Welcome to the next installment in our Countryside Conversation series, where we speak to Countryside Adventurers the G&G team have met over the years.
Following on from our last interview with hunting devotee, Callie Coles, we are delighted to profile another dedicated hunting patron, Edward Foster.
Kate has been lucky enough to have a chat with the founder of the first ever Shropshire Hound Show and former huntsman and MFH, to try and gain just a speck of his illimitable knowledge of fox hounds and an insight into his fascinating hunting life.
Glaze & Gordon first met Edward through hunting with the Albrighton & Woodland Hunt, for which he offers continual guidance, advice and support in various details of running a successful pack. Always a welcoming host at his annual meet, and has been a personal support to both Kate & Becs through hunt fundraising events and counsel on Mastership matters.
2021 is the first year for The Shropshire Hound Show, organised by Edward to celebrate the Shropshire pack in which Edward is so heavily involved. This is Glaze & Gordon's first show of the year, not only for a trade stand but we have also sponsored the two Championship classes on the day!
Over to Kate and Edward...
When did your interest in countryside pursuits such as hunting begin?
"I confess that I have never been terribly interested in shooting or fishing: my focus has always been on hunting and more particularly on the hounds. My father, John Foster, became joint-master and huntsman of the Wheatland Hunt in 1961, whilst I was still quite a little boy. We had brood bitches to whelp at home and hound puppies to walk. During the school holidays I would accompany him regularly on visits to the kennels to walk out the hounds, visit puppy walkers and go out on hound exercise on my pony."
Can you give us a quick run-down of your hunting career?
"As a youngster the vast majority of my hunting happened with the Wheatland although with occasional days out with the Albrighton hounds.
On going up to Cambridge University as an undergraduate in 1974 I soon became involved with the Trinity Foot Beagles. I became a joint-master and joint-huntsman for 2 seasons from 1975-77 which was a terrific privilege and a great opportunity to learn some of the principles of kennel management and how to handle a pack of hounds in the field.
Whipping-in to the Trinity Foot Beagles on a visit to Northumberland in 1975.Edward Foster on far left.
After graduating and spending some time learning to farm in France I came back to Shropshire to help my father on our mixed farm near Bridgnorth. He and his joint-master at the Wheatland, Richard Milner, kindly allowed me to fill the role of amateur 2nd whipper-in which I did for 4 incredibly enjoyable seasons before becoming a joint-master in 1983. I then hunted the hounds for 5 seasons before an expanding business and a growing family left me with insufficient time to give to that role. Nevertheless I remained in the Mastership for another 7 seasons carrying out the duties of field-master, firstly for Richard Milner and then for Richard Fisk. My father retired from the Mastership in 1995 and I finished at the same time.
With my father, Captain John Foster, master of the Wheatland for 34 seasons
I became a joint-master of the South Shropshire Hunt in 2004 at the same time as Otis Ferry who was only 21 at the time. I remained in the joint-Mastership for 3 seasons, long enough for Otis to have become properly established. In the meantime, of course, the Hunting Act came into being which changed everything for us.
I gave up riding in 2008: it had become too uncomfortable owing to an unreliable back."
What piece of advice would you give to people that are looking to start hunting?
"Two general bits of advice:
When you first come out hunting it is better to be under horsed than over horsed.
Come out during Autumn hunting as the pace is more gentle and the weather tends to be better than after the Opening Meets in early November.
One bit of advice specifically for boys:
Resist being sent out in your older sister’s hand-me-down side-buttoning jodhpurs!"
We know you are an avid follower of, and have a huge input into, hound breeding. What attributes make the best hunting hounds?
"All hounds pursue the line of their quarry, whether or natural or man-made, by use of their noses i.e. they hunt it’s scent. The number one pre-requisite for a successful hound therefore is it’s scenting ability.
There are many other attributes required as well and some of these may vary from hunt country to hunt country. For example, in the huge woods to be found in the Wheatland country, voice or cry is particularly important. In the hills hunted by the United Pack and the South Shropshire independence and drive, which is the ability to push on without human assistance, is vital whereas in a more restricted country like the Albrighton and Woodland, hounds need to be very biddable as they may frequently have to be stopped because of roads etc."
Wheatland Rosebud’92. Champion Bitch at Peterborough in 1994, being shown by Norman Stubbings
Do you have a very favourite hound, whether from the past or present, that has always stuck in your mind?
"My favourite hound was Wheatland Thoughtless 1982, by Eskdale & Ennerdale Champion 1978 out of Topaz 1978. She was smaller than the norm for the Wheatland, light-framed but very correct. She was never sick or sorry, could clear obstacles like a steeple-chaser in spite of her lack of inches but most importantly she had drive and fox-sense in abundance. At a check when the hounds were at fault and had lost the line she would cast herself at top speed across several fields, if necessary, before hitting off the line again. Also at the end of a hunt she would draw away from the rest of the pack to conclude matters. We did breed one litter from her but unfortunately her progeny were not in the same league as her. Breeding hounds can be a very frustrating business!"
Edward Foster hunting the Wheatland hounds with Thoughtless ‘82, second hound from left, after a good hunt around Monkhopton.
We know from personal experience that you are a huge supporter of the Shropshire/Staffordshire packs, what keeps you involved?
"What keeps me involved is my love of the hound, of hunting, of hunting people and of our wonderful countryside in which hunting takes place. A vociferous, unscrupulous and even, at times, violent opposition have tried to take our hunting heritage away from us but fortunately hunting people are very resilient and do not like being dictated to."
The Shropshire Foxhound Show is a new show organised by yourself, designed to celebrate the Shropshire packs - what brought about the idea of the show?
"The idea of holding a Shropshire Fox Hound Show came about as a result of other shows, namely Malvern, Builth Wells and Blaston, having been cancelled for this year because of Covid-19 restrictions. We have filled the vacuum for this year at least.
Also I saw this as an opportunity to encourage like-minded country people to meet up for a ‘jolly’ after so much enforced isolation and to thank and pay tribute to our splendid hunt-staff who do so much to enable our sport to continue in such challenging times."
Do you hope to make The Shropshire Hound Show an annual event? What should people attending expect from the show?
"We will have to wait and see how we get on at this years hound show. If there is sufficient support and enthusiasm for a similar future event then we will obviously consider it but I certainly would not wish for us to interfere with larger and longer-established shows which should be back by next year."
Thank you very much Edward.
It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to Edward and find out his take on the sport that is so close to our hearts. We are lucky enough to have won one of his infamous supper parties at the last hunt fundraiser so this has 'whet our appetite' perfectly to look forward to an evening enjoying good food and good conversation from someone we know will be a charming host!
We also look forward to our presence at The Shropshire Hound Show next week.
The Shropshire Hound Show is taking place on Wednesday 30th June at Leighton Hall, Near Shrewsbury.