Diana Thomas

A hunt­ing lady who has trav­elled the world for her pas­sion but who is at her hap­pi­est at home with the South Shrop­shire

Horse & Hound - - Hunting - By FRANK HOUGHTON BROWN

BORN at the South Shrop­shire ken­nels at Annscroft where her fa­ther, Michael Row­son, was hunts­man for 34 sea­sons, Diana Thomas has hunt­ing etched deep in her DNA.

“When I left school at 16, I spent a sea­son as groom at the Fernie be­fore com­ing home to do the horses for the South Shrop­shire,” Diana says. “In my sec­ond sea­son I was pro­moted to head girl and whipped-in to Dad for two sea­sons, three days a week.”

A two-year blood­stock course at Hart­pury Col­lege dis­rupted her hunt­ing ca­reer be­fore Diana jet­ted off to a job whip­ping-in to the Ade­laide Hunt in Aus­tralia.

“I loved it and am still great friends with the hunts­man An­drew Gray,” Diana says.

“I did one sea­son and when I got home Dad got a call from David Barker ask­ing me to go and whip-in at the Meynell.

I was wor­ried that it would be too much for me, but with Dad’s en­cour­age­ment I ac­cepted. It re­ally was a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to learn about hounds and rid­ing to them. I still have many of Mr Barker’s dit­ties en­graved in my mind that I re­peat with a York­shire ac­cent.”

Ma­son Lamp­ton, the mas­ter and hunts­man of the Mid­land Fox­hounds in Ge­or­gia, USA, came to look at the Meynell hounds one day and asked Di if she fan­cied com­ing to the States to whip-in to him.

“It was the first time that I had ever com­mit­ted to three years in one place,” she re­mem­bers. “[Se­nior mas­ter] Ben Har­d­away had his pack of bob­cat hounds and his lurchers for cours­ing coy­otes. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Diana flew back to the UK in April 2001 when the foot-and- mouth epi­demic had shut hunt­ing down, so with­out hes­i­ta­tion she whizzed back to Ade­laide for another sea­son as whip­per-in.

“The Aus­tralian sea­son ended in Oc­to­ber and I was keen to muster cat­tle, so I got a job in the north-east­ern cor­ner of South Aus­tralia on a mil­lion-acre sta­tion with only three peo­ple liv­ing on it. I stayed three years,” she says.

A HOME BIRD

DE­SPITE all this fre­netic trav­el­ling, Diana in­sists: “I’m a home bird re­ally and I just love Shrop­shire. It’s the best place in the world.”

She re­turned to look af­ter Richard Cam­bray’s horses for five years, man­ag­ing to hunt three days a week with her beloved South Shrop­shire and even to hunt the United Pack for a sea­son af­ter Oliver Hill had a bad fall.

“Hunt­ing hounds is the ul­ti­mate and I’m so pleased that I had the op­por­tu­nity to do it,” she says.

Diana is now set­tled on a Shrop­shire farm, only six miles from the South Shrop­shire ken­nels, and has set up a busi­ness mak­ing ny­lon thongs for hunt­ing whips, and Thi-Dri Rid­ing

Aprons. She has been mar­ried to Myles for eight years and has two small chil­dren — three-year-old Ara­bella and Wil­liam, who is nearly two.

“Myles built new sta­bles be­fore he bought me an en­gage­ment ring,” she says. “Then he started to ride and now he is fly­ing.

“I strug­gle for child­care so I spend most of the time get­ting horses ready for ei­ther Myles or my sis­ter, but I love see­ing them en­joy it so much. My par­ents fol­low the hounds in a car­riage pulled by a pair of driv­ing horses when they’re not rid­ing. I just hope that I get a cou­ple more good sea­sons be­fore I have to do that lead­ing-rein thing.” H&H

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