Hundreds flock to watch hunt on Boxing Day

One of the riders at the Boxing Day hunt in Holbecks Park, Hadleigh. ANL-141230-114511001
One of the riders at the Boxing Day hunt in Holbecks Park, Hadleigh. ANL-141230-114511001

Hundreds of spectators turned out to watch Hadleigh’s Boxing Day hunt – 10 years after the traditional hunt was banned.

This year, 50 riders and hundreds of spectators

descended on Holbecks Park on a crisp, sunny morning to watch the hounds, horses and riders take part in the traditional event.

Heavy rain in the run-up to the event failed to dampen spirits and James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk hunt, said there were no protests.

“When we left Holbecks Park, we went round the market square and people were standing and waving – it was very inspiring,” he said.

Mr Buckle said that the hunt – the tenth since a partial ban on the sport in 2005 – has actually increased in popularity.

He feels this is because people are actively looking to show support for the rural pastime.

Having been master of the hunt for more than 20 years, the 50-year-old, from Church Lane, Semer, said: “I think in the 10 years since the ban, we have probably doubled the following.

“All sorts of people come – not just posh toffs on horses.

“I do think it’s part of the traditional country life which people really feel is under threat.

“They may not even be there for the hunting, but feel their way of life is threatened.

“Really, they’re just there to show support.”

Mr Buckle feels many in Suffolk hold no opinion on hunting and believes there are as many supporters as there are protesters, but said it was important to him, and was also a small but nevertheless important part of the rural economy.

“It’s not critical for this area but the actual hunt employs four people directly and a huge number are employed indirectly. It’s an important little bit of the countryside.”

Despite the continued popularity, Mr Buckle said the modern hunt was still missing the chase outlawed by the ban.

“We are not allowed to intentionally hunt a fox through cover, which is what hunting people most want to do,” he said.

Instead, foxes are flushed out to a bird of prey, or the hunting party can follow a pre-laid trail.

Mr Buckle says the law changes have left grey areas which he feels can be difficult for police officers to understand and enforce.

“It’s ridiculous – it really isn’t saving any foxes at all,” he said. “I can’t see any benefit to the legislation.”