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Closing meet review from Georgie Archer

Our young hunting correspondent, Georgie Archer, has written a closing meet review from the Golden Valley Hunt: With a sense of both disappointment because I had not been able to get out as much as I would have liked this season, and anticipation as I was excited about going to the closing meet, I readied Bugsy for the day of hunting to come. Once tacked up, we trotted eagerly up the road towards where everyone was meeting to cross Cefn Hill to get to The Abbey Farm. For once, I had not had to scrub the knee-high white socks on Bugsy's legs as I knew that I was going to have to ride through a muddy wood just to get to the meet and, given his hogged mane, there was no need to plait. What a luxurious start!

Powering through the wood, we trampled along a path that boasted a thin layer of snow and, as this was the first I had ridden through this year due to me living in a relatively low area, it put a smile on both of our faces. Popping out onto the road by the lorries parked at the top of the hill with beads of frost clutching his whiskers, we waited for everyone to be ready to go, chatting to those around us as we caught our breath before the next part of the trek to the meet. Familiar faces popped up in lorry windows and once everyone was on, we watched the hounds pour off the lorry and plough across the road and onto the hill. Several inches of snow coated Cefn Hill in places and patches of blue sky peaked through the clouds, casting bright light onto Hay Bluff in the distance, equally covered with snow. A scattering of wild ponies watched us with mild interest as we ambled over the hill behind the hunt staff and hounds.

A generally wet season and the snow that lay on the ground meant that it was extremely wet and slippery. We reached the gate from the hill to the farm, but between us and the farm was a rather steep-looking field. Trying to make as little mess as possible, we zig-zagged, sidestepped and slid down it before reaching the comforting cobbles of the track by the farmyard entrance. Any previous scrubbing proved to be worthless as every horse had mud plastered up to their knees! Unfortunately, one of the field arrived at the meet with mud decorating the front of her jacket and knees too, having slipped down the hill during an attempt to walk down it, leading her horse, after shutting the gate. She regretted that decision! After a quick jacket swap, sausage rolls, welsh cakes, drinks and more began to flow, as did the chatter from the crowd surrounding the horses and those on them too.

After a speech and raffle ticket draw, we set off down the drive, towards the white slopes of the hill ahead. Rather excitedly, the hounds sped off in the wrong direction to start off with, before being corrected and sent off after the trail. The clouds continued to part, allowing more blue to seep through.

An exciting day followed, with gallops along the snowy foothills of Hay Bluff, between the dense trees of the forestry, good company, beautiful weather (mostly!) and even a snowball fight between some who just couldn't resist the temptation. Waiting at the edge of Hay Bluff, we were watching the hounds running along the side of the hill and snow getting stuck in jackets and hair as it was thrown between people hiding behind their ponies and leaping on and off. Only occasionally did we suffer from the cold – the sun blazed through the clouds, melting a lot of the snow that was on Cefn Hill by the time we returned home. Once we had climbed the hill next to Hay Bluff, we watched with satisfaction as a grey fogginess descended on where we had been not long before, smug that we had timed our escape to perfection and were not enveloped in the snow that pelted the ground. We got sprinkled with a little in the woods but I am pleased to say that my toes only went numb once! Of course, the usual saddle bag full of chocolate bars was steadily emptied throughout the day although it wasn't quite as well-stocked as usual and I did feel that one more Mars Bar would have perfected the outing!

After a busy day, we finished. Tired and hungry, but exhilarated, we set off back up through the forestry to the road by Cefn Hill where lorries were parked. I set off back through the woods to take Bugsy home. He marched home with pricked ears and a not a hint of tiredness in his step, although his slightly long mane was speckled with mud and his thick tail was heavy with mud. I left him tucked up in a warm rug with a large pile of hay, munching contentedly.

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