_Fernie-Boxing-Day-12_RoseRAt least a quarter of a million people lined the streets and market places of the UK on Saturday 26 December for the Boxing Day meets of the 300 plus registered hunts in the UK.

This annual spectacle is an opportunity for hunts to thank all those who support them, from the farmers and landowners over whose land they ride, to their subscribers and the public, whose enthusiasm for hunting shows no signs of waning, despite more than a decade of the Hunting Act.

One of the biggest turnouts was at the meet of the Heythrop hunt in Oxfordshire, which attracted around 6,000 well-wishes to Chipping Norton Square.

Joint–master Vanessa Lambert said: “The support we have from our local community is absolutely fantastic. Nothing beats riding into the square and seeing the thousands of people who have turned out to see us. This is the day when we get to thank them for their continuing support.”

Another large meet was that of the Duke of Beaufort’s hunt at Worcester Lodge, Didmarton in Gloucestershire. Joint-master Ian Farqhuar said: “Numbers are always difficult to assess in such a large area as the Park but we estimate 5,000 supporters attended. The fox has been the loser under this ridiculous ban and we will continue to work towards a change in the law.”

Around 150 riders and around 2,000 on foot turned out for the Llangeinor hunt’s meet at the Fox & Hounds pub in Blackmill, South Wales.

Joint-master Brian Hughes said: “Our meet grows in support each year. People may think that hunting is elitist but we met today at a local pub in a Labour heartland and our many supporters come from all walks of life.

“They realise that hunting is an important part of our rural communities and support us in our continued fight to overturn the Hunting Act.”

And at the Holcombe Harriers’ meet at Rivington Barn, in Anglezark near Bolton, more than 100 people were mounted and more than 2,000 on foot.

Joint-master Sue Simmons said: “We were delighted to be able to parade our hounds in this traditional meet on Boxing Day and for so many people to be there to show their appreciation of country sports.”