Great British Drives: Twisted Land Rover Defender in a great chase across the South Downs

hound lodge - goodwood estate
Hound Lodge on the Goodwood estate caters for canines, with food served on a platter by butler Sam Hay.

Drummer, Dido, Pompey and Edmond were hungry for the chase when the 40 hounds of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray Hunt mustered for action on January 26, 1739. However, none of the pack or mounted members could have known they were about to embark on one of the greatest pursuits in history.

The chase of a single fox began at 7.45am and ended in total darkness 10 hours and 57 miles later. A breathless story recorded in diaries discovered at nearby Goodwood House 100 years ago, the hunt that criss-crossed Charlton Forest and lasted all day has since gained legendary status.

Charlton village, about a mile north of Goodwood racecourse, was already a centre for the chic new sport of fox hunting. An illustrious list of famous and fashionable participants would regularly travel the 60 miles from London to take part – one meet alone included 77 peers of the realm.

Apart from being the location of the first Women’s Institute meeting in England during the First World War, the appropriately named Fox Goes Free pub in Charlton is still an ideal watering hole during a walk or ride through the forest.

The village nestles in undulating countryside, seemingly little changed from when fox hunting was in its infancy. Thousands still turn out to watch the traditional Boxing Day meet of the “Chid and Lec”, even though fox hunting with dogs has been outlawed since 2004.

As well as pampering pooches, Hound Lodge makes a good show of looking after humans too

Nearby Fox Hall was once known by every sportsman in England. It was built as lodgings for bawdy noblemen who gathered after a hunt to recount the feats of the day. The small, Palladian building is now operated as a holiday let by the Landmark Trust.

However, to fully immerse yourself in a bygone era of the hunt and chase, look no further than neighbouring Goodwood – home to the horse racing festival and a host of motorsport events. The Kennels may be the central clubhouse for all of the estate’s sporting members but only 100 yards around the corner on Pook Lane is Hound Lodge.

The fine flint building dates back to the late 19th century when it offered warm and spacious accommodation for every hound in the pack. Now, after years of neglect, Hound Lodge has been transformed into a luxurious country house for paying guests.

Under the watchful eye of the current Duke of Richmond, owner of Goodwood estate, Hound Lodge has become the ultimate party pad for dog lovers who also like their pets to be treated like royalty.

Goodwood House lies at the centre of the Duke of Richmon's 12,000-acre estate near Chichester Credit: Ian Stannard

While the brick-built kennels and runs remain intact outside, dogs actually have the run of the main building alongside their pampered owners. The 10 sumptuous bedrooms are each named after hounds that took part in the 10-hour hunt of 1739, with walls draped in suitable hunting scenes.

Any doggy dietaries are taken care of by the chef, with dishes delivered to your room on a tray by butler, Sam Hay. There’s a boot room for washing down muddy paws and setting dog beds, although most visiting hounds usually retire to a guest bedroom, or in front of the open fire in the drawing room.

With no televisions and only a crackling fire as background music, Hound Lodge is a passport back to a different era. It’s a chance to collapse on plumped cushions, discover a book on the many shelves or just engage in good conversation with friends.

There are 12,000 acres of estate to explore at Goodwood, including a tour of Home Farm, the first, 100 per cent organically-fed dairy in the country. Much of the produce sells in London restaurants, or eateries around the estate. The newest is Farmer Butcher Chef – try the exceptional ale-grazed beef brisket.

Where better to take a Twisted Land Rover than to the ancient, twisted yew trees in Kingley Vale nature reserve Credit: Andy Newman/Alamy

Travelling further afield, I’ve employed a vehicle that’s almost as unstoppable as the hounds of 1739. The Classic Twisted Land Rover stays true to the concept of the original Defender but has been reworked to show off even more of its talent.

The Yorkshire-based company bought up 240 vehicles before Land Rover halted production two years ago. They are slowly working through the valuable stockpile, building machines with better suspension, road-holding and performance than the legendary 4x4 it is based on.

This is a Defender that’s actually fun to drive on-road, so I’m steering along one of my favourite routes. It’s follows north of East Lavant on the A286, before turning off east on the B2141 towards Chilgrove and South Harting. Even in a conventional Land Rover it’s possible to build up a fair head of steam, while the Twisted’s extra 50bhp just adds to the drama.

The road initially skirts Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, which contains some of the finest, twisted yew trees in Europe. There’s a neat nature trail for exhausting children and dogs alike, while woodpeckers and butterflies proliferate from the spring months onwards.

Uppark House is run by the National Trust and contains art dating back to the 17th century Credit: Getty Images

Close to South Harting is Uppark House. Set high on the South Downs, it was briefly home to HG Wells, when his mother worked as a housekeeper. The property is now run by the National Trust and contains works of art dating back to the 17th century.

The B2141 then travels through the commuter town of Petersfield, before crossing the A3 and becoming the A272 towards Winchester. The number of motorcyclist warning signs suggest this is a great driving road, straightening out into a succession of fast, sweeping bends.

It can be a frustrating route, with few passing places, but today it’s clear. The total distance between Goodwood and Winchester is slightly less than 38 miles. That’s almost 20 miles short of the greatest chase that ever was, which should put the four-legged achievements of Drummer, Dido and Pompey all those years ago well and truly into perspective.,,


Classic Twisted Land Rover Defender LWB

PRICE £76,800 (inc VAT)

ENGINE 2,198cc four-cylinder diesel

POWER 172bhp

TOP SPEED 95mph (limited)

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 13sec

FUEL ECONOMY 28mpg (EU Combined)

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Credit: Jessica Saunders