MILL WOOD – A long-standing tradition in Clarke County is back.
On October 30, the Blue Ridge Hunt will hold their opening meet for the 2021 season at Carter Hall, returning for the first time in about 20 years.
The new owners of the historic estate allow the hunt to re-use the land for the annual event.
“It’s wonderful that … the new owners want the tradition to continue,” said Anne McIntosh, one of the two masters of the hunt. The other is Jeffrey LeHew.
Project HOPE, a nonprofit health and humanitarian organization, occupied the 87-acre estate off Bishop Meade Road (Va. 255) for four decades before consolidating its operations in the Washington, DC area.
The estate was recently purchased by Carter Hall Estate LLC – comprised of Langdon Greenhalgh; her brother, Blakley Greehalgh, and their mother, Beverley Byrd – for $ 5.75 million. Clarke County tax rolls show the property was valued at $ 5,764,400.
Carter Hall is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Plans are for the estate to become a country inn and conference center, according to Langdon Greenhalgh.
“We value and respect the history of Clarke County and the unique role the Blue Ridge Hunt has in it,” he said, explaining why the family invited him to return.
In addition, “we are working to make Carter Hall more accessible to the community,” such as special events, he added.
Langdon Greenhalgh mentioned that his grandmother, Sybilla “Billy” Greenhalgh, and stepmother, Judy Greenhalgh, were former masters of the hunt.
Founded in 1888, the Blue Ridge Hunt has approximately 80 members who enjoy fox hunting.
The Hunt began holding its opening meetings at Carter Hall each year in the mid-1930s. Then, around 2000, Project Hope did not invite the Hunt to return to the field. Cinira Baldi, the organization’s development and communications manager, could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon why.
The opening meetings were then moved to the historic Long Branch House and Farm, where the Hunt holds its annual Thanksgiving events. He will be holding one this year.
But Hunt wanted to return their opening meetings to Carter Hall to revive a historic tradition in Millwood, McIntosh said. She recalled that when the opening meetings were held there, “the whole community came to see the dogs fly away”.
Millwood is an unincorporated village surrounding the old Burwell-Morgan Mill. Its origins date back around two centuries.
Fox hunting is “a very old tradition in Virginia,” McIntosh said. The Blue Ridge Hunt is one of some 45 such clubs across the state, she said.
Today, the hunt is focused on the members, who are animal lovers who enjoy riding horses through the landscape in the company of dogs, rather than the actual hunt, McIntosh continued.
Foxes run fast, so he’s rarely caught by dogs, McIntosh pointed out. When a person is captured, they are usually sick or have been injured in the past, she said.
“We are not trying to catch them,” she said. “We try not to kill them.”
The hunt has more than 100 dogs, but only about 45 outings per event, McIntosh said.
Hunting takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from September to March. The opening meeting marks the official start of activities. Pre-competition gatherings primarily involve “cubbing,” the process of introducing new dogs to the pack and conditioning for the hunt, McIntosh said.
On horseback, the hunt passes through properties owned by approximately 200 Clarke County landowners who allow them to do so. The size of these properties ranges from a few acres to about 1,000 acres.
McIntosh said the Hunt members were grateful to the landowners.
“Without the generosity of the farmers and landowners in this county, we would not be able to continue,” she said.
More information on the hunt is on his website. To access it, go online at https://www.blueridgehunt.org/wp/events.