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Hunts prepare for tradition Boxing Day meets

PUBLISHED: 19:03 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 19:03 20 December 2018

Lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The age-old tradition of the Boxing Day Hunt is being kept alive in Suffolk and Essex this year with trail hunts planned for December 26.

Fox hunting was made illegal in England in 2004 and trail hunting, which involves using a scent, was introduced to replicate the tradition.

Hunts still take place across both Suffolk and Essex, with the traditional rides going out on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Organisers are prepared to see some protestors who still oppose the practice.

Essex and Suffolk Hunt

The hunt will meet in Holbecks Park in Hadleigh shortly before 10.45am before moving off at 11.15am.

James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said: “We are having the most amazing season – although it started slowly it is now really going great.

“We have never had so many people following us and never had so few protestors.”

In previous years there have been 1,500 to 2,000 people on foot and around 50 to 60 people on horses.

Mr Buckle said: “Unless the weather is dire we are expecting similar numbers this year.”

Suffolk hunts

Based in Great Whelnetham, the Suffolk Hunt has been in the area for more than 250 years. On Boxing Day it will be setting off at 11am.

Masters of pursuits in Hadleigh and Bury St Edmunds will be kicking off their festive hunts on December 26, and are also expecting large crowds.

Tradition

Rachel Smedley, author of Countryside Alliance, said: “On Boxing Day around 300 hunts will meet in every corner of the countryside. Boxing Day remains one of the most important and highly publicised days in the hunting calendar with over 250,000 people expected to attend a meet this year, many of whom will only see hounds on this one occasion each season.

“Hundreds of thousands of people – either on foot or mounted on horseback – will fill the streets and market places. The 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.”

According to a poll by the League Against Cruel sports, 85% of the British public are in support of the ban, introduced by the Labour government.

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