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Master and huntsman Charles Carter prepares to get the Boxing Day West Norfolk hunt underway. Picture: Ian Burt

Photo Gallery: Hundreds gather at the Boxing Day West Norfolk hunt

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
2.56 PM

Hundreds of people from across the county turned out to the traditional Boxing Day West Norfolk hunt today (Wednesday).

Master and huntsman Charles Carter sets off from Raynham Hall at the start of the Boxing Day West Norfolk hunt. Picture: Ian BurtMaster and huntsman Charles Carter sets off from Raynham Hall at the start of the Boxing Day West Norfolk hunt. Picture: Ian Burt

The event returned to Raynham Hall, East Raynham - the ancestral home of the Marquesses Townshend - for the first time in six years.

In recent years it has started from Fakenham Market Place and Fakenham Racecourse.

The hunt was hosted by Lord Townshend, who said: “It is a tradition that needed resurrecting. We are delighted they are here and we are delighted that it is a proper drag hunt, which is within the rules.”

Included in the hunt were 29 mounted horses, 15 couples of Fox Hounds and 300 people who followed it on foot. Some other spectators followed the hounds and horses by car or bikes.

Master and huntsman of the West Norfolk hunt, Charles Carter, said it was “tremendous” to be at Raynham Hall.

He added: “It is tremendous we have such support from the public and indeed from the West Norfolk Foxhounds. It shows hunting in the countryside has a future and look at the amount of people prepared to turn out and support that future.”

The West Norfolk Foxhounds is believed to be one of the oldest pack of hounds in the country and was formed 477 years ago. The West Norfolk hunt is the only hunt in Norfolk which uses hounds.

Bill Borrett, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council, who took part in the hunt said: “It is part of the social fabric of rural Norfolk. You can see how many people get together. The people who come and follow do so for a chat and to make social connections. It is very much part of Christmas in Norfolk.

“It is a good way to get fresh air after the turkey and Christmas pudding. It is a good way to walk off the overindulgence of Christmas. It is a glorious day.”

He added: “Today is much more of a social thing than a political thing.”

Buffy Wilcox, field master, said: “Which ever government is in power we have to work with them.”

He added: “The West Norfolk hunt is an eclectic mix of people from society. That is what the hunt is all about. I think the scenery is absolutely wonderful.”

People of all ages turned out to watch, including several children.

Husband and wife, Geoffrey and Renata Garfoot, from Pentney, continued their tradition by following the hunt on bike.

Mr Garfoot, 47, said: “It is a beautiful day. I think hunting is an important part of our rural community. There is a misconception hunting is elitist, but it is not at all.”

Katherine Garner, 33, from Terrington St Clement, said: “Look at the variety of people here - it is not all pomp and splendour. There are so many types of different people here. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from.”

She added the landscape around Raynham Hall was stunning and gorgeous.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who was not at the West Norfolk hunt, said: “The Boxing Day hunt meet is a timeless reconnection with our rural heritage - and a reminder of the importance of our local hunts in the rural community.

“Through providing jobs in the rural economy, looking after horses and hounds, maintaining countryside habitats and controlling vermin, running the Pony Club and as the backbone of National Hunt Racing at courses like Fakenham, hunts like the West Norfolk play a crucial part in the rural way of life.”

He added: “We need to make sure that legislation to protect animal welfare is effective and doesn’t prevent hunts doing the good work they do.”