HOWLING hounds on Bodmin Moor are disturbing the peace of holidaymakers, and local people fear action could now be taken to cut their numbers.
The North Cornwall Hunt has kept its foxhounds in kennels at St Breward for more than 100 years, but now the local authority has demanded action is taken over the noisy dogs.
A man who owns holiday accommodation in St Breward complained to Cornwall Council's environmental health department that the loud howling is disturbing the peace and tranquillity of the moorland village and the local authority dispatched officers to measure the decibel levels of the hounds.
The readings were above what was deemed acceptable and now the council has told the hunt something has to be done to curtail the noise the hounds make. But people living in St Breward are outraged, and fear the hunt will have to get rid of some of the 50-strong pack.
Cornwall Council says it has a duty to investigate "excessive'' noise and is in discussion with the hunt to try and come to an agreement to resolve the problem, with soundproofing the kennels one option being looked at.
Both the hunt and the complainant have gone to ground, and are refusing to discuss the issue, but in the village, a campaign is under way to save the hounds.
John and Kirstie Hewitt live next door to the kennels at Tor Down Quarry.
Mrs Hewitt is co-ordinating a local campaign to save the hounds.
She said: "John and I bought Tor Down Quarry two years ago, knowing full well the kennels were next door, and we have grown to love the sound of the hounds.
"I'm not particularly pro-hunt but I'm very upset at what is happening, and so are most of the people in the village – it's outrageous and we want the kennels to stay here in St Breward.
Her husband John said: "I'm a country boy and grew up with the hunt. They have been in St Breward for 110 years and are part of village life – you can set your clock by the times they start howling.
"I understand that either the kennels have to be sound-proofed or 20 of the hounds will have to go – just because there has been one complaint.''
Lady Fenella Barry also lives near to the kennels with her partner Tony Radcliffe.
She said: "We have no grounds for criticism of the North Cornwall Hunt kennels. We very rarely hear the hounds but when we do we just accept that it is an important part of the heritage of St Breward and its country ways. We wholeheartedly support the (hunt) master and his team.''
The issue will be discussed at a meeting of St Breward Parish Council on Tuesday night, and council chairman Denis Lusby is expecting a big turnout of villagers.
"I suspect a lot of people in the village have a lot of sympathy for the kennels as they have been in St Breward for more than a century, even though they may not be hunt supporters themselves, and we are expecting a lot of people to attend the meeting.''
North Cornwall Hunt chairman Mike Biddick refused to comment, as did the master of the hounds, Alan Murton.
A spokesman for Cornwall Council said: "The local authority has a duty to investigate complaints about excessive noise and the council's environmental health team is investigating a complaint of noise nuisance allegedly caused by barking hounds at the North Cornwall Hunt kennels.
"Council officers had a very productive meeting with representatives from 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.''