A Craven Diary: Lesley Tate looks back 100 years ago when an ‘extremely clever’ whippet from Barlick was borrowed by poachers in the pursuit of rabbits, and when offenders started using the ‘motor car’ for the first time, as a way of getting in and out to the countryside very swiftly.

IT’S not a rare occurrence for poachers to appear before Skipton magistrates, although by all accounts, poaching, or the illegal hunting of animals, usually rabbits, is not a crime that is seen at most magistrates courts in our judicial area. Generally speaking, offenders come from outside Craven, and often fail to turn up in court - prompting the magistrates to issue warrants for their arrest.

Its nothing new of course; almost 100 years ago in January, 1929, the Craven Herald reported on the motor car being used as an aid to poaching, and also on a second appearance in court on a poaching related matter of an ‘extremely clever’ whippet.

Today’s magistrates are very aware of the car being used by poachers, and have been known to confiscate, and have vehicles destroyed - I have also heard rumblings of the dogs used in the crime to be taken away from their owners - presumably, to be re-educated out of a life of crime.

On the subject of the hundred- years ago whippet, a Barnoldswick man caught trespassing on the Gledstone estate at West Marton was seen by the gamekeeper ‘ranging about’ with the dog.

The gamekeeper told the court it was not the first time he had seen the whippet. He said it was an extremely clever dog and knew it to be loaned out to people to catch rabbits.

On another poaching case he had been witness for in Bolton by Bowland, the same dog had been used, he informed the court at the time.

The defendant, a man from Barnoldswick, when caught, had the dog’s collar in his pocket and it had another man’s name on it. The man pleaded guilty, telling the court the dog was ‘that clever that it could not catch a rabbit if you gave it a ten yards start’ - a claim that was met with much laughter in the court.

He said he was out of work, had two youngsters, and had nothing to eat in the house so thought he would go out and catch a rabbit.

The whippet belonged to someone three doors away from where he lived and it followed him about, he had no idea it went after rabbits. The chief magistrate told him not to do it again, and fined him 10 shillings, about £35 in today’s money, taking into account his circumstances and not adding insult to injury, by adding costs onto the fine.

As for the poachers who rocked up in Buckden in a car; they were spotted by a man who had the rabbiting rights for the area. Peeved that someone else was taking his rabbits, he went up to them in the road and asked what they had got in their sack, to which they replied rabbits.

They told the man with the rabbiting rights that they thought that it would be all right as they had been there before in a motor coach and the farmer had told them they could catch rabbits at sixpence each. A claim that is not unlike what poachers today tell the courts - that they have a piece of paper, usually not on them, from the landowner giving permission.

These men were rather ‘impudent’, the court was told, and told their questioner it was no good him taking them to court as it was three against one.

The court heard ‘men of their sort’ came in motor cars and were able to get away quickly. The rabbits were in their cars and could not be seen.

The three men, who had with them what was described as a lurcher, but claimed by its owner to in fact be a pointer, along with a ferret and nets, were each fined 10 shillings and also costs of £2 12s, about £170.

SEEING as 2022 has started like last year, with the government advising working from home if at all possible, I can at least indulge in my love of the outdoors and exploring even more of the wonderful countryside that surrounds us. It being so much easier to adopt flexi hours while working from home.

So, armed with my Ordnance Survey app, which ensures I will never get lost - even when there are no footpath signs and worse - rights of way are blocked; I have set myself the target of walking 2,000 miles in 22. So, that’s about 39 miles per week, or around five and a half miles per day.

I did start off thinking I’d do 1,000 miles, until it was pointed out to me it’d be much more of a challenge if I doubled it.

Its not a marathon a week, of course; at least, not a running one, and I’m not planning to do the miles while wearing a heavy rhino costume, like the astonishing Chris ‘Rhino boy’ Green from Embsay; but I’ll enjoy it, and it’s something to do.

And, at the end of it, if I manage it, I’ll feel a lot fitter, and have excellent calf muscles.

I WONDER how many people like I winched at the sound of a red kite flying overhead in the Christmas special edition of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small.

As far as I know, red kites are still a very rare sight in the Dales; although they are making their way over from Harewood, near Leeds, where they were re-introduced in 1999, and can be seen over Blubberhouses moor; they are far from a common sight in the Dales now, and would have been akin to seeing a UFO in the late 1930s, when the series is set. The birds of prey became extinct in England around 150 years ago, and were re-introduced in 1989. Interestingly, a retired gamekeeper used to regularly come into the offices of the Wharfedale Observer, in Otley, where I was based at the time to complain bitterly about the reintroduction of the birds at Harewood, how they would kill and eat all the game birds, and the paper really ought not to be encouraging such folly.

ON the subject of the environment, campaigning charity, Friends of the Dales, based in Gargrave, has organised a free online talk looking at what climate change will ultimately mean for the Yorkshire Dales over the next three decades.

It will be hosted by Richard Boothman an environmental Associate Lecturer with The Open University and founder of Ideostone Limited on January 19 at 4.30pm. To book a place for what promises to be a fascinating talk, email victoria.benn@friendsofthedales.org.uk