MINEHEAD Harriers traditional Boxing Day was switched for the first time this year to the town’s seafront and took place in the freezing cold yesterday.
Several hundred hunt supporters turned out for the occasion, which was held outside the Beach Hotel.
Despite a hunting ban introduced four years ago, meets by the Harriers and other hunts across West Somerset have continued to prove to be just as popular, if not more so.
Harriers secretary Tim Holt said following the sale by Barry Richards of the town centre Wellington Hotel, where the Boxing Day meet had been held for many years, it was decided to host it instead at the Beach Hotel, which Mr Richards still owned.
Mr Holt said the change was hugely popular with a larger than ever public attendance.
He said: “There must have been one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen at a meet and it was all good-natured.
“None of the ‘antis’ were there to cause any nonsense and we had a great send-off.”
Harriers vice-president Mike Padgett said: “It was tremendous to see the support we get from the ordinary public of West Somerset.
“It just goes to show what an important part the hunt plays in the local community and how valued it is as a part of everybody’s lives.”
The West Somerset Vale hunt met in Nether Stowey and also saw larger than usual crowds gather at The Cross to see them ride out, bringing traffic in the village centre to a halt as they did so.
The Countryside Alliance said Boxing Day meets across the country had generally enjoyed their largest turnouts since the hunting ban was introduced.
Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner, who leads a campaign to repeal the hunting ban, said: “There seems to be a very large turnout at all the meets.
“There is a feeling that people are coming out just to support their local hunt and the campaign for the repeal of the act. It is a very positive feeling across the country.”