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KNAPSACK WANDERINGS IN MERRIE ENGLAND.
“ The first physicians by debauch were made;
Excess began, and sloth sustains the trade.
My last sketch brought us to Lynmouth, one of the brightest genis in the gallery of nature's beauties of Merrie England. Those who have seen it will agree with me. To those who have not, I urge a speedy visit; they will thank me that I have done so. However, there is another not less attractive, though more distant route to this favoured spot-a route which sportsmen will prefer, and which will well, and more than well, repay them for the additional time and outlay. To such I would say—Halt not by the wayside, either at Bridgwater or Taunton, but proceed onward as far as Tiverton-road station; there you will find a branch railway which leads to the picturesque and pleasant town of Tiverton. Tiverton boasts of good hotels, and beautiful scenery, gladdened by the bright and sparkling river Exe, which flows through the town, and is full of trout. True, it is preserved there and thereabouts, I fancy, for some miles towards the Barle, near Dul. verton. What then? the Squire of Collipriest, through whose domain it winds, is one of the most kind-hearted and truest sportsmen in the West, if not in all England; and the man must indeed be unworthy to whom he would refuse permission to cast a fly on its lovely waters; and those who live beyond the limits of his boundaries, and who have the right which engenders might— Tom Daniel, a gallant horseman, for one, are not less accessible. So, if you will it, time not pressing, and season befitting, repose a day at Tiverton, whip the blue waters of the Exe, and behold what people are the constituents of the Lord of Broadlands.
From Tiverton to Dulverton—which latter place long years since I christened the “Melton of the West,” and which in good truth, as time rolls on, has by no means disgraced its name - a distance of twelve miles, you will enjoy one of the most charming drives that Merrie England or any other country in the world can offer to the lover of Nature-add to
this, one of the best of roads. Right through a rich and ever-verdant vale, of no great breath, the river Exe glides like a snake; while here and there a honeysuckle and rose-clad cottage, with its blue smoke curling through the rich orchard in which it snugly reposes, beautifies the scene. In early summer time, when in full bloom, these orchards offer a picture of unrivalled beauty, casting a flowery aroma throughout the vale ; while, in mid-winter, when the mistletoe clusters on their branches, they have scarcely less interest. The broad road hard by the river follows its course on each side this lovely vale; densely wood-clad hills close in the scene, broken only here and there by some picturesque ravine, or distant church spire, with its little surrounding hamlet; so near, yet apparently so far, far away from the great Babylon, from which the traveller may have started only some few hours previous.
It is not precisely Alpine-this lovely valley of the Exe. It may not possess all the expected romance for which my wandering countrymen travel so far and expend so largely, often to be sadly disappointed by the reality. Yet has it beauties of its own-home beauties—gnarled oaks of centuries' growth, and fields of verdure which plough has never dared to touch—such as no country on earth, and I have visited many, can surpass.
And to the sportsman what peculiar charms !-woodlands full of game, and a rippling, sparkling, now calmly flowing, now bounding river, full of trout and salmon, all along the wayside, which may well make the fingers of a lover of Walton's craft itch to be up and at the water's side.
Sporting friends, I have seen a noble red deer brought to bay in the waters of this river—in the very vale I now speak of; many and
many a woodcock bagged in the woodlands ; and many a peel, salmon, and trout, firm and sparkling, cast on the grassy banks.
As Dulverton is approached, the rivers Exe and Barle unite, and the scenery becomes even more and more picturesque. On the right, on an eminence covered with splendid timber, stands the mansion of Pixton, the seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, but now inhabited by a thorough sportsman and hospitable gentleman, who has the good taste to prefer this charming rural retreat to the fetid atmosphere of cities and their enervating pursuits. And thence, nestling, as it were, amid woodland hills, watered by the bright and sparkling Barle, stands our little “ Melton of the West.” Alas! in days scarce to be called “ lang syne,” how many a joyous hour have I passed there, and hope to pass again! Few who chance to visit this quiet spot, save he be a sportsman-and I speak of sportsmen in the general acceptation of the term—but would do more than admire the scenery by which it is surrounded, and the lovely position in which it reposes, and then pass onward. To the sportsman, however, it has other and peculiar charms ; he forthwith asks if the river offers sport. Then, as he proceeds through the little town, ten to one but that here and there he beholds some foxhound or harrier pups, black and tanned, or blue-mottled, gambolling in the sun, or rolling in the streets. Greyhounds are also seen, And many an angler lingers on the river's banks. All this, and more, convinces him that in this rural retreat his tastes will not be thrown away. In fact, this little Dulverton is a very pearl of sporting quarters for those who are prepared to accept the term in its true sense; and more, there are few days in the year in which something may not be done as regards sporting amusements. Moreover, I am bold enough to assert that Devonia is the very beau ideal of a sporting county, as is it the most lovely as regards natural beauties in all England. I by no means infer from this that it is what is termed a good hunting country-very far from it; nevertheless, to the true sportsman, immense excitement, amusement, and instruction may be gained in the field, and alike as regards the wild deerhounds, fox-hounds, harriers, and otter-hounds. I have taken part in some of the longest and finest runs that I ever saw in
life. In reference to the statement that Devonia is rare sporting country, I ground my observation on the fact that there is not a day throughout the year that a man cannot sport; as deer-hounds, fox-hounds, harriers, and otter-hounds, are there supported in double number to any other county in England; in fact, scarcely a parish but has its pack, and in some instances I fancy I am not incorrect in stating that the parson of that parish is the owner of the pack.
I say there is not a day throughout the year that sport is not to be obtained : during the months of January, February, March, and April, there are fox-hounds, harriers, shooting, and fishing ; May and June wild red hind-hunting on Exmoor, and otter-hunting and fishing ; July otter-hunting and fishing ; August and September, even to October, red-deer hunting, harriers,
otter-hunting, shooting, fishing ; November and December, tox-hunting and shooting. Thus, from the very beginning to the end of the year, sport may be had ; and in a
| ; subsequent sketch I shall show that the sport is often first-rate, that is, taken as actual sport.
At Dulverton alone, or in its immediate neighbourhood, no less than three packs of hounds are supported. Imprimis the deer-hounds, known as the Devon and Somerset, peculiar to Devon and Exmoor, in other days maintained in regal style, and now struggling, and not struggling without great hopes of success, to deserve the motto “ Aucto splendore resurgam.” I cannot say that I have seen the present pack, which is, I fancy, kept up by subscription, under the able mastership of the tenant of Pixton Park, Mr. Mordaunt Fenwick ; their force consists of about 22 couple, of which about 18 couple are generally taken into the field. This pack was principally formed from drafts from Lord H. Bentinck's and from the Hon. Mr. Peter's. A few couple, however,
. have been selected from Mr. Bellew and the Old Tiverton ; they are located at March Bridge, in a kennel built three or four years since by Mr. Locke, late of The Coombe, but who is now building a mansion on his own property—much, I should imagine, to the satisfaction of his numerous sporting neighbours, among whom he is deservedly esteemed, as a magistrate, a thorough sportsman, and a hospitable English country gentleman in every sense of the term. The principal meets of the Devon and Somerset deer-hounds are Haddon, the great stronghold of red deer and the Hawkbridge coverts; while those more absolutely in the forest are Symons Bath, Badgworthy, and Larkborough ; the more distant meets from Dulverton being Culbone Wood and Slowly Wood. The last season was a very good one, these hounds having killed no less than five royal stags and one hind, besides taking two young male deer, which were of course liberated. Some of these afforded first-rate runs,
whilst the want of daylight saved many other gallant harts for the glories of another season. But many and many a pleasant day have I passed on the wild and lovely moors of Exmoor, as mid the woodlands, with these hounds, when under the mastership of Thomas Carew, Esq., as well known as he is esteemed in Devon, as subsequently with those under the able mastership of Captain West. And though forsooth I write these lines on board a rolling screw steamer of the French Mes. sagerie Imperiale, while crossing the Adriatic on this, the 4th day of December, my heart and thoughts fly back to those merrie days, and I yearn to be there again.
The fox-hounds, which I hope to see ere the season wanes, are kept by Mr. Bellew. I am told the pack is first-rate ; they have several meets on the moor country; and when they find a good wild fox on Ex- . moor the man must be good, and the horse better, that can live with them. He also hunts a portion, if not the whole, of the country lately hunted by the Tiverton hounds under Mr. Carew, whose pack were wont to be all that the most critical lover of hounds could desire. These hounds are now kennelled at Tekyll, about four miles from Dulverton. Their master, as I mentioned, is Mr. Froude Bellew, assisted by the two Babbages &s huntsman and whip-men who thoroughly know the moors, and are admirable horsemen in a country where, if double posts and rails and ox-fences do not abound, bogs and walls and banks, like little mountains, present themselves on all sides, to say little of the roughest of ground and the steepest of hills. Mr. Bellew has the true blood of a sportsman in his viens, being the nephew of that celebrated judge of hounds, the late so-called “Parson Froude,” who possessed a pack of hounds such as could not be easily matched.
Mr. Arthur Locke, of Coombe, near Dulverton, together I fancy with a friend, whose name for the moment escapes me, although I have seen him perform right well on the pig skin, both on the flat and when following hounds over the moor, are joint masters of the barriers, also kept at Dulverton, and I am told a neater and more sure-killing pack are not to be seen in the land we live in ; up to the 1st of last December they killed 38 brace of hares this season.
If this very rude sea, which poets always describe to be the calm deep blue and placid Mediterranean, but which is, without exception, the most treacherous, changeable, and sickening sea in the world, behaves itself, I hope to be in England shortly ; and if not then, why when the new year comes round, I trust I may once more pass a day or two with the kind and ever-hospitable friends I have found in the Melton of the West, of which more in my next.
(To be continued).
O T T E R
Τ Τ Ε
H U N T I N G.
U N TING
Otter-hunting, like falconry (favourite sports in the days of good Queen Bess), have comparatively fallen into desuetude ; but I trust it will be long before they become wholly extinct. I had once, and only once, the pleasure of attending a hawking party under the superintendence of the Duke of St. Albans, when the high training of the hawks and the excellent sport afforded elicited the applause of all spectators. The becoming costume of the Duke and his attendants realized the descriptions of such scenes in the by-gone days of our ancestors. My present intention, however, is not to attempt to soar high in air, but to descend to the haunts of what has generally been termed an “amphibious animal,” which to a certain extent is correct ; but, strictly speaking, the otter is a land animal. Fond as he is of aquatic pursuits, in which he is pretty frequently engaged to the disgust of the angler, he is compelled to come up to the surface to breathe, or, technically, to “vent ;” and so he properly belongs to terra firma. It is true that his flesh has been permitted for the entertainment of Roman Catholics on fast days; still, much as he delights to regale himself on fish, it is rather“
straining a point” to rank him as a member of the finny tribe. Fond as I am of the angler's craft, I must confess that I should lament the extinction of the otter as I should that of the eagle or the fox. We have but few wild animals in Britain, comparatively speaking, and I should be sorry to see the whole list reduced to the hedgehog and weasel. Well, notwithstanding the march of improvement (?), which drains marshes to the exclusion of snipes, erects mills to the destruction of fish, and intersects with railways a good hunting country, I trust our covers will not be drawn blank for many years to come ; that our salmon will still ascend our mountain streams in defiance of the murder. ous midnight spear, while trout may “ increase and multiply” to an extent sufficient to satisfy the otter, to say nothing of the fresh-water shark and water ouzel, and still leave a population to store the creel of every fair and honest fisher-aye, even the heron included, whose patience and constancy deserve to be rewarded. I must now wind up my fishing lines, and endeavour to take a cast at the fish-loving otter.
There are still many keen and enthusiastic otter-hunters, while there are but few good thorough-bred hounds in the country. Some years ago, when I was residing in the North of England, a sporting friend came down to pay me a visit during the shooting season, and we managed to keep the larder pretty well supplied with game. On one of our blank days I was driving my friend (who was very short-sighted) through a burn, when he begged me to stop a few minutes while he got out to examine something of which he had previously, through an eyeglass, caught a hasty glimpse. I stopped as soon as we had crossed the burn ; out my friend got, and proceeded, in a stooping attitude, to in