Family Xchange has returned to BBC for its second series this week. Anne Hull, joint-master of the Essex Farmers’ and Union Hunt, swaps her hunting and riding life in Burnham on Crouch, where she runs a riding school with 50 horses, for the lifestyle of cosmopolitan Leeds.
How did you happen to take part in Family Xchange?
We received a letter, which I just held on to for interest’s sake, and then one of the children phoned up, unbeknownst to me, and the next thing, the producers came down to film us and decided that we were a suitable family.
What does day-to-day life consist of normally?
We have 50 horses at our Essex riding school, so there is all the mucking out to do etc., and then I teach. I used to hunt a lot, in fact hirelings were my main business, but that all had to change with Foot & Mouth.
We are a very diverse family though, and although I hunt a great deal – at least once a week, only Christina (13) hunts with me. Michael (14) is obsessed by shooting and fishing, and Jonathan, barely likes to put his nose out of doors. George (20), who didn’t come with us to Leeds, is a football fanatic.
Obviously you teach riding at home, but how did you find another form of teaching, in a different environment?
I helped in various community centres and I was having to teach cooking some of the time, though often I was working with much older people, whereas at home I mainly teach children. The cooking itself was fine though, but there was a lot of paperwork and I’m not very good at using a computer.
We had one meeting which went on and on and on, and after two hours I just stood up and walked out. They called me back in and said that really wasn’t the idea, but I’m just not very good at sitting down for so long…
How did you find the upheaval from your riding school in Burnham on Crouch to the “funky urban lifestyle of cosmopolitan Leeds”?
Socially it was a bit of a shock, it’s just so different. Christina, (13) was the only white girl in a dance class she went to, and when Matthew was kitted out in £500 worth of clothes and had a trendy haircut, it was quite a novelty.
They took me to Harvey Nicholls and dressed me up in expensive clothes, but it really wasn’t me in the end– I’d much rather have a day’s hunting.
How do you think the family from Leeds found life on a riding school in Essex?
I think they found it quite hard. They weren’t used to the country and it was muddy and cold. They did go hunting though, and from what I can gather, even though she was vegetarian and fairly sceptical about blood sports, I think the experience has changed the way they look at it.
So, overall, was it enjoyable?
It was an experience. I was very apprehensive about how the footage would be edited to produce the program. But being with three of my children, and living 10 days in such a different environment all together was brilliant.
But you were glad to get back home?
Yes. Their life is a bit easier, and more comfortable, but I didn’t get the satisfaction that I get from life here, and I wouldn’t give up the horses and the riding and the hunting for anything.