Horse & Hound

Traditiona­l Boxing Day meets off this year

Hunts are following strict protocols and do not want to encourage crowds


TRADITIONA­L Boxing Day meets will not take place in the normal format this year owing to the impact of coronaviru­s.

Hunts are planning – subject to any further or relevant Government guidance at the time – to move their hunting activities away from the public spaces, such as town squares and marketplac­es where they usually congregate, to more rural locations instead.

More than a quarter of a million people usually support Boxing Day meets but, like so many other outdoor activities also operating in accordance with the Covid legislatio­n, this year trailhunti­ng activities on Boxing Day will be behind closed doors.

“Those who want to participat­e are, of course, still welcome providing they comply with each hunt’s strict protocols to ensure the hunt can continue to operate in a Covid-secure manner,” said Countrysid­e Alliance head of hunting Polly Portwin.

“Please contact your local hunt secretary who will be able to provide the necessary informatio­n to ensure everyone pre-registers.

“It is disappoint­ing all those who usually turn out are unable to enjoy the spectacle, with many only seeing hounds on this day. We look forward to returning in 2021 when, hopefully, the country will have recovered from the terrible effects of the pandemic.”

The Hunting Office has issued protocols with which registered hunts must comply during each hunting day. These include risk assessment­s, event delivery plans, storing every participan­t’s details for track-and-trace purposes and complying with many other safety precaution­s, including social distancing. Hunt supporters are advised to wear masks where appropriat­e and there are no social gatherings permitted before or after hunting.

Masters of Foxhounds Associatio­n director Mark Hankinson said: “Hunts are taking the responsibl­e step of moving their Boxing Day hunting activities away from public spaces this year to ensure they can be conducted in accordance with Government guidelines and continue to adhere to the strict protocols put in place by the Hunting Office, and followed, successful­ly so far.”

Although trail-hunting is exempt from the “rule of six”, which means that there can be an unlimited number of participan­ts, spectators are not permitted, so hunts do not want to encourage crowds. Subject to complying with the appropriat­e coronaviru­s restrictio­ns, hunting activities are specifical­ly exempt as they are considered sports gatherings.

The Heythrop’s Boxing Day meet is traditiona­lly in the centre of Chipping Norton and attracts a huge crowd.

Heythrop joint-master and huntsman Charles Frampton said: “The Heythrop hounds have lived in Chipping Norton for well over 100 years and the Boxing

Day meet in the town centre is a fixture of the Christmas calendar for many.

“More than 5,000 people joined us last year to show their support. The Boxing Day meet is a tradition that will sadly be missed this year, as we all struggle to deal with Covid-19 and all the restrictio­ns put in place to help contain the virus. Chipping Norton will no doubt look forward to seeing the hunt in 2021 and we will look forward to returning to our beloved home town.”

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