The chairman of the Sinnington Hunt is to walk the length of Britain to help protect "the rural way of life".

Major James Holt and his wife Mary are to set off from Land's End on April 12 and walk to John O'Groats to raise money for the Countryside Alliance.

And they have gathered more than £20,000 in sponsorship before they take a step.

The 1,000-mile countryside walk will take them through many parts of rural Britain that the Countryside Alliance says needs protecting.

Friends and fellow country sports enthusiasts will be giving moral and financial support along the route.

Major Holt, 63, farms at Kirkbymoorside and also owns a saw mill. He said: "Mary and I may both be middle-aged, rather overweight and not very fit yet, so we do not underestimate the enormity of this mission.

"We both derive much pleasure from life in the countryside and from country sports. We believe it is our turn to get public attention focused on rural issues such as agriculture and the rural way of life - now under threat from certain quarters."

He said: "The future of the countryside and the work of the Countryside Alliance are inseparable. That is why we are delighted to pledge all the proceeds of this venture to the one organisation best placed to achieve these important aims."

John Haigh, of the Countryside Alliance, said: "It is a tremendous effort on their part. They are paying for all their own expenses along the walk so everything they raise is profit."

As chairman of the Kirkbymoorside-based Sinnington Hunt, Major Holt has sometimes found himself at the centre of controversy.

The hunt came under fire after the hunt's hounds allegedly killed an 11-year-old cat, Hobbit, during the Boxing Day Hunt.

And Major Holt was among members of the hunt who appeared before a committee of inquiry of the Masters of Foxhounds Association last year after fox cubs were found in a man-made earth on land owned by the hunt. The Association cleared the hunt of any involvement.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.