Lone howl of protest threatens to silence pack of hounds
An historic Cornish hunt could be stopped after a holiday-home owner – who advertises "dog friendly" cottages to let – complained about the noise of the hounds.
The North Cornwall Hunt has kept its 50-strong pack of dogs in kennels in the village of St Breward for 110 years without a single complaint.
But local businessman David Clarke claims the baying, barking and howling of the hounds disturbs his customers and ruins the tranquillity of the moors.
Mr Clarke, who owns rental properties in St Breward advertised as "rural dog friendly cottages", says his guests are having their holiday peace ruined.
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He has now made an official complaint and environmental health officers were brought in to use noise measuring equipment to record the dogs.
Officials at Cornwall Council have now told hunt organisers it is exceeding permitted decibel levels and issued them with a warning that something has to be done.
The hunt, which runs twice a week November to March, now faces having to install expensive soundproofing or drastically cut the number of hounds to avoid further action.
If they fail to quieten the hounds they could be served with a noise abatement notice and ultimately shut down.
A spokesman for the hunt said it was unable to comment but local people said the complaint is "ridiculous".
But Fenella, Lady Barry, who lives near the kennels and is treasurer of the St Breward Women's Institute, said: "We have no grounds for criticism of the kennels.
"We very rarely hear the hounds, but when we do we just accept it's an important part of the heritage of St Breward and its country ways.
"We wholeheartedly support the master and his team. Why should rural pursuits be curtailed by the odd person who comes down for a few days and doesn't like it? It's a little bit like moving next to a church then complaining because you can hear bells."
Mr Clarke and his wife Angela run Darrynane Cottages business, which offers "rural dog-friendly cottages nestling in the beautiful Coombe valley".
Describing its remote countryside location as the "hidden jewel of North Cornwall," the firm offers four self-catering rental properties which sleep two to six people.
A glowing review posted on the company's website from a couple called Judy and Steve reads: "All of us enjoyed beach walks, our dog Sixpence has really had a good time on her 1st holiday. See you next year."
Mr Clarke said the row over the dog noise had been "blown out of all proportion".
He said: "We are both very happy with the way the hunt and the environment people are dealing with the very small issue that arose.
"Mischief makers are stirring it up to try to turn it into something it isn't. This is something that is being dealt with very professionally by the chairman of the hunt, Mr Mike Biddick.
"The stories that have been out and around have been blown out of all proportion."
Both Mr Biddick, and the master of the hounds, Alan Murton, both refused to comment.
But Honorary Secretary Rosemary Meeson said: "We have been advised not to comment on this while it's ongoing."
The kennels are housed beside Tor Down Quarry, famous for its for prehistoric remains, including an earthwork known as King Arthur's Hall.
Kirsty Hewitt, who lives near the kennels with her husband John, has started a petition to safeguard the hunt.
She said: "We've grown to love the sound of the hounds. I'm not particularly pro-hunt, but I'm very upset at what's happening and so are most of the people in the village.
"It's outrageous and we want the kennels to stay."
A Cornwall Council spokesman for said: "Officers had a very productive meeting with representatives of the hunt kennels earlier this month which was very useful in terms of identifying potential measures to reduce noise levels.
"The main outcome of the meeting was that the hunt will consider appointing an acoustic consultant to assess whether an acoustically treated kennel could be constructed to replace or upgrade the current one."