March 13, 2014
By Dee Adcock
A hunt master has apologised after hounds and hunt followers caused chaos in Stalbridge on the last meet of the season.
Residents called the police as hounds chased a fox in the cemetery and gardens in Gold Street with followers in hot pursuit.
They claimed people on quadbikes, horses and hounds ran through Church Path, and hounds ran about in the cemetery as a fox fled into a Gold Street garden.
Gold Street resident Van Brember said: “A peaceful, pleasant sunny Saturday afternoon was shattered when hunt followers on quad bikes hurtled up and down Gold Street in pursuit of a fox that took refuge in the front of my property.
“Thankfully at the time he managed to escape from his pursuers into a garden across the road.
“Three uncontrolled hounds then appeared, obviously on the scent, one of which jumped into my garden and then disappeared through the gates of an adjacent house.”
She added: “Gold Street is a residential area with homes fronting directly onto the road and a mix of elderly and young householders.
“It was not a safe place to be on this Saturday afternoon.
“I felt intimidated in my own home watching this unpleasant experience unfold.”
Michael Felton, joint master of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt said hounds picked up the scent of a real fox and left the trail that had been laid for the final meet of the season on Saturday, 1st March.
He said: “The hounds switched from the trail to a fox and hunt staff immediately tried to stop it.
“I think it lasted about ten minutes.
“I am sorry if people were alarmed by it – I would be alarmed too if I suddenly found hounds in my garden.”
He added: “There are a lot of foxes around now and this one happened to appear. It wasn’t by design.
“The fox got away and I’m not aware that any damage was done anywhere but if it was I would be happy to deal with it.
“One of the problems is that I have no jurisdiction over hunt followers.
“I preach at them to behave themselves in a responsible manner but I can’t make them. They must, however, obey the highway code.
“They love to follow the hunt in cars or on quadbikes – it’s their sport.”
Mr Felton said around 100 riders had set out from Purse Caundle that day. He was among 30 waiting for the hounds at Stalbridge Park when the incident occurred.
A spokeswoman for Dorset Police said at least two complaints were made to them about the hunt.
A PCSO went to Stalbridge but the hunt and followers had already moved on.
She said: “One of the callers complained about antisocial behaviour and said there were about 15 quadbikes and several motorbikes and claimed people were jumping over walls.”
She said the local Safer Neighbourhood Team had been in contact with residents and with Stalbridge Town Council to find out their concerns and resolve them.
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