In 1512, George, the 7th Baron Fitzhugh, was a young man of 25 years old. Like many wealthy young men of his day, he loved to take the hounds out and hunt. His particular hunting ground was in Teesdale near the village of Cotherstone.
The forests there are the time were not densely packed and provided and provided the ideal conditions for deer to thrive.
The young Baron had been tested in battle and was renowned as an inspiring leader and ferocious warrior. Back home he was known for his courtesy, manners and charm.
One morning in 1512 he had set out upon his horse to meet friends for a hunting party. On the way, he saw an old crippled woman, struggling to see her way along the road. As his horse approached her she lifted her stick and called out to him. “My Lord. I am glad I have met you. I have come to warn you not to go to the hunt this day.” The young Baron halted his horse and asked why he shouldn’t hunt. The old woman warned him of mortal danger to both him and his horse. A danger so grave it would end his family line as he had no children. “Keep away from Percymyre Crag” she told him.
Ever the gentleman, the young Baron thanked the old woman for her words of advice and promised her he would avoid the crag by only hunting on the opposite side of the river.
The young Baron and his friends from Cotherstone had a miserable day hunting. The hounds would pick up a scent, then scatter, sending the following riders off in all directions. Then the scent would be lost and the pack would come back together. Time and again this happened throughout the day.
The hounds and riders were just about to return to Cotherstone from their hunting ground when a magnificent stag emerged from the tree-line. The hounds picked up the scent and the chase was on.
The Baron and his friends followed the hounds as the excitement after a long day of failure built. As the hounds got closer, the stag ran faster. The riders pushed their mounts to keep up with the chase. Desperate to avoid being caught, the stag went into the river to throw the hounds off its scent. The hounds were too close and followed the stag across the water, with the riders hot on their heels.
The stag continued to run, leapt up and then disappeared. The stag had gone over the side of a cliff, Percymyre Crag. The hounds were unable to stop and also disappeared. Seeing what had happened the young Baron pulled hard on the reigns of his horse, but it was too late. The horse followed the stag and hounds over the edge taking its rider with it.
The old woman’s prediction on the road from Cotherstone had come true.