HUNDREDS of people gathered in Droitwich Spa to welcome huntsmen and women during the annual Boxing Day meet.

Worcestershire Hunt members wearing traditional red riding jackets were greeted by more than 200 people outside the town’s Raven Hotel in St Andrews Street.

Once again the horses were absent from the meet due to the dangerous icy conditions.

Instead, riders held a parade walking on foot with a pack of hounds from the hotel’s car park and along Queen Street.

Members also used the gathering to underline their determination to get the hunting ban lifted.

Ministers have confirmed the ban will stay in place next year because financial issues have to be prioritised first.

However, Tash Wheeler, joint master of the Worcestershire Hunt, said: “We are not going away.

“It’s a matter of trust between the countryside and the Government. It will take place when the time is right.”

She was speaking to the crowd at the Raven Hotel at the start of the hunt on Monday, December 27.

The Boxing Day hunt was moved to Monday this year as, traditionally, the hunt does not meet on a Sunday.

Miss Wheeler said: “It’s a parade to thank the public for their support. It’s a traditional English sight really.”

John Hughes, of Martin Hussingtree, was there with grandchildren Jemima, aged 11, and Guy, nine.

He said: “I believe it’s part of English tradition and I’m very much a supporter of it.”

Richard Hart had taken children Layla, seven, Chloe, four, and Sacha, three, to see the hunt. Layla said: “It’s good. I like the dogs.”