HUNDREDS of people lined the streets in Wansford yesterday (2 January) as the New Year’s Day Fitzwilliam Hunt took place.
The hunt started at the Haycock Hotel, with large crowds gathering to watch the action.
The hunt, which is one of the three biggest in the Fitzwilliam calendar, had been postponed for the last two years because of the weather – but milder temperatures allowed the hunt to take place this year.
Joint master of the hunt, George Bowyer, said he was pleased the hunt was able to take place.
He said: “The New Year’s Day hunt is one of the big three dates in our calendar, along with Boxing Day and Christmas Eve.
“The last couple of years it has been too frosty for us to take part in the hunt, because it is dangerous for the horses as they will slip over.
“However, this year we have had perfect weather.
“The hunt always takes place on New Year’s Day, unless it falls on a Sunday, when we move it to the Monday, because we never hunt on a Sunday.
“We have been holding the hunt at Wansford for many years and it is a great tradition.”
At the Boxing Day hunt, which was held in Stilton, near Peterborough, agriculture minister Jim Paice claimed the hunting ban was not working and called for a change in the law to allow hunting with dogs.
At the moment, hounds are not allowed to pursue foxes, deer, mink or hares after the law was changed in 2005.
The Fitzwilliam Hunt uses a number of different methods during the event, including dogs sniffing out fox urine imported from America and daubed around the area by officials, but not chasing the animals.
Dogs can also be used to flush out foxes from holes, before they are either shot or killed by a bird of prey.
Mr Bowyer said: “We always operate within the law when we go out on any of the hunts.
“This year we have about 50 horses taking part in the hunt and between 500 and 700 people will be on the ground.
“We also have between 600 and 1,000 people coming out to watch the hunt, which shows there is still support for hunting.”
Rhiannon Brett, deputy general manager at the Haycock Hotel, said the day was one of the high points in the year for the hotel.
She said: “This is always one of the busiest days of the year here.
“We are much busier this year compared to last year, partly because of the weather, and partly because it is the day after New Year’s Day, and people may not have a hangover.
“It is one of the most enjoyable days for us, as there are several hundred people who come along to look at the horses and the dogs, as well as have some food and drink here.
“We are bursting at the seams and it is a fantastic atmosphere here.”
FACTFILE: The Fitzwilliam Hunt
The Fitzwilliam Hunt dates back more than 250 years, and was believed to have been formed at some point in the 1740s.
The hunt goes out two days per week in the main season, which usually starts at the beginning of November and ends, depending on farming conditions, at about the end of March.
Autumn hunting starts as soon as possible after harvest is in, usually at the beginning of September.
Since being formed the pack has never been out of the ownership of the Fitzwilliam family, the current representative of which is the senior Joint Master, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland Bt.