It’s been blizzard after blizzard since mid-December. We’ve been covered in snow, and most of the hunting season in Northern Virginia was a write-off this year.
Yesterday, though, for the first time in months, we were finally able to go out. Happily, favorable weather coincided with a special occasion. Dr. Betsee Parker had invited the Ashland Bassets for a guest meet last Sunday at her historic Huntland Farm, a century ago the home of the renowned sportsman Joseph B. Thomas, Master of several illustrious packs, and author of Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages.
The opportunity to see Huntland was a particular treat, and the typical Sunday field accompanying the Warrenton-based basset pack was supplemented by an unusually large group of guests representing hunts from all over the region.
The architectural details are particularly delightful at Huntland. The shutters feature a fox’s head, and the shutter stops are cast in the form of a bunch of grapes. Joseph B. Thomas’s left gate panel (see above photo), greets the visitor with a “Salve,” and then quotes Virgil’s Georgic III, 42-45:
En age segnis
Rumpe moras; vocat ingenti
Taygetique canes domitrixque
Et vox adsensu nemorum
Lo, up! the horn calls
Break off delay! with ringing cries
Taygetus with his hounds
and Epidaurus trainer of steeds,
and from the applauding woods
the call echoes back redoubled.
Rabbits proved to be in short supply, but hounds and people were positively thrilled to be out of doors and hunting again. The well-populated field was keen, and everyone’s exertions were more than adequately rewarded by glimpses of the charms of Huntland’s magnificent architecture and broad acreage.
At the end of the day, Dr. Parker welcomed the entire company inside the great house, providing a post-hunting “tea,” which could have been more accurately described as a buffet banquet. Prior to the the current owner’s occupancy, this wonderful house had been neglected and sat empty and unused for many years, and it was a real pleasure for visitors to see the superb job of restoration and decorating which has again made Huntland into such a spectacular showplace.
Karen’s photo essay has yet to be edited and uploaded, but I will add a link to it as soon as it becomes available.