A Short History of the Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt
In the middle of the nineteenth century the country now hunted by AVTC was hunted by a number of packs. Most notably Charles Witherden hunted hare, initially on foot but eventually with a mounted field. The move to mounted hunting was occasioned by the times when Witherden’s hounds joined forces with the packs run by Sir John Honeywood and Alfred Swaffer Esq. The joint pack was hunted by John Buckland, great nephew of Charles Witherden. In 1878 the combined packs were joined by Mr. Blackman’s Hounds, from Stone-in-Oxney and this was the beginning of The Ashford Valley Harriers under the Mastership of John Buckland.
Buckland was a hound man of whom there are many anecdotes. It is said that a bitch hound, Violet, was sent to a pack in Hampshire but disappeared from there within a fortnight. Harry Buckland, John’s son, then aged 5 found Violet in the field at his home. The hound having made a journey of over 100 miles to return to her Master.
John Buckland’s son, Harry, who eventually succeeded him as Master, was a remarkable horseman who began whipping in to his father at the age of 11, and first hunted hounds at 12. In 1909, on an Irish horse, Marmion, he jumped 7ft 2in to win the World’s Championship High Jump at Olympia, and he served as a Master of the East Galway Hunt, in 1913, and as honorary huntsman to the Mid-Kent Staghounds from 1909 to 1913. In this role, lightly disguised as “Harry Buckman”, he appears in Siegfried Sassoon’s novel, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.
Hounds were kennelled at Goldwell, Great Chart, within 300 yards of the Buckland home.
The Great War
The Bucklands managed to maintain the pack through the First World War, a considerable feat at a time of shortages. In Harry Buckland’s biography there is a particularly touching story from this troubled period which recounts that John Buckland received the following letter from the trenches.
During the war hares became scarce as many were taken for the pot. It is therefore not surprising that attention turned to the fox. The Ashford Valley Harriers hunted hare and the occasional fox, but after the First World War, when hare became scarce, they switched to hunting foxes exclusively and in 1922 were recognized by the MFHA as the Ashford Valley Foxhounds.
In 1926 John Carey Buckland died, having been Master of Hounds for 50 years. It is said that 500 people attended his funeral service at Great Chart church.
In 1927, Chester Beatty, an American, came to the financial assistance of the hunt and in return his son, Chester Beatty Jnr. was made Joint Master. He brought with him a pack of Welsh hounds which was kept at kennels but fed separately as Beatty would allow them no flesh. Eventually the arrangements broke down and Harry Buckland resigned the Mastership.
The Hunting Ban
The Hunt continued to hunt foxes under the direction of a succession of Masters and a committee employing numerous professional Huntsman and staff until the ‘hunting ban’!
On Saturday, February 19, 2005, the day after hunting live quarry with hounds was banned in England and Wales, the Ashford Valley Hunt met as it normally did on a Saturday morning in the hunting season. The difference this time was that hounds were hunting an artificial line; a bundle of rags steeped in a pungent, fox-scented mixture concocted by the Huntsman, dragged across country behind a quad bike or by rider. Hounds continue to hunt a trail and will continue to hunt within the law until the hunting act is repealed.
In 2013 The West Street Tickham Hunt (WSTH) disbanded. Subsequently the Ashford Valley Hunt incorporated the former Tickham Hunt country into their own and out of respect for their former neighbours changed their name to The Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt. (AVTH)
The East Kent Hunt now hunts the former West Street Hunt country and is now called The East Kent with West Street Hunt.
The Hunt Today
The present Huntsman, Neil Staines, who has served with the Hunt since 1993, has bred, with the assistance of the hound trustees, a keen and biddable pack of hounds which has adapted remarkably well to hunting an artificial scent. Even in the Bucklands’ day, Kent was regarded as difficult hunting country, being intensively cultivated, heavily populated and crisscrossed with roads and railways, yet, thanks to the generosity of the farmers in continuing to invite the Hunt onto their land, Masters and Huntsmen right up to the present day have succeeded in showing good sport. In a hunt country extending from the M20 to Romney Marsh and The Isle of Sheppey, a variety of challenges is offered to riders and foot followers. The country is a mixture of woodland and orchards to open grassland with well-maintained hunt jumps and hedges. There is a large number of subscribers and a good number of riders and foot followers attending meets to watch hounds work and to hear hounds in ‘full cry’ as they make their way through Kent’s beautiful countryside. Some of these areas can only be accessed while following the Hunt, a privilege not taken for granted. The Hunt is grateful to the many farmers and landowners who continually allow the Hunt on their land and also to publicans and others who also host Hunt Meets.