THE traditional meet of the Vale of Lune Harriers went ahead on New Year’s Day, cheered on by hundreds of followers and spectators.

Up to 400 men, women and children lined the streets of Hornby to see off 55 mounted followers of the Vale of Lune Harriers, while enjoying the traditional hospitality that accompanies the hunt.

Hounds and riders first met in the centre of the village for light refreshments at 11.30am, before moving into the picturesque grounds of Hornby Castle, used by permission of Mr and Mrs Battersby.

Hounds have been kennelled in Hornby since 1895, and so while the hunt has a long tradition, huntsman Stephen Shepley, now in his seventh season as professional huntsman, explained how tradition was still honoured in the face of modernity: "There can be some common misconceptions about hunting and how we operate," he said.

"Since the hunting act 2004, which bans the hunting of wild mammals (fox and hare), hounds now hunt a pre-laid, artificial trail.

"We have several methods of laying a trail – some on quad bike, some on foot and some on horseback.

"It all depends on the terrain and which trail layers we have available for the day

"They are laying an artificial trail for the hounds to follow, but I as the huntsman don't know where it is set."

Stephen said that one of the most common questions he was asked was how many hounds he kept and how he kept track of the number of hounds he had out.

"The hounds, traditionally are always counted in 'couples', or pairs," he said. "It makes it much easier to count them, and we have 25 couples of hounds in kennel."

Stephen said that despite the necessary change in hunting as a whole, it was important to retain the heritage, etiquette and tradition of a formal day's trail hunting.

"Everything leading up to the hunt is still done in the manner in which it has always been – traditional scarlet coats, plaited horses and the traditional hunt 'meet'.

"The joint masters addressed the mounted followers, and hunt supporters that were in attendance.

"They thanked the Battersby family for being such welcoming hosts, in such a glorious and prestigious setting.

"Thanks were also given to the farmers and landowners who allow the hunt to cross their land throughout the year."

The huntsmen and hounds moved off at noon, followed by the mounted followers to begin the day's trail hunting.