Saturday Sept 19th 2010, Chainhurst, Kent
The 19th September 2010 saw the members of the Working Section meet for the first time this season. With the kind help of the Bolebrook Beagles we went draghunting at Chainhurst near Maidstone, Kent over a mixture of stubble and grass land alongside the River Beult.
It was mild and dry- a typical autumnal day but the hounds didn’t overheat. Before the 22 beagles moved off to the first field there was a chance to catch up on the summer news and meet the owners of the 8 new hounds over a glass of port with a variety of nibbles.
Often it takes a while to get the old hands back to the business of following the line and for the newcomers to understand that they are allowed, even encouraged, to run away from their owners, but this meet proved to be less chaotic than some. Nelson Antonsen and Folly Peach ably assisted by Magic and Indy Beaney, four of our established working certificate holders, were happy to be back in the field, following the aniseed lure and showing everybody how it is done. This left Buster Forbes and Riot McSheehy, the other workers, to bring up the rear and make sure that everybody returned.
One of our newcomers, Milo Barber, showed great promise but Daisy Terry had to be shown what to do by her owner running the line with her on the lead. Another first timer was Lily McBain who didn’t connect her Flag Judging success (where she won Best Bitch at the Beagle Club BBQ) with the drag itself - it shouldn’t take long. Missy Hankey, who just missed a Working Certificate at last season's trial, enjoyed showing Bertie Hankey how it was done, and by the last line, Bertie was doing it all by himself.
The final line of the day provided an opportunity to run the whole pack together, which was a wonderful way to end the meet. Once back at the cars, all the members had a chance to compare notes over the last of the nibbles.
Sunday Oct 3rd 2010, Greens Norton,
With cars piled high with wet weather gear and spare clothes the members of the Working Section gathered at one of their favourite venues; Greens Norton, Northamptonshire on 3rd October 2010.
The land, which is owned by Frank Henderson, is predominantly arable with the majority of the fields down to oilseed rape. We are very grateful that we are helped by Adam who gives up his Sunday to lay the lines for us using his quad bike.
There was a large pack of 30 beagles and their owners braving the rain and wind to go dragging at our second meet of the season. The recent heavy rain combined with some of the land having been just cultivated made the hounds work very hard. Some of our veterans decided that as they knew what they were doing they could take a shorter route round and still get a treat at the end.
We now have 3 new beagles that look very similar to the taller, rangier pack beagles and all of them worked the lines very well; Merlin Johnston was consistently searching out the line and the other 2 pack beagles, Ralph and Sniffs Millins, got the idea by the end of the meet.
Having run the entire field for the first line, the pack was split into 2 groups which makes identifying the individual hounds a lot simpler. There were 7 working certificate holders to show the others how it is done with Folly Peach storming round leading the first group in and for the second group Nubie Lehain with Bryn Richmond showing the way. Milo Barber, for whom this is his first season, continued his good record from our first meet 2 weeks ago.
As the morning progressed we were able to move on to some grass land which did a grand job of cleaning both boots and paws. Here the veterans Riot McSheehy and Tia Bidey were able to shine. For the final 2 lines all the hounds ran together. With a larger pack it was clear to see that some of the more timid novices and newcomers gained confidence from the increased number of experienced workers that drew them on to the line.
It was great to see the Haylocks out with their recently acquired beagle, Louis, who became brave enough to run the whole of the last few lines. It was then back to the cars and out with the towels to dry the hounds off before retiring to the village pub for lunch.
Saturday Oct 30 2010, Lewknor,
With the sun burning off the autumn mists and the trees wearing their best coats, a meet of the Beagle Club Working Section was held at Field Farm, Lewknor on 30th October 2010 with the kind permission of Murray Graham. There was an amazing turnout of 34 hounds and their owners who were split into two groups to follow the aniseed trail laid by Dan Cairns on his quad bike. For the first line all the beagles were let off in one large group, watching the whole pack stream round was a wonderful sight. When that number of individually owned hounds is doing what they were bred to do and looking like a pack it is a great thing. There was a slight pause in proceedings for the second line of the day when Dan had to try and find the end of the drag which had come adrift. After an unsuccessful search he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave up one of his socks as a replacement drag. That will be a pair of socks that the Working Section owes him now. As we moved further up the field it was easy to see that some of our newcomers were getting the idea. Ralph and Sniffs Millins were a good example, although if they lost the scent they would entertain each other before returning to their owner. Henry Cooke, who started dragging with us last season, has settled in and is showing us that he is working out what it is all about. Mind you there was a delay when he found something very special to roll in. We moved out of the young rape field and onto some grassland at the base of the escarpment. The line had a large loop in it and the first group got distracted and ended up finding the heel line and when they were nearly back to the start the majority of them dived through a hedge but soon returned to their owners. The second line on the pasture was a greater success with Merlin Johnston, in his first season, showing the group where the line was. Tosca Pottage who is one of our novice beagles, was also on good form. We moved back onto the rape field and as the rest of the group came in there was a beagle with a fast wagging tail that had clearly found something more interesting; this was soon identified as another of our promising novice hounds, Bussell Brown. She returned with the others on the next line which was the last line of the day. With the sun still warming us all many of us retired to the garden at the Old Leathern Bottle to have lunch.
Sunday 28th November 2010 Folkington Manor Farm,
A smaller group of Working Section members, and their hounds, met at Folkington Manor Farm near Polgate, East Sussex with the kind permission of Charles Harcourt-Smith on 28th November 2010. With the land silvered by frost as we set off it was a surprise to find a fair covering of snow on the Downs and for some of the young pups it was the first snow they had seen. We were able to run all 20 hounds on the first field although 50% of our workers, Indy and Magic Beaney, were a little distracted as their owner Adam had laid the line. We moved on up to the next field which was fairly steep and we split the beagles into 2 groups. It was great to see the brightly coloured coats against the snow as the hounds followed the line. Luckily they didn’t get distracted by the fox that had crossed the field 10 minutes earlier. Rosie McDonald was on fine form, showing her housemate, Dottie, how it should be done. There was a fair walk through the estate, passing a typical Downland church, to the next set of fields that were nestled at the base of the Downs. We paused to allow a family to finish sledging before laying the next line on the steep sides of the valley. There was a little confusion with the second group as the line was laid adjacent to a holding pen and Magic led a group the wrong side of the fence but soon showed the others the way back to the line. Our veteran worker, Riot McSheehy, showed everybody how the line went when we moved onto a field of turnips although many of his group cut a couple of corners. With the snow lying on the foliage it was easy for the humans to see where the line had been laid and also to see if the hounds where following it closely. Lily McBain, who won the Flag completion at the Beagle Club Barbeque in July, was showing some promising consistency as the morning wore on. Moving down the valley Buster Forbes decided that not having his treat at the end of the line was a small price to pay for getting the chance for a good sniff in the hedgerow. The final line of the day was the most successful with our newest member Sunny Barling getting the hang of it and also Louis Haylock running well. It was odd to see one of our honorary beagles, Rodney Beanie the collie, streaking ahead of the beagles but still following the line. The walk back to the cars was very picturesque with a pack of tired but happy hounds and their owners thinking about a well earned lunch at the Sussex Ox.
Sunday 2nd January 2011 Nurstead Court,
On 2nd January 2011 the Working Section held their first meet of the year at Nurstead Court, Meopham, Kent by kind permission of Guy Edmeades-Stern. This is a venue that the Bolebrook Beagles, who regularly help us through the season, also use.
A giant hole that had appeared overnight in the middle of Meopham caused a few members some problems in finding a way through the back lanes to join the other draggers.
For the first line of the day all the hounds were let off at the same time but chaos ensued. We gave them all the benefit of the doubt quoting the Christmas break and the lack of drags since the beginning of December.
The grassland that we run the lines on is also used for the Cross Country phase of the equine sport of eventing, so the turf provides a superb surface for the hounds to run on. For all but the first and last run of the day the pack of 28 hounds was split into 2 groups.
We had been joined by 3 beagles who regularly visit the venue when their owners see to their horses. This did not prove to be an advantage to them although they did enjoy having some company whilst they ran.
We also had three new draggers out for the first time, Chance & Bella Ayres-Cousins and Benson Matthews-Talbot. Chance got the hang of it and was often running the line well but his companion couldn’t work out why she had to run too! A couple of regulars, Kermit Scott and Bryn Richmond produced some very good performances, although Kermit did get a little distracted by a small wood that proved more interesting than the aniseed line.
We also had a few youngsters out and looking to join the pack; Maddie Forbes and Polly Ambridge ran some promising lines and both have housemates who drag but they were happy to go out on their own and have a go.
For 2 of the lines we moved to the top of the hill on to a young crop of rape. The going was very sticky as two of our line layers, Kore Antonsen and David Barber, found out when they had to carry half of the field on their boots. Luckily we were able to move back to the grass to end the day.
Once all the beagles had been gathered in, many of the members drove in convoy through the narrow lanes, avoiding the large hole in the road, to enjoy a sumptuous high tea at the kind invitation of Tessa and Donald Forbes. It gave everybody a chance to catch up on holiday news over a plate of chilli con carne and many generously donated puddings and cakes.
Sunday 16th January 2011, Blewbury,
With the wind getting ever stronger the Working Section of the Beagle Club drove up to the top of the downs above Blewbury, Oxfordshire on 16th January 2011.
We were able to use the gallops and arable land by kind permission of Mrs. Eve Johnson-Houghton. There was a record turnout of over 40 hounds and their owners, endeavouring to stand upright in the wind and praying that the gathering clouds wouldn’t open. We were very lucky that Dan Cairns was able to bring his quad bike to lay the lines as we had to split the beagles in to 3 groups. Having the quad enabled us to lay enough lines to let every hound run plenty of times and it also meant that the owners didn’t have to stand around for too long.
In a brave move for the first line the Field Master, David McSheehy decided to run all the beagles together. For this meet we had 9 hounds that held working certificates so there were plenty of experienced dogs to show all the newcomers how to run the lines. To help the ‘workers’ we also had half a dozen novices that are showing great promise and we look forward to seeing them later in the season at the trials.
For the rest of the morning the lines were run in groups. With the wind being so strong the first group that took the line struggled to follow it but the second group had an even harder time. The scent was pushed quite a distance and often the hounds didn’t pick up the line until they hit the final part and then proceeded to run a perfect heel line.
Merlin Johnson was running well with his new partner in crime, Poppy, who for a ‘first timer’ ran very well. Another first timer pairing was Izzy and Pepper Keyte who seemed to enjoy their day out and the younger Pepper started to get the hang it quite early on.
We only had one beagle, Skittle Biddulph, who got a little distracted on an earlier line and had to be fetched back from his little adventure but then he became a reformed character for the rest of the day. It was good to see Sukie Fernie back and leading her group in as did our ‘working’ bitches Folly Cairns and Tia Bidey.
There was a long walk back up the gallops but luckily the wind helped by pushing us back up the hill and the grass cleaned the dog’s paws beautifully. Many of the draggers retired to the George and Dragon in Upton to have a fortifying tipple before wending their way home.
Sunday 30th January 2011, Manor Farm, Lenborough,
The sun was valiantly trying to break through the clouds as the working section of the Beagle Club ventured into the first field at Manor Farm in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire on 30th January 2011.
We had been invited by Mr Robin Brazier to bring our hounds to follow the aniseed lines very kindly laid by Dan Cairns and his quad bike. Before we started we held a one minute silence in memory of Honor Eades, who sadly passed away recently, in recognition of her time with the Working Section.
For the first line, all the hounds split into two groups with half of them following the heel line and the others going the correct way led by Folly Cairns and Bryn Richmond. There was a slight pause whilst a couple of beagles found a very interesting sniff. A second line was laid in the lower part of the field and the hounds ran in their separate groups. Group A must have caught the scent of the first line and very conscientiously carried on and did that one again.
As we moved further down the hill we saw two hares run from the adjacent field but luckily their scent had dispersed by the time we used that land and our beagles concentrated on the aniseed instead. Dan began to make things more interesting by adding some dog legs to the line so that we could see who was truly following the scent.
In the early part of the meet the Group B hounds were running very well with Buster Forbes, Tia Bidey and Bryn leading the pack in. When the sun came out and warmed the grass the aniseed was proving easy to follow and some of our novices and newcomers were running very well, especially Hoy McSheehy, Summer Emberton and Merlin Johnson.
This changed as we moved to some smaller fields and Group A started to work better with Suki Fernie and Kermit Scott helping Folly to bring the others in on the line. Although at one point Barney McBain and Sunny Barling had a lovely time playing in the centre of the field while the others were running on the scent.
Poppy Johnson proved to be too much of a distraction for Louis Haylock who thought that hers was a far better scent to follow even if it meant going out of the field, luckily she is proving to be very good even though it was only her second meet and she bought Louis back each time. Two other hounds who were putting in good performances were newcomer Polly Ambridge and novice Krafty Kimber. To end a very successful meet we ran all the beagles together and probably had the most chaotic line of the day with Merlin going off on a little jaunt and Buster being harangued by his sister Filly and housemate Maddie.
Looking back on the lines it seemed that the early lines were much longer and it made the hounds concentrate, and therefore, work far better.
Don't forget to look at the photographs that Ian Bidey has taken so far this season. There is a link on the Working Section pages on the Beagle Club website. If you see one that you like he will sell you a copy with the profits going to Beagle Welfare.