A YORKSHIRE hunt has been accused of “vandalising” an important limestone pasture overlooking Wensleydale which was bought out of public funds to mark the Millennium.
The Bedale Hunt galloped onto Leyburn Shawl, which was bought four years ago using a 43,800 Heritage Lottery grant and been turned into a public open space.
A management group of volunteers which looks after the 12.5-acre site has installed gates and disabled access to a platform to view the dramatic vista over Wensleydale.
But the land was churned up by riders and followers of the Bedale Hunt in pursuit of a fox last Saturday. Now Mayor of Leyburn Trixie Walker is demanding compensation from the hunt for the damage she claims has been caused to the area. Neighbouring West of Yore Hunt has agreed to stay off the Shawl and Coun Walker claims the Bedale Hunt was aware of that arrangement.
“We have installed gates right along there so people can go and see the magnificent view but they have come along and absolutely churned it up beyond all recognition. It’s an absolute disgrace,” she said.
“We have complained to the Bedale Hunt but we have heard nothing from them. Leyburn Town Council will now be writing to the hunt master and we expect some recompense.”
Coun Walker said access to the Shawl, which is made up of three fields, was in prime condition despite being wet. “These are limestone pastures with wild flowers and all sorts of things. It’s the pride and joy of Leyburn but it’s been vandalised by these lunatics on horseback,” she added.
But the Master of the Bedale Hunt, David Ford, said the hunt had been on the edge of its range and had been unaware of the arrangement to keep off the Shawl, although he knew the land belonged to the community.
“We had been following a fox from Harmby which had crossed the A684 and then doubled back. The followers went into the field to get them off the main road. There were young children on ponies with us and I didn’t want them milling around on the road because of the speed cars go along there,” he said.
“I regret the damage that’s been caused. It’s unfortunate that the town council did not contact us directly…It could have been resolved amicably but we have no intention of going there again.”