Middleton Country. What suits me?
When hunting people talk about the ‘Middleton Country’ they usually are talking about one relatively short triangle just north east of Stamford Bridge running up to Birdsall which is justifiably famous for its old turf, stiff fences and hunt jumps! Generally it is hunted on a Saturday and has a well deserved reputation for being the stiffest country outside Leicistershire. Whilst it is very exciting for those with the horse power and the nerve, there are other aspects to Middleton country which are less well known but no less worth visiting. It’s all a matter of personal taste, we don’t all want to be frightened to death!
This short piece will explore the different possibilities offered by the varying terrain we are lucky enough to enjoy and encourage you to come and visit us, perhaps during the week when the fields are smaller, the welcome may be even warmer, and the hound work itself rather easier to follow!
The country divides itself neatly into three areas which I have for the purposes of this short piece called The East Side, The Saturday Country and The West side. Hunting being what it is, there are always exceptions to this, if in doubt or for further guidance have a chat with one of the two Secretaries!
The East side is essentially the Wolds a vast chalk escarpment that runs from the sea at Bridlington toward Malton. It also includes a relatively small area around Scampston which lies next to the River Derwent which is low lying and seems to produce some very fast days across sandy soil.
The bulk of the trail laying and following on the East Side takes place on top of the Wolds. This is big open rolling countryside interspersed with grassy dales that run off to the lower ground. It is chalk and as a result there is very little running water. Because the land is mainly arable there are very few fences, hedges or roads. A typical East side day will see very little road work; a luxury that all too quickly is taken for granted, its good not to hear the cry of ‘ware car’ every few minutes! Once we locate a trail, then hounds will often fly for several miles, up hill and down dale. We are very fortunate in the support we get from our farmers and it means there are few areas that are closed to us. The East side is rightly famous for its hospitality and offers some particularly charming lawn meets (well usually in farm yards to be precise but no less hospitable for that) and on occasion wonderful breakfasts and the occasional sumptuous hunting tea!
This is what most people think of when they talk of the Middleton. In particular there are three large estates Garrowby Aldby Park and last but by no means least Birdsall, which along with several other neighbouring areas have always been farmed with an eye to ensuring that access for the hunt is possible. This means a profusion of hunt jumps, typically around 2ft 6ins in height and in some places hedges that are trimmed to an inviting 3ft. There is plenty of grass and as long as it is not too wet the field can spread out. Saturday country is rather more extensive than just Birdsall and Garrowby and does not always involve large amounts of jumping. However generally it is right to regard Saturday as the day that will test your jumping or gate opening skills. It is the reason much of the Saturday field comes out and we are fortunate enough to have a bold field master who will lead that part of the field that wants it over some good sized hedges. But remember there is always a way around and always people who, even on a Saturday are out to watch the hounds working and will always find a convenient gate! The choice is yours!
Generally this is the Country to the west of the A64. It is very traditional English countryside, mainly arable, quite trappy and challenging to cross without having anything like the number of jumps that are encountered in the Saturday country. It is often favoured by those with Point to Point Horses to qualify and the trails on offer can be quite ingeniously laid. Easy to access from the A64 it is rather less wild than the East side but offers glorious views of the North York Moors. Like the East Side it would suit the novice horse or novice rider rather better than the Saturday country, and as always with the fences, there is always a gate near by! Although there is a fair bit of jumping in the Wednsday country it is seldom as testing as Saturday, but good fun for all of that. Again there is a warm welcome on offer and if you are new to hunting we will make sure there is someone with experience to give you some, we hope, friendly advice.