SCORES of huntsmen and women enjoyed fine weather as they marked Boxing Day in traditional style across North Yorkshire.

Hundreds gathered in Malton’s Market Place for the start of the Middleton Hunt, while another group of riders from the hunt set off from Driffield Showground.

Joanna Newitt, treasurer of the Middleton Hunt’s supporters’ club, said despite an early frost, the ground was not frozen and conditions for riders as well as spectators were good, avoiding the gales forecast for today.

She said the riders, numbering between 40 and 50, stopped off at several places around Malton and Old Malton before setting off on the hunt on land owned by the Fitzwilliam Estate, between Malton and Pickering.

Other Boxing Day hunts included the Derwent Hunt at Brompton, the York and Ainsty South Hunt at Easingwold and the York and Ainsty North Hunt at Boroughbridge.

The Countryside Alliance saId about 250,000 people turned out across the country yesterday for the biggest day of the hunting calendar, and claimed this showed the strength of support for a repeal of the Hunting Act.

Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman, said with less than 18 months left in this parliament, the Government was still to make good many of its promises to the countryside, not least a pledge to allow a vote in Parliament on repeal.

But the League Against Cruel Sports has claimed there was no real case for a change to the Act, pro-hunt arguments did not stack up and the pro-hunt lobby was getting desperate.