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Blencathra News

News & Picture Galleries: Aug 2008

Countess & 3 Pups





Cruiser --one of Countess' pups [Oct 08]

                   photo D Elliot

News & Picture Galleries:April/May 2008

News as of May 27th

The osprey pair seem very happy in their new location--the female is busy incubating her eggs - likely to be 3 & it is believed the first was laid on either the 26th or 27th April. Hatching should be around the 4th to 6th June.

Although there aren't any nest cameras this year because of the change of nest site the new location is providing closer views for visitors to the site & is enabling photographers to capture images of the Bassenthwaite adult ospreys for the first time.These 2 are taken by Steve & Ann Toon on behalf of the Lake District Osprey Project


For more info visit:


Latest Osprey news 08

The first and latest news to report is that the 2 ospreys that nested successfully last year at Bassenthwaite raising 3 chicks have returned again from Africa. The male who has nested here since 2001 returned on the 10th April and the female who nested at Bassenthwaite for the first time last year (07), when the resident female from 2001 didn’t return, also arrived on the 10th April. After a week of settling into the usual nest that has been used successfully since 2001 and where 13 chicks have been raised they suddenly upped sticks and moved across the lake to another nest location in Dodd wood where they have chosen to nest for 2008!

It would seem that they have had the ‘seven year itch’ this Spring, as the birds have relocated to this new nest site after seven successful breeding seasons at the nest in Wythop Woods on the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake. The ospreys have surprised the Lake District Osprey Team by switching to this new nest - on the opposite side of the Lake. It is very unusual but not unknown for a pair of ospreys to move in this way, as a well-established nest is often used by many generations of ospreys (with some nests known to have been in use for more than 100 years).

The new nest is on an artificial platform, which was installed by the Osprey Project team to encourage more ospreys to settle in the Lakes.

The osprey viewing arrangements for visitors are being rearranged slightly but it’s great news that it’s business as usual for our ospreys---so if you wish to go and see the ospreys in their new nest location the arrangements are as follows:

Dodd Wood – the viewpoint remains open with great opportunities to watch ospreys fishing in the Lake, see red squirrels and watch woodland birds.  The osprey team are working to set up a new viewpoint nearby where visitors can see the new nest – latest details and directions from the friendly osprey staff at Dodd Wood or the project website.

Forestry Commission Whinlatter Visitor Centre – osprey exhibition and activities as usual, but currently no images of nesting ospreys on the big screen, as the cameras are fixed on the ‘old’ nest.  The team hope to set up a camera overlooking the new nest, but need to ensure there is no disturbance to the birds

The Bassenthwaite area can support several pairs of ospreys and so there have been several artificial nest platforms erected around the lake to give new colonisers a helping hand.  It looks like the returning ospreys have shunned the old nest site and have taken a shine to one of these new starter homes

When the male and female are back on site the male undertakes all the fishing for both birds allowing the female the chance to recover from the long migration and get ready to lay the 3 eggs. He also brings most of the sticks and moss to the nest in readiness for the arrival of the eggs HOWEVER it is the female who chooses the nest site and for whatever reason best known to female ospreys she chose to move across the lake to the nest in Dodd wood.

The second item to report is that one of the 13 chicks that has flown from the Bassenthwaite nest has been seen and photographed. This is the FIRST and ONLY chick that has ever been seen once they have all left Bassenthwaite.

The chick was raised in 2004 and was the only chick that year from 3 eggs laid (see picture below taken on the nest in 2004)





2004 chick & the 2 eggs   









Below are 2 photos of the 2004 chick taken in July 2007----In WESTERN NORWAY!! -------------how do we know it is a chick from Bassenthwaite??--because of the green colour ring 5S on its right leg. All the chicks are colour ringed for just such a reason so they can be identified if seen again , on migration, at a nest location or in Africa. This however was the first time one of the chicks had been seen since leaving the Bassenthwaite nest and it was hoped that, as we believe it is a male, it would return to breed at Bassenthwaite.                                                             

Males usually breed at 4 years old,although they have been recorded breeding at 3 years, so it is hoped he will return to Bassenthwaite but have also asked the Norwegian photographer to keep an eye out for him again this year


And thirdly----the Osprey Bus – a liveried bus serviced named after the spectacular birds of prey – is now operating around Bassenthwaite Lake at weekends, Bank Holidays and school holidays, making it easy for visitors to leave their cars behind and travel on the bus to visit Osprey Country.

Interesting facts:

The Lake District Osprey Project is a partnership between The Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA).

Since ospreys first nested in 2001, more than half a million visitors have watched the birds nesting and rearing young from the viewpoints provided by the Lake DistrictOsprey Project. 

13 chicks have flown from the Bassenthwaite nest  

For the latest up-dates on the osprey saga and info on how to see the birds click on

Bassenthwaite Lake is a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation owned and managed by the Lake District National Park Authority.

The Bassenthwaite ospreys re-colonised England naturally in 2001 as part of a population expansion in Scotland, following the return of ospreys there in the 1950s after an absence of more than 50 years.  It was the first time that ospreys had nested in the Lake District for at least 150 years.

The Lake District Osprey Viewpoint at the Forestry Commission’s Dodd Wood is located, 3 miles north of Keswick, off the A591 – follow signs to Mirehouse.  The Viewpoint is open all daylight hours with the osprey crew available from 10am-5pm, and is part of a UK-wide network of RSPB Aren’t Birds Brilliant! sites

January 08 News - taken from 'the Masters Voice' magazine

Courtesy of

Fact File: Barry Todhunter - Huntsman of the Blencathra Foxhounds


Born: 24 August 1956 at Nether Row Hall in the Caldbeck Fells of Cumbria.

School: Caldew School, Cumbria

Now lives: Blencathra Foxhound Kennels

Family: Very supportive wife Sue; son Gary (27) a traditional stone waller and a great help to me out hunting; daughter Diane (24) was kennel-huntsman at the Vale of Lune Harriers, whipped in at the Toronto Hunt in Canada for six months, and presently working in boarding kennels in North Yorkshire. Both are an invaluable help in kennels: for instance when I broke my wrist out hunting, or when Sue and I need a summer break, they’re always there for us.


Wheels: Toyota Avensis

Dream Wheels: Dodge Ram - on the bonnet it has a big mascot of a ram with curly horns - Pickup truck, with twin axles on the back, known in USA as 'The Red Neck Limo'. I’ve no interest in fancy sports cars, at all.

Fav TV Prog: Heartbeat

Fav Music: Rock Pop - Meat Loaf, etc,.

Fav Song: Bat out of Hell

Fav Restaurant: Our home kitchen

Fav Food: My wife Sue's cooking; she's a brilliant cook

Fav Pub: Mill Inn, Mungrisdale

Fav tipple: Red wine

Fav Hol Destination: North America - Chicago & Montana

Alternative career: USA train driver

First began hunting: As a 5yro with my parents

Career moves so far: Whipper-in to Lunesdale Foxhounds 2yrs; whipper-in to Blencathra foxhounds 15yrs; appointed huntsman 1988

Describe your hunting domain: Typical fells: Caldbeck Fells to the north is more open; the southern part is very rocky with scree; the middle part is wet and marshy.

Fav area in your country: The northern side from Mungrisdale to Bassenthwaite

Hunting Heros: The late Blencathra huntsman Johnny Richardson was my guiding light.

Best Hound: Blencathra Glider 73. I saw his whole hunting career, and his bloodlines are in almost ever hunt kennels in the UK, and abroad.

Name five non-hunting people you like to invite to a dinner party and why? (live or dead):

Elvis Presley: I'm interested in how he mixed gospel music with his rock singing. We have visited Gracelands and I was amazed most of his platinum awards were for gospel songs. It's such an empowering feeling seeing all his artefacts, and I'd go back tomorrow. He was The King of Rock 'n' Roll; his music was so varied, and very few people - if they're honest - could fail to be moved by at least one of his songs. He was a 'hell of a man'.

Fred Bartle, my grandfather: not just for obvious reasons. He died in 1944, so I never knew him. He was head gamekeeper on the Caldbeck Fells and I'd like to talk with him about how all those fells were covered in knee deep heather, the amount of grouse and about the big shooting days in the 1930s when famous people would come. I'd be really interested in those long gone days.

Field Marshal Rommel: 'the Desert Fox'. I have an interest in military history, and I'd love to have met him. He was an amazing general before he became a field marshal, when he excelled as a tactician. He was idolised by his soldiers, deeply respected as a hero by his own nation, and also greatly admired by his adversaries: Montgomery and Churchill acknowledged him as one of the greats.

After the D Day landings Rommel could see the war was hopelessly lost and tried to persuade Hitler it was futile. He came to a sad end as he was implicated in the plot to overthrow Hitler and was given a choice of either a poison pill or the humiliation of public trial and execution as a traitor - an unfitting end to a great man. He took the pill and on October 18th 1944, Erwin Rommel was buried with full military honours and a day of national mourning ordered by Adolf Hitler himself.

Rachel Weisz (36) (film actress): she's a brilliant actress because she can play such a variety of roles: she has played very deep, difficult roles, to humorous roles, to romantic roles. She was brilliant in the film The Constant Gardener. She's a very bright, sprightly kind of girl - and a very bonnie lass! Considering we're having Rommel, Elvis and Fred Bartle there, she'd lift the dinner party atmosphere with her looks and bubbly personality.

Margaret Thatcher: I know she was disliked by many, but for me, she's the only high-calibre leader we've had since Winston Churchill. Very firm, astute, single-minded, and the country really needed her leadership at that time – what with strikes, and the country in a terrible state - she was made of stern stuff and she took the bull by the horns and turned things around. She's a fascinating woman because of her varied life, which includes being the first woman Prime Minister, and would make a wonderful guest at any dinner party. She'd probably want to hog the whole conversation; she might not give Rachel and granddad much room to talk, but I think Rommel and Elvis would stand up to her.

Maggie had that Churchillian attitude about her: in the dark days of the pending Falkland’s War, like Churchill had done in the 1940's, she stood up for what is British and said we are not going to be stood on and trampled over. She put her trust in the British Armed Forces, and they, as they always do, responded magnificently.

What would the food and drink be at this dinner party?

Definitely not tattie pot (a traditional Cumbrian hot-pot dish) I can't stand tattie pot. In the early years of whipping in, every where we went, we were fed tattie pot first day. Second day was warmed up tattie pot, third day all the leftovers were put in a pot, mushed-up, and re-served as tattie ash. I had to eat it as there was 'nowt else'!

We’ll have British roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings; roast tatties, turnip, carrots, horse radish, and good thick gravy. My granddad would love that, I'm sure Rommel would, and of course Maggie would definitely like roast beef. And all washed down with a quality red wine. I like the new world wines, something like a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. I'd finish with a glass of port and a good strong cheese; probably a stilton.


Blencathra Huntsman Barry Todhunter was born to hunt the fells in his native Cumbria. Son of the late Bob and Ida Todhunter who were fell farmers, his grandfather Fred Bartle was head gamekeeper for Lord Leconfield's grouse moors on the slopes of Skiddaw and the Caldbeck fells. One of his earliest recollections of school life was his class being marched two-by-two down to Caldbeck and line-up on the pavement to see the foxhounds meet in the village centre. And on return to their classroom, the children spent the rest of the day writing about hunting.

Barry whipped-in to the late huntsman Johnny Richardson for 15 seasons, during which time he was almost killed by a boulder when in pursuit of lamb-killing fox. He is one of the most adept at blowing a hunting horn, and blows every call note perfect in keeping all his hunt followers informed.

These are Barry's own words:

2006-07 was the best hunting season we've had for a long time. It was everything: support, scent, hounds hunting lines; we had our bad days, but in general we had a cracking season. We're also getting a lot more youngsters out with us these days, as the hunting ban seems to have made hunting more popular.

Daniel Ewart with Solo - Blencathra Puppy Show winner

So why hunt a pack of hounds?

"It's like a lot of things, if it's in your blood, then you have to do it. From a very early age, all I ever wanted to be was whipper-in. I was a whipper-in for 17 seasons, and I was quite happy. I wasn't urging to be a huntsman, or I'd have moved somewhere else to get on. I realised when Johnny Richardson past away, and I took over as huntsman here at the Blencathra, what a different ball-game it all was. From supporting the huntsman, to actually being the huntsman, is a totally different occupation.

Barry congratulates Christine Weightman & Blencathra Trimmer
Supreme Champion at Lowther show 2007

The hardest thing for me was, as Johnny had been here since 1947 and was something of an institution, even though I'd been whipping in to him for 15 seasons, people began to treat me as though I'd just appeared from outer space. I knew I couldn't fill his footsteps, so I made my own stamp as a huntsman: it wasn't easy at first, but we managed.

Best day's hunting:

"A meet from Mosedale the season before the ban came in. The hounds found a fox among the juniper trees in Swineside: it's a difficult area as it's very rocky, and the junipers smell so strongly, masking the scent. After some local hunting, the fox went away from Carrock Fell and ran up the valley towards Skiddaw House, and then up Whyle Gill. The fox then left the valley and ran right across to the Uldale Fells, and then all the way back by Carrock Mines to Swineside.

The fox then ran full length of Swineside Valley, across all the crags and screes, and the hounds finally caught this fox (a vixen) 20 yards from the hound trailer where we had met and unboxed that morning. It was a memorable day's hunting in that from the minute the hounds found the fox (themselves) to the minute they caught up with the fox, they had absolutely no help whatsoever.

Mosedale Valley

It was a hunt of over 20 miles, with a seven mile point. We had a big turnout of people that day: more than 100 cars following, and hunt staff from all over the country. It was a day when everyone saw the hounds working all day. A lot of people have said since what a good hunt it was: it was a ‘bonnie' day; loads of people following; the echo of the hounds and the way they worked hard; the stamina of that fox. It was a very, very good hound hunt.

Worst day: 17 April 1985 is etched in my mind forever...

A fell farmer in the Borrowdale Valley had been losing lambs to a marauding fox, and we were called out to help. It was 7am and hounds had found the fox and marked it to ground in a huge rocky place.

I was looking into the crack in the rocks: we'll never know why, but a mighty rock above me - which had probably stood solidly in the same place for millions of years - began to move. I felt it move and tried to get out of its way, but slipped on the shale and went down: the rock came crushing down on me. It's been estimated the rock weighed two tonnes plus, and if I'd taken the full force it would have killed me. But I was lucky in that the rock came to rest on another rock to one side of me. I was crushed between the two, and still alive. But only just. The lads brought crow bars, wagon jacks, and after two hours they had raised it enough to pull me free.

I was air-ambulanced to Freeman Hospital in Newcastle with a crushed pelvis, and lots of internal injuries. The surgeons told me: I was young, I had fit body, and a healthy lifestyle, and that's why I was able to recover. I was in and out of Freeman for a year, with all sorts of operations. They originally told me I'd need an operation every year, but eight years ago the surgeons told me I had recovered so well, I wouldn't need my annual op.

Of course it became a big thing in our lives. I was seriously ill in Newcastle Hospital for months. In those days all fell hunt staff were paid off for the summer months, so there was Sue in Threlkeld with two kids, and that was a big worry for me. Hunt followers and farmers held fund raising events such as clay pigeon shoots, hound trails, village dances. And not just in the Blencathra country; there was a terrier show on Dartmoor, clay shoots in Gloucestershire, hunt breakfast meets in the Middleton Hunt country; money came from all over Britain, and that's what kept me and my family going. As well as the kind people who came to see me in hospital – and many of them had travelled an amazing distance. It was a bad episode in our lives, and I thank them all.

How do you relax?

Not many people know this, but the way I relax is I love trains, and USA trains in particular. That's what takes my mind off the hassle and pressures of this seven-days-a-week job: constantly being in the public eye, constantly being at the end of a telephone, and always having to try and please everybody. When I'm watching a video on history, or reading a book on trains, that brings me total relaxation.

The Rockies

We had a belated silver wedding last year in the USA with some friends, and took a long distance train from Chicago and right across the prairies, thorough Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. We stopped off in Montana for a few days, and took a trip up in the Rockies. We able to stand at on a continental divide: it was an incredible feeling to look to the right and see water falling only yards away and think that it was on its way to the Hudson Bay in the East. And to the left of us, more water falling, but this water was destined for Seattle and the Pacific Ocean in the west. If I hadn't done this job, I'd love to have been an engineer: a train driver in the USA.

To view previous news items---click on the relevant month(s):

News: December 2006    06 AGM news, Dick Peel Hon Master

News: January,February March and April 2007  Fixture amend, Request re Fox mask, Sunshine's pups, Catterick racecourse visit, Old hunt photos from Cumbria archives.

News: May 2007   'Order of the Boot' --article by Barry Todhunter published in Hunting magazine

News: August 2007    Bassenthwaite Ospreys - the story of these fascinating birds nesting again in the Lake District

News: November 2007   'The Masters Voice' - news & details of how to receive this free magazine


News: 5th Dec 2007 -- response from the Prime Minister's office concerning the petition "to repeal the Hunting Act 2004"to which there were 43,852 signatures.

To view the Government's response click here

A clear, concise and powerful argument for the repeal of the Hunting Act is detailed in the “Case for Repeal”, a new document by the Countryside Alliance setting out why the Act is flawed and why it believes repeal is inevitable. Download a copy of "Case for Repeal" here

Last year a BBC Radio 4 programme held a vote asking which law people wanted repealed. The result was as follows:

The Hunting Act with 52.8%

Dangerous Dogs Act: 1.6%
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act : 6.2%
Human Rights Act: 6.1%
European Communities Act : 29.7%
The Act of Settlement: 3.6%



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