'Wryneck' was the pen-name for a hunting correspondent who wrote the
'Hunting Notes' column in the 'Reading Mercury' in the early 1920's. His
detailed reports started appearing in late 1921, and there were many covering
the Arborfield area that year and through 1922.
On December 31st 1921, ‘Wryneck’ gave the following advice to those following the hunt on foot rather than from their armchairs:
To Motorists – Although you may be the largest subscribers to the hunt (or perhaps subscribe not at all), curb your fiery steeds when hounds are drawing, and let not your engines run alongside covert. Foxes probably object strongly to a noisy engine, and are unlikely to break in face of a raging petrol fiend.
To Push-bike and Foot Followers – Remember that (with few exceptions) you don’t pay one cent for your sport. You are getting a lot of fun at other people’s expense. Try therefore to repay the obligation by helping as much as you can; do not get round covert and holloa in the face of a breaking fox; do not get in the way of the hounds and hunt servants or mounted field; and, when you have seen no fox or when hounds are running well, do not mislead the huntsman by view holloas, however tuneful, merely to show you can do it better than the other chap.
Never holloa unless you see a fox yourself. Take nobody else’s word for it. If you do, you may find yourself holloaing a hare and get the blame; and serve you ---- well right.
Here are a few reports from 1922:
February 4th 1922: Hunting Notes, by ‘Wryneck’:
Garth Hunt at Arborfield
Wednesday, January 25th – Tuesday’s hard frost, in spite of a thaw towards Wednesday morning, made hunting impossible and hounds remained at home.
Thursday, January 26th – The Master, not to be defeated by Tuesday’s frost, put back his Wednesday fixture a day and brought the dog pack to Arborfield Cross. First, Bottom Wood was drawn blank, and then, as hounds went into Round Wood, a fine fox went away at the far end almost before the whips could take their stations. Hounds coming out on the line at first did not own it with any great confidence, but crossing the road and getting on a field of clover stubble, scent improved and they drove along toward Arborfield at a nice pace.
It seemed as though the fox were headed as he topped the high ground behind Arborfield Cross, for he swung round left-handed in an undecided way; then, making up his mind, he crossed the road near Arborfield Church on to the Arborfield Hall farm, pointing for Carter’s Hill.
For half the distance to Carter’s Hill farm, hounds skipped along very nicely, and it looked all odds on a good run, but suddenly they were at fault, and though the Master made every possible cast, they could not hit off the line again. A good many people professed to have viewed him, but their reports differed, so that they were not much help.
Then back to May’s Farm and drew Moor Copse blank, and on into Swallowfield Park, where a fox was found in Big Wood. This customer gave them a short spin and went over the river, the field crossing at the ford, and was lost. Then drawing on towards Farley Hill, a third fox was found in West Wood. After turning a bit in this covert and Robin Wood covert, he went away for West Court. Either scent was getting poor or he was some time ahead of the pack, as hounds were hunting as though on a cold line. Coming to the boundary spinney of West Court Park, they could make nothing of it, and had to give up. Not by any means a bad day. Plenty of foxes about and hounds always busy. With any luck, better sport would have been shown by the first fox.
Wednesday – Hounds met at Finchampstead, the Master carrying the horn. First drew the Fleet, blank, and then over the road to the Thrift. From there a fox stole away at once before hounds were hardly in covert – probably a visitor bent on courting – and went over Wheatlands pointing for Long Moor.
Crossing the Nine-Mile-Ride and run the line leading towards Barkham, and looked as though his point would be Kidgems Wood; but, swinging away a bit to the right with Barkham Square and the church on his left, he made for Foxhills. Running the new plough land that borders Foxhills on this side hounds were right on his brush, and would certainly have pulled him down at the edge of the covert had it not been for the rabbit-netting, which held up hounds and enabled the varmint to get to ground in an earth just inside the young fir plantation. Every effort was made to get him out, but the earth proved to be an impossible place with ramifications over half the county, and so he saved his brush.
Meanwhile hounds were thrown into the Coombs [sic], drawing up from the bottom towards Bear Wood. A leash of foxes at least were presently on foot, but hounds settled on the line of a little vixen, the same, or own sister to the one, that gave them the spin last Saturday. Scent was poor here in covert, however, and after hunting their fox about the Coombs for nearly an hour they ran themselves out of scent and had to give up. It was hard luck to be disappointed of their morning fox. At times they slipped along very nicely, and on the burnt lands hunted patiently and most steadily. A very nice hunting run of one hour and 40 minutes.
February 25th 1922: Hunting Notes, by ‘Wryneck’:
On Wednesday, met at Sindlesham Mill House. Hounds were put into the withy beds on the Loddon, and found almost at once.
The fox went away on the hill and crossing the road near the Mole Inn went into Bear Wood. Then the usual thing happened. Half a dozen foxes were on foot and went running in every direction, and probably several were hunted. At length one was marked to ground, and while digging was in progress, hounds went on and drew the Coombs. Here a group of foxes were disturbed. One went across the ride into Bear Wood, and hounds, getting on the line of the other, pushed him out at the bottom end, and had him in the open, but ringing round short of Newlands he also got into Bear Wood and after twenty minutes there, was lost.
Then they moved off to Arborfield Hall Park, and drew the Riverside coverts, but did not find. Next going over the Shinfield Road, they drew the Russell Estate coverts. Bottom Wood, Round Wood, Moor Copse and Big Wood, all blank. So leaving Swallowfield Park they went into the Farley Hill Covers. Presently a hound opened, and the pack confirmed it, but they could make nothing of him, when suddenly a distant ‘holloa’ right over the hill, gave notice that the varmint had left West Wood (He must have slipped away directly he heard hounds about, a not uncommon experience in February, when foxes are often away from their home coverts). The Master, lifting the hounds to the holloa, then hit off the line and, with a burning scent, went off at a rare pace, heading for Bear Wood. It was over a nice bit of country, and they were running very fast, but all too soon the varmint was in covert, and they were brought to hunting.
Now engaged as fine a bit of steady hound work as one could well wish to see. For two and a half hours of woodland hunting they stuck to their fox, round the Coombs, then across into Bear Wood, past the lake, and on to the Lodges, over the road into Foxhills, back into Bear Wood, then to the Coombs again, out at the lower end and across the grass-land right-handed and, swinging round short of Newlands House, into Bear Wood again. Once more through and into Foxhills, and then into the open pointing for Emmbrook.
Headed most unfortunately by a yelling boy, the fox went back into Foxhills; over the road again and into Bear Wood, past the lake, and left-handed once again into the Coombs where hounds were stopped at ten minutes to six, and a thoroughly beaten fox saved his brush.
A very fine performance. No muddling along from hollow to hollow, but beautiful steady line hunting; pace very good for the difficult nature of the ground they went over; and some grand music. A rattlingly good day. Horses and hounds had had enough, and men too. To finish the day, hounds were rewarded with the customer they had marked to ground in the morning. A tough old varmint he was, too.
November 25th 1922: OCCASIONAL HUNTING NOTES:
THE GARTH, WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 23RD
Met at Newlands. First drew the Coombs, but did not find. Then on to Carter’s Hill. Here a brace of foxes were soon afoot, and, after two attempts to break on the Coombs side of cover, one at length got away toward Sindlesham Mill; then swinging up the hill right-handed, he made for Bear Wood. In covert, he was here joined by a fresh fox, and they ran for a short while in company when, finding an open drain near the lake, one at last was viewed to ground there; the other being lost probably in the thick bush round the water.
Finding again in Bear Wood, and hunting the line steadily, they next pushed a fox over the road near the pumping station, and away down to Carter’s Hill. Driving him through the coverts there they hunted him along the Loddon towards Arborfield, and getting him into the open from the Gorse, near the Grange, they pulled him down in the big field behind Arborfield Church.
Without waste of time, hounds were then thrown into the Rectory Covert, and immediately had a good fox on the move in front of them. The line went across the Shinfield – Arborfield road, on to the Swallowfield Estate, through Round Wood and across the open as though for Farley Hill; then leaving Swallowfield Big Wood on their right and sinking the hill they crossed Green Ride into the Remount pastures, on over the Barkham Road, with West Court on their right, and so into Long Moor when, bending left-handed, they carried the line into Kidgems.
Scent, catchy at the best, was poor in covert, and they were at some difficulty to keep on the covert from end to end, came away at the lower, or Barkham, end, making for the Coombs. Here he was viewed and holloa’d, but it was some minutes before Daniels could get hold of hounds, and get them out of covert, and a scent by no means good was somewhat cooled when they hit the line again. However, after some hesitation, they owned the line and ran with fair confidence to the Coombs. In this covert scent failed almost entirely, and possibly their fox had got to ground; and with dusk coming on, it was decided to take hounds home.
Not at all a bad day. Considering the scent, hounds hunted very well indeed; and the afternoon provided some excellent sport.
The final article was on December 23rd 1922:
Our readers will regret to hear that our hunting correspondent, "Wryneck", met with a serious accident, whilst following the Garth Hounds recently.
In trying to avoid a motor-car, he fell from his bicycle and splintered his kneecap in three places. An operation was necessary and was successfully performed, but recovery is necessarily a slow process, and it is doubtful whether he will be able to leave the Maidenhead Cottage Hospital until after Christmas. He hopes to continue his "Hunting Notes" in the New Year.
With acknowledgements to Berkshire Newspapers
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