MILLWOOD — A former longtime tradition in Clarke County is returning.
On Oct. 30, the Blue Ridge Hunt will hold its opening meet for the 2021 season at Carter Hall, returning there for the first time in about 20 years.
The historic estate’s new owners are allowing the hunt to use the grounds again for the annual event.
“It’s wonderful that ... the new owners want the tradition to continue,” said Anne McIntosh, one of 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, D.C., area.
The estate recently was purchased by Carter Hall Estate LLC — comprised of Langdon Greenhalgh; his brother, Blakley Greehalgh, and their mother, Beverley Byrd — for $5.75 million. Clarke County’s tax rolls show the property was assessed 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 that the Blue Ridge Hunt has in that history,” he said, explaining why the family invited it back.
Also, “we’re working to make Carter Hall more accessible to the community,” such as for special events, he added.
Langdon Greenhalgh mentioned that his grandmother, Sybilla “Billy” Greenhalgh, and stepgrandmother, Judy Greenhalgh, were former masters of the hunt.
Founded in 1888, the Blue Ridge Hunt has about 80 members who enjoy the sport of foxhunting.
The hunt started holding its opening meets at Carter Hall annually around the mid-1930s. Then around 2000, Project Hope didn’t invite the hunt back to the grounds. Cinira Baldi, the organization’s chief development and communications officer, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon on why.
Opening meets then were moved to the Long Branch Historic House and Farm, where the hunt holds its annual Thanksgiving events. It will hold one there this year.
But the hunt wanted to return its opening meets to Carter Hall to revive a historical tradition to Millwood, McIntosh said. She recalled that when opening meets were held there, “the whole community would come and watch the hounds take off.”
Millwood is an unincorporated village surrounding the old Burwell-Morgan Mill. Its origins date back about two centuries.
Foxhunting is “a very old tradition in Virginia,” said McIntosh. The Blue Ridge Hunt is one of about 45 such clubs across the state, she said.
Today, the hunt’s focus is on members, who are animal lovers, enjoying riding horses across the landscape in the company of the hounds, rather than on actual hunting, McIntosh continued.
Foxes run fast, so rarely is one caught by the hounds, McIntosh emphasized. When one is captured, it usually is sick or has previously been injured, she said.
“We don’t try to catch them,” she said. “We try not to kill” them.
The hunt owns more than 100 hounds, but only about 45 go out per event, said McIntosh.
Hunting occurs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from September to March. The opening meet marks the official start of activities. Gatherings before the meet mostly involve “cubbing,” the process of introducing new hounds to the pack and conditioning them for hunting, McIntosh said.
When riding, the hunt traverses properties owned by about 200 landowners in Clarke County who allow them to do so. Those properties range in size from a couple of acres up to about 1,000 acres.
McIntosh said hunt members are grateful to the landowners.
“If it weren’t for the generosity of farmers and landowners in this county, we wouldn’t be able to continue,” she said.
More information about the hunt is on its website. To access it, go online to https://www.blueridgehunt.org/wp/events.