Suffolk: Hunts meet without horses

HUNDREDS braved frosty conditions to attend traditional hunts across the region yesterday.

The delayed Boxing Day custom, which this year took place a day late because hunts do not ride out on Sundays, saw rural communities in Hadleigh, Bury St Edmunds, Bungay and Galleywood, in Essex, all turn out to show their support.

They were greeted by the eager hounds but there was disappointment all around as the traditional hunts were called off because of frozen ground.

The traditional post-Christmas meets came just days after it was revealed a decision about the future of hunting had been put on hold.

David Cameron had promised a vote on repealing the 2005 ban on fox hunting, but on Friday the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs revealed the vote had been postponed until 2012.

Jill Grieve, from the Countryside Alliance, said the decision was understandable because of other matters facing the country, but said ministers needed to at least make clear what was legal or not under the existing Act.

“We find that huntsmen do a great job and work very hard,” she said. “And every time they go to work they are under threat of prosecution.” Richard Ames, senior master of the Suffolk Hunt, said it was probably the first time in 30 years the Boxing Day meet, which is held in Hawstead, near Bury St Edmunds, had taken place without horses.

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But despite the disappointment he said it had been a “pleasant” morning.

He said: “Unfortunately the ground conditions just made it impossible to bring the horses but we did take the hounds there.

“We had about 350 people who braved the cold and basically went on a hound exercise.

“And there might have been 50 or 60 people who decided to follow the hounds for about four miles up to Dovedon Wood.

“I think everyone was pleased to go out and blow the cobwebs away.”

Chris Amatt, huntsman with the Thurlow Hunt, said their ride, which meets at Great Thurlow Hall, had also taken place without horses this year due to the ground frost.

About 2,000 people lined the cold streets of Bungay town centre waiting for the start of the meet.

The crowds were greeted by huntsmen and women on foot with hounds.

Dominic Parravani, joint master of Waveney Harriers, said: “Unfortunately because the ground is so hard and it is too icy it would be dangerous to take the horses out.”

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