Northumberland hunt supporters turn out for Boxing Day meet

Northumberland hunts ride out for traditional Boxing Day meet despite hunting with dogs being banned for almost 10 years

 

Hunts across the region rode out in force for the traditional Boxing Day meet yesterday.

This is despite hunting with dogs being banned for almost a decade.

The established hunts set off across the region early in the day with riders using animal-scented trails for the hounds to track.

Huntsmen and women say they continue to operate within the law in the hope the Hunting Act 2004 will one day be overturned.

According to the Countryside Alliance, since the act came into force on February 18 2005, not a single hunt in the region has folded, contrary to initial fears.

Families made a beeline for the picturesque Market Square in Corbridge to welcome the Tynedale huntsmen, horses and hounds before they set off on a trail hunt, following a scent laid down by the hunt leaders.

The Boxing Day Tynedale Hunt sets off from Corbridge
The Boxing Day Tynedale Hunt sets off from Corbridge
 

Following a cry of “tally ho” and the sound of Tynedale Master huntsman Charlie Shirley-Beavan’s horn the horses and hounds trotted into the distance.

This was Mr Shirley-Beavan’s second Boxing Day meet as Master of the Tynedale hunt.

He said: “The turnout here today is fantastic with around 100 horses and around 500 supporters on foot.

“It’s a community event and a tradition shared and enjoyed, not just by hunt members, but by people from all walks of life.

“Today is a great way for the public to see what we’re about and support for the hunt has actually grown since before the ban.”

Elsewhere across the region, the Border Hunt met at Girsonfield Stud, in Otterburn, Northumberland.

The hunt traditionally meets at the nearby Percy Arms, but the pub is currently closed.

Master of foxhounds, Michael Hedley, said a good and loyal following was topped up with new faces at today’s meet.

Mr Hedley, who has been master of foxhounds for the Border Hunt for 42 years, said: “We were fortunate with the weather as I think we’ll be seeing some snow in the coming days.

Master Huntsman Charlie Shirley-Beavan
Master Huntsman Charlie Shirley-Beavan
 

“It started off misty but the riders enjoyed a good gallop and the hounds enjoyed their work today.

“The Border countryside is vast but we’re sparsely populated. We had about 11 riders on horseback at today’s meet but we welcomed lots of new faces on foot.

“People who perhaps went to school in Otterburn in their younger days and people visiting the area.”

The Haydon Hunt is one of the oldest hunts in the region and has been meeting at the Anchor Hotel in Haydon Bridge for nearly two centuries.

One of the hunt’s followers counted 70 riders on horseback and more than 100 people on foot at this year’s Boxing Day spectacle.

But while hunt supporters call for the ban to be lifted, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) wants to see changes to the Hunting Act to tighten the legislation.

Joe Duckworth, LACS chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The problem is not with the law. It’s with those that flout it. It is time to now build on the successes of first ten years and strengthen the Hunting Act to ensure the spirit of the act is fulfilled.”

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