Tally Ho! Sailing friends and an unusual encounter

A peaceful stroll with friends across the undulating grassy fields surrounding the tiny Wiltshire village of Berwick Saint John was abruptly interrupted when we became aware of a dull rhythmic rumbling – a thundering sound that was relentlessly drawing closer and closer towards us. Then we heard the sound of joyous barking.

Suddenly over the crest of a hill a large gang of dogs followed by a massive throng of horses and riders appeared – heading straight for us. It was the local hunt!

A large gang of happy dogs came over the crest of a hill

Remarkably, this was the first time that our hosts Meryon and Suzy and mutual friends Tim and Pim had ever seen this uniquely British sight despite their innumerable walks through the English countryside over many years.

The dogs were closely followed by a cavalry of horse and riders

Now I would be the first person to be totally revolted by a gang of riders and a pack of hounds intent on chasing a terrified fox and ending its life in a most inhumane way. However, this was a drag hunt with no animal being chased and I have to admit the sight of the dashing horses and baying hounds was truly breathtaking. (Note: I acknowledge drag hunts can inadvertently end up with attacks on wild animals occurring and do not condone this.)

A sight rarely seen when out for a quiet stroll

It seemed to me that the people on this hunt were perfectly happy to trail the hounds who were following a scent that had been dragged over the fields by a human. Horses, hounds and people were thoroughly enjoying just being outside on this splendid day (see video)

The horn blowing (see video), the thundering hooves and the overjoyed dogs were quite a thrill to see

As a horse lover it was magnificent to see mounts of all shapes and sizes (and colours) enjoying being part of a herd, cantering up hill and down dale in the fresh crisp air of early spring.

Horses of all shapes, sizes and colours

The humans were also having a ball and were of very different shapes and sizes – from the tall and regal looking red coated master of the hunt to the black hacking jacketed, red cheeked and beplaited little girls on their Thelwell ponies and the hefty, strong and tweedy farm labourers on their sturdy steeds – and everything between.

Having a break

The dogs too looked overjoyed to be running with their pack through the countryside at top speed.

The dogs loved running with a pack

For a little while, dogs, horses and people stopped for a break on a flat piece of land where we happened to be standing – close to where the farmer who owned the land was sitting on his tractor.

The master of the hunt pauses to take stock

The hunt master chatted with the farmer, asking if the sheep in the field below would be worried by the hunt and having a general chat about the weather, the turnout etc

There were some beautiful horses

While they were resting the horses, the riders conversed amongst themselves catching up on the usual topics – family, friends, work etc.

There were also some very skilled riders

Then the dogs were off again encouraged by the harsh tooting of the Master of the Hound’s long brass horn. The hunt participants followed the urgent blasts – some cantering, some at a trot and others, tired from the morning’s exertions, taking up the rear at a dignified walking pace.

The hounds were larger than I expected
On the move again

When the air was still again and peace restored we resumed our walk and agreed that whatever the rights or wrongs of drag hunting, meeting the hunt completely by chance had been an incredible and unique experience.

Peace is restored in the lovely Wiltshire countryside
On our way back to Meryon and Suzy’s
Some of the riders stopped for a drink at the local pub – right next door to our hosts’ house

We had arrived at the Dorset port of Poole from Cherbourg just that morning after a restful but windy crossing.

The trip to Cherbourg from St Georges de Didonne had been easy and we had a very pleasant stop in Mariel-Sur-ley-Dissais where we bought delicious bread and even more delicious pastries.

Always something interesting to see as we drive along
One of the many beautiful chateaux that we saw as we drove
Even the wrapping looked wonderful
These beautiful tarts tasted as good as they looked!
It was great to see that Spring had arrived in France

Our early arrival in Cherbourg had allowed time for a quick stroll, a hasty shop for various cheeses and lunch at a North African cafe near the port before heading to the ferry.

Driving into Cherbourg
We loved this retro poster for the restaurant
Lovely tableware!
A very enjoyable middle Eastern meal

Originally we had been scheduled to depart France in the late afternoon but only found out after we arrived and were sitting at the head of a non-existent queue that the crossing had been rescheduled and would be leaving around midnight.

The ferry route from Cherbourg to Poole in Dorset

We were fortunate to be offered a double room with en-suite at a vastly reduced cost in compensation for the time change so we arrived in Poole feeling very fresh early the next morning having slept most of the way over on the almost empty ferry.

Driving on to the ferry
Shame we couldn’t just sleep in the van!
The ferry was almost empty
Arriving in Poole

It was wonderful to catch up with our four friends who we had originally met on the Sail Indonesia Rally in 2015. We had a great time together eating wonderful home cooked food, drinking wine and talking, talking, talking.

A beautiful Spring day in England
Such a narrow lane to Berwick Saint John!
The tiny village of Berwick Saint John

That night we were very glad to be parked in the front drive of Meryon and Suzy’s beautiful home sheltered from the ferocious overnight storm that brought down trees, caused floods throughout the country and had wreaked havoc on the roads.

There were snow drops everywhere!
Wonder how many souls live there now?
Parked in front of Meryon and Suzy’s beautiful home
Our hosts looked after us superbly

Please note: We are/were not travelling at the time of Corona Virus – this blog is from some weeks previous when we were all free to travel at will!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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