Derwent Hunt filmed trespassing on nature reserve

Video evidence clearly showing the Derwent Hunt blatantly taking a pack of hounds onto a much-loved local nature reserve has been shared with Protect the Wild.

On Saturday 27 January this year, North Yorkshire’s Derwent Hunt was filmed riding with hounds into Chafer Wood, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) Nature Reserve which is described as “young woodland and scrub, where small open glades contain limestone grassland”. Chafer Wood is open to the public who (when there’s not a hunt charging through it) can enjoy “an uplifting and invigorating walk …and take in the breath-taking views across the Vale of Pickering“. It is not open so that an entitled hunt can trespass, cause damage to the woodland floor, drive a quad bike through sensitive habitat, and loudly search the reserve for foxes to chase.


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About Chafer Wood

Before watching the video (which is not graphic and does not show any animal being harmed), some context.

  • Chafer Wood is privately owned by YWT and has both public and permissive footpaths (the latter are now largely fenced off to protect vulnerable areas, but are routes through private land offered by a landowner), but no bridleway (which would allow horse riding on the reserve).
  • The wood is located near Ebberston, just a few kms from the Derwent’s kennels at Snainton – the hunt will know all about the site’s status as a nature reserve and will know that entering it is trespassing.
  • Even if they make the frankly ridiculous claim not to know, there are a plethora of very visible signs stating that there is no entrance to parts of the reserve and that any dogs must be kept on a lead to avoid disturbing wildlife (which the YWT website says includes Roe Deer, an animal very easily disturbed by dogs).
  • There is of course no access for quad bikes ridden by terriermen.
  • And just to be absolutely clear, in keeping with general Wildlife Trusts policy Yorkshire Wildlife Trust does not allow hunting on their nature reserves and does not give permission for hunts on horses and with packs of hounds to access their reserves.


The Video

The footage was filmed entirely on site, on the same day, by Helmsley Monitors. Protect the Wild has edited it for length only. As stated it is not graphic but is about as clear-cut an example of trespassing on a nature reserve – which was designated to protect wildlife and give the public a quiet, beautiful space to enjoy, remember – as we have ever seen on film.


The footage opens looking at the northern entrance to the reserve. The Hunt had met earlier at Malton Cote Farm which is just north of Chafer Wood and close to this entrance. A redcoated Huntmaster appears in view, and can clearly be heard and seen gathering the hounds before entering with them into the wood. He rides straight past and ignores the signs stating it is a nature reserve. He can also be heard encouraging the hounds to hunt, as well as making noises to flush a fox (the rolling vocalisation). The hunt can not claim to be following a trail as they do not have permission to even enter the wood let alone lay a scent trail through it, and they can not claim (as hunts so often do) to be ‘retrieving their hounds’ as it is the hunt itself which takes the dogs into the wood. No one should be in the wood except on foot, and signs clearly state that any dogs must be kept on a lead.

The next segment shows a hound leaping the reserve’s west boundary wall (bordering High Park Farm) into the reserve and running past the camera. Four black-coated riders from the hunt then appear leaping into the reserve over the same wall (in the background – and well inside the reserve – the hounds are ‘in cry’, something that describes the dog’s excitement when they are on the scent of a quarry. At no point were they called out of the reserve by hunt staff). The riders land right next to the public footpath (which leads to the south entrance) before cantering at speed along it. It’s an incredibly reckless act: once committed to the jump they couldn’t possibly have stopped. Perhaps the Hunt would like to explain how they could have avoided disaster if they’d suddenly found a member of the public  – perhaps bending down to pick up after a dog or looking at fungi – right in front of them…

There follows two short segments showing the damage to the woodland floor caused by the trespassing hunt: not only is this potentially damaging to the flora in the reserve but is a trip-risk for visitors, particularly as the ground begins to dry out as the weather warms and the roughed up ground becomes more difficult to walk on.

The next clip is again taken near the northern entrance. It captures a terrierman on a quad bike racing out of the reserve and swerving onto the road after crunching off a grass verge.  Two different redcoats on horseback then follow at speed and clatter off down the same road. They are shouting loudly and while we can’t be certain what they’re saying it appears to be that a fox has ‘Gone up over’ and ‘Gone up over the top’…

The point of view then switches to the western side of the nature reserve, and the footpath exiting the reserve through High Park Farm’s field. The camera catches at least six hounds exiting the reserve under a gate and following the commands of another redcoat galloping along the reserve’s boundary (riding at that speed and shouting to the hounds would typically suggest that he is chasing after a fox). The monitors say that he entered the reserve at a point just west of the north entrance via a breach in the fence, which is clearly signposted “No entry beyond this point”.

If you look closely you can see a small pack of riders ‘on point’ behind the trees higher up the field – this is the typical behaviour of a hunt waiting for a fox to be flushed by hounds so that they can then chase it.



The Derwent Hunt owes Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the public an apology

This is blatant and inexcusable trespass, with a clear intent to scour a nature reserve for wildlife. While no chase or kill was recorded, it’s bloody obvious why a hunt would trespass into a nature reserve – and it’s not to enjoy the peace and quiet. The voice commands the monitors heard while the hounds were in the reserve are clear indicators that a hunt was taking place. According to members of the local public, the Derwent are often seen hunting in and around this wood and we all know why…

Like so many Wildlife Trust reserves, Chafer Wood is surrounded by farmland. It will have been bequeathed to protect a remnant habitat, a slice of what remains. Nature reserves like these are small but incredibly precious. Most of us who visit reserves like Chafer Wood appreciate how important and fragile they are. But it’s impossible to guard or patrol them all – no organisation has the resources to do that. They rely instead on a sort of public contract, a self-policing, an acknowledgement that because an organisation has saved the land, we can have the privilege of visiting it. We may wander around it for a few hours immersed in nature, and in return we do no harm.

The Derwent Hunt have comprehensively trampled on that understanding. Their arrogance, their sense of entitlement, and their total disregard for wildlife, the public, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been caught on camera and it stinks. If they had a sense of shame they should be burning with embarrassment right now and frantically offering apologies and reassurances it will never happen again.

Our feeling is that they will either ignore this evidence or shrug it off with lame excuses though. All of us who care about wildlife must not allow that to happen.



EDIT 15 Feb: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has responded to the footage obtained by Helmsley Monitors. In Hunt trespass at Chafer Wood – our reaction YWT says that they have had to speak with the Derwent Hunt previously and “will be making direct contact with the hunt concerned to express our concern and to seek agreement for our boundaries to be respected in future.“

As expected they point out that they “do not have investigatory powers, and therefore are unable to take direct enforcement action on reports of illegal activity”, but there is no mention of an injunction to stop what they clearly know are repeat trespasses or an indication of what further action they might take if the Hunt trespasses again.

YWT might say those are not details they would make public, but paying members of YWT might have expected a stronger response and assurances that the Derwent Hunt will not be entering any of YWT’s nature reserves ever again.


  • The Derwent Hunt is a registered company – The Derwent Hunt Limited company number 05991374. They can be contacted at
  • Trespass is normally a civil offence (so not a police matter), but ‘aggravated trespass’ – where the offence is made worse by “intentionally obstructing, disrupting, or intimidating others from carrying out lawful activities” – is more serious. Horses and a pack of dogs intentionally racing through a Nature Reserve must surely be considered ‘disrupting’ and  ‘intimidating’ – particularly to members of the public visiting the wood and carrying out ‘lawful activities’ like walking or birdwatching. Some might understandably be put off ( or ‘obstructed’) from visiting the wood if they know the Derwent are routinely trespassing there.  For more information on trespass please visit our Protectors of the Wild page “Trespass and the Law“.
  • Huge thanks to Helmsley Monitors for their extensive comments on this article and of course for collating the footage here and sharing it with us. Protect the Wild was privileged to supply the monitors with equipment when we first set up our Equipment fund – see Recording equipment to the North York Moors. We will be working with this small but highly effective group in the future.
  • Can Protect the Wild help your group put incidents like this in front of our huge and highly engaged audience? Please get in touch.