Goodnight — Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: Rattling off for a short day *H&H Plus*

  • “I’ve got a million and one things to do,” was a phrase my mother used repeatedly when my sister and I were young. It was white noise then, but as I trundle through adulthood I understand the complaint. Like most people at this stage of life, I have a list of jobs stretching to infinity and need to complete several each day to ward off chaos.


    At this time of year it’s particularly mundane; grappling with the tax return and attempting to claw back the excesses of Christmas. Can I really spare the time to go hunting midweek? It seems decadent when there’s lots to do here. Factor in the time it takes to get the tack, coat, boots, horse vaguely clean. Not forgetting the fact that there’s a strange smell emanating from the fridge and the carpets haven’t seen a Hoover for weeks.

    Then the person on the other shoulder pipes up with the alternative argument, “You have to exercise the horse anyway and the season will be over before you know it. Best to give him a quick brush, load him up and rattle off for a short day.”

    ‘Twinkling snow on the tops of the hills’

    So that is how I found myself the other day, joining a small procession of trailers heading down the College Valley for a meet at the Cuddystone Hall. This unassuming building, in the middle of nowhere, was put up 60 years ago as a meeting place for the shepherds and their families who populated the valley. These days, it has a wider remit as a wedding venue during the summer. The scenery is the draw for these couples, a sense of timelessness which is hard to find in our busy world, but the setting is no less beautiful on an excoriating day in January: the College Burn chill, twinkling snow on the tops of the hills and breeze cutting like a knife.

    We stamped around the hall doorway trading chitchat over glasses of port and warm sausage rolls. It’s easy to get blasé about wide-open spaces when they become so familiar but John, who recently moved from Hampshire, was on hand to give due respect.

    “Look at this place,” he said, in breathless admiration, reminding us how lucky we were.

    The morning unfolded, but I had one eye on the clock. School runs and hunting days are rarely compatible; I needed to collect Jack and, all too often, hounds are heading away from the trailer at speed when the two o’clock curfew comes around. The best part of the day evolved when I was off the pitch (Adam filled me in later) but no matter. I trundled home, still with a million and one things to do, feeling ready for anything.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 February 2020