After almost 18 years of writing an outstanding countryside column, containing many reflections about hunting, hounds, nature and the countryside, a person known only as ‘Foxglove’ has finally put away his pen.
He has written his final column for the West Sussex Gazette, which published them every week in its countryside pages. More can be found in his book Field Of View, which contains a medley of fascinating columns published during those years. Details of the book and how to obtain it are published at the end of this tribute piece.
As a tribute to this fine, unmatchable writing, here is one of his memorable pieces- about hound puppies,
“Here are hound puppies, demonstrating that butter wouldn’t melt. Soft velvet skins, big dark eyes, well-upholstered feet, despite their extreme youth. Two of them are draped across one human lap, so that you can barely tell where one puppy ends and the other begins. You might, wonder if they will ever grow into those ears, but they seem to manage, generation after generation.
Theirs will be a more difficult task than that of their earlier forebears, for they must retain their hunting abilities in a far less natural arena. Fox sense, the ability to predict which way a fox will run, is too precious a talent to lose, so the onus is on the trail-layers to replicate the runs of real foxes when the time comes for these hound puppies to join the pack.
A pack of hounds
The scent of the trail needs to be authentic, too, so that the instinct to follow fox scent above all others is developed. Hounds need to be able to draw coverts searching for this scent, to push into heavy undergrowth, to follow it through cold plough as well as wet grass, to find it along tarmac, on the surfaces of water deep or shallow, rising on warm air or falling with the chill.
Along with this, they need to use their voices correctly and truly, to share what they find with their fellows as well as their followers. All this is inherited and more besides, and some talents come through generation after generation. On occasion there is a catch of breath in a human throat, when the cry of a hound from the past roars from the throat of a hound in the present, having passed on in genes what we have in memory, and bringing us a waft of the timelessness of hunting.
But all this is yet to come for these two hound puppies, who use their undeveloped voices in squeaks and growls and gruff little yips. Already their legs show a hint of the ‘timber’ necessary to hunt wealden clay in winter, and their noses are good at finding food as well as the people in their immediate circle, which is all they need right now. As they grow into wilful adolescence, many small crimes will need to be forgiven, when assistance with gardening, laundry and cooking may be given with the best of intentions if not the greatest success. From round and soft, they will grow on into tall and shapely in a matter of months, enjoying their summer of freedom and gentle tuition before returning to kennels and beginning their education amongst their brethren.
The year will pass, and some more months of another summer, and then these babes, grown on, will take their place working within the pack. They have a job to do, and good teachers to help them to do it. The work may be a little different, but the instincts and talents will surge on through the generations until there comes a time – and it cannot be too soon – when hound puppies such as these will once more fill the pawprints of their ancestors and give voice while running their true vocation.
They sleep, they yip, and twitch big paws, running in their dreams. They cannot run properly when awake yet, but when they sleep and the blood of their forebears whispers in their ears, they are already part of the pack.”
If you would like to continue enjoying Foxglove’s reminiscences there is still opportunity to buy a copy of his book, ‘Foxglove’s Field of View’, available from Kingswood Press, Ivy House, Stickney Lane, New Bolingbroke, Boston PE22 7JQ for £22.00 (inc. p&p). Please make cheque payable to: Kingswood Press