Many equestrians associate the Badminton estate in England with its famous four star eventing competition, but the property is also home to the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt, one of the oldest and largest packs in the United Kingdom. Earlier this month, the present Duke opened the kennels and stables to local schoolchildren for Estate Open Day. This event, now entering its third decade, provides both rural and urban children an opportunity to meet hounds and horses and learn about daily life on the estate.
Whipper-in and kennel huntsman, Nick Hopkins, brings out a few hounds to mee the children. James Barclay photo.
Estate Open Day was begun by Captain Ian Farqhar, Master and huntsman at Duke of Beaufort's, and James Barclay, past Master at several British packs. Barclay explains that the organized visit - a field trip from school for the children - gives them "the opportunity to learn about and most importantly enjoy what goes on at Badminton: Farming, forestry, the history of the estate and the shoot are all explained firsthand." The school groups' attendance is facilitated by Countryside Learning, an organization whose mission is "to educate, inform and inspire children, parents and teachers, so they can enjoy and appreciate the countryside while having a greater understanding of the wide range of issues surrounding it."
First whipper-in and kennel huntsman, Nick Hopkins, and his wife, Margaret, took turns speaking with the children about raising and caring for hounds, looking after the tack and other equipment, and basic stable management. Barclay observes, "It is the hunt and the visit to the kennels and stables which receive the greatest deal of interest, and give huge amounts of pleasure to children and teachers alike." This year, the children came from schools in rural Gloucestershire and inner city Bristol to visit the estate, which dates back to the early 17th century.
The children watch as hounds are fed before the many ribbons earned by Duke of Beaufort's. James Barclay photo.
After playing with hounds and meeting staff, the children better understand the effort and dedication required to develop and maintain a pack of hounds. Barclay, now leading the foxhunting advocacy organization This is Hunting UK,, believes that this type of outreach is critical to promote our sport to the next generation.