Hundreds of thousands of people – either on foot or mounted on horseback – lined the streets and market places of the UK on Tuesday 26 December for the Boxing Day meets of the 250 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 largest turnouts was at the meet of the Heythrop hunt in Oxfordshire which enjoyed tremendous support in Chipping Norton where crowds were estimated to be around 6,000 supporters and well-wishers. Joint-master Nessie Chanter said: “Every year we are humbled by the number of people that turn out – whatever the weather – to greet us in the square at Chipping Norton.”
Another large meet was that of the Duke of Beaufort’s hunt at Worcester Lodge, Didmarton in Gloucestershire. Matt Ramsden MFH, joint-master said: “We had a crowd of several thousand here again today to show their support for the Beaufort hounds. Hunting is a huge part of the community with people from all walks of life coming to be a part of this very traditional day.”
Alice Dunsdon, four-star-eventer and joint-master of the Surrey Union said: “We’re so lucky to have hundreds of people joining us yet again at our kennels near Ockley in Surrey to show that hunting is still thriving. We are particularly pleased to see so many young people enjoying our activities with such enthusiasm.”
Oliver Dale, joint-master of the Ludlow who met at Ludlow Castle in Herefordshire said: “Days like today – where thousands of people came out in Ludlow to show their support – demonstrate the importance of our hunting activities to the rural community.”
And the Warwickshire Hunt who met at Upton House, near Banbury had a great turnout. Chairman Sam Butler said: “People put this date in the diary as part of their annual festivities and although we don’t meet in a town centre, the crowd increases year after year. It’s magnificent that so many well-wishers make such a huge effort to get here to show their support.”
Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting, Polly Portwin commented: “With huge crowds showing their support again today and an increasing number of young people joining the hunting field, the future of hunting is secure.”