Shalden near Alton will again provide the venue for the Hampshire Hunt’s traditional Boxing Day meet today.
The festive spectacle of a 50-strong mounted field and 30-plus hounds has historically attracted a bumper crowd at The Butts, Alton.
But after a pause for the pandemic in 2020, the hunt relocated to nearby Shalden in 2021 and will do so again this year.
The 2023 Boxing Day hunt will meet at Leon’s Farm Shalden, at 11am on Monday, December 26 before moving off to enjoy trail hunting over land at Bentworth Lodge.
The meet usually lasts around 20 minutes or so before the field moves off, and anyone on foot or on horses is welcome to come and support.
Hampshire Hunt says its hunts obey strict hunting legislation and take the form of 'trail' hunts, which replaced fox hunting after the bloodsport was banned by the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales.
According to the Countryside Alliance, which is campaigning for the return of fox hunting, trail hunting involves laying of a scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses.
There have, however, been calls to ban even this practice after official figures showed 438 convictions – including 42 last year – have been secured since 2010 under the Act.
Labour has led these calls, saying trail hunting is being used as a “smokescreen” for the illegal hunting of foxes.
Founded in 1745, the Hampshire Hunt is one of the oldest hunts in England and, while members value its heritage, the organisation is “both professional and forward thinking”.