I know I will never follow a braver person across the country - Jo Foster

It was not only the passing of our long-serving, animated hunt groom Dave, which beckoned the end of an era recently.

Jo is saying goodbye to a friend this week

Richard Lloyd, the Pendle huntsman, who has held the post for 32 seasons and worked in hunt service since 1975, is moving back home to Wales. The hunt has regretfully had to make him redundant after all efforts to avoid the situation had finally melted away. The news came as a hammering jolt when I heard.

Like most hunts, money is always short. Old hunt accounts, going back over a century, were found in a loft recently. They showed, in 1952, the hunt was pulled from a serious financial glitch by a Master to the tune of £2,000 (£48k in today’s value). A century ago, hunts were still private elitist affairs for the aristocracy and upper classes. Now hunting attracts followers from all areas of society.

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A wide range of blue and white-collar workers ride, drive, hike or jog alongside each other following Richard and his hounds on trails weaving through our beautiful patch of rural Yorkshire and beyond.

Hunts are expensive businesses to run. There are kennels to upkeep and hounds to feed. Some larger hunts still collect fallen stock which feeds their pack and provides a valued service to local farmers, but for that, an incinerator is required which most cannot afford. Wages are needed for hunt staff; huntsman, kennel man, hunt grooms, and whips, although most now tend to be keen volunteers.

With a full membership costing less than the annual subscription to your local golf club fundraising is always top of the agenda at every hunt AGM.

Jobs supported by the industry are far-reaching; farriers, mechanics, feed merchants, livery and dealing yards, tailors, cobblers, contractors, timber merchants, publicans, hoteliers etc. Like it or not, hunting continues to provide a valuable cog in the wheel of the rural economy.

This winter the wet weather, depleted income and lockdown added a nail in the hunts’ financial coffin. Anyone involved with livestock will understand, furloughing staff is not an option. Animals still need to be cared for. The Pendle Masters were left with little choice. It is a terrifically sad occasion. I will miss him greatly.

Richard is a genius with hounds. And, after enjoying my 30 years of hunting with him at the helm, 20 of which were spent whipping-in alongside the man, I know I will never follow a braver person across the country.

Next week I will share Richard’s story with you. There is much more than a huntsman’s eye staring from beneath that faded flat cap.