Home » Tally Ho! Hunts Set Off For Their Traditional Festive Outings As Numbers Are Hit By Covid

Tally Ho! Hunts Set Off For Their Traditional Festive Outings As Numbers Are Hit By Covid

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Riders and hounds have taken off across the countryside as scaled down Boxing Day hunts met under Covid restrictions for the second year running.

Packs painted a stunning picture as they tore over fields across the UK despite celebrations being dimmed down due to the pandemic.

Trail and drag hunts went ahead but in limited numbers and many passed up the usual popular send offs on village and town greens.

There were fears over what skipping the meets would have on the local community, with pubs and other local businesses normally cashing in on huge crowds.

But there were still some who today railed against the traditional British sport, with a few activists hitting out at it being conducted on public land.

Hunters and packs painted a stunning picture as they tore over fields across the UK – despite celebrations being dimmed down due to the pandemic. Pictured: The Essex and Suffolk Hunt today

Trail and drag hunts went ahead but in limited numbers and many passed up the usual send offs on village and town greens. Pictured: The Essex and Suffolk Hunt today

A young fan sits with a huntsman on his horse before they set out at the Essex with Farmers and Union Hunt on Monday

The hounds tear off ahead of the horses as the Essex with Farmers Hunt get underway in the South East on Monday morning

The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt Boxing Day meet at Worcester Lodge, Didmarton, Gloucestershire, on a drizzly Monday morning

Boxing Day hunts met across England, Scotland and Wales on Monday morning due to them usually not heading out on Sundays because it is a day of rest.

The packs, of which there are around 250 in the UK, had to follow strict government guidance in England and Wales, with those in the latter only allowing up to 50 to attend.

Master huntsmen had to weigh up disappointing the thousands that usually flock to see hunts off with containing the threat of Covid super strain Omicron.

Ralph Richardson, joint-master and huntsman of the Middleton Hunt, based in Yorkshire, which hosted two meets in Driffield and in Malton, said: ‘Our meets have yet again been well attended by those for whom so many it is a traditional part of their annual festivities and as well as parading in the towns, we also took the hounds to visit a local care home which brought smiles to the faces of the residents.

‘We were happy that this year those attending our meets could support the local pubs and shops which, like so many other local businesses, have had a difficult year.’

Mary Perry, joint-master of the Cotley Hunt, encouraged people to take precautions ahead of the meet in Chard, Somerset, to help prevent the spread of the virus: ‘We circulated advice ahead of the meet to urge those attending to take a lateral flow test and to please stay at home if the test was positive or if they felt unwell.

‘We also advised those gathering on foot to wear masks in confined spaces and to social distance wherever possible.’

Those looking to ride with the hounds were asked to take lateral flow tests this morning and not to join if they came back positive or if they felt unwell generally.

Meanwhile any eager supporters who turned up were asked to don face coverings if they found themselves in enclosed spaces.

There were fears over what skipping the meets would have on the local community, with pubs and other local businesses cashing in on huge crowds gathering. Pictured: The Essex and Suffolk Hunt today

Boxing Day hunts met across England, Scotland and Wales on Monday morning due to them usually not heading out on Sundays because it is a day of rest. Pictured: The Essex and Suffolk Hunt today

The Essex with Farmers and Union Hunt sets off for it’s Christmas ride from the Chequers Pub in the rural Essex village of Matching Green today

Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: ‘Festive meets are hugely popular and well attended by both hunt followers and local communities, for whom the event has become a cherished family tradition.’ Pictured: The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt today

The Cotley Harriers ride their horses through the high street at Chard in Somerset on their annual Boxing Day hunt with locals and supporters cheering on despite a small handful of activists trying to ruin the day

The packs, of which there are around 250 in the UK, had to follow strict government guidance in England and Wales, with those in the latter only allowing up to 50 to attend. Pictured: The Essex and Suffolk Hunt today

Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: ‘Festive meets are hugely popular and well attended by both hunt followers and local communities, for whom the event has become a cherished family tradition.

‘While many meets have been smaller scale this year due to the restrictions, they have still provided a big boost both socially and economically across the countryside, as does trail hunting throughout the season.

‘The popularity of this annual spectacle, which is an opportunity for hunts to welcome people who might only see a hunt on this one occasion each year, shows no signs of waning, despite more than 16 years operating under the confines of the Hunting Act.’

She added: ‘We hope that next year, meets can return to their full glory which can see crowds hit the hundreds of thousands.’

Elsewhere in Britain, hunts in Scotland and Wales were subjected to separate restrictions that limited the number of people being able to attend outside events.

In Wales, where gatherings outside are limited to 50 people, the majority of hunts decided to cancel, while those that went ahead limited attendance to riders.

The Curre & Llangibby Hunt in Wales was among those hunts forced to cancel their usual public meet in Devauden Green, Monmouthshire, due to the change in recent Covid restrictions.

Elsewhere in Britain, hunts in Scotland and Wales were subjected to separate restrictions that limited the number of people being able to attend outside events. Pictured: The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt today

Mary Perry, joint-master of the Cotley Hunt, encouraged people to take precautions ahead of the meet in Chard, Somerset, to help prevent the spread of the virus: ‘We circulated advice ahead of the meet to urge those attending to take a lateral flow test and to please stay at home if the test was positive or if they felt unwell.’ Pictured: The Cotley Harriers

The Cotley Harriers ride their horses through the high street at Chard in Somerset on their annual Boxing Day hunt with locals and supporters watching on today

The Essex with Farmers and Union Hunt sets off for it’s Christmas ride from the Chequers Pub in the rural Essex village of Matching Green today

The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt Boxing Day meet at Worcester Lodge, Didmarton, Gloucestershire, is pictured on Monday morning

Juliette Evans, joint-master of the hunt, said: ‘Although we understand the need to restrict numbers at gatherings, it was disappointing to have to cancel our public meet this year because it is usually a very social event which is an integral part of the festivities for local farmers and the wider rural community.’

Meanwhile in Scotland, outside events are limited to 500 people. While there are only eight registered hunts there, attendance at festive meets can reach into the thousands.

Tim Allen, Master and huntsman of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt who met at Floor’s Castle, near Kelso said: ‘With the changes to outdoor events coming into force in Scotland yesterday, we’ve had to limit the number of those attending to 500 people which is a considerably smaller crowd to usual, however, we were delighted to be able to go ahead and hope these new measures will help slow the spread of the virus.’

There are still some activists who are still trying to ban any form of hunting 17 years after the Hunting Act outlawed the killing of foxes with hounds.

Campaigning charity the League Against Cruel Sports on Boxing Day issued another call to stop packs going out on public land.

Chris Luffingham, director of external affairs at the LACS, said: ‘We know, and it has been found in court, that hunters use the excuse of so-called trail hunting to carry on as they always have.

‘Their breathtaking arrogance in thinking the rules simply don’t apply to them cannot be tolerated by the general public any longer, who are getting very adept at seeing through the pathetic smokescreen of half truths and lies.

‘Enough is enough. We have been told that specific government departments are responsible for how they manage their land, and therefore we call upon the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to end the issuing of trail hunting licences on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

‘Similarly, we urge Forestry England to make their suspension of licences permanent, following the likes of the National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, national parks and local councils who have all seen past the smokescreen and understand trail hunting is simply old-fashioned illegal hunting by another name.’

He added: ‘It’s time all major landowners permanently banned trail hunting on their land and that the government strengthens the Hunting Act to ensure its loopholes can no longer be exploited.’

Despite Sunday traditionally being a day of rest for hunts, some headed out yesterday to take part in the Boxing Day hunts.

Members of The South Downs Bloodhounds wear their new mustard coat uniform ahead of the annual Boxing Day trail hunt near Petersfield, Hampshire

Hundreds of supporters wrapped up in their hats and scarves to watch the annual event, which took place in various locations across the country. Pictured: Hounds and horses of the Grove and Rufford Hunt meet at the King William Inn, Scaftworth, Nottinghamshire, yesterday

A hound makes friends with one of the 80-strong crowd, who donned a camo style jacket, to watch the hunt in Scaftworth, Nottinghamshire earlier yesterday (pictured)

Large crowds wrapped up in their woolly hats, jackets and scarves begin to gather in Petersfield yesterday morning for the annual event

Before the traditional hunt got underway, children were seen petting the hounds as the riders and their horses got ready to begin

Hundreds of supporters wrapped up in their hats and scarves to watch the annual event, which took place in various locations across the country.

Spectators descended upon the market town of Petersfield as members of The South Downs Bloodhounds took part in the annual tradition.

Dressed in their new mustard coat uniforms and sporting festive mice pie and Santa hats, riders on horseback made their way through the town’s streets as their supporters came out to watch.

The South Downs Bloodhounds, which was formed in 2004, usually begin their season around the end of August, with people able to follow the hunt from the road or from their cars.

The latest event comes just days after the group gathered in foggy conditions for a hunt near Cranborne Manor in East Dorset.

This month the group also carried out hunts near Whitewool Farm in East Meon and Milton Hill Farm in Pewsey.

Riders on horseback wear their new mustard coats ahead of the annual Boxing Day trail hunt near Petersfield yesterday morning

Riders wear festive hats as they take part in The South Downs Bloodhounds annual Boxing Day trail hunt yesterday morning

The South Downs Bloodhounds usually begin their active hunting season around the end of August with supporters able to follow them by foot

Two riders sit on their horses as they take part in The South Downs Bloodhounds annual Boxing Day trail hunt yesterday

Hundreds people begin to come to watch the annual Boxing Day trail hunt in Hampshire yesterday despite the cold and wet weather conditions

Riders on horseback prepare for The South Downs Bloodhounds Boxing Day trail hunt in Petersfield yesterday morning