Last Saturday, for the fifth successive year, the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt held its New Year Meet at the Mermaid, thanks to the hospitality of Judith Blincow, the proprietor, who regaled the riders and indeed the whole assembled company of friends and onlookers to a stirrup cup of whisky or red wine. [Sports Editor’s note – I used to find that either whisky-mac or port laced with brandy would do the trick on a cold winter morning.]
The earlier rain had, at least temporarily, stopped, and while it would be an exaggeration to say the sun shone, the spectacle of Huntsman and Master in their Pink coats (actually red, but these were originally made by Pinks, the Savile Row tailors, and so the name has stuck), beautifully groomed and turned-out horses with their almost-as-beautifully turned-out riders and, of course, excitable and very friendly hounds certainly brightened up the Town’s damp streets as, lead by Joint Master, Nigel Hacking, the Hunt headed out for a day’s exercise. Whether one is pro or anti hunting the fox, there is no doubt that this is a splendid and colourful sight and we would be the poorer if the tradition of the Meet was lost.
Hunting an actual fox is now, of course, banned and on this occasion a trail had been set by kennelman ‘Foxy’ John which lead hounds and the forty or so riders in the direction of Leasam Hill and the high ground away from the waterlogged marsh levels, where doubtless the local foxes were watching in legal safety while eating their lunch of fresh chicken raided from a local free range chicken farm.
A conversation, overheard at the Mermaid:
“What happens if you find a fox?”
“We won’t, they’ve all been shot” said a bystander
“What then if the hounds smell a fox?” the Joint Master was asked
“They won’t, they’ve forgotten what one smells like” he replied.
Photos: Ray Prewer and John Minter