An intimate connection with nature through fieldsports has provided many precious moments for this Sporting Diana and Senior Master of the Pytchley with Woodland hunt
I was fortunate to have grown up on a beautiful arable farm in the north-west of England. As the youngest of three daughters, I was encouraged, along with my sisters, to grasp life and live it to the full. Holidays were mostly spent in the fields building ‘handy pony’ courses to navigate on free-spirited ponies. Otherwise, we weren’t shy of work and were set to task potato grading, stone picking, hay carting and in the beating line on shoot days.
We benefited from a deep understanding of the countryside thanks to my father forever pointing out the whys and wherefores. They say that experiences in childhood form the core values of a person. This is why getting children together with nature is so important for the future of the environment. During my first date with my now husband Nick, we were out on a walk when he stopped and pointed out a swallow swooping overhead. He then enthusiastically explained that he’d heard a cuckoo that morning, which together undeniably heralded spring. I fell in love in an instant.
A World View
In 2016 we moved to South Africa for the children to go to school and gain a broader view of the world. School shoes were cast aside on their first day and from that moment on they were barefoot. Nintendos were replaced by bags of marbles. We lived on a game reserve in the bushveld, where we would walk, learning the tracks and signs of the wild with our own eyes. The trip was a great success, so much so that it resulted in us buying a game reserve, now a luxury private riding safari, in the Waterberg.
Hunting is my passion. In 2018 I was proud to become a Joint Master of the Pytchley hunt. Five seasons later and now Senior Master of the reunified Pytchley with Woodland hunt, it is my ‘every day’. There is no better high than leading the field across natural country in pursuit of hounds. Having said that, I find the day-to-day running of the Hunt hugely satisfying in itself, with the connection it gives me to the local community and the privilege of overseeing life at kennels. They say that being a Joint Master is a thankless task. At times it can feel like that, though it is made far easier with a strong team and the benefit of throwing oneself fully in; it is much more rewarding and manageable with dedication.
New Sporting Challenges For A Sporting Diana
Last season I acquired a retrained racehorse and picked up the reins in a number of hunt races across the UK. I now have the bug. Other than the exhilaration of the 30mph charge across country, I love the history of these races. They’re fashioned on the original ‘steeplechase point-to-point’ first documented more than 250 years ago when competitors raced from church to church, chasing from ‘steeple to steeple’ or ‘point to point’.
Over the years I have had the chance to shoot with some wonderful people. Be they other guns, gamekeepers, loaders or beaters, the people I meet and the laughter shared play a big part on a shoot day. Trips up to the Borders have also provided the opportunity to stalk roe deer, which I thoroughly enjoy as a means of putting food on the table. As well as eating game at mealtimes, our shoot day elevenses will always be from field, moor or river. As a family we recently took on the lease of a grouse moor in the Borders. Other than the enjoyment of shooting game in its purest form, running the moor has given us a better understanding of integrated moorland management and the role it plays in conservation. We were thrilled recently to see curlew and oystercatchers nesting on the moor.
Diana At Ease
As well as the privilege of standing in the line, there’s nothing quite like sitting outside in August, enjoying a picnic of local produce while taking in the view. When time allows, trips to Tweed, the Dee, the Tyne and the chalkstreams of southern England for the mayfly season are a tonic. I caught my first salmon on the Shin in 2009, though these days I am equally happy lazing on the riverbank, getting lost in thoughts and netting a fish if needed. There is something about a riverbank, the energy of running water and tranquil surroundings that creates pure Arcadian happiness.
If you’re connected to nature, I believe nature gives you precious moments. In return I feel the need to pay back a debt of gratitude by upholding and endorsing fieldsports and by passing on what I’ve learnt to the next generation. Ultimately, that’s the bottom line: pass it on.
TOP TIP: Live a life of purpose, ‘ears forward’, with no half measures towards who and what you love, so you never have to look back and say, “Damn, I wish I had… ”
Thank you to Dubarry for supporting Sporting Dianas in fieldsports. See Dubarry’s range of sporting clothing and footwear HERE.