Accidental Fox Hunting

BY JIM WEBSTER

Have you ever wondered whether you were breaking the law or not? This morning I was quietly minding my own business, walking round the farm checking to see that various batches of sheep were OK. Of course I had Sal with me because even when there’s no formal work to be done, she can still be useful. She’ll find the ones who’re snoozing quietly in obscure corners and get them running back to the others. A sheep who runs back to the others is generally a healthy sheep. A sheep who just stares blankly at Sal and ignores her is, in all probability, ill.

Anyway this morning I was walking across one field and Sal set off into a big patch of rushes and long grass. Unfortunately she’s not a tall dog and just disappeared into them. Every so often she’d spring vertically using all four feet in an attempt to spot her way out.

Then suddenly I saw a fox leaving the rushes at speed. This was followed by Sal, also moving at speed. The fox accelerated and made a run for the beck. In Sal’s mind, this is the equivalent of a felon making a run for the state line. So of course she accelerated as well. Anyway the fox swam the beck and ran up the other side and away. Sal stopped on our side of the beck leaving me pondering whether I had been hunting?

After all “A person will be deemed to be hunting if s/he engages or participates in the pursuit of a wild mammal and one or more dogs are employed in that pursuit.”

Now I would put forward as my defence that I didn’t actually participate. Frankly there’s no way I could keep up with either Sal or the fox. Indeed I didn’t even shout encouragement from the sidelines.

Not only that but I would have suggested to my learned friend that a Border Collie bitch who takes it upon herself to remove a fox from amongst her sheep isn’t hunting. She’s merely doing her job.

Still we shall leave that vexed legal issue behind us and continue with our perambulations, checking sheep. Then as I left one field I discovered somebody had dumped a lot of chopped up lengths of Leylandii in the gateway. So after I’d been to church, Sal and I returned with the quad and trailer to collect them.

Now here’s where the cultural dissonance comes in. Somebody is proudly tidying their garden etc, and what to they do with their rubbish? Put it in the car and drive out into the countryside to dump it! The tip is probably nearer.

So they’re sitting proudly in their garden, basking in the praise of everybody who’s saying, “You’ve got this looking nice.” When actually they’re just some muppet who dumps their rubbish in gateways.

But actually it gets even more confusing because frankly, if the person had come into our yard with it, I’d have helped them unload the car onto our log pile. It can stay there, dry out a bit and then I’ll cut it up and it’ll help keep our house warm this winter. To some rubbish dumping muppet who lives in a house with central heating, it’s rubbish to be dumped. For those of us rural dwellers for whom affordable gas central heating is an impossible dream, it’s a resource. We recycle stuff like that for its energy content.

Jim Webster farms at the bottom end of South Cumbria. Jim was encouraged to collect together into a book some blog posts he’d written because of their insight into Cumbrian farming and rural life (rain, sheep, quadbikes and dogs) It’s available here.

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