Cheshire Home Hunt, Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

The Shillelagh and District Hunt held the 50th annual Cheshire Home Hunt last Saturday. The final meet of the season and one which is always looked forward too, staff and residents of the Ardeen Cheshire Home in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow, enjoyed the buzz and spectacle as the hunt members gathered before setting out. Celebratory stirrup cups were handed around, banter was exchanged, and a group photograph was taken. Then to the sound of a hunting horn and the baying of hounds the large contingent literally headed for the hills.

Ready for the off, Shillelagh and District Hunt members gather outside the Ardeen Cheshire Home.

A real family day out, there was as much interest from those not taking part as those in the saddle. Even the damp weather didn’t put the followers off as they headed to their favourite vantage points above Shillelagh village.

Andy and Tara Kinsella enjoy the annual Cheshire Home Hunt.

Me, I headed to a place called, “The Birney”, I think that is the way you spell it, out the Parkbridge Road and turn right at the first crossroads, then on up the hill to where the lane bisects a forestry. Damp but not cold, it was not long before I heard the hunting horn and the sound of galloping hooves carried by the mist.

Huntsman David Nolan clears a forestry barrier above Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

In a flash of reds, blacks, and browns, snorting, steaming, horses, ponies and hounds, shod hooves ringing on tarmac, quips, laughs, and smiles they were gone, off into the forest. What I like about the Shillelagh’s is the sense of community, encompassed in the young riders who are encouraged to take part. They start them young in these parts, and there is no shortage of enthusiasm either, epitomised by father and son team Jasper and Jed Kelly.

Community spirit epitomised by the Shillelagh Hunt, Co. Wicklow.

I enjoyed following the hunt this year. It acts as a focal point for social interaction, gets people out in the air, and grounds one to nature and conservation of the rural landscape and way of life. I even get up on a horse myself now, but whisper it, “you won’t catch me going hunting”, I value my legs and arms too much. An armchair horseman, that’s me.

Huntsman David Nolan leading the hounds, Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

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