Hounds, Huntsmen and Horrible Histories

For the first time since we got to the UK I saw the early morning. It was a shock to the system but well worth it; I had a suspicion it would be worthwhile! A 5.30am rise and a rambling drive to a place called Hen Toe (why? Ours is not to reason why ….I guess the answer could be “Why not call your town Hen Toe, for God’s sake? What’s wrong wi’ THA’???????” We also went through Abbey St Bathans and Nether Monynut – is this perhaps whence the Monynuts emerge? The mind boggles.) with Tim at the wheel of his 4WD rewarded us with the once-in-a-lifetime sight of the Berwickshire huntsman giving his hounds their first run of the season.

houndsIt’s called ‘cubbing the hounds’ or for some but not all there, no gracious no, ‘cubbin’ the hoonds’)

Gotta say …………….. dogs I mean hounds GALORE!!! There seemed to be at least 50 of them (25 couples) and the happiest bunch of critters you ever saw. They were exuberant to say the least, and bounded over to us to give us the once-over before Rory the huntsman blew his horn (didn’t say Tally Ho which was disappointing) and took off with a bunch of horsemen & women in hot pursuit.

The thing that stood out most of all was the bond between huntsman and hound – every one of them. He knows each one by name and each one knows its name. He gives out strange hoots and calls and baying sounds to tell them what to do, and they respond by spreading out to search for a fox or coming back to him. It was lovely to watch even though as it was a training day for the young hounds there were stragglers still coming out of the gorse and heather (looking a little dazed) long after the rest of the pack had gone over the next hill.

It was freezing and windy and the encroaching wind farms (much loathed as eyesores, but I don’t mind them) were going at a batting pace. Tim drove us the long way home so that we saw the Torness atomic power station, glorious countryside and the sea. The North Sea, with an oil platform in the near distance.

And that was BEFORE breakfast.

But admittedly, Phip’s delicious scrambled-egg breakfast was a little late.

After another farm visit to a cousin and family friend Lucy and her hubby Dunc, who are tenant farmers on a farm called Galalaw, Kelso, at Floors Castle estate, our next appointment with History in this blood-filled land was the memorial service at Branxton (across the border in Northumberland, England) on the field of Flodden, whfloddenere Scotland was so horribly decimated 500 years ago.

The Scots turned out in all kinds of fancy regalia – one chappie looking very grand in tartan from top to toe and medals all over his coat. Lots of kilts and tams and caps, one with huge eagle feathers sticking up, and nary a pair of jock to be seen I feel sure. Although I didn’t look.

There were Coalstream Guards in lovely red regimental uniforms. A pipe band all kitted out in kilts and with dirks in their socks. And quite a few rather astonishingly colourful trews with an assortment of bright jackets and tam’o’shanters atop.

A big day, and I am exhausted.


©jane grieve

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