Hunt­ing Heythrop open­ing meet and Pack of the Week with the South Durham

The Heythrop open­ing meet of­fers the chance to watch a fa­mous pack of hounds be­ing beau­ti­fully han­dled

Horse & Hound - - Contents - By FRANK HOUGHTON BROWN Edited by Cather­ine Austen cather­ @cfausten

A CRASH of mu­sic in some dense, laid thorns and the mixed pack of 17½ cou­ple were away from us as quick as a flash. I tucked in be­hind Charles Framp­ton as he scur­ried through a twisty ride to get with them, and when we broke into the open they were a field in front and run­ning hard.

Ber­tie Alexan­der, new in ken­nels this sea­son af­ter three years hunt­ing the Stowe Bea­gles, swooped in be­hind his hunts­man and I fol­lowed the pair of them over a few small rails and an invit­ing hedge. Hounds looked like get­ting away on us as we pushed on to stay in touch past David Hunt’s farm­yard, but this trail swung left-handed and we had a cru­cial check on a foiled grass track.

The field were com­ing up the track from our left and looked like ru­in­ing any chance of re­cov­er­ing the line, but when his hounds had fin­ished their cast, Charles nudged them past the field with the min­i­mum of fuss and they were away, con­clud­ing their hunt at the base of a gnarled ash tree. As I stood look­ing down at the

hounds with Charles, I over­heard Becky Hughes and her chil­dren Isla and Molly, point­ing out the five hounds they had walked the year be­fore last. This had been no clas­sic hunt but a taste of what these sharp and ac­tive hounds can do and a brief sam­ple of some of the best of the Heythrop coun­try.


IT was the day of the Heythrop open­ing meet at Har­comb, home of for­mer master and hunts­man Stephen Lam­bert and his wife Jane. This glorious set­ting over­looks the fa­mous Even­lode Vale, and I met up with the hounds, and my su­perb hireling from Jill Carenza’s yard, at Charles and Issy Framp­ton’s house, just a mile or so from the meet.

Charles is in his sixth year as joint-master and am­a­teur hunts­man of the Heythrop and he came with a rep­u­ta­tion for hav­ing a Midas touch, pro­duc­ing bril­liant sport wher­ever he has been. From his days hunt­ing the bea­gles at Stowe and Cirences­ter to the Bedale fox­hounds in York­shire and the Port­man in Dorset, he has left a huge fan club in his wake who mar­velled at his hard-headed tenac­ity in leav­ing no stone un­turned when it comes to run­ning a hunt.

Mike Wills, a sub­scriber with the bub­bling en­thu­si­asm of one newly con­verted to the cause, was in Issy’s kitchen wait­ing for his weekly hunt­ing fix and field master and event rider

Mike Jackson turned up like an Olympic ath­lete warm­ing up for his gold medal run.

A brief hack to the meet and we joined a field of some 120 on horses, quaffing the Lam­berts’ Percy Spe­cials, with a huge gath­er­ing of foot fol­low­ers and well wish­ers. Hunt sec­re­tary Guy Avis was among them, look­ing re­mark­ably spry de­spite hav­ing just re­cov­ered from an aw­ful rid­ing ac­ci­dent. Vic­to­ria Irvine was fill­ing in for Guy on sec­re­tar­ial duty and all the joint-mas­ters were in at­ten­dance. Nessie Lam­bert or­gan­ises the hunt­ing in the Even­lode Vale and in be­tween draws would slip off to feed her 10-week-old daugh­ter, Poppy.


I WAS lucky enough to go on with Charles and avoid the melee as we hacked away from

the meet through Chastle­ton vil­lage and turned into some won­der­ful grass­land be­long­ing to the Townsend fam­ily that time has for­got­ten: rails and wire-free hedges in ev­ery di­rec­tion. The trail-lay­ers had al­ready gone ahead; smart and ef­fi­cient-look­ing ken­nel-hunts­man Michael Lit­tle had dis­ap­peared to­wards the Chip­ping Nor­ton road and the first line was quickly hunted and over. No mess­ing around and we were on to the Bam­fords’ lush pas­tures and hounds were soon rac­ing around be­low Kite­brook School, where Charles’ young twin daugh­ters, Alice and Daisy, are pupils. They leapt to the win­dow as their fa­ther’s charges made morn­ing lessons that much more ex­cit­ing and the pack hunted back past the field and over the road.

We drew on up some thick hedgerows and Michael Lit­tle pointed out some of the hounds by Zet­land Wood­cock. He was lent to the Heythrop by Zet­land hunts­man David Dukes and such was his prow­ess on the hunt­ing field that he was used ex­ten­sively.

“He was a re­ally good, tough dog and we have bred from some of his prog­eny as well,” ex­plained Michael. “We had an­other Zet­land dog last year called Jamieson, whom we have also used.”

The Heythrop hounds have a great rep­u­ta­tion in the show ring but Charles is sin­gle-minded about breed­ing for work­ing abil­i­ties.

“If you want to widen the gene pool and your ken­nel is al­ready full of blood from the Glouces­ter­shire packs, it’s dif­fi­cult to know where to go to use a qual­ity and good-hunt­ing stal­lion hound,” says Charles.

Dilemma it may be, but he seems to be well on the way to solv­ing it. The Heythrop now hunt seven days a fort­night but have been au­tumn hunt­ing five or six days a week.

“Some of these hounds have done more than 30 days al­ready this sea­son,” Charles said. “Now that we no longer hunt four days a week, we only hunt a bitch pack if we have a glut of bitches in sea­son. We have roughly one third doghounds out most days and this way they get prop­erly tested.”


WE worked our way back to the Lam­berts’ per­fectly sit­u­ated covert of Har­comb, just be­low the meet, and are quickly away through Chastle­ton to Mr Townsend’s farm. Back we go to a ridge above Har­comb and the view across the vale is breath­tak­ing, with the patch­work quilt of grass and hedges on Sir John Aird’s farm be­low. An ea­gleeyed view of the trail-lay­ers from the hunts­man had us run­ning again, straight down the hill across Sir John’s to the edge of Even­lode it­self.

We rode to se­cond horses and the field thinned sig­nif­i­cantly.

Jill Carenza’s charm­ing driver Martin pro­duced an­other per­fect hunter for me. Mike Wills looked some­what bat­tered af­ter a crunch­ing fall from his hireling and I no­ticed Jerry Den­nis in his tweed over­coat, in­tro­duced to me as the Heythrop’s old­est sub­scriber, mount­ing up on to his se­cond fiery young horse like a man 30 years his ju­nior.

We had a short hunt from a

covert called Stub­bles, re­cently be­queathed to the hunt, and then across the rail­way to Frog­more and Broad­well Hill. Now the clocks are back the evenings draw in quickly and John LLoyd, master of the Four Shires Bas­sets for so many years, was fol­low­ing on his quad bike to watch hounds draw his covert.

Hounds were soon run­ning in his thick rush bed and we fin­ished the day hunt­ing lo­cally into the dusk. My one out­stand­ing thought as we hacked home was the quiet­ness with which this fa­mous pack had been han­dled all day: no fuss, no noise and ev­ery­thing was im­mac­u­lately or­gan­ised.

There has been a chang­ing of the guard in Heythropia and a young and vi­brant team have taken over the reins. Hunt­ing re­quires a new vi­sion and new peo­ple to take it for­ward, while ad­her­ing to the old stan­dards, and that is ex­actly what has hap­pened here. For a young man in his prime, Charles has a wealth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence and there is great syn­ergy in the hunt. For­mer chair­man Mikey El­liott had the fore­sight to put it all in place and has now handed over the reins of chair­man­ship to Tara Dou­glas-Home.


WE boxed up at the meet and I went with Charles as he called upon Keith Townsend to thank him for hav­ing us on his farm. As old-fash­ioned as his lovely grass farm, Mr Townsend of­fered us home­made scrumpy cider and a glass of whisky, ex­plain­ing how he came to buy his ten­anted farm.

“Our farm was put on the mar­ket and [leg­endary for­mer Heythrop master] Capt Wal­lace asked if we would buy it. I told him that it was too much money for us to af­ford and he said he would sort it out. Very shortly the price was dropped and we bought the farm, all thanks to Capt Wal­lace’s in­ter­ven­tion,” he said.

He re­counted a mem­o­rable hunt when the hounds ar­rived un­ex­pect­edly in his yard af­ter a six-mile point. The hunted fox took refuge in his coal shed and it was some time be­fore Percy Durno ap­peared and they killed the fox.

The Heythrop hunt is steeped in his­tory and it is the Mr Townsends’ of a hunt­ing coun­try who keep it grounded in re­al­ity as well as that his­tory. Charles Framp­ton spent his gap year as se­cond horse­man to Capt Wal­lace when he was master of the Ex­moor, and Charles is cer­tainly a very wor­thy suc­ces­sor at the Heythrop. I feel this may be the early days of an­other golden era for this fa­mous pack.

Joint-master Christopher Cox takes a breather

A mounted field of around 120 en­joy the open­ing meet

Christopher Brooks lands over an im­mac­u­late hedge

Joint-mas­ters Nessie Chanter and Si­mon Lawrance lay the trail

Joint-master and hunts­man Charles Framp­ton with hounds

Three smart greys: from left to right, VWH master Nick Phillips, Jess Dou­glas and Mike Wills

Ver­ena Chalk looks tidy over a set of rails

Field master Mike Jackson leads in style

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