Hunt apologises after hounds “run amok” in Norfolk village

Roger Atterwill in the burial ground at Swanton Morley, which was invaded by fox hounds at the weeke

Roger Atterwill in the burial ground at Swanton Morley, which was invaded by fox hounds at the weekend during a hunt. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Norfolk hunt has come under fire after its hounds were said to have got out of control and 'run amok' across a village burial ground, urinated in people's gardens and 'terrorised' their pets and poultry.

The burial ground at Swanton Morley, which was invaded by fox hounds at the weekend during a hunt. P

The burial ground at Swanton Morley, which was invaded by fox hounds at the weekend during a hunt. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A day after Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said the ban on fox hunting should be repealed, people in Swanton Morley were voicing their anger at the West Norfolk Foxhounds who held a meet in their village on Saturday.

In a strongly-worded letter to one of the Masters of the Hunt, parish council chairman Roger Atterwill said their actions on the day caused considerable distress throughout the village.

He said according to witnesses the hounds left their intended trail and began to pursue a fox on the outskirts of the village.

Julian Fuller, one of the joint masters of the hunt, has since apologised for any distress caused and blamed 'inexperienced' hounds which had crossed on to another scent.

He also offered assurances that the disturbance would not happen again.

In his letter, Mr Atterwill wrote: 'I am led to believe that dogs entered at least one garden from the front of Thompson Close causing distress to the owner's pets and poultry as well as entering the grounds of the Old Rectory. From here eyewitnesses have informed me that your dogs were running amok inside the burial ground. I cannot begin to describe how abhorrent this is to local people especially those who have loved ones buried there. That place is consecrated ground and as such should be treated with the utmost respect at all times.

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'The dogs then proceeded to run into the back gardens of people living in Thompson Close as well as terrorise one particular household in Middleton Avenue resulting in damage to their garden and causing great distress to them and their pets. It is also completely unacceptable that your dogs were allowed to urinate in their front garden or congregate as a pack on the adjacent children's playing field. Did you not even consider that children might be playing in this area or indeed playing in their gardens? You were not invited onto any of these properties and had no lawful business being there. Clearly something went wrong on Saturday.'

He added that the incident in the burial ground had been reported to the police.

Mr Fuller has written back to Mr Atterwill to apologise for any distress caused and blamed 'inexperienced' hounds which had crossed on to another scent.

He said: 'At this time of year we are involved in training the young hounds to follow a trail left by a person. I accept that on Saturday when following a trail across a stubble field to the north east of Swanton Morley village the inexperienced hounds crossed on to another scent and went in to the village. Immediately this happened the hunt staff were on hand to remove them and I and the other hunt staff spoke to the residents to apologise to them there and then.

'It was not our intention to cause any distress to anyone and am not aware of any damage caused. We are very grateful to the support we have received from Norfolk's residents.

'The Hunt is only able to function thanks to the good will of the people of Norfolk. It is through their voluntary support and permission that the Hunt has continued for so long. We would never take their support in the future for granted.

'I am extremely sorry for any distress that we caused and am keen to see anyone who has been inadvertently missed out, I will do everything I can to make sure that it doesn't happen again in the future.'

In a poll on the EDP website the majority of voters agreed with Ms Truss that the 2004 Hunting Act was a 'mistake' although most of the comments were against repealing the act.

The Conservatives had pledged a free vote on the matter after promising to lift the ban in their manifesto for the 2010 general election.

But Ms Truss said the party now planned to delay the vote until after the May election.

* Do you think the fox hunting ban was a mistake? Cast your vote at www.edp24.co.uk or write to dft.letters@archant.co.uk

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