field trials club
Ambridge says "no" to hunt ban - by WR Thom
on the morning of the Liberty and Livelihood March I walked my
terriers across a field of stubble near the edge of town. As usual
the heron was standing on the drain, as still and controlled as
Darcy Bussell. Last year she mated and produced three incredibly
ungainly young. They were so unlike their mother that it was as
though Kristin Scott Thomas had spawned the Addams Family.
Soon they may well have to find new homes, as John Prescott, in his
first flush of enthusiasm as Minister for this, that and the other
thing, decided the field would be enhanced by a few hundred houses.
Of course, Mr. Prescott has never seen this field or given a thought
to the thousands of years it has been ploughed, sown and harvested.
Or that it once belonged to Earl Harold, the last Saxon King of
England, and later to Edward, the Black Prince. Or that the houses,
if built, will be far too expensive for the young of the town.
I contemplated all this as my terriers sniffed for rabbits and then
with the word "freedom" in my mind I thought of John Hampden who
lived just three miles away. His refusal to pay Ship Money made him
one of the most famous men of his time and when the King threatened
to arrest him a thousand Buckinghamshire men rode to Westminster to
After taking the dogs back through the High Street (which has lost
three ironmongers, two butchers, two greengrocers, a baker, a dairy
and various pubs in the last few years) I was soon boarding a coach
with the modern equivalent of those horsemen who were as determined
as their predecessors and certainly just as angry.
The anger was the main difference between this march and the
Countryside March of 1998. Back then we really did think that the
Government would "Listen to Us" as our placards stated. Back then we
were not quite used to Tony Blair's desire to please the people he
is talking to at any one time without realising the consequences. We
were certainly not naive this time. The banners were angrier, the
shouts were angrier and even the tread of our boots seemed angrier.
And yet, beneath the anger there was still the same good humour and
good manners of the previous march even when we were passing the
offices of D.E.F.R.A. At most marches the object of the
participants' scorn would have to be defended by an army of
riot-geared constables: just three constables stood on the steps and
smiled at our ironic jeers. Surely any sensible government would not
want to make enemies of such law-abiding people?
From a lot of the comments that could be heard they would be rather
silly to do so. Many repeated Sir Mark Prescott's words at Hyde
Park: "This is the last peaceful rally" and usually added "really"
after the first word.
No-one could fault the Countryside Alliance's organisation of this
march but many were critical of its reluctance to upset the
government over the last couple of years. Had fewer marchers than
1998 arrived the Alliance could have been rather embarrassed but the
huge turnout has probably saved its blushes. The organisation can
expect little help from D.E.F.R.A. if the reactions of Alun Michael
were examples of its thinking. He gave the impression that nothing
of any importance had happened and considered that the
anti-Apartheid and C.N.D. marches of his youth were far more
significant. For the record, the highest attendance at any of these
marches was 250,000 but most of them drew no more than 15,000. And
we don't dig up cricket pitches!
Alun Michael's musings would have been of little interest to the
thousands of children on the march. They were quite sure why they
were there. There were six on our coach with the youngest only
three. For the whole of the twelve hours they were away from home
their behaviour was, there is only one suitable word, angelic. Three
of them are the children of Mike Smith of the Old Berkeley Beagles:
to think of those lovely children losing their home and the company
of the beagle puppies (surely the most beguiling of animals) is
unthinkable. All through that long day I heard only one child cry
and she was inconsolable - she had lost her Bob the Builder tape
measure. There can be no greater tragedy when you are three than
losing your Bob the Builder tape measure: I hope she remembers the
incident in twenty years time when she is out hunting.
On the way home my wife and I listened to "The Archers". Now that
M.F.H. Oliver Stirling is a major character the writers and
producers could not ignore this march as they had the previous one.
Again we heard the shouts, the whistles and the hunting horns as a
sort of reprise of the afternoon. And when Shula was shepherding the
cast back into their coach I realised I had missed printing the best
placard of all. AMBRIDGE SAYS 'NO' TO HUNT BAN. That might have got
me on the telly!
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