On a Devon walk, remembering the Countryside March
We had a wonderful, wild walk through rain up through woods, out and over the high green pastures of the Downs and skirted the stormy Atlantic on high cliffs. We saw working farms, horses in hedged fields and ewes on the high hills big with the lambs they were carrying.
In 1997 it was from places such as these that three-quarters of a million people came to London from rural England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to march in defence of field sports and to defend their way of life.
They were hunters and hunt followers, foresters, gardeners, farriers, river bailiffs, gamekeepers, fishermen, farmers, "dukes and drainers" and artists. Deborah Devonshire described them in Wait for Me. She and her daughter collected a badge from David Hockney that read, 'END BOSSINESS SOON', which sounds about right.
Rural Britain has no interest in bossing others. Why are MPs so keen to boss them?
Sports is one of the world's best ways for people to meet happily, get to know each other and unite. But fox-hunting had purpose, too. If you had seen the misery in a farmer's face as he described the foxes waiting for the ewe to give birth and stealing her lamb before she could even rise to her feet to defend her young, you might feel less sympathy for the fox.
We understand that perhaps 5% of the people who supported the ban have not eaten lamb.
The countryside people marched "right into Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall where for centuries groups of demonstrators from every conceivable minority have marched for justice or recognition" (Wait for Me). They protested at No. 10 Downing Street, but Mr Blair "had gone to ground".
The country people have not received justice yet. We trust their time is coming.