Following the amalgamation of the two hunts, we now have a very large country, although unfortunately a lot of it is not huntable as a result of the inexorable encroachment of roads and railways and the general urbanisation of the countryside.
The hunt country runs roughly from the M23 in the west to Hadlow in the east, and from the Isle of Grain in the north down to Fletching in the south. This is an area of approximately 42 miles east to west by 30 miles north to south.
The landscape ranges from the marshes around St. Mary Hoo, across the chalk of the North Downs, into the High Weald of Kent and down onto Ashdown Forest. The going ranges from free draining sand to the heavy Gault clay, the scenery from the open heathland of Ashdown to the conifer plantations of Sheffield Forest and to the Thames Estuary.
The British countryside as we see it today is the result of thousands of years of management by man. Farming practices have shaped the landscape, as has hunting over the past several hundred years.
A “forest” strictly speaking is not a wooded area, but an area of land that was set aside for the purposes of hunting. A very good example in our hunt country is Ashdown Forest – this is not a heavily wooded area and was once the hunting ground of kings. Though we no longer hunt the Fallow deer here we still hunt there every season.
With the development of fox hunting and growth of shooting as a sport, woodland and other management has developed to improve habitats for quarry species. This has had a positive impact on the local biodiversity, benefiting both the fauna and flora by positive management.
When Jack Champion started hunting hounds in 1947, there were only four people to warn between South Park and Four Elms – there are now over seventy for the same days hunting!