9 months ago



HUNTING BEDALE 13 January dited by Catherine Austen @cfausten Mixing business Known as much for its hospitality as its challenging country, it’s clear that when it comes to the riding, the popular Bedale don’t mess about Bedale, Rookwith Farm, North Yorkshire IT only takes two hours to get to North Yorkshire from home, but when I arrived at Rookwith Farm near Bedale, I felt as if I had arrived in a parallel universe. People from all over the north had converged on the popular meet at Ed (one of the jointmasters) and Chloe Page’s farm, and the day was getting off to a great start at a lavish pre-meet in their kitchen. At 10am, the place was crammed with immaculately made-up ladies and rosy-cheeked By TESSA WAUGH men in hunting kit and an island groaning with booze. Joint-master and huntsman Tim Coulson was there, looking fresh-faced for a 40-year-old, and secretary Nick Thomas handed me a large glass of sloe gin and introduced me to Chloe Page and joint-master Jo Lambert — both glamorous blondes. Outside in the Pages’ yard, it was wall-to-wall lorries — no trailers or battered pick-ups — with some pretty special horse flesh emerging down the ramps. I think I’ve lived in the hills too long. I felt like Eddie Grundy from The Archers landing on the pages of Hello! magazine. I had a hireling for the day from Jacqueline Coward, which her mother, Cherry, had kindly brought all the way from the Middleton country. The sight of the big, handsome thoroughbred Phoenix went some way to soothing my nerves. “Don’t try to ride him like an eventer,” Cherry warned. “Just remember to kick going into the fences. As long as you kick, you’ll be fine.” By this stage, Tim and his hounds and more than 100 people on horses had assembled in the field opposite the farmhouse. The Pages’ son, three-year-old Max, was also there on his pony. Seeing the members of this large field sitting confidently on their smart horses, it was abundantly clear that when it comes to the riding side of things, this lot mean serious business. Subscriber Laura Jennings was there on a nice bay with her friend Clara Nicholl from the Haydon and two other Haydonites. Clara joked that disentangling herself Bedale joint-master and huntsman Tim Coulson, who is standing down at the end of the season Bedale joint-master and meet host Ed Page gives the field a great lead over a hedge 42 Horse & Hound 8 February 2018

with pleasure from home was not easy that morning — husband Will is master of the Haydon — but she tries to get down to the Bedale several times a season. On his feet was Laura’s partner “Robbo” Robinson, chairman of the hunt supporters’ club, off games due to a broken leg, and Ron Dobson, who pointed out his wife Vanessa Fleming, the former master of the Badsworth and Bramham Moor, looking the business on an immaculate grey. Ed Page MFH was our field master on another quality grey and, while Tim went off to draw the Fairbairns’ Bungalow Wood, we set sail across the first field, over a set of rails and up a small hill to a wall. It was not a big wall, but it evidently had a bit of drop. Kick, kick, kick I went, but the person in front stopped and Phoenix and I ground to a halt by his bottom. Not great. I had another try, but Phoenix put the brakes on again. Then someone fell off and we melted down through a gateway to join the rest of the field, who were lining up for another rail. “Can I go behind you?” I squeaked at the lady beside me. “Follow my husband,” she said, pointing to former master Stephen Swires, a dashing jockey type in a red coat. Kick, kick and over we go before heading off around some field margins. Everyone was cantering on as if we were on the hunt of the season. Phoenix took a bit of a hold and we thundered past a couple of people in a less than dignified way, getting filthy in the process. “I hope you had your Weetabix this morning,” quipped Andy Wilkinson, one of several regular visitors from the East Durham as he caught up with me on the road. POPULAR FOR THE JUMPING THERE were no trails in Bungalow Wood, so Tim and his hounds headed a mile or so by road to the hunt covert at Marriforth Farm. It was good to see a familiar face in the form of Vanessa Fleming, who explained that this is one of the Bedale’s harder bits of country, although it is popular for the jumping. The Page family own several farms in the area that are laid out with plenty of timber and newly laid hedges, but their farms are intermingled with others where the larger fields are not so welcome and shooting dominates. We were stopped in our conversation by the cheerful IN KENNELS Chairman: Robert McKenzie Johnson Joint-masters: Robert Ropner, Tim Coulson (huntsman), Jo Lambert, Matthew Penrose, Ed Page Hon secretary: Nick Thomas, 07973 886487 Kennel-huntsman: Mikey Francis note of hounds speaking through the covert and watched as they took a line out across a grass field, leaving the field to take a route via the road with hounds out of sight. We get a glimpse of hounds at No Man’s Moor Lane, where there was an upright rail to jump onto the road. Lettie Thomas, daughter of the secretary, was up from Leeds having recently taken up hunting again. Her friend Alice Milverton told me she was riding her mum’s “happy hacker” and tried to get home once a month from London for some hunting. Two well-mounted 12-year-olds told me they go every Saturday and provided sufficient evidence Right: Susie Penrose with Bedale joint-masters Matthew Penrose and Robert Ropner

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