Two days before Christmas I was contacted by a major magazine who wanted to use some photographs in an upcoming issue. Of course I was delighted and then stunned when I was asked to get the images to them by the next day….. I happened to be in the middle of Tractor Supply when I got the call after following hounds that morning in the country of the Amwell Valley Hounds. “Err, yes right I will see what I can do.” Thankfully we collectively decided that a post holiday delivery would work, and in the meantime would I also provide a quote or two to be used in the column.
Now I am a behind the scenes kind of girl, and shy away from putting myself out there as it were, but not one to shirk a request I thought about the questions put before me. The usual questions were asked: How long have you been fox hunting? How long have you been photographing the Essex Fox Hunts and ball? What makes the Essex Fox Hunt so special to you?
I answered the first two questions briefly and concisely, I didn’t really consider those answers would be of much interest to readers, but the last question required a deeper and more thoughtful response as it was inherently more thought-provoking on multiple levels. So what does make the Essex Fox Hounds so special to me or for that matter hunting in general – I also follow a pack of foot hounds and have done so for most of my adult life, as well as on occasion as a child. My entire family has earned their colors, my sons as very young boys. We probably have the smallest sized foot hunting livery in this part of the world! I had served as Hon. Secretary for many years, putting together fixture cards, working on fund-raisers, puppy shows, teas and social events, even picking up plops at the kennels. So hunting, and particularly foot hunting is very much a part of my life, and that of my family. So to answer:
“To me it goes beyond good friendships and sport, it is about the land, the countryside, without which there would be no hunting either on horseback or on foot; the amazing vistas would be gone, I would not be able to enjoy the cackle of a pheasant as hit runs, watch a deer leap over a four rail fence, or hear the wind blowing through a tall stand of pines – all of these sensory experiences are part of the fabric of our countryside, not just hunting, and if we don’t encourage our friends and neighbors towards land preservation and good stewardship of the countryside we will lose these joys. As an equine photographer the land is an inherent part of every image I make, and we are blessed with some very beautiful places; it is my hope through preservation that this wonderful country hunted by the Essex Fox Hounds will remain open and become preserved so that future generations may enjoy what we hold most dear.”
Land preservation is the key to the future enjoyment of all these activities, so talk to your friends and neighbors about it. Don’t just assume they will be good stewards of the countryside; we all know the lure of the developer’s dollar has taken its toll on many farms in our region. Large blocks of developable land command premium prices in New Jersey as well as other states, and families acting to ensure the financial well-being of current and future generations will always be tempted to sell to the top dollar. Know what your county and state programs are for land preservation; know your land. Is it even developable, is it arable, what are your options? Encourage Farmland Preservation, encourage access and encourage participation it benefits everyone. And if you are in the mood, pick up a copy of the March Issue of Town & Country Magazine!