Having taken part in a Boxing Day Hunt – Boo Hiss – I hear some folk say – I have always been somewhat ambivalent about “country pursuits” but I found myself surrounded by so many folk who knew so much about the stewardship of the countryside, its patterns and changing seasons, the rhythms of life and indeed death.
The need for concern and care for what so many of us take as natural but really have no idea of just what that means, is brought sharply in to focus when viewed through the eyes of people who’s livelyhood is inextricably woven into the countryside.
Undoubtedly the owning and riding of horses is not a cheap pastime and as a person allergic to horses not something I have craved to do, I was however much more interested in hunt followers. What makes somebody do that!
Well I have to some degree found out, like so many passions and it is a passion, following the hunt is a way of life.There is a communing with nature that is a perception that I have never had until now. Tramping across the countryside to places seldom visited you see remarkable things, running hares (and no we weren’t hunting them), a variety of hedgerow life scurrying about in this mild weather and any number of birds of pray swooping and soaring along hill ridges looking for their next meal.
The observations of country folk around me was fascinating, stories of what used to be here or there, changes of species flowering or fruiting in the hedgerows, plants that have been used for centuries to feed, nourish and heal, all amazing stuff. This is not to say that everybody who follows the hunt has encyclopedic knowledge of the countryside, for some this is obviously not the case but the love of the countryside and the social side of a meet, makes me begin to understand the allure of the occasion.
I am not making a value judgement here, I don’t participate in field sports and have little understanding of them but I do not condem them out of hand either. Yes I have been on a shoot, yes I have been beagling and yes I have now followed the hunt. How you choose to interact with the countryside is up to you and the folk I have recently spent time with, love the countryside better than most. Socially the camaraderie of the occasion is undeniable and whilst I like my own space out in the country there is something to be said for this gathering of like minds.
Before rising to condem this ancient tradition I would urge you to try it, it may suprise you.
Finally as New Year’s Eve approaches there is always so much to go and do and so much good live music on the Isle of Wight. One of my favourites being Last Orders and if Irish Folk is your bag the fiddle playing of Donal O’Riain is a must hear and see, so head to the Bargeman’s Rest, Newport.