On any sunny, summer afternoon, the two tiny sailing clubs at Keyhaven — The New Forest’s coastal hamlet on the Solent — are filled with people launching their dinghies and floating off for a spin around the sheltered waters. There’s a uniquely tranquil ambience about the little place on days like this. I’ve tried to capture this feel in the composition, which features a combination of natural sounds from Keyhaven along with the music itself.
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 composition is made from a recording of the sound of rigging wires on several small dinghies rattling against their metal masts in the wind. I’ve modified the pitches and turned the sounds into a musical piece using just those original sounds. The photograph shows Keyhaven, a beautiful sailing village within the New Forest National Park on the shores of The Solent. The landscape in the distance is the Isle of Wight. It’s very close from near here.
On Boxing Day each year, the annual point to point races are run across the forest. This piece is built from various individual recordings that I collected near the finishing line one chilly morning. This is a significant social gathering in the New Forest calendar, and it’s exciting!
The event is organised by responsible local officials of the New Forest Pony Breeding & Cattle Society who have wide experience and understanding of the race; usually having raced in it themselves in the past. They have good understanding of the New Forest habitats and special ecological status areas.
The location of the end point is not disclosed until after the closing date for entries about 1st. December. The participants are then told via the New Forest Pony Breeding & Cattle Society website. The location of the start point is not disclosed until the day before the race, and then only to participants.
The children’s races are approximately 1.5 miles escorted by mounted riders. The adult races are approximately 3 miles with mounted stewards along the course.