A day out deerhound racing at Lodge Park in the Cotswolds
Contemplating acquiring a dog, we thought it suitably apt to attend the unique spectacle of deerhound racing at the old hunting retreat of Lodge Park at Aldsworth, a few miles east of Northleach in the heart of the Cotswolds.
On arrival at Lodge Park, the parade had just commenced with dozens of deerhounds and their owners. Most were dressed in traditional 16th century attire and ranged from majestic lords and ladies to the more humble habit-donning monks. They were led out by a piper also suitably dressed and proudly playing the bagpipes in his tartan kilt. It really did take you back in time and create a suitable atmosphere for the occasion (and a great backdrop for a photo.)
Shortly after the procession the sporting spectacle of deerhound racing began. Racing in pairs, with each dog wearing a red or white collar, the dogs were led to the start of the course. A motorised lure (nowadays favoured above the traditional deer!) was released and the race was underway. The rules were simple – the deerhound that got to the end of the course first was the winner – (although much to the spectacle of the audience this did not always happen!). However, it does have to be said that the dogs were well behaved and there was only one pair of dogs seen having an altercation rather than finish the job in hand! The sight of watching one of the oldest breeds of hounds racing is a magnificent sight to see and the onlookers were well equipped with seats and provisions for the day.
Dozens of deerhounds attended Lodge Park's racing in September
We ventured into the Lodge and watched an informative video on the history of Lodge Park, the hunting Lodge of the Sherborn Estate. It told us why the hunting lodge was built and its history through the last few centuries, from the Dutton family to when it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1992, and the remarkable job they’ve achieved to bring it back to its former spectacular glory. Once on the first floor, more NT volunteers dressed in traditional Stuart clothing helped set the mood in the main room, once used no doubt for drinking and gambling back in the olden days. The room was laid out as it would have been, with examples of the food that would be eaten. A table full of blocks and counters drew visitors to what at first sight looked like a games table. It transpired that the ‘games were in fact different methods of calculation – their winnings I suppose!
Crowds look on and enjoy the spectacle that is deerhound racing at Lodge Park
The balcony gave a great view of the races but we were eager to see the view from the roof. Only 10 people were allowed onto the roof at any one time. It was well worth the short wait as the views of the Cotswold countryside on all sides were magnificent. The view of the deerhound racing was truly spectacular. You could quite easily imagine that you had stepped back in time.
One of the deerhounds leaping along the course at Lodge Park
Returning to the ground, we found a hay bale and enjoyed refreshments which had been laid on for the day, and enjoyed more races. Speaking to fellow spectators, we discovered that deerhound racing at Lodge Park had only been re-established after a gap of three hundred years. Now in its sixth year, The National Trust and Deerhound Club began deerhound racing back in 2002 and each year its popularity has grown and grown. Enjoyed not only by deerhound enthusiasts, other dog lovers joined in the fun, bringing their own breed of four legged friends. All in all it was a very family orientated dog friendly collection of visitors who enjoyed this very unique Cotswold event.
Two deerhounds race after the lure at Lodge Park
It’s only held once a year so make sure you make a date in your diary for next year. We’re certainly be back to enjoy the Deerhound Racing at Lodge Park in 2009 and next year will bring our own seats and blankets along with and a four-course picnic and a bottle of wine – a truly relaxing day booked for 2009 indeed!
Lodge Park, Aldsworth, nr Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 3PP
Telephone: 01451 844130
Visit the National Trust website for Lodge Park
16 September 2008
For further information.
Deerhounds and their owners dressed up in 16th century costumes made the day out deerhound racing at Lodge Park a unique and memorable experience. Why not join in with the fun in 2009.
- Contact phone : 01451 844130
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