Hunt hero Blackmore and Sparkford Vale chairman Richard de Pelet
The generous bon viveur who ensures the whole field has a wonderful time
IN 41 years as chairman of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, Richard de Pelet has oiled the wheels of this successful Dorset pack with his generosity, enthusiasm and interest in people (he knows everyone).
Every year, in the week before the opening meet, he and his wife Isabel host the annual farmers’ drinks party and welcome up to 450 people into their home, Inwood. The opening meet is held at Inwood and the hounds are on the estate, which is 90% grassland in the centre of the hunt country, every three weeks throughout the season. The doors of the house, with its incredible collection of art, are open for endless hunting-related parties throughout the year.
Anthony Mayo, who has been a master of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale since 2006, says Richard’s skills as a “people person” are second to none.
“If Richard hosts a party, he makes sure he speaks to everyone there, he attends every hunt function and if there are ever problems with the hunt at large he deals with them quietly and well,” says Anthony.
Richard is a glass half-full person who has relished all aspects of his role in a part of Britain where foxhunting is dyed in the wool.
“I’ve enjoyed being chairman immensely,” he declares in his booming baritone. “There have been easy times when everything is going well, and difficult times when everything is going wrong,
but I have been lucky enough to have a very supportive committee and the farmers, subscribers, members and followers have been extremely kind and supportive too.”
In the course of his chairmanship Richard has worked with four huntsmen — Tony Austin, Robin Cursham, Chris Bould and Mark Doggrell — and 23 masters.
Michael Felton, who joined the mastership in 1992, is his longest-serving master to date.
He says: “Richard’s USP is his ability to make everyone feel welcome. At every meet he has an extraordinary but effective protocol where he goes around and says ‘hello’ to everyone. If someone new arrives he makes sure he introduces them to everyone.”
Michael also acknowledges the part that Inwood has played over the years.
“Richard is a born bon viveur and he has been very generous with Inwood,” he explains. “He loves welcoming people into his home with all its treasures.”
Of hunting in general, Richard says: “I enjoy the riding although I don’t jump any more. I like the drama of it, the social side of it and the parties that go with it.
I’m not a hound man but I’m doing what I can do, trying to be a general or a field marshal and look after the people so that they will look after the rest of the hunt.”
He adds: “I owe everything to hunting because if my father hadn’t been interested in hunting he wouldn’t have inherited Inwood. He was a very good trustee who continued the tradition of hunting established by Miss Guest [the previous owner] and I have tried to do the same.”
‘At every meet, he has a protocol to go round and say “hello” to everyone’ michael felton mfh