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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 16:22 GMT
End of an era for Powys hunt
By Carl Yapp
BBC Wales News Online

The David Davies Hunt
Huntsman David Jones (right) leads hunters out on Saturday morning
On a glorious winter's morning in Powys, one of Wales' largest hunts turned out for its first meeting since the ban on hunting with dogs.

The weather did not reflect the mood of the 100 or so supporters of the David Davies Hunt, in Llandinam, near Newtown, who turned out in force.

Along with an air of sadness, there was suspicion of unfamiliar faces in the crowd suspected of being "antis", sent to keep watch.

After generations a new era had dawned.

The hunt was one of around 100 in Wales holding their first major meetings since the ban came into force on Friday.

Its members are celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and I watched as supporters and hunters greeted one another, knowing that times had changed for good for country pursuits.

Hunting is a community, a movement which has a lot of spirit
Clem Richards, David Davies Hunt

As they debated the future, women and children handed out cups of hot chocolate, sandwiches, and warm food.

In the middle of it all was huntsman David Jones, who has the day-to-day responsibility of running the hunt.

He was busy talking to friends, fellow hunters, and Montgomeryshire's MP Lembit Opik and AM Mick Bates, who had turned up to show their support.

Later he admitted that people had been tearful on Friday when the ban took effect.

He told me that hopes were being pinned on plans by some AMs to persuade the Welsh Assembly Government to make a form of hunting legal in Wales.

But the League Against Cruel Sports said later the assembly had no power to alter the new law.

The hunt's pack was established by the first Lord Davies in 1905. His light-coloured, broken-coated Welsh hounds were developed from the original stocks in south Wales.

Part of the David Davies Hunt pack
The hunt said some of it hounds were likely to be put down

Up until Friday, the tradition of hunting open moorland hill country, steep-sided valleys and small enclosures across hundreds of acres in Llandinam had continued as it had done since 1905.

Mr Jones, who has been huntsman for 32 years, said it was a sad day for people in the countryside.

"We will carry on within the confines of the new law and see what happens," he said.

"We are going out with two hounds as the law dictates, but it's a worrying time for farmers because we're coming into the lambing season and it'll be hard to control foxes."

He added: "Everybody was sad on Thursday and Friday and there were people in tears.

"As for the Welsh hounds, they have been part of our heritage for over 1,000 years and I'll no doubt have to put many in the kennels here down.

"We're hopeful the Welsh assembly can do something and we're appealing to the farming unions to help too."

Among those trying to keep spirits up was 76-year-old Clem Richards.

From nearby Carno, he said he had been involved with the hunt since he was child.

One of the David Davies Hunt's Welsh Hounds
It's an end of an era for the Welsh hound

"I feel horrible today," he said. "This ban is going to divide the countryside and break up communities, I've no doubt about that.

"It's a very difficult and uncertain period and I just don't know how the police are going to uphold the new law.

"You probably have small packs with about four or five hounds operating in the hills and they're not going to stop."

He added: "As an established hunt, we won't be able to because we can't get insurance.

"Hunting is a community, a movement which has a lot of spirit."

Chairman of the hunt's supporters' committee, Marcus Williams, said the hunt normally caught 130 foxes a season.

"Foxes have to be controlled and hunting with dogs was the most humane way," he said.

The David Davies Hunt
Part of the David Davies Hunt preparing to go out on Saturday

The League Against Cruel Sports said the David Davies Hunt would have to find other ways of spending its leisure time.

Spokesman Mike Hobday added that there was "no way" the Welsh assembly could change the new hunting law in Wales.

"The Welsh assembly doesn't have the power to alter the hunting with dogs law," he said.

"The law wasn't devolved to the assembly there's just no way it'll be able to change it."

He added that the ban was simply about cruelty and nothing else. "It's cruel to hunt a fox with a pack of hounds and it's been banned on that basis.

"It's not about bigotry, it's about cruelty and that's why it's been banned."


SEE ALSO:
Hunting ban facing first big test
19 Feb 05 |  Politics


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