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David Cameron skips west Wales hunt

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Charles Frampton; Master and Huntsman to the Heythrop Hunt

Charles Frampton; Master and Huntsman to the Heythrop Hunt

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron sent his apologies to ‘drag’ hunters in Pembrokeshire as the European Council took priority over local drag hunt as part of hunt week.

On Monday (Feb 1) The famous hunting club the Duke of Beaufort’s Huntsman, Tony Holdsworth brought along the clubs hounds to initiate the hunt week in Pembrokeshire which started at Castle Morris in North Pembrokeshire.

After a full day’s hunt, members of Pembrokeshire, South Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire Hunt clubs, as well as visitors from all over the UK prepared themselves for the arrival of the famous Heythrop Hunt club, who it was said would be accompanied by the Prime Minister.

Christopher Harte, Carmarthenshire Hunt’s PR manager invited the Herald to attend the hunts and said: “On Monday the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt, known as the ‘badminton,’ was met by visitors from surrounding counties at Castlemorris. The following day the meet at Haycastle was with the Heythrop Hunt whose best known rider is the Prime Minister, David Cameron.”

Mr Cameron’s absence was apologised for on the evening, but the gathering of hunters were not deterred and turned up in force with almost 30 riding hunters and in total around 90 people arriving to see off the hounds and chasers.

Over the past week a number of hunts have taken place in South West Wales, and in total over three thousand riders, foot followers and supporters have turned up at the South Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Tivyside and Vale of Clettwr Hunts.

‘Drag’ hunting has taken place in the UK and has been a large part of country living since the early 19th century, it involves dragging a scent along the ground for a set distance for the hounds to follow, the scent is usually made from oils and sometimes animal meats or urine.

Farmers often vocalise their dislike of foxes and explain that the reason the animals are considered pests is due to the surplus killing they commit when entering farms, especially into chicken coops, where they may kill several but only eat one.

The sport and its gatherings often attract anti-hunting activists who instead of choosing to take action lawfully, go down the more illegitimate group.

A representative of the South West Wales hunts explained the practices of the protesters and saboteurs: ”We do, occasionally get our hunt meetings interrupted by balaclava wearing youths. These are mainly students from the Bristol area who are paid to be silly for the day. The organisers, both of whom are based in Pembroke, pay £30 to each student, and they get a packed lunch as well.”

“You know these idiots are not animal lovers as in recent weeks they have lured hounds on to main roads where some have been hit and injured by passing vehicles.”

Mrs S.M Johnson from Lampeter who travelled over an hour and half to the first hunt, and over two hours to the second told the Herald about what her fellow hunters have experienced when protesters have been present: “I myself have been lucky enough to never have a run-in with such people, but from what is said by other members of the hunt, it accomplishes nothing and leaves a bad taste for the day, for everybody involved.”

On the second day while on horseback Mrs Johnson said: “The best time of day is around about half past two when everybody else goes home and there are only a few of you left it’s like the private view before the big exhibition and you never know you may get a very interesting bit of development at that time of day.”

Taught by Mrs Noreen Vaughan a national hunt breeder and former competitor at Wembley, Grace Evans riding Abergwaun Acrobat attended the hunt riding side saddle and said:

“Noreen took me under her wing too teach me everything I know and I went to county and competed there, and came forth, and ever since we’ve been going hunting as much as we can.” Noreen added: “Hunting has been going for centuries and is just part of the countryside, long may it continue, it brings everyone from all walks of life together, it hopefully will never be stopped.”

A spokesman for the Hunts said: “Both days were splendid and the hospitality given by the hosting hunt people was absolutely perfect. We were overwhelmed by the kindness shown to us and both days were a joy to behold.”

He added: “For the past twelve years all of these hunts have complied with the law by only laying “drag” trails for the horses and hounds to follow. These trails are expertly laid down and often results in hunts taking over six hours to complete the course.”

“The support of the farming community is essential to the survival of the hunts and virtually every farmer in the wide area gives permission for the hunts to use their land.”

One Carmarthenshire resident against fox hunting said: “Hiding behind the age-old excuse of tradition and the hunter instinct, they take life that is virtually useless to them in terms of sustenance. It is merely a method of satisfying a hidden psychopathic urge, tempered only by the laws of the land that prevent them from killing fellow human beings for sport.”

However a representative from South West Wales hunts said: “The old concept of hounds chasing and killing wild animals is a far-fetched urban myth which, alas, is still considered to be the case by those who are ignorant of the facts.”

Highlighting the community spirit of the hunt he continued: “What is of considerable satisfaction to the hunts and their committees are the number of young people who become active members. In some hunts the weekly turnout can reach up to 20% of the riders.”

Tom Quinn, Campaigns Director for the League Against Cruel Sports said: “Although hunts claim they act within the law, we believe that many of them continue to hunt illegally. The Heythrop Hunt is a good example of this, having been convicted of hunting illegally in 2012.

“Anyone who claims that trail hunting is the same as drag hunting doesn’t know what they are talking about. Drag hunting is a legal and cruelty-free pastime where hounds follow an artificial scent. But no traditional hunts claim to drag hunt – they all claim to trail hunt with hounds trained on a fox-based scent.

“Unsurprisingly the hounds of hunts that claim to be trail hunting often end up chasing and killing live foxes. But the hunts often avoid prosecution by protesting that it was an accident. The hunts will claim that the only time they can’t control their hounds is when they’re about to kill a fox. This is clearly absurd. Huntsmen are experts at controlling their hounds which makes their claims that these illegal hunting incidents are accidents even more unbelievable.

“Hunt monitors around the country regularly see hunts chasing foxes and there have been a number of well publicised incidents recently where hunts have killed foxes. Unlike hunts and their followers, these animal lovers give up their time to help stamp out cruelty, and would never mistreat hounds or horses.”

Local artist and animal rights activist Diana Brook commented: “I think that it is abhorrent that it is still taking place in our countryside, that it is unlawful and that it is fully endorsed by our MP Simon Hart.

“He does not represent the majority of opinion and he certainly doesn’t represent me.”

Diana also mentioned a petition, which states: “There is a direct conflict of interest between our MP’s paid employment of a bloodsport lobbying organisation and his membership of the EFRA committee.” And is calling for him to leave either.

South Pembrokeshire Hunt master for a decade until 1997/8: Simon Hart MP, did not wish to comment on any current hunts but responded to the petition: “Sadly they clearly haven’t bothered to look at the rules of membership and declaration for select committees as if they had they would have realised that one of my committee colleagues is Vice President of the League Against Cruel Sports – and the committee is the richer for it!”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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