IT may have been pouring with rain, but that didn't stop dozens of riders taking part in the traditional New Year's Day Thornton-le-Dale hunt, which was celebrating its 200th year.

About 50 people participated in the Derwent Hunt meet at The Hall - the highest number in the last three years - which saw riders hunt two trails in an area just south of the village.

The attendance will have been a coup for the pro-hunting lobby, after fears meets would decline in popularity as a result of the Hunting Act 2004.

The bill outlawed conventional hunting, and no animals were chased by the 25 or so hounds involved in yesterday's meet.

Despite this, and the wet weather, at least two protesters were spotted by hunt organisers, who were baffled by their attendance.

Hunt secretary Sarah Morley said: "I don't understand why they were there, because I can't understand why they object to trail hunting.

"When the hunting ban came into force I don't think people knew what to expect, but now that things are working with the trail hunting it's going well.

"It was very wet, which makes the riding more of a challenge, but in spite of the weather we've had a busy day.

"There's been plenty of jumping and a lot of falls, but everybody has got back on again and carried on - it was soft landing today on the mud.

"It's our bicentenary this year.

The hounds were originally kept in the village and that's why they meet there on New Year's Day"

The hunt meets twice a week in hunting season, which runs from September to April.