HUNT supporters turned out in force to cheer off the riders and hounds for the annual countryside events in Worcestershire.

The Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt gathered for its trail hunt outside the King’s Head pub in Upton-upon-Severn on Christmas Eve.

In Droitwitch, huntsmen and women gathered at the town’s Raven Hotel, near Victoria Square today.

In Upton, senior hunt master Diana Ralph, riding the appropriately named Holly, said: “We’ve had a very good turnout with the best part of 100 riders.

“We’re lucky to have Father Christmas here and we’ve had a lot of support today.

“We’re not thinking of all the economic doom and gloom today, we’re here to enjoy ourselves.”

She addressed the hunt as horses, decked out with tinsel, packed the High Street and started by wishing all season’s greetings and thanking people for attending before the group moved off at 11.15am.

Bill Jones, hunt chairman, explained the hunt was a golden opportunity for young riders to ride cross country with several jumps and fences along the trail.

Today, thousands of supporters lined the Droitwich roads and packed the hotel car park as riders enjoyed a glass of warming punch.

Deputy Mayor of Droitwich Maureen Lawley said: “For years we have been trying to come to the Boxing Day hunt and something has always come up.

“The turn-out is fantastic and everyone looks wonderful.”

Before leaving, Worcestershire Hunt joint master David Palmer, said: “I think it is going to be a great day, there is a fair crowd of people here.

“We shall be back here next year keeping our fingers crossed for the change in the politics to change the hunting bill.”

In 2005, the Hunting Act made it an offence to hunt wild mammals. Hunts still take place using foxhounds to flush out the animal to a bird of prey or marksman, or using a false scent laid in advance.

The Countryside Alliance is using the hunts to campaign for a repeal of the act.