A CROWD estimated at 2000 strong or more packed into Ledbury High Street to see the Ledbury Hunt gather for their traditional Boxing Day meet.

Riders enjoyed their stirrup cups outside The Feathers Hotel, before setting off at 11am.

Hunting with dogs has been banned since 2004, and members of the Ledbury Hunt stressed that they were staying within the law, with the hounds set to follow pre-laid scented trails.

Ledbury Hunt spokesman, Donald Haden said: "As always on Boxing Day the centre of Ledbury was packed with horses and hounds as a huge crowd came to show their support for the Ledbury Foxhounds.

More than sixty members of the Hunt were there on horseback including legendary character, Ivor Stephens, who has just been awarded the Legion d'honneur by the President of France for his wartime services in the Royal Navy."

Mr Haden added: "Joint Master Edward Philipson-Stow addressed the crowd from horseback, saying how pleased the Hunt has always been to have a very strong association with such a famous Herefordshire market town. "He reminded everyone that the Hunt had been meeting here outside The Feathers Hotel for at least 170 years and despite difficulties caused by the Hunting Act introduced in 2004, he said they would continue to do so for many more years to come."

Mr Philipson-Stow thanked The Feathers Hotel for its hospitality and added that, in order to keep within the law, scented trails had and would be laid during the day for the hounds to follow.

Mr Haden said: "At 11am the Hunt staff and Joint Masters took the hounds up the Homend as far as the old hospital before turning and, accompanied by all the mounted followers, riding back through the huge crowd of well wishers up to the top cross and then down New Street, heading towards the Dymock,Kempley and Much Marcle area.

"Hounds hunted well all afternoon finishing the day at Hallwood Green."