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Crowds gather for West Norfolk Hunt’s Boxing Day meet

PUBLISHED: 12:58 26 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:46 26 December 2019

Riders and hounds move off from the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet  Picture: Chris Bishop

Riders and hounds move off from the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet Picture: Chris Bishop

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Crowds gathered for the Boxing Day meet of Britain’s oldest hunt.

Hounds move off from the Boxing Day meet at Raynham Hall  Picture: Chris BishopHounds move off from the Boxing Day meet at Raynham Hall Picture: Chris Bishop

The West Norfolk Hunt, which claims to be nearly 500 years old, set off from Raynham Hall, near Fakenham.

Lord Townshend, whose family has inhabited the estate for almost as long, said he was "proud as punch" to welcome the hounds, which had been meeting at the hall since before he was born in 1945.

As the hunt assembled in front of the hall, its master Andrew Kendall said: "It's wonderful to see so many people here, supporting this great tradition. We're delighted."

Crowds gather at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet  Picture Chris BishopCrowds gather at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet Picture Chris Bishop

There was time for the customary stirrup cup, before a long blast on the huntsman's horn signalled time to get under way.

After hacking down the avenue of lime trees, lined by 4x4s, the hounds were onto the false scent laid earlier and away.

The West Norfolk was one of dozens of packs meeting up and down the country today, as campaigners called for tougher laws to keep foxes safe.

The hounds arrive at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet  Picture: Chris BishopThe hounds arrive at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet Picture: Chris Bishop

Fox hunting was banned in England and Wales following the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 - which came into force a year later.

However, drag hunting - where hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent -is permitted under the legislation.

Animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports said it will continue to lobby MPs to strengthen the Hunting Act and "remove loopholes" which it claims allow hunts to still get away with killing foxes.

West Norfolk hunt master Andrew Kendall at the Boxing Day met at Raynham Hall  Picture: Chris BishopWest Norfolk hunt master Andrew Kendall at the Boxing Day met at Raynham Hall Picture: Chris Bishop

The charity's director of campaigns, Chris Luffingham, said: "There has been a sea change in the way the fox hunting debate is being framed and with the ban now secure, our emphasis has shifted towards the strengthening of the Hunting Act."

The charity said it had received 184 reports of suspected illegal fox hunting since the season began in late October.

Huntsman and hounds at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet at Raynham Hall  Picture: Chris BishopHuntsman and hounds at the West Norfolk Hunt's Boxing Day meet at Raynham Hall Picture: Chris Bishop

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