Gone to Cliff ranks as one of Munnings' finest and most atmospheric hunting scenes. He described the composition as 'a grey sky, a grey sea and grey granite rocks; a mounted figure holding a horse silhouetted against a white band of surf below; the whipper-in waiting whilst the huntsman goes down to the cliff for hounds which have followed the fox over the boulders to a sanctuary from where they will never get him out' (see A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 277).
Inspired by a real situation that occurred while the artist was out hunting with the Western Hounds at Morvah on the north Cornish coast, Munnings recalls the scene vividly in his memoirs:
'I cannot leave out of these reminiscences the story of an end to one of these hunting days, when a fox ran to the cliff. It was a late afternoon in December. A small group of dismounted followers and the huntsman, Tom Mollard, stood looking down below where the fox had gone. Somebody spotted him - a small, brown object, crouching on some high rocks close to the sea. This happened at Morvah on the north coast. The cliffs there were not steep or difficult to descend, and soon the whip, Jack, and myself had descended below, where the fox was curled up on a high rock, silhouetted against the sea behind him. Before I could stay his hand, Jack had flicked the fox with the lash of his whip, and with a sharp bark it jumped into the sea. There were we watching the fox swimming for his life, being lifted with the ground-swell almost onto the rocks, and then dragged back again in the back-wash until a wave, larger than the rest, landed him safe, and there he clung. As the water left him, he looked like a small greyhound, with his sodden coat close to his sides. The fox shook himself. Springing up to the next ledge, he climbed on and up, until finally went into a wide crevice of the cliffs.
"Come on, Mr. Munnin's!' said Jack. "Let's go and get him out."
"No Jack, we don't - that fox has run for his life, and has saved himself. We're going to leave him alone," I replied.
"Oh, we must get him out," said Jack.
I answered, "No!"
"Oh, well, what will Tom say?" he asked.
I replied that I didn't care.
When we met at the top of the cliff Jack had called up, "Mr. Munnin's says 'the fox has run for his life, has swum for his life and is safe, and we are not going to get him out."
"That's the last time we'll ever let Mr. Munnings go down after a fox," was Tom's reply.
By now twilight was falling, and, leaving the cliff, we rode to the nearest inn, had parting drinks, and Tom trotted off with the hounds, followed by some, the rest going their various ways.
Those who stood above watching the escape of the fox agreed with my sentiments. Seeing the fox struggling in the sea below, their suspense, they told me, became almost unbearable, and they felt like shouting for joy when they saw him saved by a large wave. What would Tom Mollard have thought of this expression of human weakness in the followers of the chase?' (ibid, pp. 285-6).