The sounds of the New Forest Hounds meeting at the Rhinefield House Hotel, before starting their day of hunting using a scent trail, (thus, no foxes are harmed in case you’re wondering)….
During the main hunting season, which typically runs from early November to the end of February, the hunt will meet Tuesday and Saturday mornings at 10.45am. The meet will either be in a forest car park, or it will be by invitation at a private house, hotel or pub. These are referred to as lawn meets, and it is customary at these for participants to enjoy a small tipple before setting off.
Once the meet is over, usually after 20-30mins, the huntsman will sound his horn and move off with hounds to the first covert where he will cast his hounds and encourage them to search for their quarry.
Sometimes the trail may be found immediately, and the chase begins in earnest, or the huntsman may have to move on from covert to covert, recasting his hounds several times before a trail is found.
The unpredictability of hunting is one of the elements that adds to its appeal. Once the hounds are on a scent, they “give tongue” or “make music”, and once the hounds have left the covert, the field master will lead the mounted field in hot pursuit.
Once on a run, the control which the huntsman has over his hounds, and the respect and trust the hounds have in the huntsman, is a pleasure to behold. A run may be brief and fast if scent is good, or it may be long and slow with hounds having to work hard to keep on the line. In any event, the huntsman will re-cast, and the day will go on until 3 or 4pm. (Based on information from newforesthounds.co.uk. Visit the site for more details and an absolutely fascinating history that dates back 900 years!).
This is the sound of a log cutter being run from a vintage tractor with logs being cut one by one. Each year in the Autumn, many forest folk (me included) start to turn their attention to preparing a decent-sized log stack ready for colder evenings indoors around the wood burning stove,
I like the way this particular sound generates its own natural, rhythmic mechanical pattern.
Take the sound of bees on flowering honeysuckle, and slow them down to a quarter of their normal speed, and suddenly we can enter a whole new and unusual soundworld. The bees sound just like little Spitfire propeller aircraft coming in to land on the flowers, and the birdsong takes on a strange tropical quality. Listen to my piece called “Busy Bees” to compare how the bees normally sound.
Soundscape piece. The sound of summer bees on yellow honeysuckle flowers in a New Forest village garden. For an interesting different perspective on this soundscape, take a listen to my “Slow Bees” piece, where you can enter into an unusual soundworld!
This is actually one of our famous New Forest ponies recorded close-up, munching grass. Did you know that the ponies are often referred to as the architects of the forest, because by doing all this munching, they keep the grass looking short and mowed? Without them, much of the forest would soon become an impenetrable wilderness.
The song of the blackbird is beautiful, and provides us with some of best melodies of all the garden birds. The individual that I recorded here is a real virtuoso with a gift for improvisation too, producing a mellow flute-like song at a nice, leisurely pace from the apex of a New Forest village roof in late Spring. The song comprises soft, clear and liquid notes that, to me, sound very pleasant to listen to, especially as the phrases never seem to repeat exactly the same twice.
Wednesday morning, 6.30am in the middle of May, and it’s dawned still and clear on the outskirts of this New Forest village. The early sun is rising up through the oak and beech trees, casting long, dappled shadows on the dew-covered lawn. Outside this open window, birds are singing enthusiastically greeting the advancing dawn.
Now and again a car hisses by on a nearby, quiet forest road, sounding like an ocean wave running up the shoreline and then fading away. Up above, sharing the blue sky with the sun, airliners hurry along at 30,000 feet or so, leaving fluffy, white vapour trails and adding their distant, rumbling voices to the soundscape. Listen for a while…
Imagine relaxing with a favourite book, or taking a picnic beside one of The New Forest’s mesmerising and beautiful meandering streams. If you can’t be there in person, then perhaps this may serve as the next best thing. Absolutely designed to be dreamy. Drift away….