So there we were tootling up St. John’s in the Vale when the roads were suddenly chaotic with vehicles parked here, there and everywhere. The drivers had their binoculars out and were intensively watching the fells. Curiosity piqued, we stopped.
Before long we picked out a dog high on the fells of High Rigg dashing in and out the bracken. And then another, and then another. There must have been a two or three of dozen. Five or six folks were observing from high above with a solitary chap lower down. The dogs must have been part of one of the packs of Lakeland Fell Hounds taking part I assume in a day of the Lakeland tradition of trail hunting. They can’t have been fox hunting because that’s illegal.
The Lakeland foxhound is more lightly built than it lowland counterpart with ‘hare feet’ and long toenails, genetic adaptations enabling them to hunt up and down the steep scree and crags of the Lakes. Supposedly the hounds follow a man-laid scent usually laid by dragging a piece of fabric, slightly soaked with a combination of aniseed and paraffin oil, along the course. To lay the trail using this method is quite a feat even if the task is shared. It is contended however that some packs are trained to follow a trail laid with fox urine. With this method, of course, the hounds can not tell the difference between a laid trail and a real fox trail.
The trail layers mustn’t have done a very good job in this case. The hounds did not seem to be purposely following a scent, just milling around the bottom of a crag.