On Tuesday, June 28, Keswick Hunt Club welcomed a group of children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Orange to their Clubhouse and Kennels in Albemarle County, Virginia. The youngsters first heard from whipper-in and historian Barclay Rives about the goals and planning involved in organized foxhunting. Nancy Wiley, MFH, a former board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs, encouraged the children to share their outdoor experiences and to be keen observers of nature and wild animals.
These Boys & Girls Clubs participants quickly mastered the technique for holding their hound's attention. Photo by AudibertPhoto.
Noted artist, Lee Gildea, continued this theme by displaying several of his works: paintings, carvings, and spectacular walking sticks formed from saplings twisted by honeysuckle or other vines (including one featuring whittled and painted likenesses of the Keswick pack). The children enjoyed examining the pieces and hearing Mr. Gildea explain that he began carving as a hobby while out in the woods waiting for hounds to come home.
Nancy Wiley, MFH (left), asks the children about their experiences spending time outdoors and observing nature. Photo by AudibertPhoto.
The visitors then followed Huntsman Tony Gammell into kennels, where they were enthusiastically greeted by this year’s adolescent puppies. Human and canine youngsters had a terrific time romping together and exchanging affectionate hugs and kisses. Eventually, Tony and kennelman Mike Poindexter, brought out several couples of adult hounds, and with a precautionary ratio of two children per hound (with several adults distributing biscuits and assistance as needed), the group went for a brief but energetic walk around the Keswick Horse Show grounds. All the guests had a newfound appreciation for the work involved in training and caring for hounds and some new inspiration to get outside and explore our natural world.
Puppies and children are always a winning combination! Photo by AudibertPhoto.
The Boys & Girls Clubs seek to “provide an after school and summer program for children and teens ages 6-18, comprised of diverse activities that meet the interests of all youth,” with the goal of “promoting and enhancing the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence.” The Clubs in Orange, Virginia, have developed a nature trail adjacent to their building to encourage outdoor exploration and also visit different area farms as part of their enrichment programs.
Keswick Hunt, established in 1896, participates in several community outreach events through the year. The club has an active program for its junior members, the Keswick Cubs, including mounted, unmounted, and social activities. Staff planned to bring hounds to the Boys and Girls Clubs headquarters as a follow-up experience for the children shortly after this article was written.