Photo gallery: Hunting tradition is as popular as ever, say enthusiasts at West Norfolk Boxing Day meet
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Hunting enthusiasts have said support for the tradition was stronger than ever as hundreds of people turned out for their Boxing Day meet.
Families flocked to West Raynham Hall today to catch sight of the dozens of huntsmen and women with their horses and hounds.
Riders enjoyed a glass of port and a sausage roll before they headed out for a day of laying trails around the mid-Norfolk estate.
The hunt was one of three in the Norfolk and north Suffolk area and one of about 60 nationwide. It came just after 115 huntsmen and women took part in Christmas Eve hunt at Sennowe Park, near Guist.
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Charles Carter, joint master and hunstman of the West Norfolk hunt, said: 'It's a tremendous occasion. I'm always overwhelmed by the support that we receive here at Raynham at this hall before this tradition.
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'In 2004, people would've written us off to have no future but look at us now. The support for hunting and our tradition is still as strong as ever despite the current climate in which we still find it increasingly difficult to operate and are relying on the government to stick firm to their promises to address the poorly drafted, badly worded, difficult to enforce legislation that was imposed upon us.'
Field master Peter Willcox added: 'Nearly 10 years on and we are more popular than ever. People come out to enjoy the countryside and the hunt which is a tremendous tradition.
'We went through an era of the unknown but to everyone's surprise, we have maintained the support and popularity and hunting is a sport for everyone to enjoy.'
The hunting ban was drawn up in the 2004 Hunting Act and was introduced in England and Wales in 2005.
Supporters are pushing the government to scrap the ban while a poll carried out on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA found 80 per cent of the public wanted to keep the law.
Tom Dickerson, 38, from Beetley, near Dereham, who was at the start of today's West Norfolk hunt with his six-year-old son Oliver, said: 'It's a countryside tradition that's been going on for centuries and shouldn't stop.'
Vicki Doyle, who was with her husband and their three children, Hannah, seven, Ruth, five, and Adam, one, said: 'It's a great social event and a great family event for those riding and watching. There's a huge appreciation of the tradition.'