THE sound of hooves clattering along high streets was welcomed back to Worcestershire’s rural towns at the annual Boxing Day meets.

Hundreds of people of all ages turned out to show their support for their local hunt at traditional gatherings.

Horses have been absent from several Boxing Day meets over the past two years because of slippery conditions caused by ice and snow.

But they were in abundance yesterday when the Worcestershire Hunt met at the Raven Hotel in Droitwich. A huge turnout of supporters, who filled the hotel’s car park and lined Queen Street, enthusiastically welcomed their return, cheering and applauding riders as they passed by on horseback with the hounds. Tash Wheeler, the hunt’s joint master, said: “It looks like we’ve had as big a support as ever, which is just lovely. It’s tradition.

“People show their support and they want to see the horses.

“It’s lovely to have the horses back – I much prefer being on a horse than on foot.

“We will be doing the same again next year, weather permitting.

“We’ve got the people here turning out and we want to carry on doing it.”

Jenny Lightfoot travelled from Stock Green with her one-year-old son Alex and three-year-old daughter Sophia for the meet.

She said: “We’ve got two young kids and they both love the horses.”

Michelle Ballard, of Stoke-on-Trent, who hails from the county, has been attending the meets since she was a child.

“It’s a family tradition,” she said. “We come for the pomp and circumstance and we meet up with all our relatives.”

Meanwhile, huntsmen met in Pershore for the traditional Boxing Day Hunt. Joint master of the hunt Diana Ralph said: “We are very pleased with the turnout. We haven’t been on horse back for two years so it’s great to see so many people here.” Speaking to the crowd Mrs Ralph said they would be hunting within the law and thanked those who had laid the trail.

Mum Clare Saunders was with her children, Kate, aged 10, and Robert, eight, who rode out with the hunt on their horses Milly and Timmy.

She said: “We have come down the last couple of years to support the hunt. The children have been coming all their lives.”

There were about 80 huntsmen from the Croome and West Warwickshire fox hounds at the event in Broadstreet which is more than 100 years old.

The two hunts also met on Christmas Eve in Upton-upon-Severn where they also received “fantastic” support.

Charlotte Key, chairman of the supporters club, said: “People were lining the street, we have had a lot of support this year.”

The hunts took place as Agriculture minister Jim Paice claimed the Hunting Act was not working, renewing pressure on David Cameron to schedule a free Commons vote on repealing the ban.