Video: Hundreds turn out for New Year’s Day hunt

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Hundreds of people gathered in Wansford to see the New Year’s Day meeting of the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

More than 300 people gathered in the village to watch the Fitzwilliam Hunt take place on New Year’s Day - which organisers say is one of the best turnouts.

The scene in the centre of Wansford on new yeras day as the annual Fitzwilliam Hunt gathers for the first hunt of the year

The scene in the centre of Wansford on new yeras day as the annual Fitzwilliam Hunt gathers for the first hunt of the year

The hunt, which met outside the Haycock Hotel at noon, dates back more than 250 years with the Kennel records of hound pedigrees dating back to 1760.

It is also believed there have been hounds kennelled continuously at the hunt’s base in Milton, Peterborough, since the reign of Richard II.

The Fitzwilliam Hunt also held a meeting on Boxing Day, which similarly resulted in large crowds being drawn to Wansford.

Organisers said the New Year’s Day hunt was one of the biggest turnouts they have ever had, proving the popularity of hunting in the UK is still strong, despite the 2004 Hunting Act, which made hunting with dogs illegal.

A spokeswoman said: “We were staggered by the number of people who turned up to watch the first hunt of 2013.

“There must have been more than 300 people in Wansford, which is a lot more than usual.

“We are very grateful for the support that the hunt receives and we hope everyone who attended had a great time.

Ella Baines (28) from Huntingdon said: “We came over because it’s traditional. It’s a lovely setting and, personally, I think it’s nice to see especially as the hounds won’t be catching a fox.”

Councillor Nick Guyatt (Con, Elton) said: “There certainly seemed to be more people than usual and everyone was enjoying themselves.

“The streets of Wansford were lined with people and cars, the whole place seemed to have come to a standstill for the day.

“The hunt was conducted in good humour and I couldn’t see any protestors in the crowds.”

The pack is still kennelled at Milton Park today, and 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. The other Joint-Masters are Mrs Patricia Anderson and George Bowyer.

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 the harvest is in, usually at the beginning of September.

The area of countryside hunted by the Fitzwilliam is around 30 miles by 20 miles, from Stamford in the north to Higham Ferrers in the south, and covers 600 square miles.