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History of the Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt

Huntsman Neil Staines and His Hounds

Name Change

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.

As this was not an amalgamation of hunts, The WST hounds were drafted to other hunt throughout the country.

The extension of the Ashford Valley Hunt country now affords a much wider access to the beautiful Kent countryside taking pressure of the existing country in times when access is restricted because of unfavourable weather conditions or other situations.

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 does 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 of the huntsman’s devising, dragged across country behind a quad bike.

It was the first time the Ashford Valley hounds had hunted an artificial scent, but it wasn’t the first time that the hunt had reinvented itself in order to keep hunting alive by adapting to changing times. The hunt began in 1873, when four private harrier packs were amalgamated under the mastership of John Buckland, a farmer from Great Chart. 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.

The Early 1900s

feeding

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.

Even in the Bucklands’ day, Kent was regarded as difficult hunting country – intensively cultivated, heavily populated and crisscrossed with roads and railways. Yet thanks to the generosity of the Ashford Valley’s 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 that extends from the M20 to Romney Marsh and offers a variety of challenges to riders and foot followers, from woodland and orchards to open grassland with well maintained hunt jumps and hedges.

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.

A Bit Further Back in Time

In the middle of the nineteenth century the country roundabout was hunted by a number of packs. Most notably Charles Witherden hunted hare, initially on foot but eventually with a mounted field. This 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 the The Ashford Valley Harriers were begun 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.

The Great War

The Bucklands managed to maintain the pack through the First 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.

Dear Mr. Buckland,
I am very glad to see by the papers that the hounds are still being kept up. I enclose ten shillings subscription which is all I can afford from present pay. I am sorry it is not more, as I look forward to the end of the war, when I hope to be spared safe and well to have many a good day’s sport once more with the good old Harriers.
With kind regards to yourself,(PTE.)
Harrison

During the war hare became scarce as many were taken for the pot. It is therefore not surprising that attention turned to fox. In 1926 John Carey Buckland died, having been Master of Hounds for 50 years. It is said that 500 people attended the funeral service at Great Chart church.

Hounds were kennelled at Goldwell, Great Chart , within 300 yards of the Buckland home.

chester_beatty

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.