Lydia becomes country's only 'huntsman'

THE widow of one of Britain's most well-known hunt enthusiasts has become what is thought to be the country's only female “huntsman” - the person who looks after and controls the hounds.

By David Green

THE widow of one of Britain's most well-known hunt enthusiasts has become what is thought to be the country's only female “huntsman” - the person who looks after and controls the hounds.

Lydia Harvey, widow of Tony Harvey, who rode with every pack of hounds in the country during his lifetime, has taken on the role for Easton Harriers, based near Framlingham.

She volunteered after Robert Moffat, its huntsman, fell and broke a vertebra three weeks ago and may be off work for two months, well into the hunt's 2006-7 programme of meets.


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Mrs Harvey, 55, who has been hunting since she was eight years old, had already become the hunt's joint master although there are a number of females undertaking such a role in other parts of the country.

She said: “I am finding the new responsibility both exciting and terrifying. Other members of the hunt are being very supportive - they think it is great that I have taken it on because without a huntsman there would be no hunting.”

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Mrs Harvey, who began hunting with the Dunston harriers in Norfolk as a child, enjoyed her inaugural meet as huntsman on Wednesday as Easton Harriers set off from Saxstead Green. She had taken over management of the pack since Mr Moffat's accident.

Mrs Harvey, formerly Lydia Fett , joined the Suffolk-based hunt 13 years ago and shared Mr Harvey's great passion for hunting. They married in 2004 - two years before his death.

“I decided to take on the role of huntsman because I'd had years of living with Tony's knowledge and up to now it has been going well.

“Tony would have been utterly thrilled. I gather I am the only woman huntsman in the country,” said Mrs Harvey, who lives at Tannington Hall.

As a result of the new hunting laws, the Easton Harriers now pursue a drag line rather than live prey. The scent is either dragged by someone on foot or on horseback.

Michael Sagar , editor of Hounds magazine, said he was unaware of any other female “huntsman” in the country.

“A number of celebrated ladies have fulfilled the role in the past but I think Lydia is the only one this season,” he added.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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