Centuries-old club rides on through the storms of protest

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THE SINNINGTON Hunt is one of the oldest in the country with more than 100 members regularly riding out on land it owns on the fringe of the North Yorkshire Moors.

Dating back to about 1680, when the then Duke of Buckingham was master, its 100-plus members meet twice a week during the season; on Wednesdays the huntsmen tend to ride out in the low flatlands of the region with the highlands reserved for Saturdays in an area some 20 miles east to west by 18 miles north-south.

Baily's hunting directory, the sport's bible, notes: "The hunt owns several of the vale coverts which seldom fail to hold a fox."

The hunt, which has 50 hounds, has a new master, Adam Waugh, reputedly a relation of the literary Waughs, who was appointed this year, alongside master Andrew Osborne.

Three years ago, the Sinnington was at the centre of controversy when it applied for a pounds 400 grant from Rydale district council to improve woodland on hunt land near Pickering, supposedly to provide better cover for foxes.

Some of the land was ancient woodland which fell into disuse until it was revived as fox cover by the Sinnington during the last century. But the application was rejected because members felt it would have been seen as support for the sport. The council decided the hunt should be self-supporting.

In the early 1990s the hunt sparked another row when it sought permission to build a bridge over a moorland stream which would have enabled it to cut off a favourite escape route of the foxes. For years from the 1940s, the Countess of Feversham was a dominant figure in the fortunes of the Sinnington. As Master of the Hunt with her husband, the 3rd Earl of Feversham, she staged an annual ball at the family home, Duncombe Park, to raise funds, a tradition revived in the mid-1990s.

The countess always rode side-saddle, a pose captured by the painter Raoul Millais in the 1950s. Even in old age, Lady Feversham continued to follow the hunt by car.