
push on through the cool, shady depths, follow- 
ing the warm foil along the winding deer paths 
between the tree stems, the field cannot well 
avoid packing together on the hard, high road, 
inasmuch as it is necessary to leave the wood- 
land hunting tracks to the huntsman. 

Certain favourite places there are where a 
view of the hunted deer can generally be 
obtained, and a close view of the chosen animal 
is sometimes of great importance in staghunting, 
inasmuch as there is no animal more cunning 
in shifting the burden of pursuit to his friends 
when he thinks he has had enough of it him- 
self. These viewing places generally have their 
complement of foot people, who on fine days in 
autumn show great interest in the sport, and in 
many parts of the country on each successive 
season the same fields and trees have the 
same occupants. 



56 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

In the Brayford country this is particularly 
noticeable, the coverts there being separated by 
steeply sloping pastures, where the villagers 
congregate in highly interested groups, and are 
generally anxious that tlie stag of the day should 
not go straight away to the moor, but should 
double to and fro amongst the woods and thus 
give them plenty of opportunity to witness the 
chase. On the Quantocks again, the line of the 
Stowey road, proverbial for its collection of 
pedestrians, and the early British earthworks 
upon the summit of Danesborough, always find 
favour. Another spot that is never untenanted 
when hounds meet at Cloutsham in the autumn, 
is the beacon pile on the crest of Dunkerv, 
whence a glorious view can be obtained, and in 
all probability several deer will pass within easy 
view. The commanding ridge of Grabhist Hill, 
near Dunster, again, always has its line of figures 
silhouetted against the sky to watch the panorama 
of Croydon Hill stretched beneath their feet, 
down the long slope of which, the Hunt is 
generally seen in full progress when the meet 
is at Slowley. 

The Exe and the Barle are the two biggest 
rivers that are usually encountered in the course 
of a day's work with the Devon and Somerset, 
though of course the Taw is sometimes met 
with, though more rarely. Both Ext and 
Barle form awkward obstacles when in spate, 




< 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 59 

and fords are likely to be encountered where 
the swirling water reaches high enough to 
touch the saddle flaps. Between Marsh Bridge 
and Withypool the Barle has many fords, 
but it is only at Three Waters and Torr 
Steps and Bradley Clammer that one can ride 
comfortably through the foaming torrent in a 
fiood, and even these passages are not un- 
frequently quite unusable. Many a horse has 
been led and some have been ridden across 
the Early British bridge of stones at Torr Steps, 
but it is by no means a desirable method of 
crossing, there being a rocking stone in mid- 
iiood, perhaps purposely constructed so by the 
prehistoric architect, which is very likely to 
throw a horse off his balance and send him 
struggling into the rushing stream. The late 
master of the Quarme Harriers, in leading his 
horse across on the occasion of a heavy flood, 
stumbled over one of his own hounds and fell 
horse, hound and man with an alarming splash 
from the causeway. The depth of water was 
no great matter, being little more than waist 
high, but the struggling horse came near to 
causing his master serious injury. Half a mile 
up the stream at Hindspit there is a much 
more difficult ford, where at the confluence of 
the Westwater stream a deep hole with awkward 
boulders once gave a master of the West Somer- 
set foxhounds a right good ducking. Here in 



6o STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

this same deep pool one might have seen in 
years gone bv, after an October spate, a salmon 
or two secured by a noose of copper wire passed 
above the tail and cleverly attached to a bending 
alder bough, to be retrieved after dark by some 
cunning poacher. At spawning time salmon run 
freely up both Exe and Barle for many a mile, 
if only there is water enough to float them, to 
the tiny streams that trickle down the moorland 
combes, and in the shallow pools beneath the 
rocks the great hsh may be seen, sometimes 
quite landlocked, if the flood falls rapidly. The 
river Haddeo in its wildest floods seldom has 
volume enough to be unfordable, but will often 
rise quite unexpectedly, when perhaps there has 
been a heavy rainfall on the Brendon hills, 
while the Exe and Barle still remain placid and 
uncoloured. 

Beaten deer seem to realise that a heavy 
water is their safest refuge, and in the wide 
stretches near Dulverton it is often a very 
difficult matter indeed to handle a stag that 
stands at bav far out from the dripping banks. 
These are the occasions on which hounds are 
apt to suffer from the exposure to the chilling 
stream, and from being caught at a disadvantage 
by the antlers of a fighting stag. In particularly 
dry seasons stags appear to know where 
the deep weir pools, few and far between, 
are to be found, and doubtless they bathe in 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 6i 

them at night, for when brought to their last 
devices they are very much inchned to seek for 
one of them, and there swim up and down until 
the deftly thrown line secures them. Haddon 
Hill is by no means the pleasantest of the many 
heath covered enclosures of Exmoor to ride 
over at speed, as the herbage is old and rank, 
and many a hidden channel, washed out by the 
thunder showers of summer, the heavy rains 
and melted snows of winter and the early spring, 
lies lurking amongst the grass and ling as a pit- 
fall for the unwary. Many a fall has the crest 
of Haddon witnessed, and it is just such falls 
as these that take place here, in galloping on the 
fiat, that are amongst the most dangerous of 
hunting accidents, and were it not that heather 
and peat provide most excellent soft falling, 
the casualty list of an autumn season must be 
longer than it usually is. It is not an unusual 
occurrence in a fall while galloping over such 
ground as this, to turn a complete somersault 
and drop watch or monev from one's pocket, 
which seldom comes to hand again, and it is 
surprising the distance to which one's hunting 
crop will tiy, as one whirls through the air in 
the act of falling from a horse that is going 
best pace over trappy ground. It is not in the 
descent of precipices or in negotiating the deep 
combe side paths, awe inspiring as they are, 
that falls usually take place in Exmoor hunting, 



62 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

but an innocent looking piece of heather with a 
hidden water channel or two will empty as manv 
saddles as the stiffest fence in the shires. For 
strangers who wish to secure their first glimpse 
of a red deer in a state of freedom there is no 
likelier spot for the attainment of their wishes 
than the summit of Hadborough, or the neigh- 
bourhood of the harbourer's cottage that nestles 
among the tall Scotch hrs at Frogwell Lodge. 
From his house the harbourer can look out upon 
many a distant point which he has to visit in 
the course of his arduous duties : the heights of 
Dunkery and Winsford Hill looming large against 
the distant sky, while to the south he looks down 
on country where deer live, but which he does 
not harbour inasmuch as it is lent to Sir John 
Heathcote Amory, 

Across the Haddon valley a curious object in 
the landscape is the solitary tower of what was 
once Upton parish church, a tower which, like 
that of Withypool, on the banks of the Barle, 
seems to have been built to defy the wear and 
tear of time and w^eather. 

Far down below, amongst green water 
meadows, three or four neat buildings and an 
ancient water wheel compose the hamlet known 
as Hartford Mill, where lives a veteran enthusiast 
in the science of harbouring, James Wensley 
by name, to whose training is due much of the 
credit of the present harbourer's success. From 




Jim Wenslkv. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 65 

his cottage doorway Jim Wensley need never 
pass a day of all the year without seeing deer 
on the slopes of Hartford Cleave, that lie within 
a few hundred yards of his trim flower garden. 
A walk through Haddon Wood with him is 
instructive indeed ; whether it be upon the tell- 
tale snow carpet of mid-winter, the dry dust of 
July, or the moistened soil of September, endless 
signs and tokens convey a meaning to his 
experienced eye, that notes at every few yards 
through the woodland paths some hint of the 
presence of deer or fox, badger or pheasant, 
blackgame or woodcock, the baneful presence of 
some feathered vermin or some bloodthirsty 
stoat, while at each pool of the tumbling Haddeo 
he may point out some sign that marks the 
whereabouts of that arch-hsherman the otter. 

Herons and brown buzzards, kingfishers and 
water ouzels, all come within his ken in turn, 
but one of the chief pleasures of this old shikari 
lies in the recounting of tales of bygone days. 
If these narratives could be preserved in all their 
native raciness, and in the rich West Country 
dialect in which they are told, while the speaker's 
eye and countenance convey unmistakably how 
all-absorbing is the naturalist's passion burning 
within, that were indeed a legacy to hand down 
to coming generations of sportsmen ! 

All the nature that surrounds Jim Wensley 
is to him an open book, and of him it is not 

F 



'66 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

inaptly told that on being lent Fortescue's 
beautiful " Story of a Red Deer," he remarked 
that he " didn't think much of it as there was 
nothing in it that he hadn't known all his life!" 

Eastward of Haddon, and separated from it 
by a mile of wild common land, lies a romantic 
and sheltered glen, running north and south and 
known as Bittescombe, Here deer find another 
safe harbour, under the protection of Sir John 
Ferguson Davie, whose snug woodlands beside 
the Lupley Water are always tenanted by them. 
Lying as it does in a line with the Chipstable 
and Huish Cleave coverts, which form the eastern- 
most sanctuarv, Bittescombe often has hounds 
running across it from east to west and vice 
versa, and its steep descent amongst fallen tree 
stems and gnarled and twisted roots often strikes 
terror to the heart of the unaccustomed or 
nervous pursuer. 

Very different from the cramped enclosures 
of Chipstable and its vicinitv is the fair open 
expanse of Holland Moor where the heather 
lies east and west for hundreds of acres in free 
untrammelled sweep, and where hounds can drive 
and fling unchecked from Anstey Barrows to 
Twitchen village. No wider landscape or one 
more beautiful is to be seen in all North 
Devon, than is commanded by this, the southern- 
most reach of Exmoor, from whence in a 
bird's-eye view, the eye sweeps nearly all Devon, 




Q 

o 

OS 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 69 

and takes in manv a Dartmoor peak and tor, 
where bolder outlines and more uncompromising 
features stand out against the southern sky. 

It is by way of Molland Moor and the 
adjoining Anstey Common, that deer travel from 
the well-known Hawkridge strongholds to their 
favourite summer retreats in the neighbourhood 
of North and South Molton and of Castle Hill. 
Here it was that Mr. Sanders beheld his hrst 
veritable stag (barring three spring deer taken 
on the Quantocks) break covert from Lord 
Clinton's woodland at Combe, and a right 
royal stag he was moreover, with a curve of 
thirty-five inches, a spread of twentv-nine 
inches, and a girth of seven inches, while 
the points numbered fourteen. Fourteen couple 
of old hounds with seven couple of puppies 
followed him after half an hour's law, and three 
hours after the lay on this notable stag stood 
at bay in the Haddeo at Steart Cottage and 
was shortly taken. 

By the ford of the Haddeo where it spreads 
below the arches of the old packhorse bridge at 
Bury Village is a spot where many of the 
hunting paths of Haddon converge, and here is 
a favourite meeting place upon which the field 
often gathers from different coigns of vantage 
on the hilltops, and meets the pack as it comes 
bustling down from the kennel at the harbourer's 
cottage, in charge of huntsman or whipper-in, 



70 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

preparatory to a lay on upon the foil of some 
warrantable stag that has been roused by the 
tufters, and has fled for safety towards the Exe 
Valley or the cramped enclosures of the Brush- 
ford and Combe districts. Packed with eager 
horsemen and horsewomen, the narrow village 
roadways, which can hardly bv anv stretch of 
imagination be dignified by the name of streets, 
become almost impassable for a while, until the 
magic password of "hounds, please," clears a 
gangway, and the panting pack, hot and dusty 
already, canters through, pressing closely on 
horses and horsemen. Then the cavalcade 
follows with all haste to the scene of the lay 
on, whether it be on the heights of Baronsdown 
or in the cool green meadows at Hele Bridge. 
A little way up stream from the village there 
lies a shady pool of the Haddeo, which seems 
to have a fatal attraction for hard pressed deer, 
and it is, by the way, a favourite otter's haunt 
as well. Even in the longest summer's drought 
it has depth enough for a score of yards or more 
for a stag to swim and keep his enemies at bay, 
but even in swimming his stroke becomes feebler 
and feebler still, until some old hound bolder 
than the rest dashes in and delays his progress, 
only to find himself fiung off and soused in the 
muddy waves, to climb sadly ashore and bav 
defiance from a safer distance. Now the long 
lasso line comes into plav and the whipper-in, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET 



71 



fastening a strong stick to its final loop, casts it 
deftly across the wide spread antlers, swings a 
turn round the corrugated beam, and then 
indeed the stag's time is short. Even then, 
however, some stags, especially towards October, 
will give their captors some awkward moments, 
and the author well remembers a lassoed stag 
turning short on the holders of the rope in a 
bend of the Exe under Curr Cleave, whereby 
thev all fell hurriedly on the slippery sod, and 
for some anxious seconds were very much at 
his mercv. On another occasion in Horner the 
huntsman found himself obliged to mount a tree 
with all speed, a roped stag swinging round with 
such celeritv that nothing but tree climbing was 
possible for the chance of an escape. 




CHAPTER IV. 

DUNKERY— How THE MoOR RIDES ThE GrAVEYARD — 

Fog, Frost, and Snow — The Moorland Streams — 
Horner Woods in Winter — Luccombe Allers — The 
Cutcombe Coverts — Sweetery and Bagley. 



One of 
the great 
features 
of stag- 
hunting, 
in size at 
any rate, 
is the 
great hill 
of Dun- 
keryand 
those 
who fol- 
low the 

staghounds will find themselves on its rugged 
heights more often than on any other hill in 
the whole of the West Country. Its weather 
beaten beacon, seventeen hundred feet above 
the sea, is a magnihcent scanning place on a 
line August dav, but woe betide the luckless 




STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 75 

wretch who has to stand there long, in a winter 
hailstorm or even upon a chill October afternoon. 
Bleak and inhospitable and very rough to the 
tread are many of the wide slopes that run 
down in comparatively gentle gradients to the 
heads of the deep water-worn combes with which 
the hillsides are seamed. 

On the northern slopes facing Cloutsham a 
carpet of green whortleberry and a less stony 
soil afford fairly good galloping ground, but 
to gallop across this wide expanse with any 
degree of comfort or safety, any rider must 
know his way right well, or else follow a pilot 
to whom it is all familiar. 

Wootton Common and the Graveyard and the 
hillside facing Dunkerv Hill Gate are covered 
with myriads of loose surface stones, which are 
in great request for road mending and building 
purposes, and the result is, that where one's horse 
does not trip upon a fixed or rolling stone, he 
sometimes puts his foot into a hole whence a 
boulder has been extracted. Some of the more 
stony parts remind the rider very much of the 
going on Dartmoor, but of that country and its 
stones and bogs it has been wittily said, " On 
Dartmoor vou can ride nowhere except where 
you can, while on Exmoor vou can ride every- 
where except where you can't." 

Dunkery has its boggy tracts, and some well- 
defined spring heads which must be avoided at 



76 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

all times of the year excepting at the end of a 
continued drought, when they are mostly " as 
safe as Piccadilly," to quote a Rhodesian term, 
but there are at least two gutters which always 
seem to prove treacherous to a hurrying August 
field, and one of these in particular in the 
neighbourhood of Webber's Post not unfrequentlv 
has half a dozen victims at once, lying well hidden 
as it does beneath a luxuriant growth of heath 
and rushes, while the water trickles knee-deep 
below the surface of the ground. Another such 
channel runs down to Sweetery from the heights 
of Great Row Barrow, which every now and then 
has its tale of empty saddles. Between Row 
Barrow and Luccott there is soft ground galore, 
and beside the Exford road there runs a drainage 
gutter which, though generally dry, has been 
washed out by winter storms to an unpleasing 
depth. One of the bogs which does not make 
much show until one is fairly in it, lies at the 
head of Annicombe, but it has black peaty 
depths into which a small horse can more or 
less disappear, and the same may be said of 
another set of springs, above the trees in Hollow- 
combe, but these fortunately do not often come 
directly in the line of the chase. 

To ride a tired horse at all fast across the 
stonier portions of the Graveyard is a trial of 
nerve and horsemanship, but, strange to say, 
there are comparatively few mishaps seen on 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. ^^ 

this rugged side of Dunkery, where horses might 
naturally be expected to make many a false step. 

Here it was that the Hunt was overtaken by 
a most violent thunderstorm in August, 1898, a 
cloud of inky blackness hanging low over the 
scene, and just as the hounds were let go the 
first blinding flash sped straight to Ccirth, appar- 
ently close in front of the racing pack. Then 
the storm broke loose ; flash and crash succeeded 
one another with instant swiftness, horses bolted 
and horses bucked, and a great silence fell on 
the usually voluble field, the only spoken words 
being, "Hi! catch my horse!" or "Oh, stop 
him!" and all the time the quivering lines of 
lightning — white, red and violet — stabbed straight 
down into the dry hillside, and the echo of the 
thunder crash rolled clown to the combes below 
and came back with dull reverberation to meet 
the next tumult. At last there came rain, but 
not till the centre of the cloud had passed on 
to the westward and its worst fury was expended. 

How it was that a rushing mass of some two 
hundred horsemen, galloping straight beneath 
the cloud, with steel and brass in plenty, was 
not struck by the levin bolt, seems wonderful 
when instances of stricken cattle on the hills 
are so common. But somehow there was no 
casualty, except amongst the runaway and restive 
horses, one of which threw its rider in Anni- 
combe, and gave him a very punishing fall. 



78 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

It is hard to realise, in riding across the 
moor after rain, that close beneath the peaty 
surface lies the gravelly subsoil of which the 
hills are composed for a depth of many feet 
until the bed rock is reached. 

The peaty envelope varies greatlv in thickness, 
and it is where it is deepest, and consequently 
most retentive of water, that horses find the 
going most difficult. Now, if Nature had only 
been let alone, and interfering man with his 
schemes and projects, had not cut and delved 
and drained, one might still gallop with free 
bridle-rein over many a mile of wilderness that 
now rec^uires much care and navigation. On 
the topmost heights the peaty plains naturallv 
hold the rain-water longest, while on the steep 
scarps and slopes it drains awav and trickles 
down to join the bubbling streams, so that it 
is just where one would fain be galloping, and 
all looks sound and prosperous to an inex- 
perienced eve, that a gutter, or a deep hole, or 
a rotten honey-combed expanse bids the hasty 
rider pause if he would not bring himself and 
his horse to grief. 

The Chains enclosure has a great reputation 
for uncomfortable going, and it certainly is one 
of the least desirable parts of the moor to traverse 
at speed, each successive blind gutter being apt 
to take its toll of the field, and there is a 
certain gateway in a wire fence that spans the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 79 

middle of the plain which is very apt to become 
totally impassable. Along by the southern bound- 
ary there runs a path which is always fairlv 
sound, and even when fetlock deep in standing 
water is far preferable to the soggy grass beside 
it. Running east and west, this path leads 
to the retaining embankments of Pinkery Pond, 
and here a considerable length of the peaty 
sides of the path fell in some few seasons ago 
and caused a veritable quagmire. 

Mr. J. W. Budd, of Combe Park, near 
Lynmouth, had this miniature landslip removed, 
and in the midst of the debris there was found 
the complete carcase of a moorland sheep, which 
was preserved in all its original freshness by 
the anti-septic action of the peat. The long 
rank carpet of green moor grass, with which 
all the wet ground is thickly covered by the 
end of any summer of average warmth, renders 
the surface very blind riding, and there is no 
doubt that Exmoor rides actually better after a 
drving east wind in the spring and early summer 
than at anv other time in the year. 

In August and the hrst half of September, 
however, if the season has been normally dry, 
one can ride almost anywhere, except, of course, 
on those occasional green spots at the heads of 
the various combes where deep-seated springs 
keep the ground permanently soft, and where 
a mossy growth for ever overlies the peaty 



8o STAGHUNTINCx WITH THE 

quagmire beneath. Down in the combes beside 
the streams there are undesirable tracts, but the 
moor sheep and the ponies, bv their frequent 
crossings, give ample indication where the sound 
ground lies, and, indeed, one can find no better 
guide when in doubt than a well-worn sheep 
track, that always leads to safety, winding its 
way from pool to pool until it comes out on 
some firm and welcome stretch of heather. 
The undermining of their banks by the tumbling 
streams is sometimes a source of peril, and a 
certain crossing of the Farley Water near its 
source in Blackpits once earned for itself a 
sinister reputation bv engulfing in a sudden 
downfall of many tons of soft earth a somewhat 
ill-tempered hunter mare, known as " Mrs. May- 
brick," that was carrying at the time the then 
Master of the Exmoor Foxhounds. All the 
Exmoor bogs have certain ancient ways across 
and about them which are well known to the 
moormen who live in their neighbourhood, and 
are handed down by tradition to generations of 
staghunters, but to know them for one's self, 
to be able to show the way to a well-mounted 
field in a hurry over such lonely expanses as 
Longstone Bog or Blackpits or Duckypool, is an 
accomplishment possessed by few. 

When all is still and balmy, and the humming 
of a thousand insects in the w^arm noonday sun- 
shine lulls one to a dreamy contentment, Exmoor 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 8i 

and its plains of purple and sage and emerald 
are fair indeed to look upon ; but all this is 
only for a month or two, and then come the 
many days of winter, when the outlook is far 
otherwise. Then in a moment a great drifting 
immensity of sea-fog arises upon the scene, and 
in a few minutes blots out everything familiar, 
and reduces all the landscape to a circle of a 
few square yards, surrounded by an impenetrable 
wall of fleecy vapour, through which neither 
man nor horse may hnd his way except by 
following a beaten path or by sticking closely 
to the outline of some moorland wall or fence, 
or haply by descending to the nearest stream 
and following its winding course. 

To attempt to ride straight across the open 
is a most hazardous proceeding, inasmuch as 
one cannot possibly maintain a straight line of 
progress without visible landmarks ; and sound, 
moreover, in a fog is as deceiving as sight. For 
hours and hours the fog will hang, and perhaps 
for days and even weeks it will keep the hilltops 
silent and untenanted, and then a burst of 
sunlight or a sweeping breath of the wild west 
wind, or perchance a rain shower, will disperse 
the whole fabric as if by magic, and the moor 
will stand revealed, dark and damp and gloomy, 
but still rideable. Under clearer skies comes 
usually the arch enemy of all hunting — the 
frost — and very severe indeed is its grip 

G 



82 STAG HUNTING WITH THE 

sometimes on these shelterless plains a thousand 
feet and more above sea level. In great and 
protracted frosts the streams are wont to freeze 
and then overflow their frozen surfaces, freezing 
again and again in tier upon tier of fairy-like 
ice filagree that delights the eye with its endless 
fantastic combinations of crystal and sheet ice 
and stalactite. The wet ground is very perilous 
riding then, and one's favourite hunter is better 
off at home in his loose box than scrambling 
over the precarious footholds of these wild 
forest bv-ways. Then there is yet another terror 
with which Nature vetoes the chase. Ever and 
again, as the winter months come round, she 
spreads her white mantle all round her shoulders, 
drifting the roads and paths bank high, and 
sending great swirling sheets of whiteness all 
across the open, with heavv wind-swept banks 
beside the hedges and through the gaps and 
gateways where the whistling north wind brings 
its flakv load. Bright and hot is the sunshine 
next day on the fallen masses, and then by 
night the stars glitter with brightness in the still 
blue heaven, and the frost grips all the world 
and turns it to cast iron. When Exmoor is in 
its wildest moods it is seen bv but few, and 
those who for the most part by long acquaint- 
ance turn a dull eye upon its wonderful colourings 
and its fantastic skies and quaint lights and 
shades. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 83 

Some of its most impressive aspects, however, 
are undoubtedly those when the storm-fiend is 
abroad and the elements are at plav. The blank 
cartridge of a westerly gale, against which the 
galloping deer cannot force their way over the 
open, is all very w^ell, but when double-shotted 
with hail it is enough to make the boldest horse- 
man turn and fiv for the shelter of the nearest 
beech fence, where he may cower until the 
squall sweeps bv. 

The moorland streams are always interesting, 
whether it be fishing time or whether they are 
rushing down bank high in thick turbid flood 
to join the Lyn or Barle or Exe or Horner 
water. Along their course hunted deer love to 
run, wdth splashes and occasional full-stops to 
roll their broad backs in the pools if they have 
suiiicient start of their pursuers to allow them- 
selves time to do it, but every stickle and every 
angle of the stream has its complement of 
boulders and of water-worn rocks on which the 
tell-tale splashes left bv the hurrying animal 
prove a sure guide to the keen-eyed hunts- 
man, and every here and there, at intervals 
of a mile or tw^o, perhaps, are cattle poles 
stretched across the stream-beds, where deer 
are sure to leave the water or, at any rate, 
show^ some trace of their passing, either to the 
hound's keen instinct or the huntsman's enquir- 
ing eye. 



84 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

In the hot August days the frequent crossing 
of the streams gives panting dry-mouthed horses 
the opportunity for a hasty drink, which to them 
must be nectar indeed, but it sometimes happens 
that, not content with a mouthful, horses elect 
to lie down and roll, regardless of their rider's 
objections. To ride the best part of twenty 
miles to a meet, and then to find oneself 
unceremoniously deposited in the stonv bed of 
a stream is, to say the least of it, distinctly 
unsatisfactory, and a horse, moreover, that has 
once appreciated the pleasures of a roll in a 
limpid stream is apt to repeat the operation, 
even in the middle of a run. 

The hunting power of certain hounds in the 
pack is brought into play by the habit the deer 
have of running the course of the streams, and 
many old hounds will cast themselves at a gallop 
along the bank, questing each likely stone, 
snuffing at an overhanging bough or bunch of 
fern, and eventually hitting off the deer's point 
of departure with a loud and eager note which 
quickly brings the pack to join in the re-estab- 
lished chase. 

Other hounds again, running jealous or hunt- 
ing for themselves alone, will strike the spot where 
the deer landed dripping from his bath, and will 
race away mute as mice upon the foil, gaining a 
long start of their comrades until the huntsman 
happens to catch a view of their manoeuvre. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 85 

Once leafv June has covered all the wood- 
lands alike with her dense green mantle, there 
is a certain sameness in the depths of all the 
big woods of Exmoor, and the endless deep 
shade is, perhaps, less alluring to an artistic 
eye than the varied scheme of colour of other 
seasons. In mid-winter, of course, neutral tints 
are the order of the day, and it is only in 
exceptionally dry weather that the harmony of 
grey and brown and slate blue and purple is 
revealed in the deep woodlands such as Horner. 
On the other hand one can see much further 
through the tree stems, and everv moving 
object is noted at once, where it might pass 
invisible amongst the fern and dense green 
foliage of August and September. In hind hunt- 
ing time the great woods are not so full of 
deer as in the summer and autumn, for the big 
herds betake themselves to the open combes 
and hill-tops, where they can look all round 
and descrv their enemies from afar, but when 
once a hind finds herself hard pressed, and 
fairly separated from her comrades, she is sure 
to try a spell of running amongst the woodlands, 
with occasional trips down to the water to take 
soil and perhaps run the stream-bed for a w'hile 
to gain time. Some equinoctial gale, perhaps, 
has thrown a tree -top downwards into the 
tumbling torrent, and under the shelter of its 
branches hinds will often find a hiding place, 



S6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

sinking themselves to the chin in the ice-cold 
stream while the hounds quest doubtingly up 
or down each bank. At such a spot the hunts- 
man will naturally cast an enquiring eye, but 
sometimes the shelter is good enough to 
completely hide the hunted animal, and it is 
only by accident that she is seen to leave her 
lair long after the chase has moved away, and 
she is safe till the next hunting day. 

In the Horner Woods there are always sheep 
to be seen picking a precarious livelihood from 
the steep hillsides, leaving their wool on briar 
and black thorn and occasionally in the treach- 
■erous days of spring giving up altogether the 
difBcult struggle for life. The Ouantock Hills 
seem to be the place where sheep have most 
difficulty in picking up a livelihood, and here, 
too, even the ponies occasionally succumb at the 
end of a hard winter. 

The scene at the hnish of a good hind 
hunting run, if it terminates early enough in 
the day for the mid-winter afternoon sun to 
illumine the scene, is far more suitable for the 
painter's brush than the end of a day in the 
fashionable season. Not that the hind figures 
much in the scene, for she has no antlers with 
which to tight, and her end is swift and sudden, 
but the grouping of hounds and horses, and the 
■ mere handful of human beings dragging the 
hind from the water and assisting in the final 




z 

Q 



Q 
O 
O 
> 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 89 

ceremony, stand out in bolder contrast to the 
dull tones of rocks and mossy sward and bare 
stones and quivering branches than does the 
crowd of a hundred horsemen under shady 
boughs all densely draped in heavy green. 

Facing Holnicote there are some quiet 
combes where the earliest flights of woodcock 
journeying under the steely October moon are 
wont to drop some members of their band, and 
here in sultry August one or more big stags 
are usually to be found. The conformation of 
this side of Dunkery lends itself to a ready 
view of the stag when roused, as he must move 
upwards and shew himself to the waiting held 
on the stonv slopes above, the fertile vale 
beneath being fenced off for some considerable 
distance. 

The deep gorge of Cutcombe is lined with 
dense woods, which overhang its sheltered depths 
that are threaded by the tiny stream that event- 
uallv runs through Dunster Lawns to the sea. 
Stealing down from the hill through the Cut- 
combe coverts the deer have a highway to 
Croydon Hill and the Slowley and Dunster 
strongholds, and by turning up a side combe 
they can pass almost unseen to the wild and 
precipitous recesses of Hartcleave and its snug 
plantations. From thence they can make their 
way unhindered to Lype Common and the 
warm lying of Chargot Wood, and from thence 



go STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

they occasionallv travel over the hue of the dis- 
used mineral railway on the Brendon Hills to 
Withiel pond and the Haddon coverts. 

Far from keeping their herds distinct, there 
is no doubt that the deer frequently move to 
and fro between the districts into which the 
home country is nominally divided, the old 
hinds teaching their calves the paths and by- 
ways by which they have been in the habit of 
travelling themselves on many a shiny night. 
Every now and then in the month of April a 
pair of shed horns will be picked up in some 
covert or on some feeding ground, where the 
stag has gone as a complete stranger, and again 
in wild October some stag will be found in 
company with a herd of hinds, having travelled 
many weary miles from his usual habitat. On 
the whole, perhaps, the hinds stick more closely 
to their own locality than the stags. The most 
likely side of Cloutsham for good sport is the 
Sweeterv front, where the trees and fern brakes 
run up into the hillside combes and end in 
thick plantations of larch and other firs. Here, 
if a stag has any confidence in his own fleetness 
and endurance, there is nothing to prevent him 
betaking himself at once to the open when 
the tufters rouse him, and if he once goes 
fairly away from the head of Bagley Combe 
there is bound to be a run of no mean order. 
From the first field above the farm one can 




w 
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Q 



o 

h 
CO 

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O 

o 
< 

w 

H 

C4 

o 
fa 

o 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 93 

view on foot the first stages of the huntsman's 
work without wearying the back of the good 
animal that is presently to carry one in a 
stretching gallop to Badgworthy and beyond. 
The green and purple hillside of Dunkery shews 
plainly, if the light be fayourable, the red flank 
of the galloping stag as he strides away toward 
Langcombe Head, while the scarlet-coated 
whipper-in bustles along to intercept the tufters 
that are following in his wake, and then stops 
and turns his horse's head towards the master, 
who all this time has been attentively following 
proceedings from a point high up on the Clouts- 
ham side. Then if all be well and the stag is 
warrantable the master will gallop down to 
Cloutsham, the kennel doors will be thrown 
wide open, and the held will come hurrying up 
in close attendance on the eager pack, to thread 
the dusty track from Cloutsham upwards towards 
the moor until Stoke Ridge is reached and the 
starting point of another moorland run is gained. 



CHAPTER V. 

Mr. Basset's and Colonel Hornby's Great Runs — A 

Memorable By-Day on the Forest — From Haddon to 

Wheal Eliza. 



Each 
year has 
its "run of 
t h e sea- 
son," and 
except 
i n times 
of pro- 
tracted 
drought 
at least 
h a 1 f - a - 
dozen 
memorable chases can be counted upon during 
the all too short ten weeksj of staghunting, and the 
following records of some modern runs, written at 
the time, will prove interesting alike to those who 
took part in them and to those who for some 
reason or another missed being out on those par- 
ticular days, or, even being out, got left behind. 

On Wednesday, in the last week but one of 
the season of 1889, there took place a most 




STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 97 

remarkable run from Leeworthy, or rather from 
Bratton Fleming. The Master, Lord and Lady 
Ebrington, Mrs. Froude Bellew, Miss C. Clarke, 
Miss Halliday, Miss Lock-Roe, Mr. and Mrs. 
Seymour Bouverie, Miss St. John Mildmay, Capt. 
and Miss Kinglake, Messrs. Yearsley, Watson 
Snow, Hamilton, Hext, Richards, Seldon, T. 
Horn, Dennis, Ferguson, Roberts, Bertram Pott, 
Roope, Morgan, Capt. Karslake, Hon. A. For- 
tescue, Hon. L. J. Bathurst, Mr. Ian Amory, 
Lord Valletort, and Mr. A. Locke were out. 
The pack was again kennelled at Nightacot as 
upon the occasion of our last visit to this 
country, and once more Mr. Bowden fed the 
hungry and thirsty. Tufters were taken to 
Smithapark Wood and thrown into the same 
spot which yielded such a bountiful supply of 
hinds last time, opposite Button Hill, and almost 
immediately found a stag, which, after a turn or 
two in covert took the now familiar line up the 
valley towards Tithecombe, passing by Button 
Bridge. Anthony stopped the tufters here, and 
Arthur galloped off for the pack, which, after 
a little delay in the Twitchen valley, were laid 
on by the Friendship Inn at five minutes to 
one. Away they raced over much the same 
line as before, by Chapman's Barrows, and on 
the left of Sadler's Stone, leaving the Chains 
wall to the right, and so over Furzehill to Hoar 
Oak Water ; up over Cheriton Ridge and down 
H 



98 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

again the other side to the Farley Water, where 
a sHght check occurred, and not before it was 
wanted. Up to this the pace had been tre- 
mendous for forty-five minutes from the time 
of laying on, and only about twenty-five of the 
field were well up. Arthur cast up the water, 
and succeeded in hitting the line just before 
coming to the Forest w^all, whence hounds bent 
to the left as thev rose the steep side and 
came to the Brendon road, crossing it just at 
Brendon Two Gates and soon made good speed 
over Brendon Common, till they sank by the 
Doone Vallev into Badgworthv Water. 

For a little distance the line lay up under 
the fence of Mr. Snow's Deer Park, and then 
crossed it to Manor Allotment, whence hounds 
made for the Chalk Water, by Stowford Bottom. 
Still driving ahead, thev soon reached Porlock 
and Lucott commons, and sank to the Chettis- 
ford Water under Nutscale, from which they 
rose again at once to cross Wilmersham common 
and go down through Hole Wood to the Horner 
valley, where, just under Cloutsham, hounds got 
up to their deer. Dowm the valley thev drove 
him to Horner Mill, and then with a sharp 
turn to the right, went up over Parsonage Side 
and into Chapel Plantation. Carrying forward 
through the pines, they ran right into Luccombe 
village, and the final scene was enacted on the 
lawn of the Rectory, at a few minutes after 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 99 

three o'clock. Time, two hours and ten minutes, 
and the distance over twenty miles. He was a 
good-bodied, seven-year-old deer, with a head 
rather on the decline. He carried three upon 
top on one side, with brow and tray, and on 
the other, a straight horn on top with two tiny 
offers, and his rights complete below. 

The middle of September is a time at which 
one may expect good runs to commence. Rain 
has generally fallen by that time, harvest opera- 
tions and a month's hunting have set the deer 
in motion after their summer's rest, and they 
are in the best of condition. 

On Tuesday, the fifteenth of September, 
1 89 1, the hounds having returned on the 
previous Saturday to Exford from their annual 
week's staghunting on the Quantocks, the meet 
that morning was at a little wayside public- 
house on the Filleigh and Martinhoe Road 
known as the Friendship Inn. Within a mile 
on the Barnstaple side — and that town is not 
many miles awav — lie the coverts of Bratton 
Fleming, Tithecome, Twitchen Wood, and so 
forth, which have several times of late years 
produced deer that have shown splendid gallops 
over the forest, but these were not to be called 
upon to-day. Miles had been harbouring as 
usual, but his report was unfavourable, nothing 
warrantable was at home, only a hind and some 
male deer ; the stag that was supposed to be 



loo STAGHUiNTING WITH THE 

in the neighbourhood was not forthcoming. So 
Mr. Basset gave marching orders for Brayford, 
and thither went most of the company in a 
long procession up the Filleigh Road. First the 
hounds and huntsman, then a hundred horse- 
men or so, then a number of carriages, then 
more horsemen, and so on. Some late arrivals 
by train from Dulverton met the vanguard just 
before the turn down into Brayford, and nicked 
in most opportunely. Passing on through the 
village of Bravford, till the bridge over Hole 
Water was reached, the master had the coverts 
between the Simonsbath Road and Sherracombe 
drawn with the pack. Just before half-past 
twelve a four-vear-old stag jumped up and went 
away up the bottom of Sherracombe towards 
Whiteheld Down, the whipper-in managing to 
stop the tufters bv the ford. Huxtable's horse 
was taken down Sherracombe Lane to meet him, 
and he quicklv relinquished his tufting pony with 
the little red danger signal on its tail. With 
the exception of half-a-dozen horsemen, who 
were waiting in position on the top of Whiteheld 
Down, the bulk of the held were in the neigh- 
bourhood of the Poltimore Arms when the news 
that something had gone away hrst spread. 

A few minutes' gallop brought all to the 
grassy lane above Five Barrows Cross, where 
the master was sounding a note in reply to 
Tucker's whistle. 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 103 

Then the eager hounds race upwards, their 
whimpering cry floats by upon the cool west 
wind, the hard high road is left finally behind, 
the sheep hurry off stampeding, and the second 
forest run of the season has begun, and no 
mistake. Close packed together, racing for dear 
life, heads up and sterns down, no music now, 
away they go over Squallacombe and down the 
long slope of Vintcombe to cross the tiny stream 
of the Barle and the Challacombe Road at 
Driver Cott. Then right up over the long ascent 
beyond, horses blowing and lathering, some left 
far behind already, one saddle empty, with the 
Chains on the left front and Exe Plain on the 
right — a choice of evils. Now they are bending 
slightly to the right, a welcome sign, for it 
means Farley Water and Brendon Common 
presently to those who can live so far. But 
there is a lady's horse down, struggling with 
vain efforts in the peaty mire. And there's 
another ! How that man on the right in the 
white garments shot off, to be sure ! Here's 
the Lynton Road, thank goodness, and the face 
and voice of John Tarr, with second horses. 
On again now with four fresh springs and a 
new pair of bellows, leaving Brendon Two Gates 
far behind, Down the long descending slope 
of Brendon Common, gaining on hounds at 
every stride, through a miry gateway, and still 
downwards at full gallop over Hoccombe Hill 



104 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

to the upper ford of the Badgworthy Water. 
Up over Manor Allotment with hounds bearing 
away on the right as if for Larkbarrow ; but they 
leave it on one side and the chase sweeps on. 
Down and up at Stowford Crossing, fording the 
headings of the Chalk Water, and straight on 
over the short young heather of Outer Alscott — 
a part of Mill Hill— to the Weir Water and 
Porlock Allotment. Then there is a gradual 
rise to the Exford Road that tells terribly on 
all the horses that are carrying weight. In the 
road Lord Ebrington hnds a fresh horse where- 
with to face Lucott Moor, from the top of 
which the Horner coverts heave in sight. Some 
dash on through Lucott Farm, others by Wil- 
mersham and Cloutsham. The stag holds on 
almost to Horner mill, then turns off right- 
handed for Chapel plantation. Most of the 
hounds have straggled in coming down through 
the woods, but a few work on. Huxtable is at 
hand, and sees the stag come doubling back 
under Horner mill with one hound at his 
haunches. He toils up the stream to East 
Water Foot and there stands at bay with the 
single hound at 2.30, just two hours from when 
he was found, the distance in a straight line 
from point to point being sixteen miles, and the 
total probablv over twenty. The horn soon 
brought up more hounds and he broke away 
down stream to the mill, where he was taken on 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 107 

the water wheel, after badly pricking two hounds, 
which fell right to the bottom. It took half-an- 
hour to get him down. He had only six points. 
On the following Monday, for the third time 
in the season, the Cloutsham coverts provided 
a stag which has gone to the open, on each 
occasion by much the same route. A compara- 
tively small field were enjoying the unwonted 
sunshine in the meeting field on Cloutsham Ball, 
when suddenly the master appeared at 12.40 
galloping back from the direction of Prickslade, 
and sounding a cheery note of warning as he 
came. One and all, of those who meant riding, 
made ready at once for a start, while the kennel 
doors were flung wide open, and the pack 
issued eager for the fray. Piloting them him- 
self, the master made off at a good pace 
through the fields to Stoke Pero, and thence to 
the Pool fields, where Anthony was encountered. 
Then, after a change of horses, there was a 
move on to the fields upon Tarball, and hounds 
were laid upon the line of a stag which had 
gone awav in the right direction with a good 
amount of law in his favour. This was at 1.5. 
They readily acknowledged the line and topped 
the two or three fences which separated them 
from Tarball Hill, in quick succession, then 
went out over the short heather of Wilmersham 
Plain and down to the Nutscale Water, at a 
rare pace, and checked opposite the foot of 



io8 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Blackford Combe. They were at once cast up 
the water at a quick trot, the bulk of the field 
winding up the valley under Nutscale in single 
file, by the sheep path which lies amongst the 
boulders and the fern. A tiny rough fox-terrier 
kept with the pack for some distance, making 
the great twentv-five inch hounds look all the 
bigger by the contrast of its own diminutive 
inches. At last, having cast all up the Nutscale 
Water to Chettisford Bridge in vain, Anthony 
took the hounds all back again on the Exford 
side of the water to the little water in Ember 
Combe, and then completed the circuit by re- 
crossing the Chettisford Water and rejoining the 
master on Great Hill. The stag meanwhile had 
crossed the water direct at the point where 
hounds hrst checked, and ascending by Black- 
ford Combe and Babe Hill, had attained the 
crest of Lucott JMoor and borne right away for 
the forest. Being told of this, Anthony made a 
long cast, and struck the line at the boundary 
fence of Porlock Allotment, where the stag had 
crossed the Exford Road. Two casualties had 
already taken place, a lady falling on the way 
up the Chettisford Water, and a groom's horse 
pitching head first into the high road in the 
act of descending from the common at a place 
where the bank was unsound. 

The hounds quicklv traversed the easy de- 
scending slope of Porlock Allotment to the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 109 

Weir Water, and presently ascended Mill Hill 
with a right-handed slant ; then swung round 
left-handed after a short check and pointed for 
Larkbarrow by wav of Kittucks. The field, 
nothing loth to take advantage of all this oscilla- 
tion, sank and rose the deep chasm of the 
Chalk Water at Stowford Bottom, and wxre 
soon splashing across the first of the treacherous 
ground in Stowey Allotment. Across their path 
came the hounds, bearing away right-handed 
now^ to Landcombe on the north side of the 
Deer-park ; down the length of this to the 
Badgworthy Water, and then upstream for some 
distance. The master and the secretary, with 
fresh horses, galloped down to the Doone-path 
and forded the stream, while the chase sw^pt 
on, up Hoccombe, and awav to Brendon Two 
Gates. Time to this point, an hour and five 
minutes. Then out over again still westward, 
to the head of the Farley Water, hounds over- 
running the line somewhat while the stag 
crouched in a peat-cutting. Jumping up, he 
was viewed, and hounds were soon racing away 
as if tied to him across the Chains to Pink- 
worthy Pond, where he soiled. The dauntless 
few still plodding on hugged the wall for the 
most part, the sharp pace and holding ground 
telling terribly on horses ; one every here and 
there coming to grief. One gentleman in falling 
received some nastv cuts and bruises about the 



no STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

face and body, but was able to return to 
Simonsbath. Just as all were thinking that a 
finish at Bratton Fleming was imminent, hounds 
bent away right-handed again with a large 
circuit, and bore down on the fields near Parra- 
combe. Right through the village went the 
stag, attracting buyers and sellers alike from an 
auction which was being held, and so on with 
sinking steps bv Trentishoe to Heddon's Mouth, 
where he was killed at 3.30. A fine five-year- 
old stag, with brows and trays and two atop 
one side and two and an offer on the other. 
The stag made so manv zigzag turns that it is 
difficult to estimate the distance covered, but it 
cannot have been less than twenty-three miles. 

In some seasons it happens that the perform- 
ance of an August stag, barely clear of his 
velvet, excels any run that follows it, but this 
is not generallv the case. When, however, a 
great run does take place in August, it finds 
both men and horses less set in condition, and 
consequently makes more impression than a 
brilliant gallop later on in cooler weather. 

By far the best run of the season of 1892 
took place from Mr. Bouverie's Cut combe 
coverts on Friday, August 26th, where two deer 
were roused after a short period of tufting. 
One of these was plainly seen to be a fine stag 
of five or six seasons, and though both went 
when disturbed towards Annicombe, yet their 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. iii 

lines were sufficiently divergent to enable Mr. 
Locke, acting as master in the absence of Mr. 
Basset, to lay on the pack at 12.25 ^" ^^^^ North 
Hawkwell fields after duly stopping the tufters. 
Hot and dusty was the advance down the 
Dunster Road from Wheddon Cross, where 
hounds had been kennelled, and across the 
deep combe in which the Aville water trickles 
from pool to pool, and hotter still the climb up 
the stonv lane above North Hawkwell to see 
hounds laid on. At a rack in the first fence 
above North Hawkwell Wood, they own it with 
a whimper and begin to scramble through the 
brush. Capt. Warre espies an obscure gate in 
an adjacent corner, and the field soon slip 
through, though a resounding thump and a 
smothered execration or two in the crowd tell 
that one horse at least is making free with his 
heels. Over the sun-baked fields towards Hill 
Barn hounds run but slowly, being once or 
twice at fault, and at Spangate a check of some 
minutes occurs. In Annicombe is a soiling pit 
much frequented by the deer, and in this the 
stag had been seen to lie for a while, ere he 
made off towards Luccombe. From this point 
hounds take it up with more eagerness, and 
soon traverse the stony side of Dunkery, over 
Brockwell and Huntscott and sink into Luc- 
combe Allers, and Anthony's difficulties begin. 
First of all, a great ruddy hind starts out of 



112 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the snug shelter afforded by this deep Httle 
wooded gulch, and strides away towards 
Webber's Post, with long ears pricked forward 
in wonder and alarm. Then a big male deer 
breaks back lower down, and the bulk of the 
pack settle upon his foil and run merrily for 
half a mile towards Annicombe till Sidney stops 
them and Anthony takes them back once more 
to try and solve the question in the Allers. 
Again there is a cry and a rush, and a light- 
coloured three-year-old male deer breaks out, 
pointing for Horner, but blanches at sight of the 
field and gallops over the side of Robin How 
and also returns to Annicombe. Towards two 
o'clock Anthony crosses the head of the little 
Wytchanger Combe and throws his hounds into 
the thick part of Middlehill Plantation, and a 
challenge amongst the dark green pines at once 
sets every one on the "qui vive." Stealing out 
from the trees comes the hunted stag, crosses 
a little space in the heather, and squats in a 
furze bush, plainly seen by every one. Several 
couple of hounds come toiling up on the line, 
but are stopped ere they disturb him, for others 
have got away meanwhile on the line of a hind, 
and the whole pack must be got together for 
the chase which is about to commence afresh. 

At a quarter past two Anthony moves up to 
the furze bush, coming down wind, but the stag 
lies close till the hounds are all round him, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 113 

then jumps up and races away, soon distancing 
his enemies in spite of Anthony's efforts to 
head him away towards the open hill. Into 
Luccombe Plantations first of all, as if to try 
and shift hounds on to the line of the hind, 
which is to be seen trotting away in the vale 
towards West Luccombe over a corn held, then 
w^ien that fails he doubles short round on 
Horner Hill, and slips away to Parsonage Side 
and sinks to the East Water. Now, reader, 
make up vour mind at once, perch yourself in 
the spirit on the cantle of my saddle, and ride 
with me for an hour after that will-o'-the-wisp, 
the leading hound. Leave a hundred or so of 
doubting, debating staghunters perched at 
Webber's Post, and plunge down the zigzag 
path to the East Water Foot, splash through 
the Horner Water and strike up Lord Ebring- 
ton's Path, for this stag is flying up the main 
valley, the whole pack at his heels and Anthony's 
horn is getting fainter and fainter towards Pool 
Bridge. Take a pull now and let him trot all 
the way up the winding ascent, for there's many 
a mile yet of galloping to do, and we must 
husband our resources. Out of the coppice at 
last, up through the sheep paths on Ley Hill : 
how that little band of a dozen on the other 
side of the valley are galloping for Stoke, to be 
sure. Here are some foot people ; we'll ask 
them. "Yes, all up the bottom," and sure 
I 



114 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

enougli, thtre goes the horn at the Tarball end 
of Whitburrow Wood. There goes a red coat 
by Stoke Mill, so off we must go, too, for all 
we are worth, up the track through the fields 
to Lucott, then into the helds again at the 
second gate above the farm and all down the 
long sloping track to Blackford. There is the 
acting-master just ahead, on his gallant grey, and 
there are the hounds fiving up the meadows by 
the water just below. Yonder though are more, 
further ahead, going with sterns down, mute as 
swallows, and as fast. Now through the tiny 
Blackford courtyard, out round the steeply 
sloping fields beyond, from gate to gate ; that's 
Anthony opposite galloping along the sheep- 
track, and about a score with him. Here's the 
boundary fence against Babe Hill, with never a 
gate and the ground as steep as the side of a 
house ; now where is the weak place ? Up there 
on the right by that furze bush. Out oyer we 
go, with a plunge and a struggle, and now to 
crawl gingerly round the shoulder of the hill, 
for a slip and a roll here mean broken bones 
and a good horse done for. Thank goodness ! 
that's left behind ! Now where on earth have 
hounds got to ? Oh, there they are, on the 
right, nearly on top of Lucott Moor and going 
as if possessed. Now let us trot up this long 
ascent as well as we can, avoiding the spring- 
heads, and once atop we'll see who can gallop 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 115 

and who can stav behind. Up at last bv the 
turf heaps, now we can see them again, saihng 
away on a breast high scent over Porlock 
Common towards Hawkcombe Head. Xow let 
us dodge through the wet ground, pop through 
the sheep gap in the boundary wall, and sit 
down to gallop over this mile or more of short 
sound heather. That's better now, the good 
little horse beneath us is catching hold of his 
bit again, and soon will bring us up to those 
specks ahead. Already thev look bigger as we 
flv past Hawkcombe Head and come down to a 
canter just through the gatewav of Lord Love- 
lace's plantations. Now we'll extend him again 
and thunder up the middle track way, for that 
tail hound is evidentlv running the line, and 
those foot-people are all looking towards Sil- 
combe. There's Sidney on the right, keeping 
an eye on the laggards lest thev stir up other 
deer or drop behind altogether. Xow we must 
leave this middle track, which has served us so 
well, and strike off to the right through the 
stubby pines and heather holding hard on the 
snaffle, and guiding all we know between the 
dead and dying treelets, or our headlong career 
may come to a sudden close. A few minutes' 
check in the top of Holmer Combe, just time 
to draw breath, and away goes Anthony again, 
blowing like Boreas, past the top of Twitchen 
Combe, with the hounds on his left, and stays 



ii6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

a moment to cheer them on in the extreme 
corner of the plantations. So we must stay too, 
and now we must rattle down the stonv lane to 
Broomstreet, rattle through the courtyard, just 
able to catch a glimpse of three hounds skim- 
ming across a lev held. A sporting farmer, 
mounted on a sturdv roan, catches a view of 
the leading ones as they race along the lower 
edge of Yenworthy Common, so up we must 
go, over one small but steep field, and once 
again we are on the heather. Now, reader, one 
more effort if we can ; those fleeting forms fly 
faster than ever ; they are closing with their 
deer, and this open common is our chance to 
get up in time. Steady him till you gain the 
summit, then give him his head and a gentle 
admonition with the spur, and tlv down the 
long slope to County Gate, take the right hand 
track and trot down the bridle path in Seven 
Thorns and look over into that round reservoir in 
the combe two hundred feet below you. There 
he is, the gallant beast that has led us such a 
merry dance, and alreadv hounds are there too, 
and chasing him round and round with a 
clamour like a peal of bells. Now, Sidney ! 
quick with the rope 1 That has him. Well 
thrown ! Now let us help to take him, that 
his sufferings may be short. What a noble head 
he has ! All his rights, bar the near side bay, 
and two long ones atop on each horn. 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 119 

A glorious run took place at a by-meet on 
the Friday preceding the opening meet of 1893 
from Culbone Stables, when a good galloping 
straight-necked stag was roused in Metcombe 
Plantations and sent straight to the Forest. The 
tufters had been at work only a few minutes 
when they opened on this gallant beast, who 
beat round the head of Lillicombe, and then 
sinking to the Weir water at Robber's Bridge, 
set his head proudly for the open by w^ay of 
Mill Hill. Even from the first it was evident 
that scent was not of the very best or strongest, 
the pack dashing off with a rather uncertain 
drive, but over the open moorland a degree or 
two of scent more or less seems to matter but 
little ; the swampy surface always holds scent 
enough to enable hounds to outpace all horses 
but the very best and boldest. 

And now let me take you with me for the 
next three glorious hours, into which a life-time 
of exciting events were crowded, but let it be 
in the spirit and not in the flesh, I pray, for 
every pound avoirdupois will be a sore en- 
cumbrance ere we help Anthony to administer 
the "coup de grace" to that flying red form 
that has just disappeared over the crest of Mill 
Hill in the sunshine. Let us trot up the side 
of the Chalk Water for a little and slip off to 
the Deer Park as quickly as we can, for hounds 
have started and will be there before us. Gently 



I20 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

up the side of Oldhay Ridge ; it will never do 
to knock the wind out of the plucky Irishman 
beneath us just yet. How he pulls and fights, 
to be sure ! Fit to jerk one's arms from the 
sockets. But he will soon give that up unless 
I am much mistaken. Now let us slip gingerly 
across Blindwell Combe by the narrow sheep- 
track. There go the hounds racing for the 
larch plantation in Landcombe, and there goes 
Mr. Snow, leading a small squadron of cavalry 
for the gate into the Turf Allotment. Some- 
thing is wrong with the Deer Park gate. Never 
mind ! let us tip over the fence and show the 
twenty or so behind us the way. " That is the 
style," says Anthony, who is remounting, as the 
good grey lands us well out on the vonder 
side. Now harden vour heart, mv friend, and 
we will sail awav for all we are worth to 
regain the two minutes lost at the fence, all 
down the half-mile slope of the Deer Park 
to the head of the Doone Path, through the 
knee-deep heather and spongv green grass. 
There go the hounds just sinking to the Badg- 
worthv Water, and we must race like the wind 
if we are to be in time. There goes a herd 
of fourteen deer bv Woodcock Combe — that 
old rascal, Galloper, is driving them — and there 
goes a great heavy stag straight for Brendon 
Two Gates up the long slope of Badgworthy 
Hill, but our stag has crossed the water lower 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 121 

down ; there are the hounds strugghng up 
through the fern on the steep side of Badgvvorthy 
Lees. Will they cross Lankcombe ? Well, we 
can't w^ait to see I Down to the Doone Vallev 
at full trot, splash through the rippling brown 
water, fresh and full after last night's rain, 
aw^ay by the Shepherd's Cott, and aw^ay at full 
gallop over Withycombe Ridge. How lucky ! 
there go the hounds across our front, from 
right to left ; now we shall get on terms with 
them, but we must navigate round the bog on 
our left. Well done, gocd horse! you don't 
seem to pull much now, do vou ? There are 
those will-'o-the-wisps crossing Hoccombe Hill, 
and that is surely Michael leading, fleetest of 
them all. Now, will they turn down Hoccombe 
Water, or will they turn up to Two Gates ! 
Thank goodness, they are bending to the right, 
and now we know that we are in for it, and 
perhaps twenty more, and that the rest of the 
goodly held that assembled at Culbone is simply 
now^here. 

Going down the side of Clannon Ball thev 
dwell for a moment where some sheep and 
ponies have foiled the line, but soon set them- 
selves right again, and dash over the Farlev 
Water and away over Cheriton Ridge. Now 
let us cannily follow Mr. Bathurst, the Master 
of the Exmoor, who is sailing along on that 
dark chestnut with the white star, for we have 



122 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

left "terra tirma " far behind and the land of 
bogs and peat holes is looming large just ahead. 
There are the hounds streaming up from the 
Hoar Oak Water, hard by Gammon's Corner, 
pointing straight for the head of the West Lynn, 
and here are we bv the wall dividing Exe Plain 
from Cheriton Ridge. What shall we do, go to 
them, or make for Pinkerrv Pond ? Mr. Snow 
says the latter, so off we go over a series of 
horribly trappv drainage gutters, but our good 
horse has got his eve on 'em, and pumped 
though he is, puts in never a foot, but hops 
cannilv over and is ready for the next. Now 
along by the wall, in Indian hie in the one 
sound path, full of water though it be : it is the 
onlv sound path in the long dreary expanse of 
the Chains. On and on we go, past Pinkerry 
Pond and upwards towards Chapman's Barrow, 
but never a sign of the hounds : where on earth 
can they have got to ? Has our cast been in 
vain ? Why here's a stag coming to meet us, 
and bv all that's great and good he is the 
hunted one ! His mouth is fast closed ; no, 
he opens it again, and the great white liecks 
of foam fly on the wind, as he plunges heavily 
through swamp after swamp in his long labouring 
gallop. He's going back to the Pond to soil ; 
let us wait till the hounds come up, every 
moment's breathing time will help our horses. 
There comes the string of bobbing heads, toiling 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 123 

up the sky-line of the enclosure from which 
the stag has come, Anthony's hunting cap first, 
and the rest at intervals, and here come the 
hounds streaming over the fence from the direction 
of Tinerlev. 

Down in the gorge below us is a shepherd 
with his collie rounding up a little flock of 
the prick-eared Cheviot sheep ; how surprised 
the man looks at the sudden incursion on his 
solitude I At one moment he fancies himself 
far away from human ken and at the next he 
is aware of a panting labouring stag, after which 
his collie courses ; then come a string of hounds 
running mute, but always striding on. Then 
the nearing twang of the horn sounds on his 
ear, and two little parties of pursuers converge 
on the line from right and left, ploughing along 
through the morasses, their horses in every 
different stage of exhaustion. Now let us turn 
tail and scamper away back with what speed 
we may, by the very same path we have come, 
for the stag does not mean soiling in the pond, 
but is careering along the ridge of the Chains, 
passing within a hundred yards of the tempting 
little loch now shining blue under the August 
sky. Now we are back at last on Exe Plain, 
and there are the hounds running fast, in a 
close drawn string, down the side of Long 
Chains Combe to the round ruin at the ford. 
Now thev check at the water and for about ten 



124 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

minutes Anthony casts around for the Hne. Let 
us seize the opportunity to jump on our second 
horse, a trusty veteran this who has seen more 
deer killed in her time than either you or I. 
Surely that is a hound speaking somewhere, and 
there he is, that is old Trueman up under the 
southern wall of Exe Plain yonder, and he has 
found the line and is hunting awav merrily all 
bv himself. So sound your whistle, Sidney, and 
call up Anthony from the depths of that lonely 
ravine, and let us cram on the pack before 
Trueman gets out of reach. How they speak to 
it now, as they regain the line and sweep over 
Exe Plain towards Blackpits Gate ! 

Quick to the crossing or thev will distance 
us ; now over the road and away over the 
swampy surface of Little Buscombe and Great 
Buscombe. How horribly trappv the endless 
gutters are, black and overgrown, with running 
water at the bottom ! One after another they 
come, some wide and visible, others narrow and 
treacherous. But we must keep galloping all 
the same and give the old mare her head ; she 
has negotiated many a thousand of them and 
won't deceive us now. All down the length of 
Trout Hill we go, putting on steam a little 
where the slope is in our favour. We have the 
advantage of hounds now, as they bend to our 
right into the upper part of Badgworthy Water, 
On Little Tom's Hill just before us come two 



■ DEVON AND SOMERSET. 125 

horsemen, our genial Secretary and the Hon. 
J. S. Trefusis, all the way from the slopes of 
the Ouantock Hills. From the way they face 
it is evident that the stag must be at soil 
between us, and sure enough there he is. One 
view halloa and away he goes up Manor 
Allotment, meeting the Exmoor kennel huntsman, 
whose fresh horse comes in most opportunely 
for his master to change to. Hounds are dwelling 
a little, the hot sunshine must be affecting the 
scent, but now they stream away again over 
Kittucks, taking advantage of Anthony's contin- 
gent who are keeping down the left bank of 
Stowford Bottom, and we have got them all to 
ourselves. Up Hoscombe they run slowly still 
and past Black Barrow and indeed they seem 
so beat as to be hardly able to face the quickly 
succeeding slopes. 

Now they cross to the upper fork of the 
Weir Water and work right up to Lucott Cross. 
One more effort and we are over the ridge of 
Lucott Moor, down go the hounds into Little 
Hill Combe, and there is the fugitive, fairly 
run up. Now, watch him as he breaks from 
his bay and almost rushes over those women 
picking whortleberries. See, how he squats in 
the fern until every hound has passed by, see 
Anthony running up through the ferns, and 
Mr. C. Birmingham directing him from opposite. 
Now they rouse him again, and dowm he comes 



126 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

to water, crashing through the bracken and the 
thorn bushes, A few more dodges and rushes, 
and he falls into the Nutscale Water, and the 
good hounds fall over him. Now, quick and 
help drag him out, put your foot on his off 
antler, and keep back the hounds and Anthony 
will be here in a moment. It is just three 
hours exactly since the pack was laid on at 
Robber's Bridge, and the hounds haye covered 
a point measuring twenty and a-half miles on the 
map, to say nothing of their ascents and descents 
and their turnings and twistings round the shoul- 
ders of the combes and aiong the bends of the 
moorland streams. The stag has brow, bay and 
tray on the oft" horn, with a long upright and 
an offer, and on the near horn has brow, tray 
and two atop. He is a good galloping four- 
year-old, and as fat as ever he can be. He 
is the fifth deer alreadv killed this season. 

Thus did Colonel Hornby inaugurate his 
tenure of otffce in a wet and chilly July with 
a three hours' gallop of the very best and with 
five deer taken on bv-davs. The open moor 
held but few deer in those days and Culbone 
and Horner stags were chary of crossing the 
Weir water, still, when once a real forester 
was afoot, the sport ruled all the better in 
consequence. Colonel Hornby's best runs, 
however, as in this instance and the following 
one, were generally with young deer. A few 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 127 

days previous to this great run Mr. Sanders' 
marriage with Miss Lucy HaUiday, of Glenthorne, 
was solemnised at Oare Church. 

From much abused Haddon, one of the 
good old-fashioned runs, of which bygone 
generations of staghunters were wont to tell, 
took place on Monday, September i8th, 1893. 
Miles had reported a good stag in Haddon 
Wood, and Anthony was sent to tuft for him 
soon after eleven, with almost immediate suc- 
cess. But he took an unpromising line, dashed 
across Hartford Cleave, and at the same time 
a male three-year-old that had been following 
him turned back through Haddon Wood, and 
headed right away to Peter's Piece, with 
one couple of hounds in full chase. Preferring 
this line Col. Hornby touched his horn as a 
signal to Anthony, a little conversation was 
carried on under slight difficulties between 
Miles at Wind Corner and Anthony at Clammer, 
and bv 12.30 the pack had been unkennelled 
and were being taken with all speed down the 
lane to Burv Village. On again we trotted to 
the Hele Bridge meadows and the Exe under 
Rookwood, and hounds opened on the line. 
Up now into Pixton Park, but here hounds 
are at fault; however, one of Lady Carnavon's 
gardeners has seen the deer passing the Jury 
quarr)^ pit, and Anthony brings them to the 
line. Down by the palings they go, and round by 



128 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the pond discoursing sweetly under the trees, 
and then alas it is "Ware buck! Ware doe! 
Ware fawn!" from a score of throats, as 
Grappler and Prompter break from the red 
deer's line and race amongst the dappled herd 
before their eyes, leading some of the veterans 
astray by their example. Ah ! you puppies ! 
Now, Anthony, read the riot act ! Quick, Sidney 
and Barber, drop your thongs into 'em ; this 
will never do ! Now down to Newbridge and 
let us try fresh ground, away from all this 
venison. There's the line right enough, just 
above Newbridge, over the river and road and 
up into Eller's Wood ! Now we must canter 
up the fields outside the wood and be ready 
for 'em 'ere they break awav to Combe. How 
they dwell in the wood ! The deer must have 
been doubling about, drawing for others. Here 
they come though, through the fence, and there 
is a view halloa above the upper Combe Plantation. 
Hounds are faltering on the clay pastures, so 
Anthony lifts them to the four cross ways, and 
a little below on the Gulland road is shown 
the place where the deer has passed, nearlv an 
hour before. Now they are off again, over the 
fields! Here's a flight of hurdles! Crack! 
crack ! in two places at once ! Ah, mv friends, 
if you can't clear them you might just as well 
pull one up and walk through ; you will have 
plenty of company. Now down the hill into a 



K 







< 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 131 

deep, deep combe, and right up beyond. Hounds 
are on our right and running but slowly. Here 
they come up, towards the Molland road, and 
are quite at fault. Anthony lifts them to Five 
Cross Ways, and then trots down the lane that 
leads to All Ways End. 

In the fields on the left he hits the line 
again, and hounds are bearing for Armoor Wood 
when a lusty halloa from the direction of Rhyll 
sets all on the alert. Mr. Hawker shews the 
way down a most convenient hunting path, and 
we are soon at Rhyll, where Mr. Dawkins and 
his merry men all are on the alert. " Oh ! 
yes ! the deer has passed about ten minutes 
since, bearing for Whiterocks." On we go ! 
There's his slot on the road plain enough, but 
hounds cannot own it. Now we are on the 
heather again and away they dart at a very 
different pace to what they have shewn before. 
Over the upper corner of East Anstey Gommon 
they fling through the dark wet heather, with 
sterns lashing, not quite settled to the line vet, 
but plainly getting more eager at every moment. 
Now they are in Venford Common and running 
like mad. Out we go, by the gate at Anstey 
Barrows, Mr. J. Clat worthy has the lead ; perhaps 
he sees them ; it is more than we can, driving 
against the misty rain at this pace. Miss 
Musgrave's horse falls heavily over a cart rut 
and lies still, but she gets up and disentangles 



132 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

herself and comes on again presently, but little 
the worse. Meanwhile we have scampered past 
the head of Longstones combe, and sunk to the 
Danesbrook at the corner of Lyshwell Wood. 
Here are hounds in the water ; they are at 
fault, and a good thing too, for the path in 
Shircombe Brake is steep, and the pace has 
made horses blow already. Anthony casts his 
beauties up stream, and that failing, tries the 
Cloggs side of the wood and hits the line 
again. Awav we gallop, through Shircombe 
courtyard and away to Cloggs Down ; hounds 
were in Devonshire a moment since, now they 
are in Somerset once more. Spur how we 
may, they are still gaining on us ; they are 
fairly racing now, over the moory surface 
of Hawkridge Plain and away by Porchester 
Post ; how they speak on the wet ground ; 
Here's an obstacle ; a yawning watercourse, 
some four feet over, then a high bank with 
some ancient thorn boughs laid on it, and 
perhaps a ditch on the far side. Mr. J. 
Clatworthy is on his feet in a trice and scales 
the rampart, but the gallant roan cob is a trifle 
too quick for him and hurries him rudely into 
the next field on hands and head. No damage 
is done however, and away he goes, leading 
the van as usual. Now we are on Withypool 
Common ; and there are the hounds crossing 
the two Knighton combes below and bending 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 133 

to the left for Landacre Bridge. Here are 
certain springs and streamlets, and one of them 
entraps Barber's horse, the big lop-eared chestnut 
Sunbeam, and down he comes a regular thump. 
The horse is too much shaken to rise again 
at once, but presently he struggles to his feet, 
registering vows, no doubt, that he will take 
care to jump when he next meets a blind water 
course. Up stream go the hounds, till nearly at 
Sherdon Hutch, when a fisherman is encountered 
who is able to give verv valuable information. 
The stag has blanched at sight of him and borne 
straight over Landacre Common through the ferns 
to the Picked Stones fields on the plain above. 
Anthony stops hounds for a few minutes and 
gives his field a welcome chance to close up, 
for horses are failing now, even the verv best 
of them ; the pace and the soft ground have 
thinned the ranks to some purpose. Away go 
the hounds up the slope, flashing prettily to 
right and left, then over the Picked Stones fields, 
and away by the White Water till close to 
Honeymead. Here they check and we pick up 
a recruit in the person of Mr. R. L. Riccard, 
who is just in time to see a very prettv finish. 
Casting back to the White Water, hounds own 
the foil for an instant just opposite Ash Plan- 
tation and then throw up again, but while 
Anthony is in doubt a tail hound speaks loud 
and plain. 



134 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

All eyes turn to the spot, and there sure 
enough is this gallant little stag that has led us 
so far and so fast, toiling up the steep slope 
opposite, so stiff that he can hardly raise a trot. 
One tally and a cheer to his hounds, and 
Anthony sinks the combe, climbs the other side 
and settles them on the line. Away they go 
over Winstitchen, pointing for Flexburrow, but 
the sight of the buildings of Wheal Eliza has 
turned the stag, and he has beaten down the 
Barle. On downwards for a few hundred yards, 
and then in the limpid water hounds run right 
over their deer as he crouches in an attempt 
to hide. Another moment and all is over with 
him. He proves to be in poorish condition, 
with the near brow antler broken short off, and 
has two tines on the near top and the upright 
on the off. The hfteenth deer of the season, 
and the time of the run three hours and three- 
quarters ; the latter half of it exceedinglv fast. 
That veteran staghunter, Mr. J. B. Collvns, was 
going strong throughout this run, which ranks 
easily first among the three notable runs from 
Haddon scored by Colonel Hornby. Encircled 
as the Haddon Coverts are by enclosed country, 
there is no doubt that their deer have not scope 
or range sufficient to enable them to lead hounds 
as gallantly as do their first cousins, but when 
once they have left the deep wooded combes of 
Exe and Barle behind they can gallop as stoutly 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 



135 



and as straight over the great grass ranges of 
southern Exmoor as ever a Culbone stag can 
stride across the heather of Porlock Allotment 
or the green swamps of Acmead. Their blood 
is the same, their instincts are the same, only 
the better feeding and the warmer lying makes 
their heads heavier and their haunches better 
filled. 




CHAPTER VI. 



The Black Stag of Badgworthy — From Black Pitts to 
Bratton Court — The Great Quantock Stag — The 
Oldest Stag on Record — From Oare to Bratton 
Fleming — Mr. Sanders' First Big Stag — The 
Opening Day of 1895 — From Popham Wood to Badg- 
worthy — Eighteen Miles on the South Forest — 
The great "Nott" Stag— A Run from Hawkcombe 
Head. 



The staghunting 
season of 1893 
was concluded on 
Monday, October 
22nd, so far as 
the Porlock side 
of the country is 
concerned, with a 
brilHant perform- 
ance that may 
fairlv rank amongst 
the best runs of 
the year, and the interest of it was much 
increased by the fact that the quarry was no 
other than the big stag of Badgworthy, known 
as "the Bkick Stag." A field of about one 
hundred was first conducted to Larkbarrow 
from the meet at Hawkcombe Head, being 





z 

< 



138 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

just in time to take shelter from a cold and 
drenching shower of rain and hail, and hounds 
were duly kennelled in the farm buildings. 
Tw^o couple and a half of tufters were first 
draw^n, but, on consideration, the master had 
one couple of these returned to kennel, leaving 
three hounds for Anthony to work with. A 
move was now made for Mr. Snow's Deer Park, 
keeping warily to leeward of the fence on 
South Common, so as to approach the deer up 
wand, but no sooner had keeper Steer held the 
gate open for the calvacade to enter, than a 
herd of some sixteen hinds, with a good stag 
in attendance, was seen speeding away over 
the brown expanse to Landcombe. The great 
black stag was supposed to be in the little 
combe facing the Doone Valley with three 
others, but w4ien the tufters entered it, it 
proved to be empty of deer. Ten deer, in 
bunches of two and three, could now be seen 
stealing aw^ay over Badgworthy Hill, making a 
total of twenty-seven already roused, without a 
glimpse of the veteran ; a noble herd, maintained 
and preserved by that best of all supporters 
of staghunting, Mr. Nicholas Snow. 

The tufters were now laid on the line of 
the big herd, to see if they would lead up to 
the famous stag, and they had not been long 
out of sight amongst the larches in Landcombe 
before deer began to move in all directions. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 139 

Two good stags and a male deer broke away 
from Badgworthy Wood over Black Hill at 
sound of the horn, and took an excellent line 
towards Dry Bridges, looking quite yellow in 
the bright sunshine. And now came the sensa- 
tion of the dav. 

While Miles was levelling his field glass at 
the retreating stags, the monarch of the forest 
suddenly made his appearance, followed bv 
another and smaller stag. Now, in an instant, 
all doubt is at end. The cunning old veteran — 
that for so many a year has saved his life by 
wily stratagems, that has eluded Arthur and 
Anthony again and again, that has come to be re- 
garded as no better than a fabulous myth, so 
much has he been talked about and so seldom 
seen — stands confessed. Here he comes towards 
us, with mighty head held high and proud. Black 
he is not, only a darker brown than usual, 
especially about the poll, but in the weird misty 
air of the moor he looks at a little distance 
distinctly blacker than any other of the numerous 
deer we have just seen. But it is by the proud 
carriage of his head, and the square upward 
set of his spreading antlers that one may know 
him amongst a herd of other deer. 

He carries all his rights of course, and one 
can see three long spiky tines at least on either 
top. Have at him now ! Ride off the other 
stag ; and frighten him all you can, that he may 



140 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

go straight away and clear all these crossing 
foils. Well done, Mr. Adams ! Now he flies to 
some purpose ; see his flanks rolling in his 
bounding gallop : — 

" And now the good stag flies before 
His deep-mouthed foes across the moor, 
And swifter than the morning wind 
Leaves Badgworthy, far, far behind ; 
Then breasts the distant hills, nor feels 
The peaty turf with flying heels. 
Now sniffs the wreathing mist that laves 
The purple moor, whose rolling waves 
Of grass and heather, far and nigh, 
Grow dark against the thund'rous sky." 

Now stop vour tufters, Anthony, while w^e watch 
his line. There he goes yonder over the yellow 
moorgrass on Badgworthy Hill, and there go 
tw^o little yearling deer, racing after him, bother 
'em ! They will spoil sport to a certainty. Now 
he sinks into the combe that holds the Hoccombe 
Water, and so do they. Let us watch. Yes, 
there he goes, right up over the crest of Lana- 
combe, against the sky, and there's one at least 
of the little deer still toiling after him. Anthony 
has gone to confer with Colonel Hornby, and 
the pack will most likely be coming along in 
five minutes ; let us trot down to the ford and 
splash through Badgworthy Water and see how 
many of the field come up to the scratch when 
hounds are laid on. Yes, here come the hounds 
right enough, and here comes the field in two 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 141 

divisions and some straggling groups. Ninety- 
four all told, and the odd half dozen, at least, 
are skirting about on distant hilltops. Colonel 
Hornby holds council, and decides to kennel 
again at the Shepherd's Cott, and hunt the line 
with two tufters, till the stag shall have been 
separated from his comrades. Bluster and 
Dalesman are drawn, fourth and fifth season 
hounds, steady and sure, and warranted to stop 
when called upon. Anthony and Arthur ride 
off over Lanacombe, and the field await with 
what patience they may the turn of events. The 
two tufters take up the line near a rushy patch 
on the top of Lanacombe, and carry it over to 
the water of the streamlet under Buscombe ; 
then falter at the water for a minute, and 
anon carry it around towards Trout Hill. There 
go five big hinds before them ; that won't do ! 
Anthony brings them back to the streamlet and, 
at its very source, hits a line. Away they go, 
hunting steadily over Blackpits, running parallel 
with the Exe, Bluster doing all the work, and 
looking backwards from time to time to see if 
he must go on or not. He comes to the head 
of the little valley that leads down to the ruined 
building in Long Chains Combe, and crosses it 
pointing straight for the Chains. " Hold hard. 
Bluster," there is a slot in a muddy sheep-track, 
but it won't do ; it must be the big stag or 
nothing to-day. Now Anthony trots along the 



142 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

steep side overlooking Hoar Oak Water ; per- 
haps the veteran may have stopped in that 
lonely stream ; but no, there's nothing there. 
Now he and Arthur trot slowly back towards 
Blackpits in disconsolate frame, all the skill and 
deer-craft of past and present allied, but quite 
discomfited. Where can the phantom stag have 
got to ? 

There are lines all over the place ; any one 
of them mav be his. How can they tell now 
which to follow ? No friendly halloa to guide 
them in this dreary solitude, no chance to detect 
the fugitive's slot in this wide expanse of 
swampv grass. No human being nearer than 
Hoccombe Hill, or Hoar Oak Cottage ; in the 
distance a few moor ponies grazing, and on 
everv hill some sheep. But stop ! why are those 
sheep huddled so there in Blackpits beside the 
Farlev Water ? What do they see that Anthony 
cannot ? The wind is from him to them ; if it 
be deer, thev will be off in another moment. 
Tally ho ! there they go 1 the two-year-old 
staglings and a hind, and by all that's lucky, 
there is the black stag with them still. Now 
Bluster and Dalesman, have at 'em, my boys I 
But not a bit ; there seems to be some magic 
bv reason of which hounds cannot hunt this 
deer. There are the deer still going, and there's 
]\Ir. Charles Glass. Now will they take it up 
or no ? Yes, they are off at last, and at what a 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 143 

pace ! Now, my old friend, you must look alive, 
or they will be at your haunches in a few 
minutes. Splash, splash, jump, splash, stagger, 
jump — all the way down over Buscombe, a 
treacherous drainage gutter, and as blind as a 
bag, every twenty-two yards, to say nothing of 
cross ones. "I've seen many a fall hereabouts," 
says Arthur, by way of encouragement, and one 
can quite believe it too. Here's the Trout Hill 
fence, and the ground is a little sounder. See, 
here thev crossed ; there's the stag's great slot 
and the hound's pads, but the hinds are parted ; 
now we shall have sport. Away down Trout 
Hill as hard as we can go, for the top Badg- 
worthy crossing. There's a whipper-in galloping 
in the grassy corner of Manor Allotment opposite. 
He stops ! there are two white dots beside him. 
He has stopped 'em, and all is well. The held 
come speeding up from Badgworthy Water full 
of eager enquirv, and delight spreads from face 
to face as the news flies from one to another 
that the big stag has been fairly separated and 
driven away at last, for the interval of waiting 
on Hoccombe Hill has been long and cold 
and dreary, and there is now every prospect of 
a brilliant run. In a very few^ minutes hounds 
have been brought from the Doone Valley, 
Anthony has changed horses, and they are off 
like pigeons just as the ominous growl of an 
approaching thunderstorm makes itself heard. 



144 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

I'p Manor Allotment and into Kittucks they 
stream, stringing out in the breathless race, 
then bend to the right over Acmead, and fling 
into Hurdle Down. The high beech fences have 
not turned the fugitive, nor do they check 
hounds long, but they falter a little amongst 
the sodden heather ere thev sink into Nutscale. 
But see now how thev fling over Wilmersham 
Plain, and dive into Dadycombe ! How they 
speak at tlie water, and what an eager blood- 
thirstv burst of tongue it is ! Not a moment 
do thev dwell now, but while we are climbing 
the path out of Langcombe, they are dashing 
over Stoke Ridge into Bagley. 

There they go again, not a hundred yards 
ahead, packed closelv together as they rise from 
Sweetworthy Combe. Now the rain beats down 
upon our luckless heads, blurring everything, 
drenching one to the skin ; but this is no 
time to think of putting on coats and aprons. 
Hark what a cry in Allercombe. Have they 
come up with him ? No, 'tis three hinds 
jumping up. There they go back and the pack 
divides, but Anthonv sets them right in a 
twinkling and gallops forward past the head of 
Hollowcombe and upwards for Robin Howe. 
The heavv rain has done its work though and 
washed the soil. Slowly and doubtfully hounds 
fling from right to left, yet ever trending to- 
wards the direction of Brockwell. Now comes 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 145 

the first view halloa ; someone sees the stag 
picking his way into Luccombe Alters, but 
hounds are drawing nearer to him, this time 
unaided. There comes a burst of music from 
the shelter of the trees, and then they are off 
over the Holnicote Vale, by way of Luccombe 
Mill and Blackford, with their deer only just a 
field or two ahead. Now they enter Road 
Wood and cross a field with a stiff line of 
hurdles in it as they enter Great Wood. The 
pheasants fly in from the stubbles to right 
and left as the sounds of the chase approach, 
but hounds soon leave the wood again and bear up 
for Cockerhills. Here their deer must have 
waited for them, for a ding-dong chase began 
along the southern slopes of the Great North 
Hill by Old Brake and Wydon, and within a 
field of Bratton Court hounds brought him to 
a standstill at 4.35. He proved to be not over 
heavy or fat, and his teeth evidenced great age. 
Besides his twelve points he carried an ofi'er of 
a thirteenth on his near top. A straighter necked 
or a stouter hearted deer one need never wish 
to see, and I trust Mr. Snow may keep many 
such amongst his goodly herd for future years. 

From time to time certain deer become 
known by some peculiarity of shape or colour, 
and in spite of this disadvantage still contrive 
to elude the huntsman's knife and attain a ripe 
old age. As instances of this, many will recall 



146 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the great Nott stag of Dunkery, whose last wild 
race for life is narrated on a subsequent page. 
The sw^itch-horned stag of Haddon, who shed 
his malformed horn and died at Couple Ham 
fighting with two normal horns, and scratching such 
horses as came within his reach. The old one- 
horned stag of Cothelstone, who charged amongst 
the held at Kingston St. Marv, and the great 
stag of Stoodleigh. 

At the time of writing there flourishes on 
Dunkery an old one-horned stag, with at least 
four points atop on his single beam, who travels 
much the same line of country as the black stag 
was w^ont to. But the black stag roused more 
curiosity than all the other marked deer of the 
past two decades, and not a few were incredulous 
as to his existence until he was safely hung up 
by the heels at Bratton Court. The legend of 
his existence had being going for several years, 
but it came to a sudden and a glorious end on 
that October afternoon in 1893. 

Friday, October 25th, 1893, was the last day 
of the legitimate season, but an additional 
by-dav was held on Saturday, magnificent deer 
being killed on each occasion. On the former 
day, the meet was at Bagborough Plantation 
Gate as of yore, and was not very largely 
attended, later arrivals, however, swelling the 
ranks of the mounted field to about one 
hundred all told. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 147 

Barber's harbouring operations had been 
favoured with success, the freshly moistened 
state of the ground, partly re-dried on top, 
being most suitable for his task in the earlier 
hours of the morning. High up in Cockercombe 
where the fringe of oaks and coppice dwindles 
to a mere belt in the bottom of the goyle, he 
had detected the presence of two stags, one of 
them being an unusually tine one. Soon after 
Colonel Hornby's arrival at the trysting place, 
hounds were moved off, to be kennelled as 
usual at Quantock Farm before tufting was 
commenced. With a draft of three couple and 
a half, Anthony was now sent to Cockercombe 
to draw for the big deer, and with almost 
immediate success. Descending to One Tree 
Bottom by the well-worn path, with his tufters 
at his heel, and Miles in attendance on a neat 
black cob, the little procession was soon lost to 
sight amongst the tall trees in the dingle. 
Cheerful sounds soon arose, however, as the 
tufters struck the line, and Anthony's cheery voice 
rose clear as a silver bell above their chorus. 
Down the main valley they swept, waking the 
echoes with their melody, till opposite the 
Devil's Elbow, and then turned short up again 
as if to break upon Parsonage Side. All of a 
sudden they divided ; one part drove a stag 
through the tree stems up the combe, while the 
other, consisting of two hounds only, drove the 



148 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

big stag from his stronghold in Cockercombe 
towards Seven Wells. Some two couple and a 
half stuck to the smaller deer, which w^ould 
have been warrantable enough had no better 
been present, and he was soon to be seen 
mounting the open hillside with thoughts intent 
on Bagborough. No sooner had he gained the 
open, however, than he was fairly headed back 
into covert bv pedestrians. This bit of bad luck 
did not interfere with the day's sport, for the 
big stag was being steadily hunted away through 
Great Wood till he came dow^n to the water in 
a rushy meadow low down in Seven Wells. 
Here he stood at bay for a while with one 
hound facing him, but on more coming up, the 
tuneful sound of the bay was exchanged for an 
eager velping chase up the length of Ashley 
Combe. Mr. Grandheld was in his usual 
position near Govett's Copse, and obtained a 
good view of the stag as he galloped up to the 
Stowey Road, pointing for the Camel and his 
Driver, while Colonel Hornbv followed his 
movements from the distance of Lord's Ball. 
No sooner had the latter obtained a glimpse of 
the magnihcent spread of his antlers against the 
skyline than he set off wnth all speed towards 
Quantock Farm to liberate the pack, blowing 
loudlv as he went. Anthony meanwhile was 
diligently hunting the smaller stag, wiiich by 
the w^ay carried two long tines on either top, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 149 

besides brows and trays, but on hearing the 
chorus of view halloas and the notes of the 
horn soon made his appearance. 

Hounds were no sooner laid on than they 
swung round into the Soggs, stringing out 
amongst the tough tangle of low growing scrub, 
a darting swaying line of black and white 
amongst the russet brown of the dying leaf. 
Keeping high up, they pressed from one wing 
to the other in Butterfiy Combe, and as they 
neared the uppermost fringe of the western 
point the stag could be seen stealing out just 
before them. Away over Hareknaps he went, 
increasing his distance at every stride, but 
passing close before his two deadliest enemies. 
Colonel Hornby and Anthony, to wit. Past the 
tall poles at the end of the path-heads and 
away into Holford Combe he led them, and 
there for a moment they were at fault beside 
the stream. Anthony soon set them right, and 
then thev brought it to a point in the same 
combe much higher up, and checked again 
most inexplicably. A timely view halloa from 
the secretarv and the second whipper-in, who 
had met the stag standing panting on the 
summit of Willoughby Cleave, ere he lumbered 
off at a slow trot towards Erridge Combe, 
brought Anthony up to the table-land atop, and 
hounds were soon flying again as fast as they 
could pick their w^ay over the prickly stubbly 



I50 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

furze on their way to St. Audries. Blown 
though he was, the gallant beast had leapt the 
high deer fence and entered the park, and the 
leading hounds, with Michael at their head, 
were soon pressing him through the square 
gorse inside, amongst the retreating forms of 
the park deer, and downwards near the Rectory. 
Beating up the combe within the deer park, 
he tried to ascend, but the leading hounds got 
at him and raced him down again to a gate, 
by which he got out, the field scattering to 
right and left. Leaping the chain fence of the 
churchyard in and out, he staggered on to the 
house and entered the front conservatory. 
Amidst a crash of iiower pots and ornamental 
plants he was borne to the ground and secured. 
Mr. Elliot Lees, the new Conservative candidate 
for Taunton, being one of the first to lay hands 
on him — a task of no slight danger in that 
conhned space. The head was the finest ever 
killed in the West Country, numbering four on 
one top and four and an offer on the other. 
Some of the measurements are w^orthy of notice : 
Round outer curve of near horn, 36in. ; width 
across at the fork, 30jin. from inside to outside ; 
perpendicular height, 29in. ; size round beam 
at fork, 7|-in., and same between brow and 
bay ; outer curve of brows, i4in. 

This head, mounted originally with the hair 
on, graces the hall at St. Audries, the seat of 




The St. Audries Head. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 153 

Sir Alexander Acland-Hood, and claims to be 
the largest wild trophy ever secured in the 
British Islands. Other heads run it close, notably 
one killed near Stoodleigh by the Tiverton 
Staghounds ; but for sheer weight of beam it 
will probably never be surpassed. This stag, for 
all his massive proportions, showed no fight 
whatever when run to bay. 

An aged deer, long past all ordinary mark, 
was taken early in the next season after a meet 
at Exford, another stag roused with him being 
subsequently hunted and secured. 

On arriving at Cloutsham on Friday, the 
15th August, 1894, I learnt some interesting 
details as to the age of the first of the two 
Court Wood stags killed on Wednesday at 
Larcombe Foot. It appears that no less than 
seventeen years ago the deer was taken alive 
when less than two years old, and having been 
somewhat injured by the hounds was, by the 
late Mr. Bisset's orders, turned out again some 
time afterwards, when fully recovered. From 
that date to the present time, he would seem 
to have secluded himself so effectually as to 
have avoided hounds and huntsman altogether. 
The marks on his ears, which, I am told, were 
placed there by ]\Ir. Bawden, of Hawkridge, 
were what is technically known as a "square 
halfpenny" and a "swallow tail." It will be re- 
membered that his head, though wide-spreading 



154 STAG HUNTING WITH THE 

and heavy in the beam, boasted only brows 
and trays, with two and an offer atop ; this, I 
fear, would interfere sadly with the rules and 
principles as to age of deer lately laid down 
in a correspondence appearing in the columns 
of llic West Somerset Free Press, which I, for 
one, followed with much interest. The stag's 
injuries received in his early days would account 
no doubt for his remarkably small weight, seven 
score, while his mask and slot were those of a 
four-year-old hind. 

In old age, or after severe injuries, there 
can be no doubt that deer decline in their 
horns as well as in their bodily proportions, the 
beam becoming thinner and smoother and 
assuming weaker curves from year to year, but 
long brow antlers, even though thin, are a sure 
characteristic of old deer. 

On Monday, August 27th, i8g4, drawing 
with the pack was resorted to, for a heavy stag 
had been harboured by himself by George 
Barwick in Hollacombe Wood, almost opposite 
Mr. Snow's, at Oare. Mr. Christopher Birming- 
ham was the hrst to \'iew him as he rose from 
his lair in the short oak scrub, and his rousing 
"Tally ho!" was quickly followed by Anthony's 
cheer and Sidney's quick note with the whistle. 
In three minutes the wood was made too hot 
to hold him, and he raced away for Lillycombe 
where two other stags got up, one of them a 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 155 

" nott " stag of great size. Meanwhile the hunted 
stag was crossing Hookway Hill for the Weir 
Water, with hounds not far behind him. As 
he rose to the skyline on Mill Hill, he stood at 
gaze for an instant, showing his spreading horns 
against the blue and then bore away for the 
Forest at best speed, pointing for Three Combes 
Foot. Up Stowford Bottom go the hounds, and 
Anthony stops them at the top to give the 
stragglers time for a very welcome breathing 
space, and then they begin to race again by. 
way of Manor Allotment to the Badgworthy 
Water under Clannacombe. Now thev are 
toiling up Badgworthy Hill opposite ; we must 
get over, and that quickly, or we shall be 
handsomely left behind, for they are bearing 
away for Brendon Two Gates with sterns down 
and in hot earnest. As they rise again from the 
head-springs of the Hoccombe Water there are 
four or five deer before them living across the 
road at Brendon Two Gates, but the stag is not 
with them ; he has played the old, old trick of 
changing, and done it with great success, for 
nowhere can he be seen or heard of, and 
hounds break away at such a speed after the 
fresh deer that they are not stopped till Sidney 
gets to them far down the Farley Water a mile 
and a-half away. Two couple and a-half divide 
upon a strapping great hind which heads right 
away for Pinkery, but come back eventually to 



156 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Lanacombe, to which Anthony has by that time 
returned, in casting back. At last the welcome 
news is signalled from the Deer Park that the 
stag has been viewed stealing back from the 
direction of Trout Hill, and has laid up in the 
smallest of the Deer Park plantations. When 
hounds are brought there, however, he is found 
to have moved into Clannacombe. Out of the 
larches he bounds, driving three yearling deer 
before him, but Captain Curzon and Mr. C. H. 
Glass set to work and cut him out after a dash 
over the heather, short, sharp and decisive. 
This is warm work, as their horses testify, but 
they have done veoman service, and that in the 
nick of time, for now he is away by himself, and 
heading right away for Farley. It is nearly four 
o'clock, and horses have lost their first fresh- 
ness, but as we sink to Hoar Oak from Cheriton 
Ridge we begin to overhaul hounds somewhat. 
As we gain Furze Hill we see them running 
over Lynton Common above Gammon's Corner, 
pointing straight for Parracombe. In the next 
little stream we come up with them ; the stag 
has just left the wire fence on the ridge above 
us not five minutes before them. Horses can 
only climb slowlv now, but hounds cannot 
exactly fiy either ; ten couple are up, and the 
rest are like the boy in "Casablanca." Let us 
look round now as the good little horse that has 
carried us so well splashes through the tiny 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 157 

stream of the Warcombe Water, eagerly burying 
his muzzle in the cool brown eddy as he goes. 
Seventeen is the number of the field all told, 
of which three are scarlets, and where, oh where, 
are the hundred and fifty or so that started so 
gaily from Hollacombe Wood this morning ? 
Now we are up amongst the first enclosures 
that we have encountered for many a mile, and 
there goes the stag up yonder, crossing that 
marshy field above those bullocks. How he 
rolls and staggers ; he is ours if only hounds 
and horses can live with him for another half 
hour. A boundary sheep fence, four feet or 
more of stone ditching and two stout wires 
atop, necessitates a long detour, and hounds 
have to be stopped for nearly twenty minutes. 
Going on again, they touch the extreme head 
of Parracombe and leave Tinerley on the right, 
but hunting very slowly from field to field. As 
they near Wistland Pound, 'tis plain the stag 
has been jumping the gates, high as they are 
in this country. Over one gate after another he 
has gone, with never a mark on the top rail, no 
timber rapping for him. There's his slot though, 
plain enough in the black mud ; what a thumping 
big stag he must be ! Coming to the Martinhoe 
Road, the field gains a lady in accession, and 
two or three horsemen, as they sink towards the 
Bratton coverts. Mr. Huxtable, of Gratton, 
lends Anthony his horse, comparatively fresh, 



158 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and bv that verv timely aid enables him to 
kill his deer handsomely. The bulk of the 
pack change to a hind in Twitchen Wood, but 
he stops them by Button Bridge, and meanwhile 
Sidney is busv with the stag with only three 
hounds under Honacott. Breaking away, he 
conceals himself until Anthony returns with 
the rest of the hounds, and then a few turns 
up and down the water quickly finish him. A 
real forest king, with a royal head of twelve 
perfect points, the velvet clean gone. A very 
difficult stag to take ; the tenth of the season ; 
time, seven hours and a quarter ; the pace at 
first quite fast enough, but slow towards the 
end. A lemon-coloured hound called Sovereign 
seized this stag by the liank, and never released 
his hold though carried for some distance through 
the air. Nearly half of those who saw the 
finish lav out at Simonsbath that night. 

The new master, Air. R. A. Sanders, held 
his hrst by-day at Hawkridge on Friday, 
July 19th, 1895, after a soaking night's rain, 
which made the country perfectly rideable. 
Anthonv was sent to tuft in Rincombe Wood, 
on Lord Clinton's estate, and soon roused two 
warrantable stags, which both went away over 
Molland Common, following each other's tracks. 
Seven couple of puppies and double that 
number of old hounds were laid on the foil of 
the second and larger stag, after he had been 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 159 

allowed half an hour's law. Fresh finding him 
in Whiterocks, they chased him merrily all 
down the Barle Valley and across to the Exe, 
and here roused him from soil again. At the 
Haddeo hounds checked, but the stag was 
viewed stealing away from Haddon Wood, and 
after twenty minutes' pretty water hunting under 
the Deer Park, he was taken at Steart Cottage. 
This remarkable stag stood before hounds for 
three hours after the lav on, in spite of his 
great size, eleven score and seven pounds clean 
weight, minus head and slots. He was a perfect 
fourteen pointer, with the velvet still on, of 
course, but the points were hardened under- 
neath the velvety covering. His head measured 
as follows : — Height, 3oin. ; length round curve 
of near horn, 35in. ; spread at fork, outside to 
inside, 29in. ; curve of brow antlers, i4jin. ; girth 
of beam, yin. A very line head for the British 
Islands. 

Seldom has the chase been better seen on 
the opening day by the multitude assembled on 
Cloutsham Ball than it was on August 7th, 
1895, the first year of Mr. Sanders' mastership. 
The run itself lasted onlv about an hour, but 
the stag, in his doubles, led hounds and field 
to and fro in sight of the farm, to the great 
delight of the foot and carriage folk, who 
moved from field to field on the Cloutsham 
Ridge, and kept the Hunt in view for some time. 




o 

Oh 



< 



u 



STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. i6i 

The stag of the day was a veteran well 
worthy of the occasion, carrying a heavy and 
wide-spreading beam, with three long tines atop 
on either side, and long brows and trays, but the 
bay antlers were missing. He was first roused 
in Hole Wood, then up the combe between 
Wilmersham and Stoke, whence he might with 
ease have slipped away to the open moor, and 
have led his pursuers to Badgworthy, or distant 
Farley, but he trusted to the woods and streams 
of Horner to escape Anthony's attentions, little 
wotting of the many hundred pairs of eyes 
that would fasten on him if he should show for 
a moment in any unsheltered space within a 
mile of Cloutsham, or guessing at the scream 
that would presently go up from a hundred 
lusty West Country throats, nor thinking of 
Sidney's tell-tale whistle when, from the point 
of Horner Hill, he should be viewed stealing 
down to have a quiet soil just below East 
Water Foot. But the scent is good ; the rain 
of the last two nights has done good service. 
While the whistle is still shrilling away up 
above, he hears, what he dreads far more, a 
whimpering, eager note up yonder in the 
coppice that he only left a few minutes since. 
Now, indeed, wild alarm courses through his 
every nerve ; he thought he had left that 
unpleasant affair in Hole Wood two miles 
behind. "Surely," he thiqks, "'tis bad enough 

M 



i62 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

to be harried out of my lair in the middle of 
the day, and have to scuttle off all this distance 
without the wretches trying to hunt me — me, of 
all deer, with all my age and experience and 
my great big horns. I must trot up the East 
Water a bit, I suppose, and run a few doubles 
and lie down in a good thicket, and then I 
should hope it will be all right, and those 
horrible hounds wiU go about their business!" 

So off he goes up the East Water combe, 
as it does not seem good for his health to stay 
in view of Sidney any longer, but as he passes 
from the foot of Hollowcombe to Allercombe, 
he hnds to his dismay that he is viewed again 
by a whole crowd of foot people on the ferny 
side of Cloutsham Ball. Hurrying on past 
Allercombe, he glides along through the tall 
trees in Sweetery. Meanwhile, Anthony has 
regained the farm, and is in consultation with 
the master, and in a few moments the welcome 
order to take out the pack has been given, and 
the held is crowding four abreast down the 
steep roadway into Sweetery. A good many 
old staghunters ride quickly, however, out to 
the fields above the farm, for if the stag has 
gone up Bagley Combe, he may be away to 
the moor ere this, and it would never do to 
start a forest run on a half beaten horse. There 
is to be no such good luck as this, however, 
for hounds soon fresh find him amongst the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 163 

ferns in Sweetery, and he doubles short back 
into Allercombe. Now all hopes of a forest 
run are over and done with. It will be Cut- 
combe or Horner, or, at best, the sea in 
Porlock Bay. See, yonder he goes over those 
green swamps at the head of Hollowcombe ; 
how his head spreads and branches ; and how 
grey the dying velvet looks in the sunlight ! 
Now he bounds over the road and goes striding 
away round the shoulder of the hill, as if for 
Huntscott or Annicombe. Now let us get up 
to the road and give our horses a moment's 
breathing space, for the hounds will be here in 
a few minutes, and we mav have to cross the 
graveyard at best speed. Here come the tirst 
ten couple ; now give them room and come 
along. Mind that blind watercourse ; hold him 
up over that clitter of stones ; don't ride across 
in front of each other, prettv ladies, if vou can 
help it. Now the hounds tiing downwards ; 
that's Luccombe Allers there below. Look at 
those two sheep-dogs coursing the stag down 
there by Holt Ball. Poor beast ! he is pressed 
hard enough as it is. Now he fiies for 
Wytchanger, and gains the shelter of the 
Luccombe Plantations, but with one hound 
pressing after him. In the old roadway Mr. 
Chorley views him, and Michael is stopped till 
the pack come up, and then it's "forrard on" 
again, through the acres and acres of tall Scotch 



i64 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

fir, till the water is reached under Parsonage 
Side. Here the leading hounds come up with 
him, and ten minutes later he is safely taken 
at West Luccombe. Time, just an hour after 
the lav-on. 

Suitable as is such a chase for an opening 
day, the one that follows is a far different affair, 
and is one of the performances that go to build 
up staghunting history. To ride in sight of the 
leading hounds from Sherracombe to Badg- 
worthv is to eniov a sensation which memory 
will always recall, and is enough to convert the 
veriest tyro into a lifelong staghunter. 

It was four or hve seasons since a gallop- 
ing stag left the coverts below the Poltimore 
Arms behind him, and climbed Sherracombe, 
to gain the heights of Whiteheld Dowai on his 
way to the North Forest and the mill wheel of 
Horner. But on Saturday, September 2nd, 
1895, all went merrv as a marriage bell. The 
harbouring had been laborious, but was done 
to perfection ; the tufting was short and decisive, 
and bv one o'clock a real forest king had taken 
his last drink in the tiny tributary of the Hole 
Water, which trickles down Sherracombe, and 
was away to the open, unblanched. Popham 
Wood, down the Hole Valley, had the honour 
of providing this gallant stag for the day's chase, 
and a staunch one he proved to be. The tufters 
soon drove him from Holland Wood to Berar, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 165 

while a veritable chorus of view halloas rang out 
from all the hilltops around as he was viewed 
at first one point and then another. The master 
stopped the tufters in one of Mr. Thome's 
fields and sent Anthony for the pack at their 
temporary kennel at Higher Hole, and shortly 
before one o'clock they were laid on the foil, 
and the run of the season had commenced. 

Now, come with me, my readers. Let us 
trot quietlv up this nice cool shady path that 
runs up the combe beneath the wood. 'Tis 
moist and springy here ; the dew still lies 
thicklv in the shade ; we have a gentle ascent 
to Whitefield. Down this way; this is better 
than joining the madding crowd that ere now 
is pounding along up the Queen's highway by 
the Poltmiore Arms and all round to Five 
Barrows Cross, and so back to the head of the 
Down. Here come the hounds just above us 
on the right in the wood, and here's a good 
sportsman and deer preserver from the Bray 
Vallev who has just seen the stag pass along. 
Now pull your horse into a trot; we must get 
away well with them, or they will beat us on 
the ascent. Now here's the water; let's watch 
them for a moment. Ah ! that's it, Michael, 
he soiled there, did he? Here the waters part, 
but Michael never falters ; up Sherracombe he 
goes, splashing from pool to pool. Rallywood 
comes third, and the leading two couples draw 



i66 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

away from the rest as we climb through the 
ferns in the hot sunshine. Over yonder on the 
right, in that lane, there's a surging crowd of 
bobbing heads ; one scarlet coat goes down 
already ; 'tis the master, but he seems none the 
worse, and comes on again gaily. Now to stop 
Michael and let the rest come up and start fair. 
Here on the top there's a delightfully cool east 
wind. Horses are sobbing and lathering already, 
but thev will have just time to catch their wind. 
"How long has the stag gone, farmer?" 
"Just about a quarter of an hour, sir." "Hoick, 
hoick," says Anthony, and away they go, then 
falter for a minute, and again swing forward 
toward Ducky Pool. Now sit down in your 
saddle, my friend ; catch him tight by the head, 
and come along ; they are off like the wind, 
and 'tis a far cry to your second horse at Bren- 
don Two Gates. How dry the moor is, to be 
sure ! It is nearly the end of September, and 
yet one can gallop over the worst of it. Still a 
re-distribution of seats has begun already ; the 
drainage gutters are taking their toll of the daisy 
clippers and star-gazers and the tied shoulders. 
Here we go down over the long slope of Vint- 
combe to the ancient fording of the Barle. Time 
to this water, twelve minutes from the Down. 
Dr. Bond's horse essays to soil with him, as it 
once did before in the Haddeo Water with woeful 
effect, but now whip and spur and objurgations 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 167 

bring him to his feet again, and on we go. 
There's the master with a large following bearing 
off to the right for the Driver fields, and there 
are the hounds on the left racing up Goat Hill, 
with their heads pointing for Pinkery. Let us 
go on with them, for fear the stag should be 
soiling in the pond, and should betake himself 
to Woolhanger or Parracombe. Here they come 
across though, heading straight for Chains 
Barrow ; now the right contingent will be saved. 
Over into Long Chains Combe they go, stringing 
out already by sheer speed ; now down the 
combe and into Hoar Oak, now up again and 
into Farlev. Up once more at a slant amongst 
the sound heather of Brendon Common towards 
Dry Bridges. Patter across the Lynton Road, 
the only firm ground since the road at the ford 
by Driver. There must have been several falls 
behind us bv this time ; Sir William Karslake, 
Miss Batt, Mr. Leney, Mr. de Las Casas, Mr. 
S. N. Quicke, and several others show signs of 
having bitten the peaty mud ; telescoped hats 
and dirty backs are the order of the day, for 
the pace is a cracker, and the great hounds 
keep sailing on as if they never meant to stop, 
with no semblance of check or turn. 

Awav thev go towards Lankcombe ; 'tis 
sounder going now, down this long two-mile slope 
of heather, and we must be down at the Badg- 
worthy Water vonder as soon as the hounds, 



i68 STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 

or they will give us the slip amongst fresh deer 
in the Deer-park. Xow splash into the cool 
Badgworthy stream ; let him bury his muzzle 
deep in this cool, clear pool ; he'll go all the 
better. Hark at those angry, eager notes just 
above in the larch ; that's the line, depend on 
it ! Now we must climb this sloping path ; hark 
to Sidney, whistling above there I He has 
galloped straight in from Two Gates, and, no 
doubt, has viewed our stag. He waves Anthonv 
towards the larches high up in Landcombe ; 
two big male deer come bounding out, but 
Anthony will have none of them. In his haste 
one of them crosses his legs and turns clean 
over. Then comes the prettiest sight we have 
seen this season ; the hunted stag forced from 
his shelter by the hounds, comes bounding 
out from the same place as if to follow the 
other two. But Anthony is too manv for him ; 
he knows him at once, and with a cheer has 
every hound on his line. One of them essays 
to cut him off, but the great antlers are cjuickly 
lowered, and the hound rolls over velping in 
the heath. With staggering gait the beaten stag 
now lurches across the plain into Woodcock 
Combe and again sinks into the larches. There's 
a moment of suspense as hounds bustle down 
amongst the hr stems ; then Lord Ebrington 
views him as he steals awav up the bottom, 
and a moment later the master's horn rings out 




'^ 



o 



170 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

loud and long. He struggles gamely up the 
Badgworthv Water for a few minutes, and then 
turns savagelv to hav, but Mr. Hamilton quickly 
seizes him bv tlie off antler and all is soon over. 

Time, just sixtv minutes from the top of 
Whiteheld Down. The seventeenth stag of the 
season. The scene of the take was exactly that 
of the famous picture which adorns the dining 
room of Bagborough House, and was about a 
hundred vards above the spot where His Majesty 
the King, when Prince of Wales, despatched 
his hrst Exmoor stag. The deer carried browns 
and travs, with very short offers for bays, and 
two long tines upon either top, and was a line 
heavy stag. Hounds were so blown when the 
stag stood up that the bay was little more than 
a series of yelps, a sure testimony to the pace 
of the run, and had it not been for the cool 
easterlv breeze blowing against horses, there 
would have been many a tale of woe before 
the finish. As it was, there were fully three- 
quarters of the held beside the water before 
the deer was dead. 

On Saturday, September igth, 1896, the 
Bravford coverts afforded a galloping deer and 
a run of the good old-fashioned sort, which, 
though somewhat slow, perhaps showed the 
staghounds at their best, and obtained from one 
and all the verdict of "a real good day." Not 
for some vears have we seen a deer run over 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 171 

the southern portion of Exmoor, the last one 
that did so, I think, being killed at Twitchen 
some years ago. In Collyns' " Chase of the 
Wild Red Deer " we are told that if a stag 
makes Fvldon Ridge from Whitefield he will 
go to Sheardon Hutch and Landacre and so 
down the Barle, and this in effect was some- 
what the line of our deer of Saturday, the 
19th. 

I think, however, that being only a two-year- 
old male deer, he soon found himself out of 
his country, and was more occupied in going 
down wind and putting good distance between 
himself and the ringing notes of Anthony's horn 
than in making any particular point. With 
young deer, I have often noticed there is a 
tendency to go down wind when hard pressed, 
though of course a warrantable stag will alwavs 
make his point, no matter though he be forced 
to run against a driving gale. Noon had passed 
ere Anthony had roused the best deer which 
Fred Goss could harbour in the Gratton coverts, 
and a small one he was at that. 

However, young deer ere this have shown 
good runs from Bray, Mr. Basset's three-year- 
old to wit, which ran from Sherracombe to 
Horner mill wheel. At first, he looked like 
making Leworthy Bridge and Mole's Chamber, 
but he doubled short in covert and turned down 
towards Brayford. 



172 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

'Twas on the Saturday after Barnstaple Fair, 
just two years ago, that a never-to-be-forgotten 
stag took the same turn and led us to Castle 
Hill and Umberleigh, on the river Taw, whereby 
some of the held lay out that night and did 
not get home till morning. Now, however, in 
spite of foot people in every field, this game 
little deer headed up the green pastures under 
Lydecott, and made for the Hole Water, and 
the chase began. 

The master brought the pack from Gratton, 
where Mr. Robins had provided snug quarters, 
and laid them on where the deer left covert. 
Leaving MoUand Wood well to their right, 
hounds hunted merrily up the long wooded 
combe which leads to the Poltimore Arms at 
Yard Down, but checked at the foot of Sherra- 
combe, where the streams divide. Anthony was 
casting up Sherracombe when vSidney Tucker 
galloped up to him with the news that a few 
hounds were driving from Colent Wood toward 
the Yard Down Road. Xow a convenient lane 
soon brought Anthony to the spot where a 
countryman had just seen a deer in the road, 
but while Anthony was enquiring of him, 
hounds took a line in the held beyond, and 
made off at score to Lyddicombe Bottom. Just 
beyond, a flock of sheep made a timely check, 
which enabled us to get to them by way of 
Fyldon Lane, here Anthonv hit it again and 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 173 

hunted up to Fvldon Common. Here we were 
assured bv two second horsemen that for the 
last hah' hour, at least, no deer had passed that 
way, but the hounds thought otherwise, and 
soon brought us to the wire-topped county 
wall on F'yldon Ridge. 

Apparently the deer had tried to jump this, 
but had failed, and then hounds made off at 
an improving pace down the whole length of 
the grassv common, and so to Long Holcombe 
as soon as the wire came to an end. Here 
again the pace was good as we scampered for 
half-a-mile over the yielding yellow moor-grass, 
hopping over the innumerable drainage gutters 
which emptied a saddle or two. Sinking to the 
Sheardon Water just below Wintershead Farm, 
hounds checked in the brown stream, but soon 
cast themselves downwards, and for a mile gave 
little indication that they were still on the foil ; 
still there was sign enough to catch the hunts- 
man's eve, and he held forward at a trot, until 
hounds hit it again where the deer had left the 
water. Another half-mile of grass and then they 
brought it down again to the Sheardon stream 
and checked for about ten minutes. Scent 
seemed to fail just now, but Lord Ebrington 
slotted the deer through a gateway leading to 
Sheardon Farm, and hounds were soon hunting 
steadily over the long grassy slopes of Sheardon 
to Ferny Ball. Just above Sheardon Hutch 



174 STAG HUNTING WITH THE 

they re-crossed the water and streamed over 
Withypool Common to the Barle above Land- 
acre. Now here is an exceeding steep descent, 
down which one perforce must go, for the great 
hounds were plunging eagerly through the broad 
brown stream of the Barle below, as if to cross 
and take it up on the yonder bank. Leading 
down with whip-thong through the reins, horses 
slid down to the swampy green marsh beneath 
at a rate which pulled their owners headlong 
on hands and knees. It was excellent soft 
falling, however, and the held were soon fording 
the Barle and climbing the slopes of Landacre 
Common as if for Xewland. Thundering along 
now on the sound heather of the table-land 
above, the hundreds of prancing hoofs struck 
the firm surface of the moor with a very 
different sound to that of the soft swishing 
moor-grass just left. Bending to the right, 
hounds entered the Blacklands Fields, and in 
a short mile fresh found their deer. As we 
scampered down Kitridge Lane approaching 
Withypool we could hear Sidney's shrill view 
halloa as the deer jumped in Woolpitts Copse 
and raced back up the Blacklands Fields and 
so made for the Barle above Brightworthy. 

The lane to Landacre seemed our shortest 
way, and as we clattered down it we could view 
the deer racing over Withypool Common as if 
to regain Sheardon Hutch. Hounds faltered for 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 175 

a moment at the Barle, but soon came on again, 
and were plainly running for blood. We had 
to scamper now at a far better pace to live with 
them as they splashed through the Barle and 
streamed up the Picked Stones Fields to the 
White Water at Cow Castle, and so past the 
ruined cottages made famous by Warden Page, 
and so on up stream. Up and up, onwards 
and onwards, with never a check or a doubt, 
the great hounds pressed steadily on the hot 
foil of their sinking quarry, and the end drew 
near. From Ash Plantation the rooks fluttered 
out at the unwonted sound, and a moment later 
they mav well have been scared as the liunted 
deer rose from his last soiling place in the 
White Water stream and went on up the 
marshv bottom jis if for Cloven Rocks amid a 
chorus of view halloas. 

But now his course was run, hounds rapidly 
overhauled him, and in the home pasture of 
Winstitchen Farm they fairly bowled him over 
in the open after three hours and a ciuarter of 
steady hunting, of which the last three-quarters 
of an hour had been the fastest part. 

Throughout the run hounds were only lifted 
once, and there were only two checks, except 
on first coming to the Sheardon Water, when 
the deer had travelled the stream bed for a long 
distance. Time from the lav on to the take, 
three hours and a quarter ; twelve miles from 



176 STAGHUNTIXG WITH THE 

the lav on to the fresh iind, and six to tlie 
take at Winstitchen — eighteen miles in all as 
hounds ran. 

The eighth deer of the season, and by far 
the best run up to date. There were several 
emptv saddles, but no particular grief. Two or 
three horses were ridden to a standstill, but 
soon recovered. 

While one-horned deer are by no means 
uncommon on Exmoor, " nott " or hornless 
deer onlv rarely occur and arouse much interest 
and no little emulation when the chase which 
is to secure one of them is fairly in progress. 
The theorv that their hornless condition is due 
to injurv of some part other than the head 
may I think be dismissed as not borne out by 
investigation. 

The great nott stag which has roamed the 
moor for so many years came to a glorious end 
on Wednesday, September 23rd, i8()6, and 
showed such sport as will be long remembered. 
The harbouring was somewhat doubtful, but 
the master was informed when he arrived at 
the meet that a warrantable stag with one or 
two others had been seen at feed in the early 
morning in Sweetery. 

While Anthony was at work with his tufters 
four deer were viewed by Mr. Alfred Glass 
stealing quietlv into Allercombe, which had 
alreadv been drawn blank except for the 



N 




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H 
Si 

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a: 

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z 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 179 

presence of a one-horned four-year-old stag. On 
looking closelv at these they were seen to be 
the well-known nott stag, the stag that was lost 
on Dunkery after the last Wheddon Cross meet, 
and two three-year-old male deer. Whistle and 
handkerchief soon brought Anthony to the spot, 
and then, with tufters hard at them, the four 
deer hurried up Sweetery towards Bagley, one 
turning back on the way. Ten minutes later 
the master was galloping into Cloutsham for the 
pack, and we were off and away up the Exford 
road, with every prospect of a rattling run. 
When Stoke Ridge was reached there was still 
a little tufting left to do, for the great nott stag 
and another were hanging amongst the patches 
of fir plantation in Bagley Combe. 

Here, for once in a way, the held could see 
the whole thing ; dashing into the firs, hounds 
drove out first as a matter of course the wrong 
deer, which doubled back over Dunkery, but 
the nott stag showed for a minute. Stopping 
hounds in a trice, Anthony soon had them 
settled on him, and he broke covert now in 
grand style for Langcombe Head. Giving him 
a few moments' law, the master now cheered 
them on again, and we set our horses' heads 
for the moor and fairly raced beside them down 
to Nutscale. Up now to Lucott Moor and away 
to the Colley Water and down the Weir. Down 
stream it was, and onwards down. Three fresh 



i8o STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

deer crossed the foil, but no matter, Anthony 
held forward at a canter. Under Lilley combe 
he hit the line, and then we knew that hounds 
must be gaining on their deer. Twas but 
thirty-two minutes from Bagley Combe to the 
Weir Water, and another twenty-five minutes 
driving at full speed forced this game old stag 
by Lillycombe and North Common and from 
Hollacombe Wood to Oare and Oare Common, 
and to bay in the Badgworthy Water at Cloud. 
Beating the water down to Malmsmead Bridge, 
he made a tough fight of it ere he was taken 
at last at two o'clock. He proved to be an 
extremely heavy stag with two bony knobs 
beneath the skin where his horns should have 
been. 

The second day of the season of 1898 proved 
to be a lucky one. Only the year before, the 
first Hawkcombe Head meet produced a great 
moorland run, and now again on the same 
occasion in the following year have those who 
were out no reason indeed to complain. This 
run too, took place in spite of a most unfavour- 
able day, for the strong, hot southerly wind 
soon sw^ept away scent once the damp moor- 
land surface was left behind, and hounds, 
horses, and men all suffered alike from the 
heat and dust. To add to this the stag that 
was before hounds was a very stout five or 
six-year-old deer of the old forest sort, game 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. i8i 

to gallop and stay over many a weary mile, 
bold and straight-necked to a degree, not 
over-fat or heavy. 

It was a bumper meet at Hawkcombe Head, 
Lynton, Porlock and Minehead making it their 
opening day, the first meet of that season 
having been held at Haddon instead of Clouts- 
ham, on account of the demise of Sir Thomas 
Acland, which had occurred only shortly before, 
and the distances between the two extreme 
sides of the country proving almost impossible. 

Tufting was begun without delay, and Met- 
combe was soon covered with foot people to 
watch operations. The sandy dust in the road 
between Culbone and Hawkcombe Head will 
not soon be forgotten, so blinding and thick did 
it rise, especially when the pack was brought 
from kennel to the lay on. While the long 
string of vehicles filed in close order along the 
road, the mounted field mostly betook themselves 
to the hunting rides on Culbone Hill or jogged 
along through the heath on the Metcombe side, 
but broken glass and rusty coils of broken fence 
wire made the latter course very unsafe. It 
may, perhaps, not be out of place to repeat here 
the well-worn caution to visitors to the wild 
West Country, as to the cruelty of throwing 
broken glass and bottles away in the heather or 
in the moorland or woodland streams. Whether 
they are riding on a coach top, or enjoying a 



i82 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

picnic lunch at a meet of the Staghounds, to 
throw away an empty bottle or shattered tumbler, 
even in what appears the least frequented spot, 
is laving a most dangerous snare for the gallant 
hounds and horses that are sure to sweep in 
haste over the spot sooner or later. Glass will 
remain for years with its cruel edge still keen 
in the bed of the river or brook down which 
the great hounds will presently come, pressing 
close to their sinking quarry, or will lie like a 
venomous snake amongst the heather and the 
grass ready to stab at the prancing hoof or cut 
deep through muscle and tendon and artery, 
giving the smooth open wound which takes so 
long to heal. 

On Beggar's Knap, hard by the firs of Lilly- 
combe Plantation, there lay three stags, sunning 
themselves as they stretched at ease on the 
short smooth heath, w^hile four more stood 
amongst the pines just within the covert 
boundary, turning their heads uneasily to gaze 
at the gathering crowd of foot people on Met- 
combe Hill, at the line of carriages and cloud 
of dust on the Lynton road, at the spot of 
scarlet and grey over opposite upon Mill Hill. 

While they gazed and w^ondered, there 
suddenly approached them up the wind their 
mortal foes, the tufters, brought cunningly to 
close quarters by Anthony. Now there is a 
rush and a commotion amongst the firs, the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 183 

little horned sheep scamper away over the 
knap, stampeding from the hue and cry. Two 
or three moments of uncertainty pass as hounds 
and deer dive into the thicket and for a while 
are lost to view ; then the cry goes round like 
wildfire, "See, there thev go," and sure enough 
one can espv a little herd of horned deer 
stealing down quicklv over an open spot 
between the firs on their way to Hookway 
and Weirwood. Soon the first tufter comes 
and then another and another — four couple and 
a-half in all. 

Now glasses are levelled on Weirwood 
Common, where the deer are just rising into 
view on the dark purple plain of heath, beyond 
the stunted scrub of Weirwood, and the leading 
deer is seen to have a good spread of beam as 
he pilots the rest in hasty flight over the 
undulating plain. Sidney is on the move too, 
cantering along on Mill Hill to cross the Weir 
Water and come up on Porlock Allotment level 
with the retreating deer. Swing your field 
glasses now on vonder brow where the Green 
Path dips to the Colley Water ; see how the 
tall red deer are extended as Sidney comes 
alongside. Now they sink the dip, and Acmead 
lies in such a haze bevond that one can hardly 
see the white tufters even in the sunlight glare. 
Here comes Anthonv bustling up the road on 
his black tufting pony, with an occasional twang 



i84 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

on his mellow horn to clear the way. Soon he 
sees the fluttering signal yonder on Acmead, 
and flies back for his pack, and one realises 
that there will be a gallop shortly of no mean 
order, 

'Tis 12-20 as the kennel doors fiy open and 
the next few moments are a purgatory of dust 
and heat, as the cavalcade pounds up the 
sandy road to Hawkcombe Head ; but once out 
on the Green Path 'tis not so bad, and as we 
dip to the Weir Water we plainly see the 
master and Sidney awaiting us with the stopped 
tufters. There we hear tliat the two best stags 
have been cut out and have leapt the old two- 
wire fence into Kittucks. Through the narrow 
hunting gate we hie with what patience we 
mav, and with the same, hounds stoop to the 
foil and are off with a scream and a whimper 
at 12.^^. All across the green mossy expanse 
of Kittucks thev go, racing for place, almost 
mute in their headlong eagerness. The held 
scatters in a moment. Some ford the water at 
Three Coombes Foot, some struggle across the 
green plain, some make a detour by Larkbarrow. 
The deer have declined the new three-wire 
sheep fence into Manor Allotment, and hounds 
now lead us past Tom's Hill and away to the 
North Forest. Xow, harden your hearts, my 
masters, and come along 1 Pinford bog is as 
hard to-dav as it ever was vet, and if the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 185 

treacherous little gutters do not entrap you, and 
you have discernment enough not to ride right 
into some green puxy all will be well. But 
whichever way you take, do it at once, and give 
your horse time up the slope, for you will want 
every ounce of him now, and he is about to 
repay vou for every oat he has eaten since 
last season. See now how hounds are turning, 
right awav to the Warren, by St. Hubert ! That 
gallant string of riders leathering up Trout Hill 
will shortlv get behind. Look at all those 
fresh deer, too, how thev career about — twos, 
threes and tens of them all over the great 
green expanse. That's the Warren Farm here 
on the left and that's the tinv stream of the 
Exe here below us. The hounds are crossing 
it. W^hat will they do now ? See, they are 
beginning to climb the steep side by Raven's 
Nest ; we must get over somehow, but 'tis a 
parlous place. Have a care now, my friend ; 
give him all the help vou can, and, above all, 
'ware bogs. 

There goes Anthonv up a rocky face where a 
goat might well hesitate ; if hounds go on like 
this we shall be at Simonsbath or Winstitchen 
directlv. Now we gain the top, and the breeze, 
hot though it is, strikes gratefully on heated face 
and heaving flanks. But see how hounds have 
turned I There thev go left, all on the long 
phiin to Exe Cleave, on and on, driving merrilv 



i86 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

parallel with the course of the stream, but how- 
high up. This is glorious galloping ground now 
that it is dry, and the easy descent favours 
horses just when they need it, for tails are 
quivering now, and the white foam is showing 
on neck and thigh. Here come the leading 
hounds right across our front, and into the 
Exford Road half-a-mile short of White Cross ; 
time, from the first w^iimper on Kittucks, fortv 
fair minutes. On they drive down the fields to 
Newlands, and on again to the Pennycombe 
Water, where we come suddenlv upon Mr. 
Hayes, of Pitsworthy, who has divided the two 
deer only a few minutes ago, and now shows 
Anthony wiiich wav the bigger one went. On 
down the combe to Chibbet Ford the big 
hounds carry it forthwith, but alreadv thev are 
getting distressed with the pace and the heat, 
which in this narrow vallev indeed is intense. 
Through the fields for half-a-mile upwards they 
go to the White Cross Road just above Chibbet 
Post, and throw up in the road, whereby the 
stag gains much time, but Mr. Morland Greig 
presently spies him stealing away towards >\Iill 
Lane, and Anthony takes hounds at a sharp trot 
to the foil. Half-an-hour's law^, however, on a 
day like this means much in the matter of 
scent, but hounds try hard for him, and carrv 
the line right prettily up over the fields to 
Hoar Moor and on to Dunkery. Now, on the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 1S7 

stones and sun-baked heath, thev have harder 
work, and we must be careful not to press 
them. 

Presently thev check, but the stag has been 
viewed crossing the sky-line near the Beacon, 
and thev presentlv own it on the old heather 
and head straight into Allercombe. Now watch 
them, good sirs, and vou shall see a sight which 
shall be graven on your mind's eye for all your 
days. Through the fern and whortleberry they 
filter down in twos and threes right to the 
bottom of the goyle, where stands a leafy birch 
bush, and from there comes striding out the 
hunted stag, wearv and stiff, but not beaten vet, 
for his spreading head is still carried proudly 
and high. Away into HoUowcombe he goes, 
with hounds straining after him down through 
the cool leafy depths, where the cry rings out 
fierce and loud, then up the red dusty roadway 
for a space to Webber's Post, and down once 
more to the fern and furze and fir trees on 
Wytchanger Ball and Luccombe Alters. Here 
he shakes them all, but is viewed stealing away 
amongst the thick furze just above Ford, and 
here, as soon as hounds can be got together, 
he is fresh found once more. Game still, he 
gallops to and fro, and would beat hounds even 
now were it not for the huntsman's aid, who at 
every turn and twist still holds them forward. 
Never were hounds more wearv than now, what 



i88 STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 

with the sun's rays from above, reflected from 
the parched stones beneath, the short spiky 
furze, and the strain of a four hours' hunt. Still 
they toiled onward to where their stag awaited 
them amid the tall fern in a tiny combe-head, 
whence he made a hnal rush to the foot of 
Luccombe Allers, and was immediately taken at 
4,30. Distance, nearly twenty miles. Two long 
tines on either top and all his rights. 





o 

p 

o 

a; 
U 



CHAPTER VII. 

The Run of Half a Century — From Hawkridge to 
Glenthorne — A Stag's Soliloquy — The Opening 
Day of igoo — Brendon Hill and Elworthy. 




Thk Hawkridge 
stags are gentlemen 
and the Hawkridge 
men can ride, but 
never surely was 
there bluer blooded 
stag than that of 
Thursday, Septem- 
ber 14th, 1899, and 
surely never did the 
Hawkridge men have to ride so fast and far, 
or with sucli judgment as on this, the greatest 
run of recent vears. 

Why and wherefore there should suddenly 
be a maddening scent ; why and wherefore a 
real forest king should happen on this particular 
day to leap from his lair, and lead a rejoicing 
held over the cream of Exmoor, right against 
a cool north wind, is idle to dispute ; but so it 
was, and it will ever be that when a great run 
is expected it does not come off, and conversely 



192 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

that when there is a small field out, and 
indifferent sport is expected, then the great run 
will come, and the over particular and the fair 
w^eather sportsman will not be there. 

A field of about one hundred saw the 
beginning of this memorable run, and less than 
twenty saw^ the finish, for unless one got a 
flying start, and unless one took the right turn 
every time, there was little hope of making up 
lost ground, for even the best conditioned horses 
had all they could do to live with hounds 
through the first two hours, while they drove 
with eager cry across the limitless expanses of 
southern and northern Exmoor. This stag had 
a weakness for running the line of the forest 
streams, although keeping high above them for 
the most part on the grassy tabledands and 
fern covered slopes, but with one eye on the 
water all the way. So great was the pace that 
he never gained much distance on the hounds, 
and the field got many a view of him striding 
on before his fast coming foes, with head held 
high and neck set straight, in this his long 
wild gallop which never seemed to falter or to 
tire, and which led him on and on for mile 
after mile, avoiding steep ascents and leading 
straight from point to point with only two 
coverts touched, and those tiny ones between 
North Barton Wood and Cheriton. 

Many veterans will call to mind a run in the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 193 

years gone by which ended at Wooda Bay with 
a late spring hind, and this stag might have 
gone there and some miles further on, but 
Lynton has grown since those times, and the 
beauties of the toy railway and the tall sky 
signs of The Ladies' Field and other interest- 
ing periodicals at the terminus doubtless had 
some effect in causing a short turn which took 
place in the run at Summerhouse Cliff, bringing 
the stag to Watersmeet and Desolation, and so 
on up the sea front cliffs. This season has been 
a dangerous one for hounds, and now again 
another was to pay the penalty bv falling with 
the stag over the cliff at Glenthorne. Both 
were found dead together, killed instantly by 
the fall, and this great run came to a sudden 
end nearly four and a half hours after the 
lay on. 

Those who saw this run through, and they 
were not manv, will alwavs remember how well 
the moor rode, and how straight the stag ran, 
how the cool wind whistled with grateful force 
on their heated cheeks, how the pack drove 
like a whirlwind up the length of North Barton 
Wood almost on the stag's back, how they 
started across Withypool Common in a close- 
packed striving line, six-jibreast, that rose and 
fell over the undulating plains of heather, and 
how they got no help nor needed any at the 
few places where their galloping quarry splashed 

o 



194 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

through the moorhind streams. At one point 
just short of Flexburrow the stag had a moment's 
thought of Hole Water and turned up a long 
fernv combe, but he knew far more country 
than one expected, and must have passed from 
Exe head to the Barle before, for although hard 
pressed, he still had time to choose his wav, 
and did so with a will which would have saved 
him times over on any day when the scent 
was less burning or hounds less equal to their 
work. 

Some hfteen stags of greater and less degree 
had worked their wicked will on a turnip held 
on Hawkridge Ridge on Wednesday night, so 
that Whiterocks was alive with deer when the 
tufters were thrown in, and a general scattering 
of the herd took place. Some headed one way 
and some another, but this gallant stag came 
round by Birch Cleave to Three Waters and 
hung al^out amongst the thickest of the fern as 
though loth to go. A great fern frond hung 
all across his antlers as with swift bounds he 
fled from the leading tufter past Three Waters. 
The master and Anthonv conferred awhile, and 
then the former went for the kennelled pack 
to East Hollowcombe and brought them to the 
scene of action. Anthony trotted them quietly 
down to the foil just half an hour after the 
stag had passed, and at ten minutes past one 
the cry began which was onlv to end at Glen- 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 195 

thorne. The chase was now begun; but the 
swift part of it was not yet awhile, the Hne 
had to be hunted through Row Down and 
South Barton, and there was a check at the 
water under the Rectory, whereby Anthony 
made it good against Ashway Side and then 
cast up the water beyond Torr Steps. 

Then all of a sudden the wooded valley of 
the Barle rang out with music, and that of no 
uncertain sound, for the stag had dallied, and 
hounds were at him with a vengeance, so that 
the welkin rang again with their loud-mouthed 
challenge. In a trice he was away all up the 
long line of the West Water and away beyond, 
leaping gates and fences in his haste to gain the 
lonely firs of Lord's Plantation. Knee-deep in 
heather and grass and whortleberry, the fore- 
most of the field went on in a hurrying string, 
guided by that eager cry which left no manner 
of doubt which way it was to be. Lush and 
green and yielding, the surface of old Barrow 
Down is poor galloping ground, but Withypool 
Common is better, and the further they went 
the better it still became. 

With Porchester Post on the left and 
Knighton Combe still nearing, hounds streamed 
away in right gallant style, as if tied to him. 
Heads up and sterns down, ears laid back by 
the breeze, was the order of the day ; nothing 
to stop or turn them, only the breast high 



196 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

scent to draw them on, all racing for a place. 
Past Dalacombe and Landacre, and down to 
water under Sheardon Hutch. See ! yonder he 
goes, up the Sheardon meadows. And with 
the same, hounds fling forward from the water, 
needing no help and waiting for none. 

Away up the level hams, and away past 
Horsen ford, away over Great and Little Wool- 
combe, up the valley past Cow Castle, and past 
Flexburrow^, over Halsecombe, hounds on the 
southern side of the Barle and the held on the 
northern, sound short turf under foot, and the 
cool breath of the north wind against one all 
the time. So great is the pace that the stag 
cannot keep long out of view. Simonsbath 
heaves in sight, and he still strides straight on 
by Mount Pleasant, with Halsecombe Plantation 
just below him, then drops over the South 
Molton road, and seeks an insecure shelter in 
Cornham Brake. Mute and panting, hounds 
enter the dark green fir covert. A few moments 
pass and then they fresh find him, push him 
out from the end nearest Cornham, whence he 
backs it over the meadows to the lower end, 
only to be again pushed out forthwith, and to 
fly over Bale Water and the Challacombe road 
and away up the sunlit fields between Dure- 
down and Limecombe. Now comes the tug of 
war ; horses have come so fast that the 
ascending slope, though gentle, begins to tell. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 197 

The great stretch of Duredown with its waving 
grass comes and passes, and from its crest one 
can take a moment's view of the way hounds 
are heading on Exe Plain. 

They fling over the swampy springheads of 
the Exe and bend a Httle to the right. Down 
to the Lynton road goes all the field, except a 
lucky half dozen, Mr. Snow amongst them, who 
make straight for Cheriton Ridge. Hounds 
stream on past Blackpitts, and down the line 
of the Farley Water, and driving still straight 
against the breeze for four glorious miles, come 
at last to covert at Sanctuary Wood. The pace 
now slackens, and it is high time too. Half-a- 
mile over the fields above Bridge Ball brings 
them to the Combe Park Woods, which they 
drive straight through just above Mr. J. Budd's 
hunting box, crossing the Hoar Oak Water. It 
is a trying climb for horses to the upland fields 
of West Lvnn, but once up on the top the 
breeze revives them again. 

Down over the fields go the hounds straight 
to the summer-house, and one expects every 
moment to hear them bay the stag on the edge 
of this dizzy clift" which overhangs Lynmouth 
by nearly nine hundred feet. The point so far 
is almost sixteen miles from Whiterocks, and 
hounds have run so straight that they have only 
covered nineteen miles from Three Waters to 
do it, but now instead of coming on a dead-beat 



igS STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

stag, they still have another point of four miles 
and a-half to cover, and the mighty gorge of 
the Lyn to sink and rise, which the stag, as 
straight as the contour of the ground will let 
him, makes in five miles and a-half. This makes 
the two points of the run total up to twenty 
miles and a-half, and the distance covered 
amounts to twenty-four and a-half, which w4th 
some backward and forward turns at the finish 
might with safety be called twenty-five miles 
and be well under the mark. Hounds drive 
him unaided round the giddy heights of Lyn 
Cleave and Myrtleberry to Barton Wood, and 
he is viewed climbing Countisbury Common by 
Ducombe Wells with quarter of an hour's start. 
Anthony lays on afresh, Mr. R. H. Fry driving 
past at the moment, and hounds stream away 
as if they had only just begun, Down by 
Desolate they go, and so straight along a green 
path on the cliff which brings them to Glen- 
thorne. Here they race him to and fro ; he 
tries the back door of the house, and presently 
with a rush goes right over the cliff, to be 
picked up stone dead on the beach below, and 
the two-year-old Guardsman with him. 

On September 14th, 1849, a stag was hunted 
from Hawkridge to Glenthorne and there taken 
and saved, a curious coincidence of date. The 
only run of recent years which can at all 
compare with this is that from Leeworthy Post 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 199 

to Luccombe which befell in Mr. Basset's 
mastership. 

The stag was a fairly heavy one, with two 
short points atop on either side and brows and 
trays. 

A king of the forest lay in his downy couch 
among the tiny firs that line the sides of the 
little combe that faces the romantic Doone Valley, 
on the dull grey morn of Wednesday, Oct. nth, 
1899, and thus he soliloquised to himself: "I 
wonder what George Barwick is doing, sneaking 
about looking at me over the fence ! I suppose 
he thinks I don't see him, but I do, and if I 
were anywhere else but here I suppose I should 
have to make a move. He's alwavs out looking 
about when he might just as well be at home 
getting his breakfast, and so is John Lang over 
at Cloutsham, and Keeper Wensley at Langham, 
and that other chap, Goss — he doesn't seem 
to me to belong to these parts altogether by the 
smell of him. However, I suppose it is all 
right, but one can't be too careful at this time 
of the year, when everything smells so plain, 
and there seem to me to be hounds about 
most days of the week. What a good job it 
was I lay so close the other day in Horner 
W^ood when Anthony came by ; if Td once 
moved I believe he would have been after me, 
and I can't run a bit, though I believe I could 
fight if the worst came to the w^orst. I should 



200 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

not care for a few hounds or even half a 
dozen, especially if I could find a good deep 
pool, but the bother of it .must be when they 
get all round you and you can't run any more; 
then I don't know what I should do, but I'd 
take good care they didn't touch me ! How 
good those acorns were last night down in 
Badgworthy Wood ! It's a pity there weren't 
any more of them though ; they take so long 
to find, and the hinds — bless 'em — are ever so 
much cleverer than I am, picking them out 
amongst the leaves. I wonder how that light- 
coloured stag is that I had such a round wath after 
my morning bath as I came up from the water 
through Woodcombe Combe. He went away 
mighty stiff, I thought, after that last dig in the 
ribs I gave him. It's an awful bother having to 
drive away all these young stags who seem to 
fancy that the whole place belongs to them, but 
it doesn't, it's mine, and I'll let them know it 
too, as soon as the moon sets to-night ! My 
throat's rather sore though from singing so much, 
but I do like to hear the sounds go all down 
from combe to combe ; and don't the hinds like 
to hear it too. They know a good voice when 
they hear it. There's that pretty little hind, 
with the red jacket and long neck over in 
Clannacombe ; she really understands me, and 
I think would follow me anywhere — but what's 
that moving over there ? Oh, I see ! it's onlv 




Q 

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o 
O 



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o 
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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 203 

shepherd Armstrong, going out with his dog 
to look at those ewes on the Lees. I needn't 
mind him ; he's a quiet peaceable sort of chap 
enough, so I'll just stretch myself and have a 
look round and then settle down for the day. 
I wonder whether George Barwick's there still, 
or whether he's gone off at last. No, I don't 
see him. It looks all right for a pretty peaceful 
day, and there's not too much sun. I may be 

able to get a few hours' sleep What's that ? 

I thought I heard something. Yes, I certainly 
heard horses ; and what's that horrible smell ? 
There must be hounds about ; Anthony thought 
he would catch me napping, did he ? Not much 
at my time of life ! But I was a fool to go 
sleep in such a little place. 

Just look ! What a lot of them, all the way 
back to the top gate. Who's that yelling ? 
That's not Anthony ! Why it must be the 
master himself, and there is Lord Ebrington, 
as I'm a living stag. Great turnip tops ! I 
must be off ! Here goes for a move and a 
speedy one ! Now, it's all very well to rush 
at me like that, but you might just as well try 
to catch a swallow on the wing as me when 
I feel disposed for a gallop ! Here are the 
other deer, now I'll duck down in the ferns, 
and I'll bet they'll go right by. That's it ! 
Just look at them, going like mazed things. 
Now if I bide quietly here in Woodcock 



204 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Combe the hounds can run after them as 
much as they hke, and I daresay it will be 
all right. How the horses pound along ! It must 
be jolly hard work carrying great fat men on 
their backs like they do. I wonder they put 
up with it. I should like to see anv man touch 
me ! I could throw him yards and then spike 
him as well if I liked, but those horses don't 
seem to know anv better ; they are nearly as 
fat as the men. Hark ! I hear them all down 
by Cloud. Now, they're coming back again, I 
must lie low, for 'twould never do to be found 
here now with all my herd scattered to the 
four winds. I shouldn't know where to look 
for a deer to help me, and really running 
makes me feel quite faint the last season or 
two. Who is that yelling now? That's Christo- 
pher Birmingham, unless I've forgotten his voice. 
That three atop stag I gave such a thrashing 
to is coming back, no doubt. I hope he won't 
bring those beastly hounds up to me. I think 
I'll slip off into Landcombe : there's more 
shelter there, and I might presently get a chance 
to draw away altogether out of this noisy place, 
for there seem to be people everywhere to-day 
and I shan't get a wink after all this fuss. 
Hark ! how they talk and laugh ! I can't see 
what they can find to laugh about. I don't see 
anything funnv in such a row on a nice quiet 
dav. And just listen to those hounds too ! I 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 205 

wonder if they've struck my line. I'd better 
be off on the quiet while I can ; they seem to 
be all over the place. Here goes for Horner, 
but I shall take it easy, for it's such a plaguey 
long way, and I don't care for much galloping 
in the middle of the day. Oh ! bother it all 
here they come ! Here's his lordship blowing 
and blowing as if he never saw a stag before. 
I wish he'd let me alone ! I shall go quicker 
and get right away as fast as ever I can. 
Where's that easv rack in the fence ? It's never 
just where you w^ant it. This one will have to 
do, I suppose ; now I'll show" them a clean pair 
of heels, and they can hunt about in the Deer- 
park all day if they please. This is better now, 
down hill and a bit of a breeze to meet one. 
Here's the Chalk Water ; I'll have one good 
souse and on again. That was good and makes 
one feel better. I think the easiest way will be 
by Hoscombe, for I don't want to go on climbing 
any more hills if I can help it. I wonder if there 
are any deer on Acmead. No, I don't see a horn 
or an ear, and with the scent like it is I could 
twig 'em half-a-mile off going against the wind 
like this. No, not one ! I must keep going, for 
you never know what men will be up to in the 
middle of the day. Let's look back. Ho ! here 
they come after me then to the middle of Stowey 
allotments. There they all stand in a great fiock 
and there are some hounds standing with thenic 



2o6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

What are they up to, I wonder ? I don't 
know at all that things look healthy, I shall go 
on. Oh bother 'em ! they're all coming now, 
and there is a whole pack of hounds ! This 
won't do at all. I must go right on to Nutscale 
as quicklv as I can, as it's confoundedly hot 
and my winter coat is nearly half grown too. 
Here's the Porlock road ; now it is all down 
hill and I can go a bit faster. Surely I shall 
wind some other deer in Nutscale Brake. No, 
there don't seem to be any. Shall I stop and 
have a try round? I don't suppose it would do, 
they might be coming on, for if I can smell so 
well perhaps they can too. Here's the water ! 
This is delicious, I should like to roll in it for 
half-andiour, but I won't, I'll be off again. 
Here's a sloping path. I'll run up that, it is 
easier travelling than over the heather and 
stones. Here's Wilmersham Wood. I'll just slip 
down through the trees and cross the water and 
get up the other side of Ley Hill, and then I 
can look back and see if it is all c^uiet. It is 
rather a grind getting up through the wood and 
my horns are so wide and so big that every 
twig seems to catch them. What a rate I've 
come to be sure! I'll just skip over the top 
and get down into Horner W^ood, and then if 
thev follow me as far as that I must run the 
woods and put up fresh deer, and it's sure 
to be all right. I know there are a lot of deer 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 207 

there, because only last week I was here myself, 
and should have stayed till now, only I could 
not hnd anything decent to eat, and a fellow 
must have something tasty to keep up his 
strength. O ! murder ! Here they come again ; 
I hear the hounds speaking at the water by 
Poole Bridge, and there's a horn in the bottom. 
How fast they come to be sure ! Here goes for 
Yealscombe I Now down through the ferns, that 
will scatter them, see if it don't. Here's a 
beautiful sloping path. Who made all these 
paths, I wonder, just for tine fellows like me to 
run along when we feel disposed? I'll jog down 
here and slip round into a quiet place I know 
of in Halescombe, for I've got a horrid stitch 
in my side and I don't like going much further. 
There ; it's nice and c]uiet here at any rate. I 
must stop and blow. Not a man about anywhere. 
This is more like. Oh, you brute ! have you 
found me already? I won't go a yard, but if 
you don't hold your noisy tongue, I'll pin you 
right to the ground. What ! more coming ! 
And there are men too ! Dozens of them, and 
there is a whistle blowing. This is bad. What 
shall I do? I won't be caught! I'll go down 
and get in the water, and there will be no 
scent there, at any rate. How they yell ! The 
woods are alive with men ; every place seems 
thick with them, or hounds, or both. I can't 
even stop to drink. Here's a good tree. I'll 



208 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

set my back to that, and then we'll see who 
dares. Oh, you great red villain, would you? 
I wish I had you down here in the water. 
Here's a chance ; I'll pin that hound. There's 
one for him, anyway ! I'll go up to the mill 
leat ; perhaps I can shake them oft there. No, 
this is worse than ever. Here comes Sidney 
running with a rope. What's that for, I wonder ? 
Now down the meadow. If that brown sheep- 
dog does not get out of the wav, I'll spike him. 
Here's a wall; can I clear it? Only just. Out 
of the way, you horses. If I'd time I'd teach 
you ! Now down to the water again where 'tis 
deep and dark and shady. Oh, vou hounds ! 
Get out! If there weren't so manv of you, I'd 
show you how to worrv your betters. What's 
that on my horns? Oh, George Barwick, George 
Barwick ! I wish I'd kept away from vou in 
the morning." 

Harbouring on the moor has, from the 
nature of the ground, to be done almost entirely 
by viewing the deer, and consequently requires 
great care and judgment, the small amount of 
covert rendering all deer, and especiallv the 
older stags, particularlv liable to move their 
quarters at the least alarm. Thus a watch has 
often to be kept upon their movements until 
the tufters are actually brought to their lair, as 
even when settled in their bed for the day, 
some thoughtless passers-by may come between 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 209 

the wind and their nobihty, and the carefully 
arranged day's sport be entirely spoilt. Many a 
disappointment might be traced to neglect in 
watching the noble animal until the actual 
moment when he is wanted. 

On August 8th, igoo, the meeting field saw 
more than usual of the alarums and excursions 
of the chase, for first of all a procession of 
huntsman, harbourer and master, and four and 
a-half couples of tufters moved slowly, but as if 
on business bent, across the crowded field to 
begin tufting amid the fern and thorn bushes of 
the yonder part of the Ball itself, and then 
some fifteen minutes later, the master came 
cantering back with the welcome words "They've 
found" writ large all over him. Taking the 
direction of Stoke Ridge one watched him 
speeding towards the moor with the shrewd 
suspicion that if all went well, and the good 
stag roused below in the combe of East Water 
was only being driven straight by the bustling 
tufters, there must soon be a start in the best 
of all directions, that of the open moor, and so 
it proved. Many an elegant luncheon was 
nipped in the bud, many a flirtation was all 
too quickly interrupted — to be continued in our 
next, no doubt — by the twang, twang, twanging 
of the master's horn as he returned for the 
waiting pack, and gave the welcome word that 
the stag had gone right away to the moor and 

p 



210 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

that all was ready. With great consideration 
for the field, he returned to the trysting-place 
itself, and blew there several long-drawn blasts, 
summoning from the carriages all whom it might 
concern, and who wished to see if, this day, a 
stag must die. 

Then from their kennel the great hounds 
came trooping out into the sunshine, and moved 
up the long stony lane which leads from 
Cloutsham to Exford, the usual crowding being 
much relieved by the major portion of the field 
having scampered away beforehand to view the 
stag breaking covert. High up on Lankcombe 
Head a dense line of horsemen was awaiting 
the advent of the eager pack, themselves all 
ready for the coming pursuit across the moor. 
Not hurrying his trusty pack, but at a steady 
pace suited to the tender age of the young 
entries and the time of year, the master brought 
his charges to Anthony, and the first run of the 
legitimate season began within a few minutes 
of half-past twelve. 

Avoiding with care the line of two other 
stags that had broken covert much in the same 
direction, Anthony brought his hounds to the 
foil, and then, with a cool life-giving westerly 
breeze fanning cheek and muzzle and flank, 
horse and hound sprang forward over the grassy 
luxuriance of the billowy plains and combes 
which stretch around for miles upon miles from 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 211 

horizon to horizon in apparently endless width. 
At first the ground was yielding as the great 
hounds swung down from corrie to glen in 
Embercombe, settling by degrees with more and 
more steadiness to the ample scent ; down 
through the rushes and the fern and from one 
glancing sunlit pool to another, down past the 
overhanging brim and the stunted thorn bush 
at the bottom. 

See, yonder goes the stag, and what a heavy 
one he is ! He has waited so long in Chettis- 
ford Water that hounds will be close at him. 
Up the opposite slope with its mingled growth 
of grass and heather he springs, and labours in 
his stride, but his strength is all in him as 
yet, and he gains at every bound on the wide- 
spread array of his pursuers. If he heads for 
the Forest now there will be a run indeed, if he 
makes for Culbone there will be a nice run all the 
same, if he joins the herd there will be trouble, 
but a run perhaps, if his heart fail him and he 
sinks again to Horner, he will die but a less 
glorious death. See now he climbs the hill, and 
has disappeared over the skyline, his head is set 
for the great plain of Exmoor, and now there 
will be sport if he only descends the Weir Water, 
but with Black Mires before him he has an 
ample choice and no one to bar the way. 

On Babe Hill two saddles are empty, Mr. 
Hugh Nickals disappears beneath his horse, but 



212 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the falling is soft and he is soon up and on 
again, and at Lucott Cross the great hounds 
swing to the left over Acmead and all is well. 
The yielding moor grass plashes beneath the 
tread of countless feet, the horned sheep scatter 
and scurry together in huddled flocks, as the 
chase sweeps out with fast increasing speed over 
the grassy expanse, the moor ponies snort and 
:scamper with flying manes and tails as the 
cavalcade invades with breathless haste their 
quiet solitude, and the curlews wheel and 
whistle in alarm. Far from beating a cowardly 
retreat down the quiet combe of the Weir 
Water this gallant stag, though his years weigh 
heavy on him, and his head has many points, 
^oes striding on over Black Barrow and leads 
the way down Hoscombe to Chalk Water. 
Then he takes a rather unexpected turn in 
climbing to Stowey AUotment, for hounds swing 
left-handed, and reaching Manor Allotment 
with best foot foremost, go streaming down 
to the little combe wliich leads to the deep 
gorge of the Badgworthy Water. This half-mile 
slope of easv, long descent they covered at a 
pace which brought out the quality or the 
reverse of many a panting steed that had already 
begun to feel the strain of fifty minutes at 
best pace over the cream of Exmoor. 

On and on, down and down, with the dashing 
thin white line over a hundred yards ahead, in 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 213 

and out between the stones and the fort-hke 
kopjes at the bottom, and there Hes the brown 
gleaming stream bv the County Wall, and hounds 
go no further. Anthony casts up and round and 
down, but try how he will there is no line. 
Presently he goes back to Manor Allotment,, 
and there in the combe down which hounds 
lately ran, is a herd of deer and the hunted 
stag amongst them. Now the chase begins afresh, 
and the question arises how to cut out the 
veteran from the younger deer. By Stowey 
Allotment they sink to the Chalk Water by 
way of Blin dwell Combe. The fresh deer go 
On and climb Mill Hill in full view of the field, 
but from a brake of furze and fern a single 
hound pokes out the hunted stag, and the welkin 
rings again with the sound of horn and view- 
holloa. Through a strip of covert at the foot of 
the Chalk Water and awav up to Hart Way, 
goes the gallant stag with limbs that stiffen 
already and with shortening stride. Up Stowey 
Ridge, finding a new wire fence, he leads the 
way and then descending Landcombe seeks the 
shelter of the larches overhanging Badgworthy. 

Here are many fresh deer, but they avail 
him nothing. Once in the shelter of the larches 
he is fain to stop and rest, and that rest seals 
his fate. With the puppies at his heel Anthonv 
arrives in time to view his great beamed 
frontlet appearing through the tangle of mossy 



214 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

stems and lichened branches, and away he 
goes with hounds ahnost at his haunches up 
the Hne of Badgworthy and away by Hoccombe 
Water, hard pressed and making his last effort. 
With a short turn he comes back over Badg- 
worthy Lees and up the Doone Vahev, where 
a young male deer springs startled from the 
fern : then he backs it again over Brendon 
Common to the Hoccombe Water, as though 
he would gain Farley. He climbs Buscombe 
with staggering strides and comes down to 
Buscombe Water in evident distress ; a drainage 
grip entraps a horse that falls and lies apparently 
back broken — a dreary place in which to die. 
Regaining the Deerpark, the stag meets Sidney 
with live couple of hounds, which forthwith 
make the pace and put the final touch to the 
stag's troubles. Sinking to water he skirts the 
lower fringe of Badgworthy Wood, and the 
gorge rings again with the cries of the chase 
as the hounds close with their noble quarry. 
In Yealscombe he tries a double, but it is all 
no good — there is nothing left him but the 
water. On and on, down the valley the good 
hounds drive him from pool to shallow, from 
slippery rock to bubbling pool again, and then 
at Cloud Farm he can go no farther. 

To and fro he doubles, and leaps fences in 
desperate effort to mount a rocky knoll, leaping 
the wire boundary to the river, and threatening 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 215 

the angry hounds with his velvet antlers — all 
is no use, he takes to the deepest and widest 
pool and they have him. Another horse meets 
his fate in the last few moments of the run, 
breaking his fetlock in the path beside the water, 
a sad piece of ill fortune. 

Mr. Froude Hancock seizes the stag by the 
near horn which, strange to say snaps off short 
at the top in his grasp. 

As Anthony delivers with all speed the ** coup 
de grace," a herd of sixteen stags stands out- 
lined in bold relief on the skyline of Oare 
Common, looking down at the fate of their 
leader. On the off top are four points and on 
the broken near top, three, the long brow be- 
tokening the goodly age of the stag, and his 
w^ell filled haunch betraying the good pasturage 
and snug lying of his summer haunts. 

In former times the deer no doubt crossed 
freely from the grassy ranges of the Brendon 
Hills to the opposing slopes of the Ouantocks, 
before the enclosures of the fertile red vale of 
Crowcombe were rendered doubly impassable 
by the construction of the West Somerset railway. 
And their most favourite point of departure from 
the Brendons would naturally be at their quietest 
and most solitary point, where Elworthy Combe 
runs down towards the Hartrow and Willett 
coverts, and where the journey across the vale 
to the Crowcombe Woods is by no means a 



2i6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

long one. The romantic depths of Combe 
Sydenham, the thickets of Tilsey plantations and 
the fern brakes of Elworthy Combe, are still 
favoured by wandering units of the Haddon and 
Slowley herds and it was w^ith one of these that 
the following chase occurred. 

The run took place on Saturday, 15th Sep- 
tember, 1900, with a galloping three-year-old deer 
from Parson's Close Plantation near Luxborough. 
Two deer had been slotted by the harbourer 
where they left their feeding ground adjoining 
the dense shelter of the plantation, one of 
these being presumably a warrantable deer, and 
the other turning out to be a galloper of the 
most fleet footed description. Although the 
time of year has come when a light bodied 
deer may be hunted with good prospect of 
sport, the ground is still so drv that it is not 
an undertaking to be entered upon without due 
cause. The covert, however, Iving detached as 
it does, affords anv deer found in it opportunity 
of choosing at least three lines of country over 
which the going is good, and wherein fresh deer 
are not over likely to be encountered. The 
tufters had not been at work many minutes 
when a male deer with brows, trays and uprights 
was roused and driven away. Woodman dashing 
at him with a speed which set him going to such 
a tune that it took three hours of steady hunting 
to come up with him. At first, of course, the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 217 

canons of staghunting were complied with by 
trying back for the heavier deer said to be 
harboured, but although Anthony spent much 
valuable time in covert on foot, the big deer 
was not forthcoming. 

There being no alternative deer harboured, 
the pack was accordingly brought from Kings- 
bridge, and at ten minutes to one o'clock, a 
matter of fifty minutes after the deer had 
broken covert, hounds were let go on the fields 
adjoining Treborough Common. From one 
fernv dingle to another, from combe to combe, 
by rockv sheep paths and bv swampv spring 
heads, hounds ran at a very considerable pace 
considering the advantage held by their quarry. 
Running round the contours of Treborough 
Common thev came up to the furze-strewn 
plain on top at last, and after various short 
checks on ground foiled bv sheep, carried the 
line to the Raleigh's Cross road and the 
heathy commons on the Withiel side. While 
hounds were slowly hunting the line, the stag 
was viewed some distance ahead, sinking by 
Sminhayes Corner to the Comberow Woods 
that overhang Leigh Barton. Red Deer Land 
is full of steep hills and deep gorges, but none 
surely are deeper or steeper than the sides of 
the combes adjoining the mineral incline which 
falls from the highest point of the Brendon 
Hills to the fertile red valleys of Roadwater 



2i8 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and Washford. Down through the dense green 
shades of the oak woods hounds hunted slowly 
on, and perhaps it was as well that they did 
hunt slowly, for to ride to hounds amongst 
these precipices takes time and circumspection, 
and the staghounds are not so often in this 
particular neighbourhood that their followers are 
overlearned in its geography. For half an hour 
at a time hounds were left perforce entirely 
to themselves, but such old performers as Slow- 
boy, Woodman and Pilot could well be trusted 
to attend to the matter in hand. Picking out 
the line piece by piece, the pack forged 
steadily onward, traversing the steep incline of 
the mineral railway and passing on from wood- 
land glade to ferny slope till they came to the 
commons at the head of Sticklepath Hill, Here 
there was another check, but Anthony's per- 
severance was not to be denied, and after some 
pretty hunting over the furze and a little 
slotting down a road, the pack swung away 
over a turnip field to the higher end of Colton 
Pits. Here in the larch plantations the deer 
might well have lingered, but the line was still 
cold and doubtful, and it was only by patient 
work that it was carried on over some wide 
commons and sterile fields to the head of 
Elworthy Combe. 

Here, with the Quantock range facing the 
Brendons across the Crowcombe vale, with the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 219 

sea below and the vale of Taunton Deane 
stretching away to the south-east, there was just 
time to look round and think of the landscape 
while Anthony cast downwards amongst the fern 
and gorse. In the fold of Elworthy Combe 
under some stunted thorns a trickle of water 
had tempted the hunted deer, and Regal gave 
evidence in solemn tones to the still fresh scent. 
Lingering among the fern lower down, the deer 
now heard the dread approach of his pursuers, 
safely left behind, as he thought, nearly four 
hours ago, and many miles away. Springing up, 
he was quickly viewed, and began to gallop 
over Mr. Notley's domain of Combe Sydenham, 
apparently still strong and fresh. So much 
patient hunting, however, was not to be thrown 
awav ; hounds were after him in a trice, and at 
a very different pace from that shown hitherto. 
With a cry that made the welkin ring again, 
hounds dashed through the tall trees, and swept 
down over the rabbit-burrowed slopes of Combe 
Sydenham, where an awkward descent awaited 
the field, with an angry wasp's nest in the most 
uncomfortable part. Then came a heart-breaking 
climb to the confines of Nettlecombe and another 
descent brought the field to the civilisation and 
the high farming of the valley beneath Sir Walter 
Trevelyan's ancestral home. In a stream, of 
which I do not know the name, running down 
from Nettlecombe Court to the village below, 



220 STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR 

the deer took a hurried bath, but found hounds 
too close to him for hngering, and sped away 
over the stiffly fenced enclosures towards Wash- 
ford. Blind as they were, several banks had to 
be negotiated, and that without loss of time, 
for hounds were driving their sinking deer with 
heads up, sterns down, and hackles rising in a 
manner that meant business. Another mile from 
field to field brought them to the Williton road, 
where their deer had been viewed only a few 
short minutes ahead of them. On over the 
level tillage grounds until a short turn gave 
them pause for a few minutes near a small 
covert, called, I believe, Furze Close. Into this 
they presently carried the line, and there was a 
rousing fresh find. On before them speed the 
deer, still able to bound lightly over the banks 
and trim fences of the valley, but unable to 
maintain the pace for long. Swinging round in 
a ring to the corner of Furze Close, he came 
to a final standstill in a small hurdled enclosure 
in a disused lane. Here Mr. John Clatworthy, 
of Exton, jumped off his horse, and took him 
single-handed before the leading hounds could 
reach him. Time from the lay on four hours, and 
from the fresh find at Elworthy Barrows, one 
hour and live minutes, this latter part particularly 
fast and over a stiff and difficult country. He 
had brows, trays and uprights only. 




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CHAPTER VIII. 

The Boldness of the Exmoor Deer — Their Noiseless 
Tread — -The Tufting Pony — Dust — The Madding 
Crowd — The Countisbury Cliffs — Sunset on the 
Sea. 




The greater part of 
the field of course do 
their day's hunting 
on one horse, and 
long distances are 
covered in the course 
of the many hours 
which go to the full 
complement of a 
day's pursuit of the 
wild stag. Horses are naturally by no means 
at their best when the herd is in its " pride 
of grease," as the ancient chroniclers have it, 
but still they contrive to carry heavy weights 
for a great many hours over much rough 
country, and are much sustained no doubt by 
the bracing nature of the air at the great 
heights above the sea where the deer are mostly 
to be found, and also by the springy nature of 
the foothold, which as long as it be firm enough, 
is of the very best possible description for 



224 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

galloping over. Comparisons are often made 
between the amount of work a horse can do 
if he spends his life amongst the hills and 
combes of Exmoor, or if he has to carry his 
master to foxhounds in the Shires. In a flying 
country, or more certainly still in a big banking 
country, the perpetual landing is far more trying 
to forelegs and tendons than the galloping chases 
of Exmoor, and the constant -effort of heaving 
himself and his rider into the air takes far more 
out of a willing hunter than the struggle up the 
narrow hillside paths and through the mire and 
swamps of the western wildnerness. Though the 
hours 'are far longer and the distances galloped 
over much greater, horses certainly last longer, 
if only they receive fair treatment, than they 
do when ridden equally hard over a flatter 
country with the usual obstacles. For the hotter 
and more especially trying days of August old 
horses are far better mounts than young ones, 
and will take their turn with more certainty, 
while bringing their rider home with less weary 
footsteps than the five or six-year-old mounts, 
that in hind hunting will prove the better horses ; 
for it takes a fleeter and a fresher horse to 
catch a long necked hind than it does to follow 
the straight running line of a monarch of the 
moor. 

When a stag has a point to make he will 
make it without fail, although he may be turned 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 225 

aside for awhile by some unlooked for obstacle, 
while the wily hind will be for ever changing 
her course and doubling in each covert, to come 
out at some totally unexpected spot, while ever 
and anon she will lead her pursuers down to 
water and then shape her course straight 
upwards to the very summit of the highest hill 
she can find. Still it is always good judgment 
to keep above hounds while running on these 
enormous hillsides. It is still more necessary 
to do so when they have a hind before them, 
as her light limbs will carry her from the rocky 
pools to the wind swept summit where perhaps 
the rest of the herd are waiting for her, and 
then if your horse is blown with the long ascent 
you cannot possibly be in time to help single 
her out from her comrades, or to see in which 
direction she creeps away to rest herself 
w^hile the pack is divided in all directions, 
each section with a fresh deer or two before 
them. 

In making one's way to a meet in the short 
winter days when the appointed time is ten 
o'clock, one more often than not views a herd 
or two of deer standing about on the open, 
which one does not so often see in the autumn 
season, when the hinds are sheltering themselves 
and their calves in the thickest jungles they 
can find, and the stags seem instinctively to know 
that they are in season, and that the harbourer 
Q 



226 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

is abroad. Whenever one encounters Exmoor 
deer one is struck by the difference which 
long centuries of training have made in their 
demeanour from that of their brethren north 
of the Border. 

If deer in the Highlands get wind of a 
human being they at once become uneasy, but 
these noble animals take small account of 
mankind, whether mounted or on foot, and so 
long as one passes on and does not stop to 
gaze at them as they stand or lie with eyes 
fixed on your approach, they will hold their 
own even though you pass to windward of their 
lair, but if you should be accompanied by dog 
or a hound, no matter how small a one he be, 
they immediately become uneasy, they turn 
their heads to and fro, some old hind stamps 
a warning signal, or the oldest stag present 
prods his nearest neighbour with his antler, 
and then with a long jerking trot they glide 
across the heathy carpet to turn and swing 
round at a short distance, and then if the 
scrutiny does not please them to break into 
a lurching gallop which carries them in less 
time than it takes to tell, round the nearest 
shoulder of the rolling plain, and so away for 
awhile until quieter ground is reached. If you 
follow them as they go, it is pretty to see how 
timid and distrustful they are of each object in 
their path and how the leading hind will shy 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 227 

and jerk to right or left at each bunch of 
blossoming furze or white spar boulder, how 
sometimes even the stroke of the wind on the 
heath will make them suddenly alter their 
course and start off at a tangent. On en- 
countering a road or pathway the whole herd 
will tread so as to avoid the beaten surface, as 
though unwilling to leave any printed sign of 
their course. When a herd of hinds is being 
run bv tufters over the hilltops, one may count 
with safetv on their fixed habit of running 
round 'the contour and by pursuing the opposite 
side of the hill to that on which the hinds are 
retreating, one may meet them as they return 
and create great confusion in their ranks, 
when thev find their time-honoured manoeuvre 
anticipated. 

When stags are in their winter herds their 
manoeuvres are much the same, but when 
they are in season they seem to know that 
their slower pace and shorter wind does not 
allow them to take such liberties with their 
pursuers, and they more frequently bethink 
themselves of some quiet stronghold at a few 
miles distance, and go right away from the 
eager crv of the tufters that have roused them 
and from the whipper-in's piercing view halloa. 
The stopping of the tufters is not an invariably 
easy affair, especiallv if the stag take several 
turns in covert before breaking, or if he be 



228 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

not found exactly where the harbourer denotes, 
but it has to be done if good sport is to follow, 
for the pack will never run eagerly if one of 
their number is ahead of them and the foil 
consequently covered. Very often however the 
huntsman finds himself obliged to hunt such 
a foil, and after awhile his perseverance is 
generally rewarded by coming up wnth the 
truant hound at some water where the stag 
has baffled his one pursuer, and where it 
requires man's reason to aid hound's instinct, 
in order to cope with the stag's craft of self 
preservation. Old hounds that have been through 
many a season and have been stopped and 
stopped again, may perhaps obey the voice of 
the casual stranger who finds himself with the 
■opportunity to help the hunt servants, but as 
a rule the great hounds from Exford will hearken 
to none but those whose voices they know, and 
who know their names. 

The ease with which their master, huntsman 
and whipper-in control them is well known, it 
being by no means uncommon to see them 
stopped bv a word across some impassable 
ravine, and such control is naturally of the very 
greatest importance in securing a successful issue 
to the dav's undertaking. 

All through the days of summer the young 
hounds are exercised and trained in the way 
that thev should go, and taught to discriminate 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 231 

between the sweet smelling moorland sheep, as 
they scamper through the ferns, and their 
lawful game, and to take no account of the 
tempting odour of the fox cub, that scuttles 
along the dewy green track between the expanses 
of heather, and to pay no attention to the yellow 
hare, that bounds from her form and strides 
across the close cropped hilltops, w^th ears laid 
back and pattering feet that kick the dusty 
pollen from the heather bloom. 

The noiseless tread of all beasts of the 
chase is a matter well worthy of observation ; 
even a weary stag, galloping with failing stride 
down the hard high road, is barely audible 
except bv his laboured breath ; the fox just 
unkennelled, rushing over the carpet of crisp 
brown leaves in covert, makes no more sound 
than a gust of wind, while a hunted hare 
coming towards you as you sit silently on 
your horse observing her, is audible more by 
her panting breath in the still sunny mornings 
of midwinter, than by her galloping feet on 
the trodden pathway, where she tries to baffle 
the chiming pack that will presently roll her 
over. 

The horns of deer make a curious rattling 
sound as thev rush through dense oak coppice, 
and that sound once heard will be alwavs 
recognised by one who loves the chase, and 
when he hears it he will watch with keen 



232 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

delight for the appearance of the hunted stag, 
as he comes down hard driven by the leading 
hounds to plunge into the river, which he 
will never leave again until he is drawn ashore 
to the sound of the angry bay with the notes 
of the horn ringing over all. 

The oaken woods abound in dead twigs and 
sticks, but except when first rushing from his 
lair, a stag will pass almost noiselessly through 
the densest jungle, his horns laid back upon 
his shoulders, and his muzzle held straight 
before him, though sometimes at the first 
alarm, when some enquiring tufter comes 
pushing through the ferns right up to his 
broad red haunch he makes wonderful leaps 
which occasionallv end in disaster. 

A goodly stag in Kersham Wood near 
Timberscombe a few seasons since, crouched 
in his lair until hounds fairly touched him, 
and then leapt over an adjoining rock, where 
he fell and damaged himself so badly, that he 
could onlv run a very short distance and the day's 
sport was nil. Another stag in Syndercombe 
Wood near West Holland had only been roused 
a few minutes when he made a false step at 
a wide ditch and broke his back within five 
minutes of his rousing. 

On the moor again one of the treacherous 
drainage gutters entrapped a four -vear- old 
deer at the head of the Farley Water, and 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 233 

he too was promptly seized and despatched, 
rolhng down with the leading hounds over a 
long grassy bank w^hich sloped steeply to the 
water below. 

The tufting, which is often the severest 
part of the huntsman's work, is done for the 
most part on ponv back, a smart ponv of some 
thirteen hands being a far more desirable 
mount for nine stone weight amongst the 
bushy paths and rocky by-ways of the big 
woodlands than a mettlesome hunter, but when 
the tufters have been stopped at last, and the 
pack has come to the starting point, then the 
huntsman's second horseman produces his first 
galloper all fresh from some cool stable wiiere 
he has been waiting his turn, and then the 
little pony goes home to Exford to prepare 
for another busy morning amongst the fern 
brakes and covert paths. 

The duties of the second horsemen require 
no small knowledge of the country and of the 
habits and customs of deer, the bringing up of 
a fairly fresh second horse at the critical 
moment of a great moor run being a by no 
means easy feat. In the great run from 
Hawkridge to Glenthorne, in the autumn of 
1 899, the huntsman's second horse was brought 
to him at the end of the first nineteen miles, 
in which there had been no check worthy of 
the name, and the line had been as straight as 



234 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

a deer could possibly go across the map. Again 
in a great run from Culbone Stables to Stentway 
Bridge, on the Hole Water, Arthur Real's second 
horse arrived on the scene directly hounds 
checked for the first time after being laid on 
near Hawkcombe Head. At the lay on, hounds 
in their eagerness, often flash to right or left or 
run heel for awhile, and the field too is more 
apt to over ride the line when starting than 
perhaps at any other time, an hour or two of 
waiting in the keen moorland air and the 
opening cry of the pack seldom failing to make 
horses, if they are really fit to go, pretty much 
of a handful, and a delay at a crowded gate- 
way or two while hounds are gaining an 
irrecoverable start does not mend matters. Wide 
though the plains of Exmoor undoubtedly are, 
a field of three hundred or so soon makes an 
impenetrable crowd when a hillside path is 
encountered, or a stream has to be crossed at 
a rocky ford, and then patience and philosophy 
are the only supports to the good man and true 
wlio would be forward when the chase is stirring. 
The fine filmy dust of certain roads that are 
much used in the dry days of August, will rise 
and hang in a long white line above such spots 
as the Lynton Road, from Pittcombe Head to 
Culbone Stables, when the pack is brought out 
in haste to be laid upon the foil of a forest- 
going deer, and a day amongst the North Devon 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 235 

highways and by-ways of the South Molton 
country will send its participators home with 
dusty hats and garments, a decided taste in 
their mouths, and the clatter of innumerable 
hoofs on macadam still ringing in their ears, as 
they drop off into that sound slumber which is 
seldom denied to a weary staghunter. 

Amongst pilots and their followers, like 
follows like : he who is greedy for a gallop 
selects some pilot who is well mounted like 
himself, while paterfamilias, who is introducing 
his daughters to the chase that he loved in his 
youth, will point out some steady going resident, 
who can be relied upon not to cover more 
ground than is absolutely necessary, and to avoid 
the traps and peat holes and the dangerous 
going which is every here and there to be found, 
and which come so unexpectedly in the line of 
an average gallop. There are many who will 
follow a pilot up to a certain point, but when 
they see him stop or swerve without any 
apparent reason, while hounds appear to them 
to be running exactly as they did before, will 
carry on at full speed and find themselves, to 
their surprise, either in difficult ground, or 
beneath the correcting lash of the master's 
tongue. How often on the swampy plains of 
Acmead, where the ponies graze knee-deep amid 
the lush green moor grass, has one seen a string 
of white garmented sportsmen suddenly forsake 



236 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

their pilot, because he pulled his horse to a 
trot, well knowing the holding nature of the 
ground to which they were coming. Then they 
rush to their undoing, one hireling after another 
flounders and staggers and rolls over, or recovers 
itself to catch its shaken and surprised rider at 
the critical moment. 

If the moor had only been left entirely 
alone, its traps and pitfalls would be far less 
numerous than they are, but every attempt at 
husbandry, every stroke of the spade, has 
made a snare for the horseman, each gutter 
remains from year to year and from decade 
to decade, while each peat cutting remains a 
morass in which many horses might lie buried. 
Many a glorious plain over which one might 
gallop like the wind in drv weather, has been 
made most dif^cult riding, seamed gridiron 
fashion with countless gutters with unsound 
sides, that never completely till up ; add to this 
innumerable cart ruts sheltered by the heather 
and the grass, and rocky paths with fixed and 
rolling stones, and river fords that have their 
moving boulders and slippery ledges ; add deep 
tussocky heather and springheads overgrown 
with floating grass and weed, and vou have a 
country that is all right when vou know it, but 
you have to know it hrst. 

One of the most awe inspiring parts of 
Red Deer Land is that which borders on the 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 239 

Severn Sea. Along the cliffs from Ashley 
Combe to Countisbury Foreland there are 
paths and ways which overhang a rock bound 
beach by a giddy drop of some three hundred 
feet. Several times each season beaten deer 
betake themselves to these cliffs, and by paths 
where few can follow them make their way to 
salt water, or sometimes reach the boulders of 
the beach and running along reclimb the 
ramparts, and return to the moor a mile or 
two further up or down the coast. These 
cliff paths are uncanny places into which to 
venture with any but the quietest and handiest 
of mounts, for one may sometimes find oneself 
upon a sheep track which winds from slope to 
slope until it ends in some sheer drop or 
cascade of rolling shillett where a horse has 
no room or foothold to turn round, and the 
close cropped turf moreover is exceedingly 
slippery when burnt brow^n by an August sun, 
and a horse whose shoes are worn smooth has 
little chance to maintain his foothold if he 
makes the least mistake. 

A fall here means an avalanche of loose 
stones and debris, a bumping roll to the edge 
of the sheer cliff below and then a sickening 
fall upon the jagged rocks or into the boiling 
surf. 

The woods of these rain swept precipices 
are curious to look at. Here cling in the 



240 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

combes, oaks ancient and gnarled and lichen 
covered, with bent and withered limbs and 
grotesque shapes, the survivors of a thousand 
winter gales, living a hard life indeed, and as 
different as possible from their straight stemmed 
relations in the sheltered combes inland. 
Seagulls wheel and scream amid the rocks 
below, while in these low boughs countless 
pigeons roost in the winter nights, when the 
southerly gales pass humming high overhead, 
and this north coast lies sheltered. Amid the 
ledges of rock and the overhanging ivy many 
a cliff fox has his kennel, whence he steals 
out at dusk to climb to the farm lands above, 
secure that if he can only regain his un- 
appoachable den no hound can ever follow 
him and that the passing steamer's siren will 
be the only horn that he will ever hear. 

The raven and the brown buzzard haunt 
these solitary rocks, and an occasional pair of 
peregrine falcons use certain benches which 
are covered with a white debris of bones and 
feathers. 

Descending these cliffs in pursuit of beaten 
deer is only possible in certain places, but 
once down it is a far more difficult affair to 
regain the summit, where one's horse stands 
patiently awaiting one's return. Hunting boots 
are by no means suitable for cliff climbing, 
and a heavy rain-sodden coat makes matters 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 241 

worse, while the hounds are very apt to 
dislodge loose stones and boulders, and to 
make matters very precarious for the venturous 
few who climb down to witness the last 
scene, and to assist in the difficult task of 
securing a fighting stag on such dangerous 
ground. 

At times a stag will take to salt water, and 
after a short swim will come ashore again, only 
to find himself confronted by the huntsman and 
his pack, emerging from behind some mighty 
rock to close with him in the tumbling surf. 
Looking down from the heights above, the 
majority of the held gets a birds-eye view of 
the tiny figures below ; the deer plainly outlined 
against the white boiling streak of surf, the 
hounds just visible as black dots, a dozen or so 
of people on foot, crawling slowly and with 
difficulty over the boulders, which at that height 
appear no more than pebbles. Here the 
melodious sound of the bay is heard to its 
utmost perfection, the dull booming of the waves 
giving a setting as it were to the mingled roar 
from some twenty or thirty deep-toned throats 
that rolls and echoes up the age-worn cliffs, 
while the horn, thin and distant, sounds silvery 
and high above the chorus. 

Deer have not unfrequently to be left where 
they are killed amongst the rocks, and some- 
times even it proves impossible to draw the 

R 



242 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

venison out of reach of the waves, while one 
has to keep a watchful eye on the swift advances 
of the tide, lest one be cut off from one's only 
path of return to the heights above. When 
the sea is calm enough the Porlock Weir boat 
will take off the carcase of the slain deer, and 
with a favourable breeze, will be back at the 
beach in front of the Anchor Hotel before the 
last horseman has fairly regained the Lynton 
Road. In climbing up again from the wild and 
desolate scene on the beach, in times of heavy 
rainfall the scanty foothold is especially yielding 
and treacherous, each tuft of grass or mountain 
shrub mav come awav bv the roots as one 
grasps it in struggling up, and the rolling stones 
are more than ever liable to form a miniature 
avalanche and hurry the adventurous hunter 
down to the hungry rocks below. A few 
hundred yards out some heavily freighted 
pleasure steamer is generally to be seen speeding 
homewards to Cardiff or Weston-super-Mare, 
its decks packed with tourists who have been 
having a happy day at Lynmouth or Ilfracombe ; 
if the evening is hne, the sound of music floats 
clear across the gently heaving waters. Then as 
the harvest sun dips into its western bed, in a 
glory of cloud colouring, the sombre cliffs light 
up with all manner of shades of lake and 
carmine and purple, the pearl grev sea blushes 
with a pale pink radiance, and even the stunted 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 



243 



oaks that remember the days of the Druids 
reflect on their tough old stems the warm gleam 
of the after glow. The tinkle of the music 
fades away up channel, the lighthouse lamps 
shine clear across the deep, the ravens, scared 
anon, drop back to their familiar roosting place, 
and below, where he fought and died, the stag, 
if he could not be reached that day, lies till 
to-morrow's tide shall allow the boat to come close 
in and carry him away, to provide a haunch 
perhaps for the master's venison feast at 
Porlock. 





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CHAPTER IX. 

DuNSTER — Hunting in Hot Weather — A Dream of the. 
Past — View Holloas — Another Graveyard — An 
Extraordinary Trophy — Porlock Weir — The Boat — 
Sheep Killing — Drowning at Sea — The Senior 
Pack. 



others by 
deer, and 
it is the 



Tih e Devon 
and Somerset 
country has 
many districts 
all differing 
in type, with 
different soils, 
and different 
formations, 
some of them 
": being separa- 
ted from the 
stretches of country untenanted by 
it is to these unstocked tracts that 




during 



constant endeavour, 
hunting at any rate, of the executive to 
some single deer, when a successful 
becomes almost assured. 



hind- 
drive 
chase 



Historic Dunster sees the staghounds several 



times each vear and its 



great 



annual meet in 



246 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the staghunting season, following its Horse 
Show day brings together an exceeding great 
•concourse of pursuers and sight-seers, so readily 
is the home of the Luttrells approached by 
road and rail. Minehead, with its fast growing 
population, lies near by and turns out in force 
to attend this meet, and the many villages 
around all send their contingents of horse, 
foot and wheel men. Alcombe and Timbers- 
combe, Carhampton and Bilbrook, Stogumber 
and Williton are all in easy reach of the long 
wide street on which Dunster Castle looks 
down, and this same street bv the hour of 
eleven becomes thronged indeed at the Yarn- 
market end. The great hounds lie panting 
on the dusty red stones of the roadway opposite 
the low arched frontal of the Luttrell Arms 
Hotel, and round them presses an inquiring 
and admiring crowd, as thicklv packed as upon 
Cloutsham Ball, or at the corner of Bagborough 
Plantation. The district round Dunster is one 
which of all others need a heavy and recent 
rainfall to enable hounds to do good work, for 
its dry and gravelly soil holds no scent to 
speak of unless well moistened, and the 
neighbouring hilltops are so plentifully be- 
sprinkled with a growth of gorse as to make 
most unpleasant travelling for hounds and 
even for horses. The deer too, seem to realise 
that hounds cannot follow them with such 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 247 

swiftness and certainty over these close cropped 
solitudes, and immediately choose the most 
prickly of the ground over which to lay their 
course. Grabhist Hill at the back of Dunster 
Town is a very favourite spot for hardy pedes- 
trians on all days when the staghounds are 
anywhere in the neighbourhood, and from the 
grassy paths that line its long ridge much 
hunting can be seen, whether the chase lies 
over the stony sides of Croydon Hill or threads 
the thicket of the Broad Wood coverts or 
passes away to Timberscombe Common or Great 
Headon Plantation. Many a time and oft has 
a Slowley stag fled by way of Long Wood or 
Kitswall Farm to ford the Aville Brook and 
climb the steep front of Grabhist hillside to 
the great delight of the patient watchers who 
have chosen this spot to await the chase. Then 
while the fugitive climbs with heaving flank 
and panting breath to the crest of Grabhist, 
hounds appear on the southern skyline, a scarce 
visible distant mass of small white specks, while 
the field, a larger collection of moving objects, 
presses on in their wake, dividing into numerous 
strings and sections as hounds pass through the 
leafy depth of Long Wood, and streams from 
one covert to another of the Dunster Castle 
estate, until they come down with unerring 
instinct to the spot where the quarry has 
splashed through the stream which comes down 



248 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

from the southern slopes of Dunkery to supply 
Timberscombe and Dunster. 

Intense heat and glare and abundant dust 
and a plague of horse flies are what one expects 
at the great Dunster meet, and so different is 
the climate down here at sea level that deer 
hunting seems a very different matter from 
what it did but a few days before on the 
towering heights of Dunkery or Hawkcombe 
Head. Dunster Park lends itself particularly 
to the chase of the wild red deer ; nowhere 
is the chase seen to greater advantage than 
here upon the short turf of the undulating 
knolls that sweep down towards the Castle 
lawns. Between the ancient oak stems some 
Slowley stag of square and ponderous haunch 
gallops with stately stride past a wondering 
herd of fallow buck, whose ancestors perhaps 
were brought from Normandy by Baron Mohun, 
then comes the distant cry of the pursuing 
pack, the silverv twanging of the huntsman's 
horn and in a trice the glade is full of rushing 
forms. The park deer scurry in wild alarm 
to right and left, the great hounds stride on 
upon the red deer's foil, and bestow no glance 
or thought upon the herd of small stuff, which 
might well distract their attention as they 
pass before them in easy view. The scarlet 
coats press on beside the racing pack, the field 
canters down the easy slope of turf, that is 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 249 

not without its stumbling blocks in the shape 
of constant ant-hills, and so the chase passes 
by, much as it may have done on any autumn 
afternoon since the days of the Saxons, with 
the same old oaks looking down upon the 
sport and the romantic pile cf Dunster Castle 
crowning the landscape. Probably the music 
of the chase has altered not a little, just as 
its pace has much increased, even since times, 
which are onlv comparatively historic ; the 
short straight horn of to-day has succeeded 
the longer and more musical instrument of 
former times, the hounds too have little to say 
until their great red quarry turns to bay, whereas 
the hounds that worked these happy hunting 
grounds before them in the ages long gone 
by had tuneful throats and used them as St. 
Hubert would have liked, but the hunting cries 
and view halloas remain much the same, though 
Norman French no longer is the language of 
the hunter, still in hunting cries there are faint 
traces which may serve to remind us that our 
forbears chased the noble deer for many a 
centurv before the odorous fox was thought 
worth hunting. 

A good voice is always a desirable possession 
in a huntsman or whip, but nowhere perhaps 
is it more necessary than in the deep "vvoods and 
wild combes which the deer affect, and nowhere 
can the clear strains of a trained throat be heard 



250 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

to better advantage or more wholly fit in with the 
nature of the spot. For wild deer hunting is 
of all our English field sports the most romantic 
and the one that appeals with most effect to the 
poetic side of those upon whom grand scenery 
and colouring and beautiful sounds have an 
influence. To many no doubt of an average 
field the aesthetic enjoyment of some particu- 
larly happy grouping of the moving figures of 
the chase is of small moment, but to those to 
whom it is given to see natural beauties, and to 
hear melodies in the tumbling of the surf on 
the rock bound coast, or to feel the difierence 
between a well pitched halloa, echoing from 
the depths of a combe and the same words 
uttered unmusicallv, there is endless enter- 
tainment in staghunting, especially if the skies 
be propitious. From afar one may distinguish 
in the depths of leafy Horner the well-known 
voice of some habitual staghunter who views 
the deer, and from afar one may tell bv the 
different tone of the huntsman's horn what he 
wishes to convey. 

The stones of Dunkery's Graveyard are 
reproduced on a smaller scale on the bold 
weather beaten top of Croydon Hill that 
overlooks the villages of Timberscombe and 
Luxborough. A scanty growth of heath for 
many a century had hidden the litter of loose 
boulders that now stand revealed, owin^ to 




r 1 t^ 



« * z. 

K* 111 75 

:j Q 

O H g 

^ ? r 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 253 

the action of a recent hill fire of great 
magnitude which swept away the covering 
of hundreds of acres, and then rushed on 
Its path of fierv destruction into the 
Broadwood Plantations of the Dunster Castle 
estate, and projected belts and tongues of 
destroying fiame amongst the coppice and 
scrub oak of Longwood. In former years a 
run from Slowlev towards the Aville Brook 
invariably produced a certain number of empty 
saddles as the chase in its progress swept 
over Croydon Hill, but blind though the 
stones were by reason of the growth upon them, 
they formed far preferable riding to their 
present condition, indeed the shingle of the 
beach in Porlock Bay is nearly as suitable for 
a galloping ground as this denuded hilltop. 
For the first year or two wide tracts of black, 
dusty ashes and burnt sandy earth proved an 
insuperable obstacle to hounds, in that they 
carried absolutely no scent at all even when 
Avet, so that on coming to such an expanse, 
the huntsman had no alternative but to lift 
his pack bodily fowards, following the slot as 
he might without much difiiculty do, until the 
burnt tract had been crossed and left behind 
and natural ground succeeded. 

Adjoining this stony area is a wide tract of 
the very spikiest and toughest gorse of the 
whole west country, and into the middle of 



254 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

this uncomfortable growth, hinds, in particular, 
will always lead the pack if they can possibly 
contrive to do so. Although their own feet 
and legs suffer not a little in galloping over 
this dense and prickly carpet, they evidently 
know well its virtues in arresting the progress 
of their enemies the hounds. 

The Slowley coverts, with their warm lying 
and red soil, and with the good feeding which 
the deer obtain upon some of the farms in 
their neighbourhood, have always been famous 
for the good heads they produce, and to the 
credit of the neighbouring Minehead district 
must be laid the record trophy secured by 
Mr. Sanders during his long and successful 
term of office. 

The Selworthv, Slowlev, and Minehead herds 
constantly travel to and fro and intermingle, so 
that a stag may be seen in either one of these 
districts to-dav, and with all likelihood be reported 
as an inhabitant of another covert by to-morrow 
morning. This particular stag carried a most 
curious division of the beam on the top of the 
near horn and abounded in points, large and 
small, numbering seventeen all told. One curious 
point about him was, that although various large 
deer had been seen and harboured in these 
allied districts, yet this identical stag's presence 
had never been detected until within a season 
or two of his capture, so that he would seem 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 255 

to be another instance of those many deer who 
hide themselves so effectively during the autumn 
months as to be quite unknown, even to those 
whose business it is to make themselves 
acquainted with all the larger and more con- 
spicuous members of the herd, until by some 
lucky chance they bring themselves into the 
harbourer'sken, and on some fine hunting morning 
find themselves suddenly approached in their 
well concealed lair by the inquisitive noses of 
the questing tufters. 

This stag was taken in the spring of 1901, 
when the snow lay deep on every other part 
of the home country, and was entirely un- 
harboured ; Tivington Plantation was drawn at 
a venture and he was found with comparatively 
little trouble. He then ran to such purpose 
that he out-distanced the field and the greater 
part of the pack, but a few couples of 
hounds followed closely on his foil through 
Longwood to Kingsbridge, and he was there 
secured and killed before the huntsman's 
arrival. His head was set up with the winter 
coat on, and forms a striking contrast to the 
appearance of an ordinary autumn head. 

The custom still prevails at Exford of 
mounting the generality of heads with the 
frontal bone alone remaining to carry the horns. 
On this white surface is painted the date and 
main features of the chase, and the whole is 



256 STACxHUNTING WITH THE 

mounted upon an oaken escutcheon. The heads, 
as of old, become the property of the master, 
and are occasionally presented by him to those 
covert owners whose preserves produce the 
noblest supply of warrantable deer. 

While any stag with not less than two long 

points on either top may be run, what is sought for 

by the harbourer is to find if possible a stag with 

three atop upon each horn, it being tolerably 

certain then that the animal roused will be not 

less than seven ^^ears old, and consequently 

will well repay the difficulties of the chase. 

Two atop deer are wont to give both hounds 

and horses far more than they can do in the 

hot days of August, and their speed moreover 

carries them so far ahead of their pursuers that 

their scent is apt to wax faint and unreliable, 

and in that way alone the sport is less desirable 

than with a heavier animal that, trusting to 

his cunning rather than to his speed, clears 

only a short distance between himself and the 

hounds, and consequently leaves an abundant 

and enticing scent which quickens the pace and 

keeps the interest fully alive. Then too there 

is always the doubt as a heavy stag enters 

each covert in succession whether he will 

succeed in putting up fresh deer, but in the 

leafy days of autumn, when hinds and their 

calves are separate and hidden in the thickest 

retreats, stags do not so often succeed in finding 




O 

J 

o 



^ 



w 

H 

< 
H 



DEVON AND SOiMERSET. 259 

company. Increased numbers and increased 
hunting have rendered the Exmoor deer more 
clever than ever in running to herds, and 
nothing but the pace, which is constantly 
increasing too, prevents them from lookmg for 
their comrades v^henever they find themselves 
in the least danger. 

Porlock Weir is a chosen spot whence 
many a generation of staghunters has enjoyed 
the noble sport, and it is well placed indeed 
for many of the best meets. Save that one 
has a steep hill to climb it is within very easy 
reach of all the great plains of heather that 
lie before the eye in looking outward from 
Culbone Stables and when the days have 
turned colder and the rain clouds begin to 
sweep across the moor, the seaside climate and 
warm shelter of Porlock Weir form a verv 
acceptable change to the bleak heights over 
which the deer are always travelling. One 
great feature of the Weir is the deer-catching 
boat with its lustv crew of swarthv fishermen, 
who have brought to hand many a score of 
deer that have made their last bid for safety 
by striking out to sea. On this rock bound coast 
there are many states of the weather when no 
boat can live at sea, but whenever it is 
possible to venture Noah Pollard and his 
merry men can be relied upon to secure a 
swimming deer however far out to sea he 



26o STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

may have gone or the tide may have carried 
him. 

A new deer-fence that has been erected 
by the Earl of Lovelace for the protection of 
his farms at Culbone has turned away towards 
the moor many a deer that would otherwise 
have gone to sea near Ashley Combe, but the 
Weir boat still has many a call down the 
coast to Glenthorne or upwards across the 
dancing waters of Porlock Bay towards Hurl- 
stone Point. 

This cruel headland with its serrated ledges 
of surf beaten rock, drops sheer into the 
tumbling water from the grassy slopes of 
North Hill, and at its most weather beaten 
extremity deer from time to time dash into 
the sea. 

A certain one horned stag that ran to 
this point from Haddon in the October of 
1888, after covering the distance in one hour 
and fifty minutes from the time of his rousing 
in the fields above the Lady's Drive at Steart, 
broke from his bay here, and striking boldly 
out to sea, swam round the headland and 
was carried by the tide and his own efforts 
for some miles towards Minehead, landing at 
last near Greenaleigh and being safely taken. 
This stag was subsequently sent to Lord 
Rothschild and shewed several good runs 
before his pack. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 261 

It is not far from Hurlstone Point, on the 
sunburnt sheepwalks near East Myne, that a 
great outbreak of sheep kiUing by the pack 
took place in recent years, and caused the 
earlv demise of many promising young hounds. 
On the sHppery precipices between Henners- 
combe and Grexv there was absohitely no 
scope for the intervention of the hunt servants 
and a long wait in kennel had previously 
rendered the puppies fit for treason, strategy 
and spoil, when as ill luck would have it, on 
being taken out to try for their stag, a flock 
of horned sheep bounded through their midst, 
just where control w^as impossible. The ill 
effect of this outbreak was subsequently felt in 
the course of the great and famous run from 
Hawkridge to Glenthorne, when a part of the 
pack turned aside from the hot pursuit of 
their hunted deer, and on Cheriton Ridge, 
after twelve miles of galloping, turned their 
attention to mutton. If special pains were not 
taken in the summer training of the young 
hounds such offences would probably be of 
annual occurrence, but owing to sedulous care 
it is onlv on the very rarest occasions that 
sheep-killing shows itself, and then condemna- 
tion is the onlv possible verdict for the hound 
that has been found guilty. 

Hurlstone Point is best seen towards sun- 
down when the western rays slanting low and 



262 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

warm upon its ledges and hollows add a glow 
to every tint of the grey face of water-worn 
rock. These ledges form perilous climbing, 
and if a stag once takes his stand on some 
out-lying bench, it is often most difficult to 
get near enough to him with a rope to secure 
him, while for hounds there is the double peril 
of encountering his antlers or being knocked 
over the edge to fall on to the jagged points 
below, or haply to be drowned in the heaving 
surf. 

The swimming powers of deer are very 
great indeed, but they have their limits, and 
deer are more often drowned at sea than is 
supposed. The chill of the water is sufficient 
at times to drown a beaten deer, and it has 
occasionally happened that a stag or hind has 
been seen to drown in comparatively still water, 
when they might have returned with ease to 
the beach. Many a deer too in striking boldly 
out through the waters of Porlock Bay finds 
him or herself suddenly entrapped in the race 
of the tide way, where deep water succeeds 
the comparatively few fathoms of the bay. 
Swung round and round and hurried through a 
choppy sea, at a distance of a mile or so from 
shore, a beaten deer, already thoroughly chilled 
with a long swim is very likely to fall a victim 
to the curl and wash of the breaking waves, driven 
by some sweeping westerly breeze, and then, 




g 
0^ 



C/} 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 265 

except for the chance neighbourhood of some 
coasting trader or saihng ship, the carcase is 
never recovered, but floats to and fro, to be cast 
ashore many miles away some days later. 
Steamers, in passing up or down channel, have 
occasionally sighted the floating carcase of a 
deer that has been lost at sea in this way, and 
in this connection a long swim taken by a 
Quantock deer from the beach near St. Audries 
is well worth}^ of record. 

In a dead calm this stag swam straight out 
into the smooth grey waters of the Bristol 
Channel, the pack following close in his wake 
and baying melodiously as they swam in full 
view of his noble head. Out and out they went, 
further and further from the mud and seaweed 
of the shore, the stag just keeping his distance, 
and the pack tailing off bv slow degrees until 
they faded from sight in the grey hazv distance, 
while ever and anon came back fainter and fainter 
their deep harmonious tones like bells on the 
surface of the waters. Post haste a horseman 
galloped into Watchet town, and ere an hour 
had passed a boat had come to the spot where 
the deer had struck off, and its crew were told 
the direction in which the swimming pack had 
last been seen. Striking off at a tangent, the 
boat held her course much further up Channel 
than appeared necessary, but the drift of the 
turning tide had now to be taken into account,, 



266 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and in much less time than seemed probable, 
the boat returned to the anxious watchers on 
the rocks, towing the stag, already dead with the 
chill of the water, and with seven hounds on 
board, one of which had already succumbed 
merely to the effects of his long swim. Another 
drowned hound shortly was seen, and two 
others never returned to land. 

By sea and rock, and stag's antler, and 
horse's heel, the great hounds have much peril 
to go through, so that a veteran of six seasons, 
who has survived all these dangers and the 
strain of summer heat and winter cold, and the 
deadly chill of the rushing rivers with their 
icy flood, when the blood is heated to boiling 
point by a long and rapid chase, is the excep- 
tion rather than the rule. 

Deer are almost always faster swimmers than 
hounds, and take to all water whether salt or 
fresh with evident delight, but it sometimes 
happens that on dashing into the sea hounds 
are quick enough to secure their stag before he 
can swim clear of them, and once out of his 
depth a stag is easily mastered by a couple of 
bold and resolute hounds, inasmuch as he can 
no longer use feet or antlers, and if seized by 
the ear is easily drowned. When hunted deer 
have been to sea and have come ashore again, 
they may often be seen standing in the knee- 
deep surf, as though unwilling to create a fresh 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 269 

trail of scent on the land, whereby their pursuers 
may follow them, but in the same line of white 
tumbling foam lies one of their dangers, for though 
amongst the boulders of a rocky beach or 
further out amongst the tumbling breakers they 
may be hard to distinguish from the crest of 
the cliffs above, vet when they stand defined 
against the snow white line of surf they are 
easily espied and then their troubles thicken. 
Often they will go to sea again and again, only 
to find themselves met each time by the inde- 
fatigable huntsman, whose chief care is to keep 
his shivering hounds as far as possible out of 
the numbing chill of the water and in the lea 
of some headland of rock that may break the 
force of the breeze. 

For the winds blow rough on Exmoor and 
in all its neighbourhood, and the rain falls cold 
and heavy, and the life of hounds and horses 
is one in which the elements are generally 
averse, and much has to be endured. Driven 
by the gale the sheets of rain fly level along 
the hillsides in misty columns, which strike 
through the thickest protection, and a couple 
of hours on an exposed sea beach at the end 
of a heated chase will stiffen the pack almost 
beyond recognition. 

To carry much weight over a country so 
hilly horses need much careful management, 
and the chief strain comes at the time of 



270 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

year when they are still naturally soft and out 
of condition and it is the nursing of a good 
horse through a great run that is the best 
test of the judgment of a practised rider on 
the moor. The stamp of horses employed is 
improving from year to year, greatly owing no 
doubt to the agency of the annual horse show 
at Exford instituted by Viscount Ebrington, 
and there is also a growing tendency amongst 
hunting visitors to bring their own horses to 
Exmoor instead of relying entirely upon the 
efforts of the local job masters. These latter 
too have improved enormously their class of 
animal and pay far more attention than for- 
merly to the great question of condition, 
without careful attention to which no horse 
can follow the staghounds regularly throughout 
the busy time. Manv heavv weights are carried 
well through the longest and fastest runs, but 
it is on the vielding surface of the moor that 
the welter weight is most at a disadvantage, 
and it is here that knowledge of country avails 
least, although of course it is still a great 
advantage. For here the hounds get quicker 
from point to point than thev do amongst 
enclosures and frequent woodlands, here the 
scent is generally more burning, except in wet 
or threatening weather, when the heavy moisture 
on the long moor grass and heather is apt to 
hinder hounds from doing their best. On the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 271 

moor, however, deer can more easily find 
company than in any other part, and their 
manoeuvres amongst a herd inevitably give a 
chance to the tail of the hunt to pick up lost 
ground. 

A rider of ten stone on a blood horse that 
has some idea of going down hill should be 
able to live with the leading hounds almost 
anywhere on Exmoor, but there are many 
of the softer parts where, after rain, he must 
take a pull if he would not invite an over- 
reach, or presently drop heavily into one of 
the abundant drainage gutters that at a slower 
pace can be negotiated with ease and comfort 
by anv horse that will look where he is going. 
■ In the ardour of the chase one may and 
frequently does find oneself in an apparently 
endless maze of peat 'cuttings, where one 
necessarily must take a little time to pick a 
way, as no horse can do himself justice in 
leaping on the edge of a quaking turf pit 
with a spongy take off and a miry landing up 
to his knees or girths. A few moments spent 
here in twisting to land fro between the 
quagmires while the hounds drive gaily ahead 
are well spent, and can soon be regained when 
one has pushed past the treacherous tract and 
the sounder going, never very far off, has been 
reached. The old rule is true as ever that one 
must get down to the water in each quickly 



272 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

succeeding combe with the hounds, for although 
one may hold one's own on the level plain 
above, or in the rather abrupt descent to the 
boulder strewn channel of the forest stream, 
it is quite certain that when once the hounds 
have struck the stag's point of departure on 
the opposite side they 'will leave the best of 
horses in the struggling climb to the next 
hilltop, and to hurry a game hunter up such 
hills as these must shortly bring him to a 
standstill. When hounds are crossing country 
where the hills are high and the combes 
therefore deep, still more time must be taken, 
and it is often far better to circumnavigate the 
head of a long deep combe than to struggle 
across its depths where the hounds actually 
passed. Hills and gates take time, and the 
breathless heat of the narrow valleys takes the 
spring out of the freshest horse, and the longest 
way round is often the shortest way home. 

A big horse on short legs is the one that 
will see the end of more runs with the Devon 
and Somerset than his stable mates, which might 
perhaps be better suited for negotiating fences ; 
deep girth is essential and the more pony and 
thorough-bred he has in him the better. 

The stag-hunting district is so wide that it 
covers several foxhunting and harrier territories, 
and there come besides all manner of masters 
of hounds from other parts, so that on some 




HoRXER Water. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 275 

days in August the tield is thickly sprinkled 
with very keen critics. It must be remembered, 
however, that, except in the New Forest, there 
is no criterion by which to analyse the ways 
and methods of the chase of the wild stag as 
carried on on Exmoor from time immemorial. 
French methods no doubt adhere more closely 
to the old established ideas, but the establishment 
at Exford has moved with the times as they 
are in modern England, and the changes made 
have been proved necessary by the march of 
events. On a broad survey they would seem 
to lie chiefly in the increased speed of the 
chase and its adaptation to the entertainment of 
greatly increased fields, that while peopling the 
whole country side in the short autumnal season, 
demand a far greater quantity of their favourite 
sport than was the case in the years of which 
former works on this subject tell. 

Being the senior pack by a very long lead 
indeed, the other packs which pursue foxes, 
hares, and otters in the wild west country defer 
their appointments to the arrangements made 
at Exford ; but the shifting habits of deer 
frequently falsifv all calculations, and the best 
laid schemes for the rousing of some particularly 
heavy deer are apt to go wrong, especially after 
harvest has once begun. For when an old stag's 
favourite feeding ground amongst the succulent 
corn has all at once been invaded by noisy 



276 STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 

machines and equally noisy reapers, who finish 
up their dav with a cheerful rabbit hunt from 
the last patch of corn after the manner of their 
kind, the old stag in his lair inside the covert 
fence registers a vow that he will be off as soon 
as ever it becomes dark enough to move in 
safety, and that he will travel as many miles 
as he can from such a noisy spot. Lucky is he 
indeed if some inquiring sheepdog does not 
nose his way in the course of a hot August 
afternoon through his well trodden rack in the 
covert fence and thread the path that his mighty 
feet have beaten through the fern beds to the 
muddy pool where he is wont to take his morning 
roll, and then questing to and fro, has not 
roused him with a crash and a bound from his 
comfortable and solitarv lair. 





Thev Have Him. 



CHAPTER X. 



Remarkable Heads — The Record Weight — Souvenirs 
OF the Chase — Taking a Stag — The Severn Sea — 
Beacon Fires — Horner Mill Wheel — Venison^ 
The Rutting Season — Crippled Deer — Slotting — 
Warrantable or Otherwise — North Hill — Black 
Game. 



Under many 
a roof in West 
Somerset and 
North Devon- 
shire are to be 
found hand- 
some trophies 
of the chase 
in the shape 
of the spread- 
ing antlers of 
bygone mon- 
archs of the 
wood and 
moor that have 
been taken 
with hounds. 
In former 
vears it was 
a not uncommon practice to gild the extreme 
tips of particularly fine pairs of horns, and 




28o STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

many a good head has been mounted in 
the skin, but after a few years the ravages of 
moths, as in the case of the great St. Audries 
head, which has lately had to be reduced to the 
frontal bones, are apt to destroy the handsome 
coat which becomes the stag so well in his life- 
time ; the ears go first, the fieck drops off 
piecemeal, and then the skin yields by slow 
degrees to the insidious attacks of time and 
insects. The measurements of the above men- 
tioned head, which claims first place amongst 
wild trophies secured in the British Isles, have 
been given in a previous chapter, but two years 
later Mr. Sanders in his first season took two 
very notable deer. The first of them was the 
fourteen pointer described in the narrative of 
the run of the 19th julv, i8()6 — a very early 
date for a staghunt — and the second was a stag 
with the extraordinarv spread of }H^ inches ; 
from outside to inside at the fork. This stag 
was roused in Redcleave after a meet at Winsford 
Village, on the 23rd of August, and ran very 
pluckily by way of Haddon to the Bittescombc 
coverts, whence he was driven, after a rousing 
fresh find in Sir John Ferguson Davie's lower 
lake, to the railway embankment at Petton Chapel. 
Passing this obstacle he presently stood at bay 
in the muddv channel of the Lupley water, and 
upon being handled proved to carrv a rounded 
knob on one of his three points on the near 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 281 

top and two similar knobs on the off top. 
Fourteen inches and a-half seems to be somewhere 
about the hmit of size for the curve of brow 
antlers, while seven and a-half inches appears 
to be the record girth of beam betW'Cen brow 
and bay antlers. A noble beast, from the 
Stoodleigh coverts, taken by Mr. Ian Heathcote 
Amory with the Tiverton Staghounds near Chain 
Bridge in the autumn of 1897, weighed, when 
cleaned and dry, no less than 333 lbs ; w^hich, 
reckoned according to the custom of the country, 
would amount to 16 score 13 lbs. This I believe 
to be the record weight, for the West Country 
at any rate, if not for the British Islands, the 
Scotch method of weighing being of course 
entirely different and would have included all 
that had been removed from this w^oodland 
giant. This stag's horn measured round outer 
curve from burr to tip the notable length of 
395- inches. 

Well matched pairs of shed horns are in 
great demand, and are frequently worth a 
bank note to their lucky finders, but as deer 
frequently carrv one horn longer than the 
other, and shed it on some feeding ground 
a mile or two distant from the spot where 
the first was dropped, the matching of odd 
horns between the different persons who handle 
them is a matter of much bargaining, always 
a slow affair with a hill countrv man. 



282 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Freaks are more common than evenly balanced 
well grown heads, an even head of three atop 
each side being only secured once or twice in 
a season, and the extra growth of a well 
favoured stag's horns seems more generally to 
run into odd points and widenings than to go 
to hll out the beam and strengthen the rights 
or antlers in svmmetrical fashion. Palmated 
and thickened tops occur with most frequency 
on the Quantock range, where the herd is to 
a certain extent inbred, in spite of the numbers 
to which it has attained of late years ; double 
brow and double bay antlers are met with 
from time to time, and nondescript growths 
springing from one horn or the other have 
given certain deer the appearance of bearing 
three horns. 

A certain switch-horned stag that frequented 
Haddon for several years had one eye com- 
pletely blinded by the downward growth of 
his deformed horn, but he shed his encumbrance 
eventually and died fighting with two normal 
horns, though still of course minus an eye. Bits 
of stick sometimes get wedged into a growing 
horn and cause curious malformations, falls and 
fights splinter the points of antlers and tops, and 
one horned deer are by no means uncommon. 

A suitable mounting for shed horns is often 
made from an oaken shield carved in the 
semblance of bracken fronds or oak-apple boughs. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 283 

and when nicelv coloured falls in well with the 
wild character of the eight or ten pounds of 
dark and deeply corrugated horn above it. 
Fantastic armchairs have been fashioned from 
a number of selected horns, forming seats 
more curious than comfortable. Bolted together 
with iron stays they form strong and durable 
seats for verandah or entrance hall, but their 
many projecting points are very apt to catch 
in the garments of the occupier. The tanned 
hides of hinds, cured without the fleck, afford 
excellent material for the covering of dining 
room chairs, wearing to a good surface and 
darkening with age to a rich colour, while the 
softer skins used inside out, make the best of 
hunting waistcoats. For gaiters and shoes they 
are hardly so effective, as they too readily 
absorb the wet. The slots of young deer that 
have met their end by misadventure, form 
handsome handles for presentation cutlery, if 
taken off at the knee instead of at the fetlock 
joint. Shod with neat silver shoes, and with 
the horn brightlv polished, thev form an 
attractive wedding gift, and if the junction of 
steel blade and shank bone be neatly encircled 
by a band of chased Dutch silver work the 
effect is all the better. 

Stag's skins killed in the autumn form 
handsome mats, but the fleck wears loose in 
time and then they lose their appearance. 



284 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Every labourer who can get close enough 
to the carcase of a newly killed deer loves to 
pluck a wisp or two of the long rough hair 
that adorns the neck of a stag, or the winter 
jacket of a hind, and with this ragged lock in 
his hat band he may be seen for the next 
few months, or until the next opportunity 
occurs of replacing it with a fresh one. The 
workmen on certain farms have exceptional 
opportunities of assisting at the taking of deer, 
and inasmuch as a pair of wet legs is always 
handsomelv rewarded, there is no little enthu- 
siasm displayed when the hunted animal comes 
to his final stand still. While the chase is in 
full swing, one is often met with the anxious 
enquirv *' Is he nearlv run up I " and if the 
replv be in the affirmative tools are cast 
hastily aside and hobnailed boots go pounding 
down the waterside track to the accompaniment 
of much hard breathing and manv a hoarse 
ejaculation. Then, when the weir pool is being 
lashed into foam, and the hounds are plunging 
in on all sides to the assistance of their 
luckier and more adventurous kennel mates 
that have been first to come to close grips 
with the stag, brawnv arms are stretched 
through the leafy alder boughs, the brown 
many pointed horns are seized as thev turn 
with some anxious movement of the mightv 
head, and with a heave and a shove and a lustv 




The Coup de Grace. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 287 

shout three full hundredweight of resisting 
venison are Hfted up the muddy, shppery, 
dripping bank to the shelving green sward 
where the huntsman waits. 

Sometimes a hard pressed stag will take 
refuge beneath the narrow span of some road- 
way bridge across a trout stream, and once 
within this shelter will prove a very awkward 
customer to handle, for to seize an angry stag 
in a place w^here there is no room to step 
back and avoid his charge is a very ticklish 
matter indeed, and the hounds moreover have 
far less opportunity of joining in and attract- 
ing the creature's attention just when the 
venturous human is in most need of their 
assistance. 

The Bristol Channel with its muddy waters 
and its high rising tides, its dense and frequent 
fogs, its shifting quicksands and its dangerous 
shores must ever figure largely in all narratives 
of staghunting in the west. 

Just opposite red deer land, across the 
capricious and troubled waters of the wide 
estuary of the Severn, stand the tall chimneys 
of Cardiff and Newport with their glare of 
light at night and their drifting clouds of 
smoke by day. The Welsh hills presented a 
striking appearance on the Jubilee night of 
1897, when every important peak from the 
Malvern beacon fires to Haldon sprang into 



288 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

flame within ten minutes of the appointed hour 
of ten o'clock. Dunkery beacon was ready 
with its pile of duly prepared combus- 
tibles, and a steady southerly breeze drove 
great pillars of smoke and flame outwards 
towards the Severn sea, while some two 
hundred loyal folks joined hands in a gigantic 
ring round the burning bonfire and sang the 
National Anthem with great enthusiasm. 

On the northern end of Dartmoor, and away 
across North Devon to the Isle of Lundy, a 
brooding cloud hid the beacon lights that 
should have shown full plainly from Dunkery's 
lofty top, but on all the rest of the wide circle 
of horizon, from whicli the daylight had only 
just departed, there were abundant fires to be 
noted and the locality of each assigned. Not 
only did the beacons of gallant little Wales 
seem to shine brightest, which may have been 
partly owing to the air being purer in that 
direction, but their number was actually larger 
in proportion to the area than of those to be 
seen on English soil, of which an immense 
extent |Was visible in the soft hazy twilight, 
from Mendip to Sidmouth Gap, and from 
Wincanton to Castle Hill. Opposite the 
Quantock range where deer go to sea, the tide 
is w^ont to go far out across the muddy flats, 
and the stag must trot far in shallow water 
before he can find depth enough to swim away 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 289 

from the hounds, but in the wilder west, where 
the chffs drop sheer to the rocky beach, deep 
water hes closer inshore, and three or four 
desperate bounds will carry him through the 
surf and into the deep heaving waves. Swimming 
low in the trough of the curling sea, a stag 
with a big head soon becomes ditftcult to keep 
in view, as the rise and fall of the water hides 
him completely, except when he is lifted on 
the top of some dancing roller. 

The lifting of a heavy stag into an open 
boat even in a moderate sea, is a task which 
needs much skill and practice, but is frequently 
accomplished by the crew of the Porlock Weir 
boat. Certain spots in each of the rivers that 
drain the strongholds most affected by deer, 
see most of the finishes of runs that take place 
in their neighbourhood. When beaten deer 
take to a water of any size, their failing limbs 
naturally carry them down stream in their last 
efforts, and they are able to follow the river's 
course until thev reach some obstacle, generally 
an artificial one, that brings them to a stand- 
still and causes them to turn to bay. 

Now in beating down the Horner Water, 
whether they come by way of the East Water 
stream or the main channel of the Horner Valley, 
deer come to the junction of the Horner Mill leat 
with the natural bed of the stream, and as it 
happens to lie a little further from the valley 

IT 



290 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

roadway, and is moreover sheltered by bushes, it 
forms the more attractive course of the two. 
Beaten deer almost invariably take to the artificial 
channel, and for a time it leads them on in 
comparative safety, but while they splash along 
its cooling course the hounds run faster on the 
firm green bank above them, and force them 
further and further still, until they find 
themselves confronted with the old mill building, 
and in a trice are forced to pull up short or 
dash right over the terrible drop of the old mill 
wheel. Here on the wooden buckets they some- 
times turn and confront their enemies, and a very 
awkward place it is in which to handle them. 

Deer are very different in their readiness to 
hght the hounds, and also amongst themselves 
some appear to be much more ready fighters 
than others. Amongst the many battles which 
take place between the older stags in October 
it seems surprising that more fatalities do not 
occur, but few years pass without one or two 
stags or male deer being picked up dead or 
in a dying state at the time of tlie annual 
combats. Broken necks and injured backs are 
more generally the immediate causes of death 
than lacerated wounds from the points of the 
antlers, the force of the stag's charge being 
more deadly than the actual aim which he 
takes with the pointed weapons with which he 
is armed. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 291 

In striking at a hound the stag's object is 
evidently to pin him to the ground, and then 
to strike downwards at him with his antlers and 
transfix him when helpless. In goring a horse 
a stag cannot of course strike downwards, but 
lowers his head, so that the upward curve of 
his brow antlers may not prevent the points 
from coming into play. In striking at a man, a 
stag would doubtless try to bear him to the 
ground, and then transfix him after the manner 
of a hound, but fortunately such object lessons 
are seldom or never seen. 

Deer will use their feet both fore and hind 
very cleverly when in ditiiculties, and will deal 
shrewd kicks and strokes at unexpected angles, 
bringing up a hind foot to dash away the hand 
that would ^seize their fore leg, or dealing out 
cow kicks with great force and rapidity, and 
the downward stroke of a cleft forefoot is a 
thing to be avoided. 

With October and its wild nights and 
showery days the stag becomes wild in habit 
and appearance, and his gutteral melancholy 
voice is heard [loudest on some stormy night 
when the sleet squalls are dashing across the 
hills and lashing the wooded combes that are 
lit up ever and anon with the fitful gleam of 
sheet lightning. Lying on her back the sickle 
moon lights up the dripping foliage with 
uncertain gleam as the storm passes by, roar 



292 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

answers roar amongst the echoing tree stems, 
the great horns rattle and clash as the monarchs 
meet, and so the fight goes on as it has ever 
gone for thousands of years, in these self same 
combes, among the same oak woods, and on 
such wild autumnal nights. When day dawns, 
cold and shivering, the victor stag may be 
heard hoarse and weary but belling still, while 
his beaten rival has slunk away to some secure 
retreat, where he can nurse his wounds and his 
pride, until such time as he can find a smaller 
and feebler stag, and take his revenge and be- 
come himself a conqueror. 

Stag venison carries more fat than that of 
hind or male deer, but is not so delicate, and 
yet at its prime in September forms the best 
roast of all three, especially when well hunted 
and brought to the board within three or four 
nights of its capture. After that the hunted 
flavour goes oft", and it rather loses than gains 
even by the most careful keeping. 

At the annual venison feast, at which the 
master entertains a goodly gathering of deer 
preserving farmers from each side of the 
country at Dulverton and Porlock, a smoking 
haunch is laid which has on some recent date 
been taken from a well run stag, and the 
giant joint resists sturdily the attack of from 
seventy to eighty healthy appetites. It has 
occasionally happened that when all the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 293 

invitations for a venison feast have been duly 
sent out, hounds have failed to score a kill, and 
the appointed date has come nearer and nearer^ 
whereon park venison has been ordered in haste, 
but it has generally come to pass that at the 
eleventh hour a stag has been duly taken. 

When killed in the by-days at the end of 
July, or in the sweltering weeks of August before 
the velvet has begun to burnish, stag venison 
proves sometimes very difficult to keep, even 
for the few hours which are necessary for its 
distribution and delivery to the many out of 
the wav and more or less inaccessible hill country 
farmsteads where its proper destiny lies. For 
the master's object in the distribution of all 
venison is to secure its safe arrival at the houses 
of those long suffering tenant farmers whose 
crops are always suffering more or less throughout 
the farmer's year from the hungrv teeth of 
one of the most cunning and active of all wild 
animals. No ordinary fence is high enough or thick 
enough or sufficiently close woven to prevent the 
entrance of deer ; a barricade of laced boughs on 
top of five feet of stone faced bank may give pause 
to a hungry stag or hind, but where there is 
a will with deer there is always a wav sooner 
or later. The hinds and calves wriggle and 
twist beneath the strong beech stretchers, forcing 
their way with heads and necks until one slim 
foreleg is followed by another and there is made 



294 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

room for the whole sinuous body, where first 
the nose could only penetrate, and then another 
deer follows and yet another, till in the murky 
blackness of the winter's night a struggling 
farmer's field is full of munching beasts, whose 
presence can be heard, but by no means seen. 
Hard worked and weary the farmer sleeps on 
the bed of feathers which his careful spouse 
has saved when the ducks were plucked for 
market, with the dim gleam of a low turned 
lamp beside his bed head, and wrestles in his 
dreams with the farthing that wool has dropped 
or the iniquitous rise of the poor rate. 

The stag, with his branching head, cannot 
crawl through the gaps that sufftce the hind, 
but he is a bold jumper and a clever climber, 
and if he once can crook one foreleg over the 
topmost binder, and gain a purchase with a 
hinder toe amongst the slippery stone work 
below, he will draw himself over to the coveted 
feast, and once inside amongst the turnips will 
do as much damage as half a dozen of his 
smaller kind. But perhaps the farmer's son, 
having noticed the hrst signs of these cervine 
visits to the treasured crop, may have crept out 
shivering in the frosty darkness, to disturb 
the nightly trespassers, and with a yell, breathless 
and discordant, rushes from a gateway right 
across the dripping rows of strongly smelling 
leaves. Up go the munching heads and long 




X 

w 

H 






DEVON AND SOMERSET. 297 

graceful necks, a stamp follows from the 
forefoot of the oldest hind, a rush and a scurry 
to the adjoining fence, and then if it be stiff 
and blind and the drop beyond be deep and 
difficult a tragedy may happen. The crumbling 
bank top loosened by frost, occasionally gives 
way as the nimble feet tread lightly upon its 
slippery surface, one of the long slender limbs 
slips down perhaps between the tough beeehen 
stretchers, there is a convulsive struggle and 
the beautiful animal hangs head downwards 
with a broken limb, imprisoned and helpless 
and marked for death. In the darkness the 
agriculturist plods his homeward way all 
unsuspecting of what has happened two or 
three hundred yards away in the inky blackness. 
Satisfied that he has driven the marauders from 
his father's crop for the night, he passes that 
way next day to note the ravages their teeth 
had caused, and at the fence spies the place 
where thev ran and leaped to make their 
escape, and on looking at the yonder side 
sees that some great struggle has taken place. 
Patches cf red brown fleck abound on the 
stones and sticks, the face of the bank is 
plastered with mud, beaten and flattened, but 
the crippled quadruped has dragged herself 
by this time into the depths of some leafy 
jungle far away. Here by good fortune the 
hounds mav come at some near date and put 



298 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

her out of her misery, or she may Hnger for 
many an agonised week to succumb to the 
hardships of winter, or again, and this is 
more frequently the case, she may part entirely 
with the broken end of the injured limb, and 
may recover in great measure her health and 
strength, or the fractured bone may set itself 
after nature's fashion, and may bear her weight 
remarkably well after a few short months, so 
that she may be able to hold her own with 
hounds, and even give a comparatively good 
run when at last she meets her fate. Many 
and many a deer has stood before hounds for 
an ■ average length of time, that was never 
suspected to have had all the time a broken 
limb, until he or she was actually handled. 
These injuries account no doubt, for the curious 
uneven slots, and limping treads, that often 
meet the harbourer's eye when he is tracing 
deer to their lair. 

The constant habit of following deer, leads 
many a dweller in the wild west country to 
be continually noting the hints which every 
state of the ground conveys in this much 
hunted country. Here the book of sport is 
laid wide open, for those who are skilled in 
it to study and learn and decipher as they go 
on their wav with both eyes open, and some 
there are who can not only read, but can read 
as they run, or rather can follow along the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 299 

hard high road while at a hand canter, the 
print of the hunted animal before them, where 
hounds noses are of no avail. One of the last 
attainments of a finished staghunter, is the art 
of judging what stag is big enough or warrant- 
able, under the different conditions in which 
deer present themselves to the eye in the 
hunting season. At other times of the year they 
often show themselves under much more favourable 
circumstances, both as regards distance and light, 
and they seem actually bolder and more careless 
of consequences when out of season, than in the 
three months preceding the middle of October. 
Deer vary so much in appearance, that of half 
a dozen warrantable individuals it is quite possible 
that no two may be good enough for the same 
reasons. A stag with magnificent length of flank 
and width of haunch, may carry a miserable head, 
although it is true that he will generally be well 
provided with horns if he is in good case as 
regards venison, and again the different positions 
in which deer are viewed cause them to bulk so 
differently that one may readily be deceived 
and give a wrong verdict. In looking down from 
a height upon a moving stag against the light 
green herbage of some strip of meadow in a 
valley, his size may seem altogether dift'erent from 
what it would appear if he were galloping broad- 
side on over a plain of dark heather at an equal 
level with the eye, or again a stag coming towards 



300 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

one over the skyline in tlie eye of the sun, may 
seem Hght and narrow and undesirable, compared 
with the same animal going straight away from 
one between the tree stems of some endless wood. 
The trained eye, however, judges by many signs, 
and the verdict, though perhaps not strictly 
reasoned out, is seldom found wrong when given 
by one of the few who have the art of judging 
deer aright, and who moreover do not allow 
their wishes to be fathers to their thoughts. 
For the temptation is great to add a year or two 
to the age of a stag that is taking a desirable 
line, or has made his appearance at a time when 
sport has been ruling slow, and the afternoon is 
well on. At such times it is a lamentable fact 
that with many people every deer becomes a 
stag, and everv stag a hunted one, and it is at 
such times that one cannot but admire the tact 
and equanimity with which a trained huntsman will 
receive and appraise at its true value a vast 
quantity of volunteered information. 

The hunting field has its valuable lessons 
for those who have self restraint enough to 
benefit by them, and one of its plainest teachings 
is that of the duty to speak of nothing but 
what one has really seen oneself. The hunting 
of a twisting deer on a bad scenting day is a 
matter so extremely difficult that it must 
necessarily take many years of application to 
the science to even understand what takes place, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 301 

in the many moves between the wily animal 
running for its life and its adversary the 
huntsman. With the latter on such days it 
often becomes a matter of sheer dogged perse- 
verance, of making good each possible direction 
in which the vanished quarry can have gone 
until at the last possible cast he is rewarded 
by the cheering sight of some keen nosed 
hound hitting off the lost foil. Even then it 
would seem as if an hour's start must secure 
the eventual escape of an animal with such 
powers of endurance as a wild red stag ; 
but there is always of course one important 
factor in favour of the chase, and that is the 
stag's tendency to lie down after severe exertion, 
when he has reached some hiding place where 
he fancies himself secure. His rest too, if only 
he has been pressed sufficiently in the earlier 
part of the run always seems to have done him 
more harm than good, and his muscles, relaxed 
by long hours of midsummer ease and high 
feeding, are sure to stiffen while he waits for 
the fresh approach of the horn that has been 
making him uneasy ever since midday. Then 
too, with the dip of the sun towards the western 
horizon, scent suddenly alters as a rule, and 
from being faint and unreliable gains strength 
with each succeeding half hour. 

Judged by his head alone, a deer may be 
said to be warrantable in many different ways. 



302 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

but the chief test of age in the stag's head and 
the safest one to go by is the length of the 
brow antlers. If these be only long enough, 
whether they be thick and massive, or thin 
and pointed, the deer is sure to be an old one, 
no matter though the rest of him may be small 
and the surmounting beam be attenuated. 

Occasionally deer have been killed with 
heads of three atop each side which were 
diminutive throughout, the deer themselves 
being small and probably far past their prime. 

Long upright horns are not to be despised, 
as thev are often carried by old deer of 
great weight, and inasmuch as they are 
deer which owing to their lack of points are 
likely to escape pursuit they should when 
identified be specially marked out as objects 
of the chase. 

The same may be said of nott stags, on 
account of their liability to be mistaken for 
hinds, but once the eye has fully realised the action 
and gait peculiar to old and heavy stags, there 
is little fear of their being mistaken for their 
long necked consorts, except in dit^icult cir- 
cumstances of light and distance. This one of 
distance occurs only too often, for warrantable 
deer are well aware of the danger of showing 
themselves for any longer period than they 
are absolutely obliged, and it is only when 
the tufter's attention become really pressing 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 303 

that they betake themselves to the open hill, 
where their noble proportions stand revealed. 

The majority of warrantable stags do not 
carry all their rights, and the movements of a 
startled deer are so quick and nervous, the 
turnings of his antlered head are so constant, 
and the ground he traverses is so rough, that 
it is difficult indeed, even to the most prac- 
tised eye, to be positive as to the exact 
amount of points that he will prove to number 
at the end of the day. There are many 
points which the trained observer will note, 
and either of these when present is sul^cient 
to convey as information to the master. 

Three well defined points on either top, 
a square and well filled haunch, or long brow 
antlers, are anv of them sufficient upon which 
to lay the information wliich shall lead forth- 
with to the unkennelling of the spangled pack 
and the sallying forth of the waiting field. 

The seafront clifts of North Hill, that divide 
the vale of Porlock from Minehead bay, are to 
the full as dangerous and unclimbable as the 
rocks of Culbone and Countisburv, and they 
are not so well provided with bushes and 
scrub to form foot and hand hold for the 
venturous hunter who would get down to the 
beach to see the last of a sea going stag. 
Zigzag paths have been engineered in places, 
but the action of time and weather, the heave 



304 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

of the frost and the sweep of the midwinter 
wind have crumbled them, and every here and 
there they lead to impassable stone slides. 
The hill sheep, in their constant passing and 
repassing, wear them away, and they work out 
innumerable small recesses with their feet in 
which they may lie and obtain some small 
shelter from the stroke of the wind in cold 
weather and the attacks of tormenting fiies in 
the summer solstice. These same shelters occur 
all over the hills, and are most easily made 
by the sheep in the peaty ground of the moor. 
To a horse that is not accustomed to the ways 
of hill sheep, it often proves alarming to have 
the little horned animals jump up out of the 
ground as it were, when he is in the midst 
of a stretching gallop over the heath and 
ferns. The flies that trouble the sheep worry 
the deer incessantly as well, and it is no 
uncommon sight to see a warrantable stag 
lying out on some bare hillside, far from the 
oaken thickets of his hiding place in the 
sweltering days of June in order that the 
passing breeze may give him some little respite 
from his ever attendant cloud of winged 
tormentors. 

Lying back from Hurlstone Point the 
beautiful ilex wood of Selworthy clothes the 
slopes and shoulders of North Hill, and 
overhangs the fair domain of Holnicote. In 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 305 

the bitter spring of 1895, when for nine weeks 
consecutively frost reigned supreme, this noble 
covert was sorely smitten, and for awhile 
turned brown. But the injury was not beyond 
the recuperative power of the trees, and with 
the lapse of time they resumed their normal 
appearance. This same frost was so severe as 
to destroy great quantities of gorse on the 
higher moors, and the death of the gorse 
enabled the whortleberry plant to flourish and 
increase in its place. This was apparently a 
great benefit, and the creeping furze which 
had been for many a year encroaching upon 
the ground that belonged to heather, was at 
last disposed of more eftectivelv than it could 
have been by any artificial process. One 
unforeseen result, however, was that the young 
black game have had more opportunity than 
ever to glut themselves with the tempting 
fruit in the rainless davs of August, when the 
springs and runnels of the higher moors have 
become entirely dry and the luscious berries 
afford a tempting food and drink combined. 
Large numbers of the young birds have 
succumbed under these circumstances, and the 
marked shrinkage of the general stock of this 
handsome game bird which has been noticed 
in all quarters of the moor in the last few 
years may very possibly be traced to this 
natural cause. North Hill is carpeted with a 

V 



3o6 



STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 



superabundant growth of spiky furze and over 
this, as on Grabhist and Croydon, hounds 
have much ado to pick their way. Unhke fox 
and hare which follow the paths, the deer go 
straight across the prickly carpet, and the heavy 
dog hounds have trouble enough to find a spot 
on which to place their feet in comfort. Being 
nearer to the sea than such hilltops as Molland 
Moor or Winsford Hill, where much destruction 
was done, the gorse here survived the severe 
frost in great measure, while the tenderer ilex 
boughs hard bv, shrivelled and lost their leaves. 





W 

Z 
D 

Q 

> 

o 
> 
U 

D 



CHAPTER XI. 



On the Moor — Unkennelling — Kickers — Off at Last — 
The Sounds of the Chase — The Deerpark — The 
Water Slide — Awkward Paths — Pointto Point Races. 



I\ the balmy 
d a V s of a u - 
t u in n w hen 
the breezy 
hilltops afford 
a delightful 
change from 
the dust and 
heated stones 
of any town 
however small 
and rural, the 
s t a g h u n t i ng 
world is ever eager to he on the moor, and 
not to be amongst the woods, and the further 
afield that they can hnd themselves upon the 
great wilderness of grass that lies between 
Alderman's Barrow and Tinerlev the better 
they are pleased, until at least the hounds begin 
to run, and then there are wont to be frequent 
enquiries in varying tones of increasing anxiety 
for the nearest road to Minehead. Now the 
moor proper is a countrv without roads, except 




310 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

those that radiate from Simonsbath, and they 
do not exactly serve for Minehead, whence the 
majority of staghunters come. Being aU open 
going, with only occasional soft spots and 
uncrossable combes, the moor is practically all 
roads for the well mounted horseman, but a ten 
minute's scurry over the drainage gutters of the 
Chains or the North Forest seems to effect a 
wonderful change in the ideas of the majority 
of the held. To be actuallv on the Chains 
is the darling ambition of many a young lady 
wiiose hrst or second season on the moor has 
so far not brought her acquainted with this great 
green wilderness of swamps and gutters and 
lonelv sheep pastures. If there be anything 
especiallv attractive in labouring over a swamp 
that is somewhat swampier than the other 
swamps around, it may be enjoyed to the full 
on the heights of the Chains inclosure, which 
attracts the lion share of the rain that falls from 
the Atlantic clouds, as they sail majestically in 
to break where they hrst touch land. Rough 
and uncomfortable is the going on the wettest 
parts of Exmoor, and exceedingly exhausting 
even to the best of horses, and the traps and 
pitfalls are very numerous in places. 

Where the sheep bite a horse can gallop ; 
where there is heather, or heather mixed with 
grass he should be able to gallop too : where 
there are ferns there is sound going, but where 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 311 

the surface is a dark and dismal green with 
grass a foot high it is time to go steady and 
collect vour horse. Then comes a maze of 
ancient peat cuttings or an acre of natural 
swamp, and here time must be given, or the 
best horse ever foaled will be down on his 
knees and nose, and will have a struggle to 
regain his footing. After a prolonged tufting, 
and wiien fresh hounds have been taken out 
once or oftener to the huntsman's assistance, 
stray tufters are apt to turn up at odd times 
throughout the day's chase. Very possibly they 
may be running a deer on their own account, 
and often a blank dav has been averted by the 
unexpected performance of some tufter that 
had been lost sight of for awhile, onlv to turn 
up with a warrantable deer before him, which 
he had been pursuing steadilv all by himself 
from one retreat to another, through the deep 
green sylvan fastnesses whence he had at length 
stolen away to the open hill, only to find himself 
observed by the whole field, and a few minutes 
later to hear the whimpering scream of the 
pack as they open on his foil. In hind 
hunting and especially in rough weather when 
perhaps the greater part of the first draft of 
tufters have been lost, it is no uncommon 
practice to take out fresh hounds and ride to 
the nearest high ground, where before long 
some hunted hind is almost sure to heave in 



312 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

sight, pursued by a plodding tufter or two 
through the drifting wreaths of wind swept rain. 
Thoroughly under control as the staghounds 
are, and well accustomed to being stopped over 
and over again in the course of a day's hunting, 
they will prove disobedient to the casual stranger, 
and after stopping for a moment will slip past 
his horse and continue their hunt rejoicing. 

More often than not it proves impossible to 
get the whole pack back to kennel at the end of 
a day's hunting, but with an unerring instinct the 
great hounds, thanks to their careful summer train- 
ing, seldom fail to retrace the weary miles to the 
kennel gates before morning. When new hounds 
come to Exford in the course of the summer 
reconstitution of the pack, they sometimes meet 
with adventures, and only as lately as the 
summer of 1901 a hound from the sale of the 
Hon. L. J. Bathurst's pack, on being let out by 
accident from Exford made her way in the 
course of one night to her old kennels at 
Eggesford. 

A few seasons earlier a new hound escaped at 
Dulverton station and becoming quite uncatchable 
wandered about the countrv until he had to be 
shot. A familiar sight on all hunting days is 
that of the whipper-in returning towards the 
kennel to which the pack is for the time 
consigned with a few stray tufters following at 
his horse's heels. These have perhaps been 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 315 

stopped by him when in full pursuit of some 
other deer than the one selected for the day's 
chase. Cheerily he brings them back to the 
kennel door, opens it just wide enough to admit 
of their re-entrance, carefully keeping back the 
eager pack that press and struggle from within ; 
panting and hot the tufters slip in at the 
narrowly opened door to be welcomed by the 
growls and envious whimpers of their comrades 
who are spoiling for a hunt. 

The unkennelling of the pack always provides 
some exciting moments, horses and hounds alike 
are fresh and eager for the fray, and the field 
know that a warrantable beast is away, and that 
a run is to come off forthwith, and the great 
question of how to obtain a good start at the 
lay-on is uppermost in every mind. If a horse 
is a kicker, or has any form of vicious temper, 
it is sure to come out now, when after a long 
wait he finds himself in the midst of an excited 
multitude of his kind, with the master's horn 
ringing in his ears, and the scent and sound of 
the hounds just released from kennel close to 
him. Small wonder then, if inherited temper 
comes out, for his rider may be just as excited 
as himself, and the thoughts of the coming 
struggle may have turned his muscles to whipcord 
and set every limb a-tremble. The corn measure 
has been heaped up perhaps for weeks past and 
the gallant beast feels that he must arch his 



3i6 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

back, snatch the reins from the trembhng bridle 
hand that holds them, and give just one fling 
ere he settle down to the task which he knows 
is before him. 'Tis play to him, but it may be 
death to some one, horse or man. In crowded 
gateways and in narrow lanes there is no room 
for lashing heels or uplifted forehands. Some- 
times the way is long and tedious to the spot 
where the tufters stand waiting : sometimes 
defective harbouring or the restlessness of a 
disturbed deer may make it necessary to move 
hounds and field as much as four or Ave miles 
from the trysting place, and the verv fact that 
some meets have to be fixed as nuich as a fort- 
night beforehand naturallv militates against an 
immediate find when the appointed dav comes 
round, for there seems to be an irresistible 
temptation to go and look at or for a deer that 
is known to be destined for the morrow's sport, 
and again many deer move of their own accord, 
or in the height of the season hounds may verv 
possibly run through their favourite haunt in 
pursuit of some other deer roused at a distance. 
Or again, if all has gone well and a right good 
stag has been found within short distance of the 
kennel, and has been got awav without undue 
delav, then before middav, and while horses are 
still at their freshest and best, the cavalcade 
rattles out, the stony farm track is pounded bv 
a thousand quicklv striking hoofs, and the field, 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 317 

well pleased, sets off in pursuit of the racing 
striving line on which all eyes are fixed. The 
breeze rushes in the ears and sets the coat tails 
flying, the huntsman's first cheer and the lively 
twanging of his horn, are succeeded by the 
fierce cry of the breathless hounds as they 
plunge over the deep but yielding heather, 
horses snort and blow, and their feet swish with 
measured galloping tread as they stride over the 
herbage and throw the miles behind them. 
Then the hounds swerve and the master's warn- 
ing voice is heard upbraiding some too forward 
wing of the already warmed up field : then 
Slowbov or Woodman, Founder or Dreamer 
speaks to the foil again, and away go one and 
all in the same long swishing gallop, that 
continues all across the open moor, until some 
enclosure or a Forest stream is reached and a 
detour must perforce be made. Then there is 
a clatter on the rolling stones, a rattle and a 
scrape of iron on the rocks of the stream bed, 
a wallowing plunge as the great hounds dash 
through the shallow pools and race along the 
stickles where the muddy stain of the lately 
passed stag has hardly yet settled down or 
washed away amongst the circling eddies. All 
at once the hounds fling oft" upon the bank 
where some side combe, quiet and bracken 
bedded, and with a thorn bush or two or a 
straggling beech fence running down its steep 



3i8 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

side at an angle to the water, and then when 
enough yards have been covered to allow of the 
water dripping from the quarry's fiank and legs 
enough for the scent to resume its wonted 
power, a few eager notes and another cheer 
from the huntsman, and in a trice the horses, 
with their second wind gained, press brisklv up 
the most convenient tracks that mount the 
opposing hill. 

On the plain beyond there is grass that has 
been rendered splashy by recent rain : horses 
that have to gallop as soon as ever they reach 
the top of the steep and narrow path are soon 
puffing and blowing more loudly than before, 
while their tread has a squelching sound, and 
the water fiings off the overladen herbage. At 
length a long stretch of oaken wood is reached 
that lies hot and airless in the full glare of the 
afternoon sun. Down its length for a full mile 
the stag has gone, and the cry that had such 
volume is now reduced to the sound of one or 
two of the oldest voices in the pack, that with 
deep and angry tone foretell the end that must 
soon and surelv come. Down at last towards 
the inevitable water thev incline, but before 
they reach it, that shrill ear-piercing yell arises 
with which all West Countrymen that are to the 
manner born give vent to their joyful feelings, 
when they see at length the object of all their 
strenuous exertions, and then for awhile the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 319 

welkin rings with a very carnival of sound. Heard 
from above, the sound that preponderates is the 
charge of the field up and down the nearest 
convenient roadway, the hounds are too breath- 
less to make much music, except when the stag 
stands to bay for awhile in some fixed position ; 
then the hammering on macadam stops, the 
tuneful peal wells up above the topmost 
branches of the oaks, the huntsman winds his 
horn to swell the chorus and the only quite 
silent being is the stag. To ride in a close 
packed string behind the pack for two or three 
miles along a dusty road is a very doubtful 
pleasure, but to accompany hounds across the 
moor when they emerge from Badgworthy 
Cottage to go towards Hoar-Oak or Black-pits 
is a nice ride in itself. 

If it be the master's day as huntsman, it will 
very likely be the field master who unkennels 
the pack and takes them out, with a second 
horseman acting for the nonce as whipper-in 
until the scene of action is reached. 

All the old hounds know full well what is 
expected of them, and hurry on in close order, 
only wishing to strike the foil at once, and get 
clear of the line of thundering hoofs behind 
them, with which they are always threatened at 
the beginning of a run. If the moor be dry its 
surface gives out a plainly audible sound when 
galloped over by a number of horses, and this 



320 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

oncoming pounding sound must be very trying 
to a nervous hound when he has for the 
moment lost the hne and scent fails him. 

Deer do not like the company of stock of 
any sort ; sheep, cattle and ponies all interfere 
with their comfort, disturb their midday repose 
and crop the pasturage with which they would 
have to be satisfied if the farmers tilled no 
succulent crops within their reach. The Oare 
Deerpark is a striking example of all that is 
most suitable for wild red deer, absolute quiet 
and abundant warm lying, joined with sufficient 
snug covert amongst the young larches with 
which the combes have been planted, and 
within easy reach lie half a score of farms 
which thev can visit in turn when the crops 
reach the point preferred by their fastidious 
taste. Fenced on all sides, it can be entered 
by none of the moor ponies or sheep which 
range over the commons and allotments on all 
sides, and right out in the middle of its smiling 
plain can be seen at almost any time of the 
year its herd of deer. 

Here the spotted calves lie out amongst the 
rank growth all through the dreamy clays of 
June and thundery July, or follow their dams 
through the green shelter of the larches, with 
their avenues of grey lichened stems, down to 
the banks of Badgworthy Water to see their first 
soiling pit in full use as a mud bath. Here at 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 321 

Michaelmas, and for some three weeks afterwards, 
the combes resound in the chill frosty nights 
with the angry roar of belling stags, that may 
be harboured by sound of their voices alone, if 
only they will stay where their last morning 
challenge is given until hounds have time to 
come to the spot. 

They are so restless, however, at this season 
of the year, that they often move about through- 
out the entire day as well as night, and any 
woodland they have inhabited for a few hours 
becomes printed all over with the slot of their 
uneasy wanderings. In the tourist season the 
Deerpark herd look dowm with easy unconcern 
upon the many parties and couples that wend 
their way from Malsmead Bridge, past Lorna's 
Bower and the w^ater slide to the Doone Valley. 
Blackmore's beautiful romance has given a never- 
failing popularity to the valley where he located 
his well-told legend, painting together into one 
attractive whole several of the more striking 
pieces of the surrounding scenery. 

Excellently contrived as the Deerpark is as 
a natural habitat for various kinds of wild game, 
it has been brought to its present state of 
perfection by succeeding generations of sports- 
men, who have made it by degrees the natural 
sanctuary that it is by fencing and preservation. 
There is hardly a living deer above twelve 
months of age that stands within ten miles of 
w 



322 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Badgworthy Cottage, but knows its way to the 
Deerpark inclosure, excepting perhaps the denizens 
of Winsford Hill or the Minehead coverts, and 
very little pressing is required to send a Bray- 
ford stag, or one from Wistland Pound, across 
the southern or western heights of the moor,, 
to take refuge amongst the numerous herd 
alwavs to be found in the sanctuary. Every 
here and there the feet of the combes that 
debouch on Badgworthy Water are guarded by 
small rockv kopjes, and the one at the bottom 
of Lankcombe facing the main Deerpark planta- 
tion is crowned with oaken coppice. Few scenes 
are more romantic than the narrow green glade 
between this natural tumulus and the fringe of 
Badgworthy Wood, with its scrubby growth 
untrimmed by the hand of man. Here the 
bright, quickly moving figures of the chase find 
an appropriate setting amongst the tall banks 
of heath, with rocks and coppice and a tumbling 
stream that falls from pool to pool towards the 
Water Slide, where a rustic foot bridge enables 
pedestrians to cross dry shod while the hunting 
path goes through the limpid stream. 

Happy is the huntsman who has got his stag 
well away up the line of Lankcombe, if he has 
only frightened him enough to ensure that he 
shall not return to his comrades in the Deer- 
park, but will go away forthwith to Farley Water 
or Brendon Two Gates. Then there is almost 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 325 

bound to be a run and a good one, though 
many ditftculties mav intervene ; there mav be 
checks amongst fresh deer and checks at the 
Forest streams, that thread every combe until 
Sir Henrv Carew's pkmtations at Woolhanger 
are reached, or again, and more likely still, the 
stag may swing round by Larkbarrow bog to 
Hurdle Down and Horner, or may even make 
the ring more complete still and gain Culbone 
by wav of Hawkcombe Head. But in either of 
these cases a huntsman will have had a good 
chance to pit his hounds' endurance against the 
stag's speed and length of limb, and that over 
many miles of the best possible scenting ground. 
Badgworthy Water is the biggest, as it is 
also the best known, of all the Forest streams, 
and below its junction with the Oare Water is 
known as the East Lvn, under which name it 
foams and tumbles down its rockv channel 
through the Brendon Valley, the gorge growing 
wilder and wilder as it proceeds, until at Waters- 
meet it is joined by the other Forest streams, 
flowing in one, that have come clown from the 
heights of the Chains, always excepting those 
that fiow further westward still, combine to 
constitute the West Lyn, and join in in Lvn- 
dale. When hunted deer betake themselves to 
the Lynmouth and Countisburv coverts, it is a 
hard task indeed to follow them, so precipitous 
and so unpathed are the wooded cliffs that 



326 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

overhang the East Lyn. To get about them at 
all on horseback is a large order, but to have 
to do so towards the end of a really magnificent 
run with horses done to a turn, was what befel 
in the course of the greatest run of half a 
centurv from Hawkridge in 1899. Then it 
became necessarv to follow the course of the 
East Lvn upwards from Watersmeet, and in so 
doing a place was soon encountered, where the 
path beside the torrent had slipped away until 
there remained nothing but the narrowest of 
sheep paths. Some of the field crossed this 
dangerous pass in safetv, while others elected 
to ride up the bed of the river itself, a mass 
of fallen and jagged boulders, but fortunately 
not covered at the time by any great depth of 
water. Then ensued a particularly heart-breaking 
climb to the heights of Countisbury Common, 
and no sooner had half a mile of this been 
traversed than more nerve-shaking paths were 
encountered along the cliffs by Desolate and 
Wingate Wood, till the garden walks of Glen- 
thorne were reached, and horses were once 
again on safe ground, though with a climb of 
a full thousand feet between them and the road 
they all must reach at County Gate. 

The North Forest is a tract like the Chains, 
whereon the average staghunter sometimes finds 
himself, and when he does he cannot help 
being aware of it, so swampy is the going in 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 327 

many parts if rain has lately fallen, so frequent 
are the gutters and the peat cuttings and the 
undermined water courses. 

So undisturbed is this wide tract of Lord 
Ebrington's territory, that a herd of stags will 
often lie for weeks together amongst the grass 
and rushes of the silent wildernesses of 
Lanacombe and Buscombe, Trout Hill and 
Pinford Bog, sallying forth to The Warren 
farm to regale themselves at night with juicy 
rape and ripening corn, or even to pull down 
and scatter the oaten sheaves of a late harvest. 
It was across a part of this district, on a course 
over Dry Hill and so round over Swap Hill to 
Larkbarrow, that Mr. Sanders instituted some 
highly successful point to point races, the 
winning post being near the back of Lark- 
burrow. Casualties however were somewhat 
plentiful owing to the rough and somewhat hold- 
ing nature of the ground, and the course has been 
changed for a safer one near Hawkcombe Head. 
With the sound ground of Manor Allotment 
and Badgworthy Leas immediately adjoining and 
overlooking this great tract of soft ground, there 
is abundant opportunity of avoiding the diffi- 
culties of a course across it, and a considerable 
section of the held as a rule do not set foot on its 
green expanse. Sometimes however, as in a 
certain well remembered run from Hawkcombe 
Head, hounds may turn due south across the 



328 



STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 



centre of Pinford Bog, and traversing the 
Warren Combe, may leave the trickhng stream 
of the Exe behind, and all those who are not 
reallv following them lamenting for the rest 
of the day. On that occasion two stags were 
before hounds, and one of them, the one that 
was not followed, shaped his course for Landacre 
and Holland Moor, while the other was eventually 
taken after a hot and punishing chase at Luc- 
combe AUers. 





o 



CHAPTER XII. 



CuLBONE Plain — The Deer Fence — Devices for Pro- 
tecting Crops and Deer — Night Watching — The 
Tiverton Staghounds — The Quantock Staghounds — 
The Barnstaple Country — The Stowev Road — The 
Chase on the Quantocks — Over the Cliffs — "Trugg" 
Rich — The Watchet Hind. 



comforts. 



Of all the 
w i n d swept 
weather beaten 
heights, where 
s t aghun ter s 
from time to 
lime shiver and 
wait while the 
tufters wrestle 
with unwilling 
stags, the post- 
ing stables at 
Yarnor Moor 
Lodge remain 
the most clearly 
iixed in the 
m e n t a 1 eve 
amongst many 
memories of 
physical dis- 
Crushed and chilled ont of existence 




332 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

by the force of the wind, the stunted fir trees, 
dwarfed Hke the productions of Japanese art, add 
no inches to their stature with the flight of 
vears. Nine months winter and three months 
cold weather is said with some truth to compose 
tlie cHmate of Exford, and on Culbone Plain 
when it is cold it is very, very cold, and 
when it is hot the Lynton coach road grinds 
to a dusty track of fiint and powdery sand, 
while the flies of the thickly grown combes 
are about the most venomous and innumerable 
of all that swarm on Exmoor. Redolent of 
turpentine, the low tangled growth of pine 
boughs scents the whole hill, save wiiere a 
burnt breadth presents a clearing, and through 
the resinous thickets hounds can never make 
the pace. Well worn hunting paths run in all 
directions, and from those on the seaward 
front, noble views of the Bristol Channel and 
the Welsh coast present themselves 

The tall deer fence erected by the Earl of 
Lovelace, to protect his Culbone farms from the 
ravages of the deer, consists of wire sheep 
netting some five feet in height, erected on the 
top of the old stone faced sheep fence that 
bounds the lower edge of the plantations, and 
is stoutly staked with larch poles all the way. 
Starting from Ashley Combe, it follows the fold 
of the ground upwards to Pitt Farm, and then 
turns away to the Yarnor drive and so follows 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 333 

an undulating course, traversing combe after 
combe, until at the Broomstreet fields it abuts 
on the county road between Porlock and 
Lynton. At Yenworthy Common it is continued 
on the Glenthorne estate so as to protect 
Yenworthy farm, but in spite of its long extent 
and formidable height, numerous deer manage 
to find their way within its confines, some no 
doubt negotiating the fence at weak spots, while 
the majority find their way round its western 
extremity, and work through the cliff woodlands 
until they reach cultivated land. On wild 
winter days, when the high ground of the moor 
is unrideable, these cliff deer often provide 
occupation for the hounds, and keep the boat 
on the qui vivc. With the softening influence 
of the sea close at hand, and amongst the 
warm shelter of the oaks of Culbone and the 
pines of Ashley Combe, the clift paths rarelv 
freeze, and snow hardlv ever lies, except when 
driven straight on shore by a northerly squall. 
While hinds and young deer chiefly affect the 
purlieus of Smallacombe and Stent hill, the 
stags chiefly inhabit Lillycombe, another favourite 
woodcock covert, and the healthy plain of 
Beggars Knap, or seclude themselves in Sil- 
combe and Titchen Combe, or amongst the 
larch thickets, scarcely higher than a man's 
head, at the Broomstreet end of Culbone Plain. 
In their present condition the plantations 



334 STAGHUNTINCx WITH THE 

offer a sanctuary for deer so secure, that thev 
have much the best of the contest when 
followed by hounds, and they are not slow to 
avail themselves of the odds in their favour 
afforded them by the low sweet-smelling boughs. 

On either side of the dustv main road the 
remains of strained wire fences lie snake-like 
in rusty coils amid the luxuriant growth, and 
render it difficult to negotiate the roadside 
banks, in fact it may be said that none of the 
moorland banks can be safely leapt without 
previous knowledge, owing to the large amount 
of wire used in former davs for sheep fences. 

The jumping powers of the moorland sheep 
are well known, and nothing short of a stone 
faced bank six feet high, with an overhanging 
coping or a strained wire to surmount all, has 
the slightest effect in keeping them within 
bounds. Moreover where the deer go first the 
sheep are sure to follow, until a well established 
rack by long usage wears down the wiiole fence 
to ground level. When deer are attacking some 
toothsome crop, if they find the fence easy to 
get over they will often restrict themselves to 
one or two racks, but should it be high and 
difficult, or should the farmer endeavour to save 
for himself some portion of the crop wrested 
from the thin soil by the sweat of his brow, by 
stopping the rack with thorns or otherwise, then 
the deer will choose new crossing places, and if 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 335 

there should be a few wet nights in succession, 
when a large herd of heavy and hungry deer 
is foraging, the trim line of the farmer's hedge 
will soon be seamed all over with muddy gaps 
that will take much labour to repair, and will 
call down plentiful abuse on the offending heads 
of the midnight marauders. Many are the 
devices bv which deer may be checked in 
their hrst attempt on forbidden sweets. Tarred 
cord is frequentlv stretched along the whole 
length of the hedge which they have begun to 
traverse, figures fearful and wondrous, surmounted 
by green and rusty hats, are mounted in pro- 
minent positions, lanterns covered with green 
and red paper are set swaying and dangling 
in lonely turnip fields, and strong smelling 
deterrents such as pigs' blood are sometimes 
effective. When once however gnawing hunger, 
and the contempt that comes with familiarity, 
have made the deer bold enough, as they 
speedily do in the long dark nights of winter, 
no artifice will long avail to keep the starving 
herd from the tempting food which they can 
smell from afar. Spring guns may terrify them 
for aw^iile, chained dogs may protect a small 
area in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
draughty barrel w^iere they shiver through the 
night, and clattering windmills may make them 
pause in their advance from the shady boughs 
of the nearest covert, but somehow or other, 



Z5^ STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and if not in one field then in the next, they 
will have their hll, and that of the best which 
the neighbourhood affords. 

Night watching, if efficiently carried out, will 
thwart their attack, but the difficulty of keeping 
body and soul together for many mid-winter 
nights in succession on the exposed heights 
where the deer mostly feed is too great for the 
endurance of the average watcher, and after a 
while he more often than not cannilv goes 
home to bed. The eerie loneliness of such a 
vigil must be tried to be appreciated. 

The near neighbourhood of the deer is more 
generally heard than seen, as they rush through 
the wet turnip leaves at the near approach of the 
shivering guardian of the crop. A stick cracks 
at the fence and the boughs quiver and rustle 
against the gloomy sky, which is only one 
degree lighter than the slumbering earth. 
Presently a hailstorm patters and rattles, as it 
sweeps across from hill to hill, drenching and 
chilling all nature in its course, bowing the 
broad turnip leaves with added moisture, and 
setting the hedges dripping, while each cart rut 
runs with ice cold water. Or again, a frosty 
moon perhaps has just set beneath the western 
horizon, and by the bright starlight the watcher 
sees a long line of grey white forms, trooping 
silently across the crop he has been set to 
guard, until they come to the part which is 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 337 

sweetest and most luxuriant. Down go their 
long grey muzzles to begin the tempting meal, 
and in a moment the munching bite of their 
keen cutting teeth can be heard all over the 
field. Then from the shadow where he leant 
against the bank, the farmer's deputy leaps 
out with a shrill whoop that puts consternation 
into every cervine brain. Away go pele niele, 
these nocturnal pillagers, and in less time than 
it takes to tell, they have put half a mile 
between themselves and their spoilt dinner. 
Back to his ambush goes the watcher, and the 
warmth engendered by his little chase dies 
slowly out of him, while the frosty rime settles 
thick and white on every rigid bough and 
frozen leaf. A shooting star careers across the 
sky, and at last the deer, bold and hungry, 
come trooping back to complete the interrupted 
feast. First one great antlered head and then 
another surmounts the slippery bank, and stands 
out clearly defined against the starlit sky, the 
great ears flap enquiringly, timidly, doubtingly. 
Then some movement of the frosty vapour 
floats a whift' of scent from the hidden human 
being to the sensitive nostrils, that are question- 
ing the air with every breath. With alarm the 
deer swing round, and are gone to return no 
more that night. 

The Culbone deer fence has turned many 
a deer to seek his nightly meal in the Oare 

X 



338 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

valley, which is also attacked on the opposite 
side by the Deerpark herd, and straggling 
bands of deer from all parts of the moor, but 
its general effect on the sport has been 
beneficial. 

The Devon and Somerset is a hunt much 
affected by the gentler sex, of which a large 
part of the field is composed during the fine 
weather months. Long and tiring as the days 
frequently are, and rough as is the ground to 
be traversed, many ladies go extremely well 
with the staghounds, and in the longest and 
fastest chases some of them are sure to be 
up at the finish. 

The rapid growth of everything connected 
with the sport has had its outward and most 
visible sign in the tendency to multiply the 
packs that do the work. The successful 
initiation of Sir John Heathcoat Amory's pack 
has led to an establishment on the Ouantock 
Hills, where the lines laid down for the 
regulation of the Tiverton Hunt have been 
followed in almost every particular. Whereas 
in former days the Devon and Somerset Hunt 
Committee was the only authority as regarded 
the deer and their welfare, wider interests are 
now involved by the establishment of each 
separate pack. The preservation of each herd 
has become a matter of still more widely spread 
interest, and has become thereby more firmly 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 341 

established, and the matter of compensation to 
farmers, an affair of growing importance, has 
been decentrahsed with the best results. 

As time passes it may confidently be pre- 
dicted that the Barnstaple district will not be 
satisfied without the establishment of a pack 
on similar lines to those already carried out 
with such success. Suitable coverts, and a noble 
herd of deer in close proximity to the heights 
of Exmoor, afford such certainty of good sport 
as can never long be allowed to remain idle. 
The history of staghunting contains many instances 
of individual landowners exhibiting animosity to 
the chase which brings health to some and 
affluence to others of their neighbours, but 
public opinion and the welfare of the many 
have sufficient influence and weight in modern 
England to ensure the ultimate victory of the 
will of the many over the prejudices of the few. 
The time for arbitrary exercise of even the most 
ordinary rights and privileges is passing fast 
into the limbo of other long forgotten feudal 
habits, but old world ways and customs linger 
still among the hills and fogs of Exmoor, 
along with the cheery courtesy and pleasant 
welcome which might better be preserved than 
some of the rough and ready old-world customs 
that have prevailed since times before all history. 

The Quantock pack meets with a well- 
defined boundary in the line of the West 



342 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Somerset Railway, which cuts them off from 
the home country of the Devon and Somerset, 
much in the same manner that the line of the 
Taunton to Barnstaple railway marks the northern 
boundary of the Tiverton pack. In the case of 
each pack local provision is made for the 
compensation and settlement of deer damage 
claims arising within the country lent them, and 
neither pack employing professional huntsmen, 
subscriptions are only taken for the purpose of 
defraying such claims. When hunting by in- 
vitation in the home country, the held turning 
out with either pack are under obligation to 
subscribe to the funds of the Exford establishment 
as though they were hunting with the original 
pack. 

While the Tiverton country is a great deal 
too narrow, and its herd a great deal too thin 
in point of numbers, for the regular exercise 
of a two day a week pack, the Quantock Hills 
with their numerous herd present far more scope 
for a local hunt, which should be able to retain 
within its borders ample material for its own 
requirements. 

At Barnstaple, however, there is hardly room 
for the maintenance of a sufhciently large herd 
to stand regular hunting from season to season, 
and the lie of the land hardly admits of many 
days being given by invitation to a pack on 
the western border of the moor itself. Here 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 343 

again a railway forms an effective line of 
demarcation between a local pack and the 
Exford country, so that the Devon and Somer- 
set territory is now contained in an irregular 
parallelogram, marked out by three railways 
and the coast line of the Severn Sea. 

Ouantock deer make their headquarters chiefly 
within a mile or so of the Stowey road, and 
amongst the extensive plantations of Bag- 
borough. When they wander further afield, 
they find warm lying and security in the 
wooded combes towards St. Audries, or among 
the Cothelestone or Buncombe Hill coverts. 
Long periods of tranquility have always tended 
to make the deer herd together in their favourite 
combes, whereas continued hunting scatters them 
into remoter hiding places, and the establishment 
of the Ouantock pack should tend to spread 
them far and wide into every available wood- 
land from Fairfield to Kingscliff. 

The Stowey road is a rubicon over which 
deer sometimes return in safety, but more often 
if the stag be a heavy one, and well tufted 
withal, his doom is sealed wlien once he has 
set his nose for St. Audries, and has left the 
dusty line of the hilltop road behind him, 
where his friends the Stowev broomsquires are 
always waiting on fine hunting days to greet 
his appearance from the depths of Ramscombe 
or the recesses of Govett's Copse, and to send 



344 STAG HUNTING WITH THE 

him on his way with quickened bounds and 
head held high in alarm. 

On the slopes that overhang the fair vale of 
Stowey, a peculiarly tough and tangled growth 
of stunted oak copse clothes the shoulders of 
the hill, and is know^n as Great Customs. Here 
the Stowey villagers have ancient rights, and 
here the deer cross by preference from 
Govett's Copse to Danesborough, knowing that 
they will be less exposed to view than in 
crossing the open heath on the hilltop, and the 
ascent from Seven Wells is also less exhausting. 

A stag that takes a line low down in Great 
Customs, is sure to seek shelter in the quiet 
depths of Shervedge Wood, which forms part 
of the Dunster Castle estate. Here he will 
invariably wait for hounds, while soiling in the 
black and peaty pit within the shade of the 
coppice, and then as he hears his enemies 
approaching, will steal away over the heathy 
shoulder of Woodlands Hill, to sink into the 
depths of Butterfly Combe, indulging perhaps 
in a hasty roll in Hayman's Pond. 

Even as the cool wave laves his broad loin, 
the whimpering cry that he has already learned 
to dread, comes again on his quivering ear, as 
the leading couples come striding over the sun- 
baked brow above him, and come plunging 
down towards him by the self same track he 
followed through the fern and coppice, over the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 345 

gorse and rolling stones. The hills are already- 
crowned with lines of mounted figures, the deep 
mouthed older hounds follow fast on the heels 
of their speedier kennel mates that lead the van, 
the great stag bounds with a sigh and a splash 
from his grateful rest, steals nimbly aw^ay to t^e 
lower end of Hareknaps, and so strides over the 
sheep walks and the stunted gorse into Holford 
Combe. Up it he goes with a bold heart, but a 
heaving flank. All the world seems to be watching 
him to-day, and every hill top has its eager human 
beings, all agog to spy his movements. Up the 
stony stream bed he gallops with steady strength, 
and betw^een the overhanging banks finds presently 
a pool that no human eye can mark. Another 
splash and another delicious roll, a gulping hasty 
drink and away he goes, for again he hears them 
coming. All up the stream bed, in and out by the 
green sw^ard patches, and then right up the bridle 
path that follows the winding course of the trickling 
stream, till the top is nearly reached. Here a 
little side combe, hot and glowing in the afternoon 
sun leads him in the direction he would go, and he 
trots up its fold, startling the pony brood mares and 
their foals by his panting breath, and as he gains 
the summit turns and looks round with hot and 
angry eye on the unwonted aspect of his native 
hill. The erstwhile peaceful valley he has left 
behind now rings with melody, which to him is 
no melody at all, and on every side, as far 



346 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

back as even his piercing vision can reach, 
horsemen are coming fast to converge upon his 
hne of flight. He now plainly sees himself in 
danger, and regretting vainly that he ever left 
the big Quantock woodlands behind him, or 
that he ever crossed the Stowev Road, resumes 
his lurching gallop and puts the skyline 
between himself and danger. The sea breeze 
fans his heated cheek and flank, as with 
prickly gorse beneath his feet he sinks to 
Erridge Combe, where water is hard to hnd. 
Without waiting, he passes on all round the 
long slopes of West Hill, smelling the salt sea 
more plainlv with every long laboured stride. 
Now he knows what he must do, he must plav 
his trump card and gain that wide sea below, 
for there he feels certain he can easily distance 
the fleetest hound that ever walked out from 
Bagborough. On the furzy ground sheep and 
ponies are grazing, and far ahead against the 
sunlight he espies a long black line, that runs 
all down the slope, the iron rails of the St. 
Audries fence. Right across to it he goes, as he 
has often done before by moonlight, to exchange 
compliments with the deer within, but as he 
nears it now it looks higher and stifter than it 
ever did before, and a passing thought of 
leaping it is relinquished at once. With lowered 
head, and quickly panting breath he trots 
down beside its long black length, and presently 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 349 

comes to a wide dusty road, quite pink in 
colour. In some of the fields below there are 
people at work, cattle are grazing here and 
there, and some geese screaming loudly in a 
farmyard far away. From the road he finds an 
easy place to rack into the field below^, and all 
goes fairly well for a field or two, till a sheep 
dog espies him, and with yapping bark gives 
chase. Now^ he must make an effort, for the cur is 
swift of foot, and his gleaming teeth come nearer 
and nearer quickly. See here is a strongly made 
elm fence, laid and strongly made last winter, with 
the ditch dug deeply out, and the clods thrown 
squarely up to raise the bank. A quickened 
stride and an upward heave, a crackle of dry 
sticks as the four nimble feet touch lightly on 
the summit, and with the same his impetus has 
carried him well out into the next field. Such a 
leap distances the sheep-dog for a few breath- 
less seconds, but he knows his ground, and ere 
the stag has crossed the next w4de pasture, he 
has slipped through the gateway, and caught up 
this strange invader of his master's fields. 
Heading him off with the speed of a grey- 
hound, he dashes at his muzzle, but in the 
same instant he becomes aware that he has a 
fighting foe well armed and ready to use his 
weapons. This alters the look of things entirely, 
and he sheers off for a few short yards, w^hile 
the mighty stag, blowm and panting, turns at 



350 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

the next hedgerow, and stands to confront 
his unwelcome follower. Meanwhile the farm 
labourers hear " Ship " giving tongue, and their 
view holloas reach the huntsman's ear as he 
follows his pack beside the deerpark railings 
where the stag came down. Full well he 
knows that welcome sound which foretells the 
successful ending of his day's work. His 
practised eye glances far ahead, forwards and 
downwards to the green fields beneath the road, 
that lies spread out like a map, with the 
running figures of the workmen, the sheep-dog 
a brown dot, and the cornered stag, a larger 
splash of red beside the hedgerow. Just then 
the stag charges at the dog, just as the lusty 
sons of toil come running through the open 
gateway. The dog flies velping and the stag 
turns to an easy gap, to clear it with deliberate 
stride, and so gallop down to the cliffs that 
face the sea. Now the cliffs just here are high, 
and at foot are perpendicular, but the stag 
having got out of sight of all pursuers, thinks 
he can find a satisfactorv hiding place by 
walking a little way down over the steep earthy 
slope where the fields break off and the cliffs 
begin. At first he finds fair foothold and his 
cloven feet grip the weather worn marl quite 
well. But as he goes on, and turns the first 
corner, the ground becomes more crumbling 
and treacherous and slopes at a steeper angle. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 351 

Here frost and rain, wind and sunshine have 
done their work, and turned to powder the 
clay and has, which the waves have long ago 
worn down to their present conformation. 

All below him is sheer and sudden death : in 
front and beyond him on the crest some thirty 
feet above a scarlet coated figure suddenly 
appears looking down upon him : he turns, his 
foothold gives, everything slides and rushes : 
the rocks leap up to meet him, and he drops 
head foremost with one gasp to instant death. 

Meanwhile from afar there has been following 
the chase by green and bumpy hill tracks, by 
lanes and roads and accommodation farmways 
a long, low broomsquire's cart which presently 
finds a way down to the rocky beach, and with 
all that remains of a gallant stag on board, 
returns laboriously to the hard high road, by 
which to convey the venison to such destiny as 
the master shall appoint. " Trugg " Rich is the 
owner of the Quantock venison cart ; and with 
unfailing skill has contrived for many years to 
be up at the death or soon after whenever 
hounds have set up their deer. He has carted 
as many as three dead deer at once, and has 
followed some notable runs, often arriving at 
the finish as quickly as the field. Many a 
passenger has "Trugg" had upon the some- 
what insecure bench that does duty for a seat 
on his vehicle, and if one be young and active 



352 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

and not affected by jolting, and if one would 
see a run without riding on horseback, there is 
no better plan on the Quantocks than to entrust 
oneself to William Rich's care ; for whatever 
else may happen, he and his much enduring 
pony and his very useful cart will bring the 
deer home, no matter which way he or she will 
run, or how long or crooked the chase may be. 
" Trugg's " vehicle has been often copied, and 
Stowey carts may be seen on other hills besides 
the Quantocks, and they will get over sur- 
prisingly rough ground without coming to grief. 
When they do turn over amongst the deep ruts 
or weather worn hill tracks, they are easily 
righted again, but a quiet pony, staunch in 
collar and decidedly sure-footed, is necessary to 
enable the charioteer to wrestle successfully 
with the by-ways of such rough country as the 
Quantock Hills. The story goes that " Trugg " 
was much agitated when he hrst heard that a 
facsimile of his vehicle was to be made for, 
and driven by, a lady of title living in the 
neighbourhood of the Quantocks, and that he 
at once made an expedition to ascertain at first 
hand whether there was to be competition for 
his hitherto uncontested office of venison carrier, 
feeling greatly relieved when told that his 
monopoly was not to be invaded. 

Deer from the Quantocks sometimes run as far 
as the estuary of the river Parret, where by reason 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 355 

of extensive mudbanks and shifting quicksands, 
they are sometimes very hard to secure, even 
when drowned by the hounds. The tishermen's 
boats from Steart and Combwich are not always 
at hand when wanted, and the particularly high 
tides which occur on this coast run with great 
force up the river to Bridgewater, or return 
with a rush that is apt to carry the strongest 
rower or swimmer far down stream. 

In the Spring of 1900 a hind crossed the 
water near Black Rock and was pulled down 
by the hounds amid the mud flats adjoining 
the Pawlett Hams. The present master of the 
Wells Harriers, divesting himself of his hunting 
coat, volunteered to swim across the ebbing 
tide, and after a very muddy landing secured 
the hind and brought her back to the Otter- 
hampton bank. The flat bottomed boats which 
are used on this coast are of a singular shape 
which has been found exactly suitable to the 
circumstances with which they have to cope. 
With raised ends, after the manner of a cocked 
hat, they have a flat floor, on which a three- 
legged stool not unfrequently does duty for a 
thwart. With a stii¥ short mast and a lug sail 
these boats will tack remarkably close to the 
wind, heeling over so as to make the angle 
between their flat bottoms and raised sides take 
the place of the keel in an ordinary boat. In 
running before the wind they will glide over 



356 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

a choppy sea in most approved fashion, and 
amongst rocks will behave quite as well as a 
boat of ordinarv make. 

On another occasion a hind was driven from 
the Quantocks in Mr. Basset's mastership and 
obtained a start of two hours on her pursuers, 
she was sufficiently frightened, however, to 
cross the Stowey Vale, and carry on by 
Fiddington and Knaplock to Hill House. 
Here she sank to the marshes of the Steart 
level, and taking to the Parret near the Powder- 
house, swam far and fast down stream, until 
she found herself amongst the quicksands off 
Steart village, and felt inclined to come ashore. 
A bitterlv cold north west wind was blowing 
and a baker's cart, turned round with its back 
to the gale, was made to do duty as a shelter 
for two individuals who kept watch on her 
through a glazed peephole at the back, until 
she came ashore. A Scotch deerhound had 
by this time arrived upon the scene, and made 
a dash at her from the muddy foreshore, but 
tired though she was, the nature of the ground 
was in her favour and she escaped the rush 
of the long legged hound. 

A pack of harriers had also been sent for, 
but when they arrived the hounds also put in 
an appearance, and then a verv short scurry 
brought the hind to a standstill in the nearest 
rhine, behind the pebble beach which protects 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 357 

Steart Common from the fury of the winter 
gales. At this precise spot, the only road 
leading to the village of Steart has since been 
washed away by the encroachment of the sea, 
and the inhabitants have been cut off more or 
less from the rest of the world. 

Midway between the Quantocks and the 
home countrv lies the town of Watchet, where 
a strange adventure once happened to a 
Slowley hind. While the pack was running 
another deer, a few hounds followed this lucky 
animal to the cliffs between Blue Anchor and 
Watchet, where she took to the sea, and 
swimming a long way out was eventually 
secured alive and none the worse for her 
immersion by certain Watchet boatmen. Instead 
of at once notifying the Hunt of her capture, 
these good men locked her up in safe quarters 
in the town, and proceeded to demand a ran- 
som of four pounds, oblivious of the fact that 
all hunted deer are the property of the master. 
Negotiations ensued in the course of which the 
boatmen were duly informed of their false 
position, and were offered the usual recompense 
of half a sovereign for taking the hind. After 
some demur a compromise was effected for 
the sum of fifteen shillings, the hind to be 
delivered safe and well on a certain Monday 
morning, when a crate was to be sent for 
her conveyance to fresh fields and pastures 



358 



STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 



new. On the previous night, however, whether 
by accident or intention, her prison doors 
became unfastened, and mounting on a pile of 
alabaster, which is obtained in profusion from 
the neighbouring cliffs, she scaled the roof, 
and made good her escape from the scene of 
her troubles, and doubtless survived to attain 
a hoarv old age. Excellent photographs were 
obtained of this hind while in captivity, and 
an ingenious use was made of one of the 
negatives so obtained to depict the hind in the 
act of escaping over the broken stable roof, 
w^here her tread cracked several slates, and the 
picture produced had every semblance of reality, 
although the actual escape took place by night. 





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CHAPTER XIII. 

Increased Speed — Blanching a Stag — Slowlev Wood 

KiNGSBRIDGE ThE MiXERAL RaILWAY ThE StEART 

Stag — Tame Deer — Ways and Means — The .Venison 
Feasts — Time-Honoured Customs. 



All the rules 
of staghunt- 
i n g are as 
different as 
possible from 
those of any 
other kind of 
hunting, and 
the deliberate 
consultations 
sometimes 
c a r r i e d on 
amongst the executive, when once a stag has 
been roused, often strikes a novice as one of 
the most unaccountable features of this unique 
sport. For several years past it has been so 
imperative to kill without mercy as many as 
possible of the beautiful animals, and that 
without particular regard to their having 
attained a warrantable age, that the good old 
custom of allowing each deer an ample law 




362 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

has practically become a dead letter. No doubt 
heavy stags gave better runs in olden times, 
and would give better runs to-day if they 
could have half an hour's respite granted them, 
in which to make shift to shake off their 
enemies. That this would not invariably hold 
good, however, is sometimes seen in the case 
of heavy old stags, that trust so much to 
stratagem and so little to speed, that when 
the tufters are whipped off thev betake them- 
selves forthwith to the nearest thick covert, 
and splashing into the first convenient soiling 
pit, lie there at their ease until the whole 
body of the pack bursts in upon their retreat, 
fresh finds them in view, and their case 
becomes desperate indeed. To give a fox live 
minutes advantage on a sunburnt plain of 
heather, so dry and dustv that a carelessly 
thrown down match would instantly cause a 
prairie hre, would be to make sure of losing 
him, but with deer this is not so. 

If modern foxhounds, chosen for their speed 
and beauty, do not possess perhaps all the 
nose and hunting power of their forerunners, 
that led less well mounted fields across the 
moor, they can at any rate get nearer to their 
deer, and in that way improve the scent. 
The pace and endurance of the deer too 
seems fully equal to the greater demands made 
on them bv the dash and galloping power of 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 363 

the hounds now used, and if the days be 
not as long and as tiring as formerly, they 
are, at any rate, quite long enough and 
hard enough for the greediest, and the chase 
of the wild red deer of Exmoor may be 
said, without reserve, to be the most severe 
and arduous of all forms of English sport 
carred on with horse and hound. 

To those who have only hunted carted 
deer, it comes as a novel idea that the noble 
animal is killed when taken, and the author 
has often heard surprise expressed that such 
valuable animals should be converted into 
venison, with what appears to be at first sight 
reckless prodigality. 

The reason why, however, of many doings 
that appear strange to the casual visitor to 
Exmoor, becomes evident after awhile, if the 
enquirer mixes with those who inhabit red 
deer land all the year round, and then by 
degrees it dawns upon him, that a large herd 
of red deer numbering several hundred, main- 
tained in a cultivated country, is a tremendous 
tax en the loyalty and sportsmanlike feeling of 
an agricultural population, and that the death 
of the game is truly the life of the sport. 

To give advice to professionals would seem 
to be the chief object in life of many a novice, 
and to offer loud mouthed criticism on rules 
that have stood the test of hundreds of years, 



364 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

after an acquaintanceship with the sport of a 
few weeks only, seems to come natural to the 
townsman out for a holiday. 

Human nature comes out wonderfully amongst 
the petty trials and dangers and discomforts 
of the hunting field, and if a man be naturally 
self assertive or quarrelsome or selfish, he is 
almost sure to show it when his outward 
veneer of good manners is rubbed off in the 
excitement of a quick thing over difficult 
ground. Anv person, whether man or woman, 
who can be a true ladv or gentleman through- 
out a long day's hunting, need never fear to 
hnd themselves in any circumstances or in any 
company. Blood will always tell, and education 
never fails to leave its mark, and the regular 
habitues of a hunt get to know each other 
more intimately perhaps than in any other form 
of society, being thrown together more often and 
for longer hours and under circumstances more 
trying to temper than in any other way. 

There has been discussion without end as to 
the advisability of using firearms to despatch a 
deer that stands at bav in some spot where 
he or she cannot be immediately approached, 
and there are no doubt one or two occasions 
each season when the employment of such 
means would be merciful. 

To lay down a hard and fast rule, however, 
that an arm of precision should always be called 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 365 

into play in such cases, involves many diffi- 
culties which do not immediately strike the 
ordinary critic. With some French packs it is 
done, but the hounds do not always escape 
unharmed ; then too to make good practice 
with a shaking hand at the end of an exciting 
chase must be by no means easy, and last 
but not least the employment of firearms in 
connection with deer in a country where 
they are so scrupulously preserved from the 
effect of villainous salt-petre would be repug- 
nant in the highest degree to the large 
majority of those by whose goodwill they 
survive in their present state, and are main- 
tained to be a worthy ornament of their 
native counties. 

Level ground is very scarce in the country 
where these scenes are laid, up or down hill 
is the rule all day throughout the average run, 
and wherever the camera points, the figures it 
focusses are sure to be standing or moving on 
a slope of greater or less degree, or on a 
surface covered with irregularities. The deer 
know well how easily the undulations of the 
hill tops will hide them from the view of 
human beings, and they will quickly put a 
swell of the ground between themselves and 
any single horseman, but when the hills are 
dotted all over with pursuers they have nothing 
for it but to gallop right away. 



366 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

To blanch a stag is sometimes quite easy 
and at other times the whole field cannot do 
it, try they as manfully as they may, but the 
general rule seems to be, that when once a 
stag of warrantable age has made up his mind 
to strike out for a distant point, no amount of 
heading off will keep him from it, and again, if 
once confronted and turned back into a big 
woodland, he will be very chary of leaving it 
unless the whole hillside be left quite unoccupied 
and he be hard pressed by hounds within 
the covert. As with scent, however, rules 
cannot well be laid down for the behaviour 
of deer, the unexpected always happening. 
There seems to be a deep rooted conviction 
in the public mind that deer always take the 
same line from the same coverts, and when 
crossing any particular hill can be depended 
upon to make the same points. When deer 
were very scarce, and in the days when Mr. 
Bisset was restoring the sport and putting it 
on the footing from whence the present flourishing 
state of things has come, it mav have been 
that stags roused in Horner always ran to 
Porlock Weir, or Sweetery deer invariably made 
for Badgworthv, but many stags have many 
minds, and for one that now leads the pack 
exactly where he is expected to, half a dozen 
strike out a course of their own. This is, of 
course, as it should be, for a great part of the 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 367 

charm of all hunting lies in the traversing of 
fresh and unexplored ground, where a way has 
to be found or made, and that without loss 
of time. 

Along the top of Slowley Wood, there runs 
a green grass track, and by a certain thorn 
bush successive masters have taken their stand, 
to await the appearance of harboured stags, 
roused in the jungle below bv the tufters. 
Here sooner or later if deer are plentiful in 
the wood, and they have been so for many 
vears, there is sure to be a view at close 
quarters, but amongst so many acres of covert 
it may well happen that the tufters first 
rouse any animal but a warrantable one. A 
lusty male deer perhaps does the stag service 
by leading the pursuit astray, and not until 
he bounds out from the topmost fringe of the 
covert, can it be seen that he is not the real 
article. Then the tufters must be taken back 
and the quest resumed, and the huntsman's 
voice sounds fainter and more distant as he 
tries downwards amongst the endless thickets, 
where for acres and acres the ling grows up 
in luxuriant masses amongst the sheltering 
copse. Then, again, in the depths of greenery 
a hound challenges, and there follows a tell- 
tale rush and rattle that makes the bushes sway 
and nod their topmost twigs. But instead of 
bearing upwards to the open hill side where 



368 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

he is anxiously awaited, this stag goes down- 
wards to try some cool retreats he knows of in 
the valley woods below. Beneath some clusters of 
tall Scotch firs, dark foliaged and red stemmed, 
he stops stealthily to listen, for although he 
has heard much, and that unpleasantly near to 
him, he has seen nothing vet. In the instant 
that he turns, however, a good sportsman waiting 
with self denying patience in the roadway that 
winds up to Slowley Farm is rewarded for his 
zeal by catching a view of his noble proportions. 
Silently he waits till the approaching cry of 
the tufters makes the stag bound across the road- 
way to disappear in Drucombe Wood below. 
Then he lifts up his voice after the manner 
dear to all West Countrymen and staghunters, 
the tufters come bustling through the bushes with 
panting breath and eager eyes, the huntsman 
on his tufting pony comes rattling down a 
stony track, all waterworn and sprinkled with 
roots and boulders, and w^ith every here and 
there a great heap of debris collected by the 
wood emmets. " What sort of a stag is he, 
Mr. Ridler ? " "Oh, a rare good one, sure 
enough, with three atop on one horn, and I 
couldn't see what he had on the other." " Oh, 
he'll do then, will you please go up and tell 
the master on top, and I'll stop the tufters if 
he breaks away below, and wave my handker- 
chief for the pack." Ten minutes later the 




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DEVON AND SOMERSET. 371 

harvesters at work on the Treborough side begin 
to run and shout, and the horn can be heard 
going steadily away in the direction of Leather- 
barrow. So the pack is trotted down to 
Kingsbridge and there rekennelled for awhile, 
till the whipper-in arrives with his horse in a 
lather, to report that all the hounds are stopped, 
and the stag has gone right away towards the 
line of the Mineral Railwav. ^ 

Now when deer take this line, they com- 
pletely alter the complexion of an ordinary 
Slowley day. Instead of stones there is grass, 
instead of bad scenting ground there is good 
country for hound work over the slopes 
of the Brendon Hills pointing southward, and 
instead of the Minehead and Porlock contingents 
finding themselves close home at the end of 
the day's work, it is the Dulverton folk who 
have cause to congratulate themselves. Straight 
in front and to the southward lie the Haddon 
strongholds, and as a first point to make the 
stag has the Withiel Florey stream, a strong 
attraction after his hurried ascent of Leather- 
barrow. The disused Mineral Railway offers 
less of an obstacle than it did to the passing 
and repassing of deer between Haddon and 
Slowley, and is easily negotiated by them at 
various points. Three short miles down the 
Withiel Water brings the stag to the neigh- 
bourhood of Steart Cottage, where he has the 



372 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

Countess of Carnarvon's woods all round him. 
But even so, the good feeding of Slowley has 
rendered him so fat and well liking that 
the pace has been too much for him. 
Instead of having strength left to climb to 
Haddon Hill, where some friendly hind might 
lead the eager hounds astray, he turns aside 
into a convenient orchard and lies down in the 
shelter of a ditch. Hounds overrun the mark, 
but on casting back the huntsman presently 
finds him, and his doom is quickly sealed. In 
the narrow waters of the Haddeo he can make 
no fight, no pool serves to set the hounds 
a swimming while he stands his ground, and 
before the field are well aware that the end 
of the chase is so near, he has been seized 
and despatched. 

Of all the queer places that hunted deer 
have got into, the Roadwater roller mills was 
one of the most dangerous and inconvenient 
both to stag and hounds. Here a Slowley 
stag gave some very anxious moments to his 
captors, but by good fortune avoided the 
machinery in motion, and passed on into a 
stable where he was secured after an exciting 
tussle. 

Another stag in the Slowley district, but 
which had run from Cloutsham on an opening 
day will be long remembered as having made 
his way into the dining room of Steart 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 373 

House then occupied by the late Dr. S. P. 
Budd. The table was laid for dinner, and the 
stag cleared it at a bound, displacing one 
wine glass only in his leap. At the end of 
the room, he pulled up short with his back to 
the service door, and confronting the plate- 
glass mirror of the sideboard. Here, as if 
overcome by the apparition of a mirrored stag 
in front of him, he stood at gaze until secured. 
Hinds make excellent pets, and can be 
reared from their youngest days with a little 
trouble, but in a country traversed by so 
many packs of hounds, where the sound of 
the horn can be heard on any still winter's 
day, tame deer are never quite free from 
danger, and sooner or later are very likely to 
come to an unfortunate end. Male deer 
invariably become troublesome, a well known 
instance of the earlv seventies being a male 
calf that was saved bv the late Mr. W. 
Lyddon, of Edbrooke House, near Winsford, 
and became a great favourite, but even before 
he reached full size began to terrorize the 
women of the localitv. So bold was he that 
he would follow Mr. Lyddon 's waggon for 
miles along the road to Minehead and would 
return from thence bv himself, quite un- 
concerned except at sight of a petticoat, 
when he would at once assume the offensive. 
Walking into the house at Edbrooke, he would 



374 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

snatch morsels from the plates of guests 
seated at the table, but his boldness reached 
such a pitch that he came to an untimely end. 

A former Secretary of the Hunt, the late 
Mr. S. Warren, kept a tame deer at his 
stables at The Mount, Dulverton, and this 
animal was wont to take its walks abroad, 
the stable doors being left open for it as a 
retreat in case of emergency. This plan 
answered well for a considerable time, but at 
length, on one unlucky day, the unfortunate 
animal was pursued by hounds and found 
the stable door accidentally closed, when his 
fate was sealed. 

In other hunting countries, regulations haye 
been made of late years tending to raise the 
minimum subscription which can be tendered 
by any regular follower, so as to enable the 
sport to be maintained on a suitable footing, 
and this principle has been accepted by the 
Hunt Committee of the Deyon and Somerset, 
where the minimum subscription for a day's 
hunting with one horse has been fixed at half 
a guinea, and when the neighbouring packs 
meet within their borders it has been decided 
that their field should subscribe to the funds 
of the Exford establishment. While many 
hunting visitors subscribe liberally towards the 
sport they enjoy, there haye undoubtedly been 
in times past a considerable number whose 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 375 

donations have fallen far short of even this 
modest minimum, and when one considers 
that the casual tourist does not shrink from an 
outlay of two guineas a day on the stout 
hireling he bestrides, it seems indeed a 
moderate exaction to fix his contribution towards 
the upkeep of such a pack as he will find 
waiting for him at the meet, at such a figure 
as this, which will not add appreciably to the 
expenses of his sojourn in the West Country. 
To such a one it will probably not occur until, 
bitten with the sport, he repeats his visits 
again and again, that the maintenance of the 
Devon and Somerset in all their glory, entails not 
only the expenses incidental to any four days 
a week pack, but necessitates the provision 
of a large sum by way of compensation 
for the nightly ravages of over five hundred 
deer. Harbouring and boats, and the carting 
and distributing of venison, are heavv items in 
the master's bill, such as do not fall to the lot 
of a master of foxhounds, and, in addition, the 
festive board is nobly spread at Porlock and 
at Dulverton for long lines of deer preserving 
farmers, who accept the master's invitation and 
assemble in great force to do justice to a 
smoking haunch. These same venison feasts 
are matters of long established custom, and the 
old routine is ceremoniously followed. 

At the high table, the master takes the 



376 STAGHUNTING WITH THE 

chair, supported on either hand by members of 
the hunt committee, and masters of other 
packs, and an occasional hunting visitor. The 
Church, the Law, Physic, and the Press are 
generally represented, and after grace the 
company fall to with right good will, with 
which is mingled the satisfaction of knowing 
that the fast diminishing haunch, that made the 
board groan when it was first set on, will fatten 
no more at the expense of the eaters' turnips, 
will browse no more upon the ripening corn, no 
more will tear the juicy mangolds from the 
ground to throw them bitten and destroyed all 
over the disordered field at home. Many other 
seasonable dainties tempt the appetite of those 
who cannot face roast venison, and there are 
such even in the wild West Country, and when 
at length the last course has been cleared away, 
a mighty bowl of steaming punch, curiouslv 
concocted and very potent withal, is placed 
before the master, with a long handled silver 
ladle and many punch glasses. When these 
have been dulv filled and handed round, and 
the customary toasts have been disposed of, 
the master proceeds to the toast of the 
evening, and gives " Prosperitv to Staghunt- 
ing," seizing the opportunity to refer to 
the sport enjoved throughout the season, and 
to touch on any striking incidents which may 
have occurred since last the toast was given. 



DEVON AND SOMERSET. 377 

Some musical member of the company is then 
called upon by the master to oblige with a 
song, and many singers have sung the same 
song with unfailing popularity year after year 
on these occasions. The honorary secretary 
is next entrusted with the toast of the 
" Owners of coverts and the occupiers of 
land," and he couples with it the names of 
three or four representatives of the larger 
estates present. The persons named, after due 
deliberation, reply, and then the singer of the 
last song exercises his right of call by invit- 
ing some other tuneful guest to promote the 
harmony of the evening. It is worthy of 
remark that etiquette seems to require a not 
too hurried compliance with the request for a 
song, and until recent years it was apparently 
more fashionable to sing sitting down than 
standing up, and at the conclusion of the song 
it was, and is, de rigeiir to give its title. 
An especially popular song is acknowledged 
by jumping to the feet, glass in hand, with 
the remark, "Your health and song, Sir." 

The names of such songs as the " The 
Marking Iron," "The Ivy and the Myrtle" and 
" The Tarpaulin Jacket " will recall memories of 
bygone feasts to many a staghunter. 

Sitting down about six o'clock, the high 
table rises as soon as the toast list has been 
disposed of with the usual songs and a 



378 STAGHUNTING ON EXMOOR. 

vice-chairman then continues the sitting for 
another hour or so. 

On the following night the "Town and 
Trade " of such places is entertained by the 
hotel keeper who catered for the master's 
feast, and the remains of the haunch do duty 
for a second festive night, when the fun is 
apt to wax fast and furious. 

With the recurrence of the October venison 
feasts, the seasons, as they come around with 
each revolving year, draw near to a close, and 
with this sketch of a time honoured hill country 
custom this work must come to end. Cover- 
ing the years from 1887 to 1901, it touches 
on events not hitherto described, except in 
cursory form, and strives to bring home by 
the aid of the photographic studies how the 
Devon and Somerset Staghounds look to-day 
amid the beautiful surroundings of their moor- 
land home. 



EXKTKK : 
Printed by \V. J. Soiithuood it Co. 



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