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and remarkably enduring race of Exmoor ponies will be found standing at all times, ready saddled at your command, and for a small outlay you may go anywhere or everywhere, up rocky hills, down slippery slopes, with wife or daughter or the lady of your heart, in safety; for these little animals possess undeniable qualities of elasticity and limb. Bathing is there, also, in the briny ocean; and when the weather is clear, the distant blue hills of Wales form a pleasing background to the broad waters of the Bristol Channel. So much for Lynmouth as an abiding place, apart from the pleasures of the chase. Moreover, though steep and rugged richly wooded hills surround it at all points, and the approaches from all sides are such as to unnerve the timid on their first approach from the heathered hills which surround it in the far distance, it is nevertheless easily reached, even from the Great Metropolis, during the long summer days and golden autumn time, between breakfast and dinner; and yet how few, how very few-notwithstanding the thousands who fly from east to west, north and south, beyond the white cliffs of Albion, in search of the picturesque, or for pastime, or novelty-comparatively, ever venture there! To those who may perchance read these pages, I would venture, with the hope they may be induced to prove the truth of my assertions, to point out to them how easily a sight of this spot, teeming with nature's beauties, may be obtained. The Great Western Railway-and who can deny the comfort of travelling thereby?-in a few short hours whirls you from Paddington to Bridgewater; arrived there, a mail-coach awaits you, which, passing through Minehead, Porlock, and over the moor, through some of the richest scenes of cultivation, varied by moorland beauties, deposits you, with little trouble or fatigue, at the hospitable portals of the Lyndale Hotel, in time for a late dinner; and having slept away the fatigues of travel, in the clean and downy couch, which will there await you, on awaking, throw awide your windows, and look forth and then, whether the clouds hang heavily on the woodlands, and the brook, full from recent rains, rush like a torrent over moss-covered rock and stone, or be it that the bright sun welcome you, as it has for a month past, and the stream flow placidly on towards the sea, your love of nature must be weak indeed, if the pulsations of your heart do not throb in delight that you gaze on such a picture, and be full of gratitude to God that he has made such scenes for man's enjoyment in this our noble England.
In previous papers on the subject of Wild Deer Hunting on Exmoor, as also in a humble work entitled "Exmoor," published by Mr. Newby, of Welbeck-street, I have already entered so fully into the details of the hounds and their owners, for more than half a century back, that it will not be well that I recapitulate it here; enough, that from the middle of August, the period when deer-hunting commences, till the middle of September, the hounds are kennelled at the beautiful spot I have endeavoured briefly to describe; they are then generally removed for a brief period to Exford, a small village equidistant from Lynmouth and Dulverton, and subsequently take up their quarters at Dulverton for the remainder of the season. While at Exford, sportsmen will find either Lynmouth or Dulverton convenient for their meets. At Dulverton, man and horse will obtain very fair accommodation at the Red Lion; though without favour or affection, I must admit that the Lyndale Hotel causes me to be somewhat fastidious as to a change of quarters.
I write, moreover, with an anxious desire that my brother sportsmen, wherever they may be, should be induced to gather in due season to these favoured spots; and having once taken part in the truly noble sport, I fear not the necessity of further laudation on my part to bring them once more to the rendezvous, when, the year coming round, the horn again echoes over heathered hill, from Simonsbath and Brendon Barton, to be wafted back from Horner and Culbone.
The hunting from Lynmouth, and that from Dulverton, are, however, greatly varied. From Lynmouth, the deer, though not seldom roused by the tufters, from the dense woods which close in the steep vales and ravines which descend towards the sea, and clothe the almost impracticable sides down to the very beach, are more frequently found and roused on the open, and then it is indeed a glorious sight for those who are gathered there to behold the find, trebly so to those who are well mounted and desire to follow in a chase which frequently lasts, without one single check, over a dozen or twenty miles of heathered hill and dale; whereas the meets from Dulverton are, generally speaking, (though not always), confined to the extensive woodlands which clothe the neighbouring hills by which it is surrounded, as also the large coverts which border the forest of Exmoor. In these woods the nose and condition of the tufters are not seldom put to the test for hours; while the assembled sportsmen, as also the ladies, who frequently honour the meet by their presence, may view a noble stag crashing through underwood, or a graceful hind bounding up the woodland slopes. But when at length they do break, and the gallant pack are laid on, the run afforded is not seldom as good as that from the open; and then, indeed, splendid is the sport to him who finds himself on a well-conditioned hunter well up to his weight, and has the heart and nerve to ride him; without such a horse and such a heart, far better witness the burst, and prove you have the courage, the firmness, and the good sense, to ride quietly home, and hope for better luck next time. I had heard and believed, long ere I had the good fortune to take part in the pleasant scenes I am endeavouring to describe, that to ride over the forest after a flying pack, with a five-year-old stag in the van, was a feat only to be successfully performed by one long accustomed to the country, and mounted on an animal halfspirit and half-eagle. With all courtesy to those who so misled me, I must admit I believed in a fiction, exploded the very moment I witnessed and took part in the fact. I had been told there were bogs, which, to get in was smotheration for horse and man; and bogs are there, and very bad ones; but it by no means follows that once in a hundred times either man or horse who gets in them is in great danger of losing his life or the run. I admit that during the present season, owing to the month of August having been particularly dry, the riding over the moor has been far better than it has for years; and, unquestionably, in many places it is at times cruelly deep. But, as I said before, with a proper horse in proper condition, which is a sine quâ non, and a rider with nerve and heart, hounds may be followed over the moor as easily as over any country in England.
But I would desire to say a word or two to those who may come from afar for the stag-hunting season on Exmoor, and who really desire to see a chace. It is this: if you be good sportsmen, do as you do in your own country-hunt with the hounds wherever the country is prac
ticable; you can do no more. But beware of the enticing voice of some first-rate fellow, as far as good humour, hospitality, and so forth are concerned, for there are many on Exmoor who know every yard of the forest; as do they, in imagination, every point in a run the moment a stag is roused. Beware, I say, of such kind and courteous gentlemensome of them not seldom mounted on first-rate Exmoor ponies-for, be assured, if you follow them you will see much of the moor and the heather, but nothing of the hounds, and, consequently, nothing of hunting. If you want a gallop over the forest, ride as the crow flies from Brendon Barton to Dulverton; and ask one of these gallant fellows to show you the way. But if you want to see the hounds, mount yourself as I have advised you, and stick as close as you can to their master, Captain West, or to old Sam on his chesnut horse Clear-the-way, or the whip Alfred on Pickwick. If they go into a bog-and chance they may, for they are not easily stopped; for, although this is only their second season on the moor, they are always a-head with the hounds-why you will be in good company, and be enabled to assist in pulling them out, or they will assist you. But beware, I say, of those Will-o'-the-Wisps who ride for a point, or perchance you may find yourself, after a gallop of ten miles, on an open common with a select few; while the pack, having been racing their game, are running into him ten miles in an opposite direction.
Now it chanced to be my good fortune, on or about the 28th of the month past, to receive the following billet doux-for sweet was it to my inclination-from a kind sportsman who lives for his friends as well as his own pleasure among the woodlands hard by the forest of Exmoor ; for be it known, the forest is treeless :
"The weather is intensely hot here. I long for a sight of the hounds and for a hogshead of Exmoor air; the best medicine in the world. F--will drive me up on the 3rd. Have the wine cooled; I will be there.
Bright was the morning that I started for his hospitable home, where for three successive years I have enjoyed a week's uninterrupted pleasure; and ere the dinner-bell had sounded o'er the woodlands, I had met with a hearty welcome. Two hours afterwards one of the quaint bottles had been emptied of its excellent contents; and, seated in his snuggery, with open window and a glorious autumn moon shining o'er the dark pine forests, we spoke of hind and hart, hound and huntsmanthough the heat was intense-till the clock proclaimed another day had passed. Out of the trio there pleasantly assembled, however, it so chanced that I was doomed alone to meet the hounds on the forest eighteen miles distant from the home of my friend on the following morning, my horse, however, was in the stable, my leathers in my port
manteau, and my heart in the sport; and what was distance in such weather amid such scenery, and with the hope of a chace in the van? 6 A.M., therefore, found me on Old Jorrocks's back, as good an old hunter as ever took a fence, though somewhat out of condition, and past the meridian of life's elasticity, but with undeniable pluck, breed, and stamina; in his early days, doubtless, a sort of Kingston; in his latter an agreeable Rozinante. Blue was the vault of Heaven, and brightly shone the sun, as calmly we pursued our way along the borders of the sparkling Barle, and mounted the steep woodland hill which led towards the forest; and beautiful was the scene we beheld on gaining its heathered surface. But anon as we rose higher, the blue heavens became overcast, and dense clouds and mist swept over the forest, leaving only the route discernible. Strange and saddening was the effect— as must it be, I fancy, to all accustomed to moorland scenery-this sudden change from elastic air and bright sunshine to driving clouds, mist, and moisture; but the change in this instance was only the forerunner of hot and brilliant weather, for scarcely had I reached the Red Deer-a lone hostelry on the moor which boasts of few luxuries within or without-than all again was brightness and beauty. Here I gave my gallant steed, Old Jorrocks, half a bucket of gruel and a feed of oats, with a few handfuls of beans intermixed; for which, could he have spoken, he would have uttered words polite, though I had hitherto only called on his energies for a ten-mile walk; and having seen that he enjoyed these creature-comforts, I attended to mine own in the way of two fresh eggs and a cup of liquid called tea, but I fancy the earth of China never nourished the shrub from which it was plucked. We had still eight miles to the meet-Brendon Barton, within a few short miles of beautiful Lynmouth. But time there was to take it coolly, and Jorrocks being refreshed, we walked on merrily, the fresh breezes from the moor conveying to the smell the honied essence of the heather. Simonsbath was gained, and looked on with interest as the forest-residence of a good sportsman, and the best, as I would fain hope he may not be the last, true-deer preserver. A few miles beyond Simonsbath we crossed a rippling brook, the merest mountain rivulet in size; yet was it the first evidence of a mighty river, which, flowing past the city of Exeter, becomes navigable for ships of great tonnage, and joins the ocean at Exmouth as the river Exe. Beyond this a steep ascent rises on the moor; and as we approached its summit, two open carriages, drawn by post-horses and filled with cheerful tourists who were crossing the forest, commenced their descent. At the same time Old Jorrocks pricked up his ears and walked out with renewed vigour, while I fancied-and my fancy was correct-that I could just hear the notes of the huntsman's horn in the vale below.
"Have you seen the hounds, sir?" I exclaimed to a gentleman who sat on the box of the foremost carriage.
They are just over the crest of the hill," he replied.
Welcome intelligence. So far my hopes were all but gained. Lightly I touched Jorrocks's side with the spur; he answered to the touch. We gained the hill-top, and what a sight was there!
Far in the distance, yet clear to view, rolled the blue waters of the Bristol Channel, backed by the picturesque outline of the Welsh coast. To my right, before me, as towards the route I had approached, miles
and miles of treeless moor were seen; yet so undulating, and painted here and there with extensive patches of purple heather, that that which in mid-winter time would be bleak and cheerless, could be pictured in imagination into a vast region of flowing verdure and flower-land on which groups of cattle, as groups of Exmoor ponies ranged wild-pictures of nature unsurpassed in beauty for an artist's eye; which, nevertheless, artists rarely paint. While below, a densely-wooded ravine, from which forked, as it were, two smaller wooded ravines, branching upwards to the Moor and descending till they opened in a broader base to the very shore, where, close-nestled beneath sheltering hills, and hard by the rushing tide, reposed the little town or village of Lynmouth. In these luxuriant woods the tufters were hard at work, cheered by old Sam and their gallant master; while on the heathered slope above were scattered two score or more of anxious sportsmen. Ladies also were there, and visitors from Linton and Lynmouth; among others, that firstrate sportsman Lord Gifford and his lady; ponies and horses, and even donkeys, being in great demand; while groups of pedestrians covered each neighbouring high land, anxious to view away the stag.
I dismounted from my faithful Jorrocks, and, throwing myself on a heathered bank, gazed with admiration on a scene replete with interest and beauty; but I had pleasure and sport in anticipation, which I scarcely dared to hope for.
The deer, regardless of the intense sun's heat, evidently preferred the fresh breezes of the forest to the heated shades of the woodlands, and outlying deer were soon reported on the moor. The tufters were, therefore, withdrawn from covert, the pack called on, and, headed by old Sam and their master, we trotted rapidly towards Badjory Common. Scarce had I time to shake hands with him, and to pass some approving remarks on the beauty of the scene and condition of his hounds, ere three well-grown hinds were viewed quietly feeding on the base of a green vale, through which the waters of Exe were flowing. In a moment the whole field pulled up, breathless with delight; and the pack, under the strict command of Sam, were kept in hand, ready for the chase. Our approach, however, was sufficient: no animal
has a keener scent than has a deer, or leaves a warmer one on his slot. They turned, looked for an instant on their remorseless enemies, and fled, fleet as the wind across, the forest. The pack, on being drawn to the spot where the hinds had been feeding, instantly settled like a hive of bees on the scent; and "Forward, away!" with one unanimous voice, was echoed over hill and dale.
From Lark's Hall, or Badgery, the race continued without the slightest check to Mills Slade, at the entrance of one of the steep ravines before named; but disdaining to take shelter in the woodlands or in the waters which flow towards the channel, be turned and continued his race to the steep woods near Culbone, impracticable for horsemen, and there, after a brief respite, fell to the eager pursuit of the gallant pack. And thus terminated a run of full twelve miles, pace throughout the very best. Every horse in the field had enough; and I must confess Old Jorrocks had more than enough; so dismounting from his back, though light was the weight he had borne, I walked quietly back down the steep hill to Lynmouth, full of unalloyed delight with my day's sport, undisturbed by the slightest regret that I had come thus