BOXING Day fox hunts this year promise to attract more people than ever before as citizens register their support for the outdoor pursuit, according to the Countryside Alliance.

It has been a turbulent year for supporters of the embattled activity, with government plans for a ban on hunting with hounds mentioned in the Queen's speech.

A defiant Countryside Alliance is planning to mobilise support for hunting with an open invitation to the public to join traditional Boxing Day hunts across the country, including Cumbria's famous fell packs.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said: "Hunts are proud of their way of life and the good they do for our countryside, wildlife, communities and the rural economy. That is why they encourage people to join them, not just on Boxing Day but throughout the year, and why more people are hunting now than ever before."

Coniston Foxhounds will be meeting at Market Cross, Ambleside, at 9.30am on Boxing Day. Huntsman Mike Nicholson said hunters and supporters would go from there to the Sportman's pub in Ambleside for a "stirrup cup" before hunting on Loughrigg. The hunt and followers will then return to the Sportman's for food and drinks "and perhaps a bit of a sing-song" said Mr Nicholson.

Other Boxing Day hunts in this area are: North Lonsdale Foxhounds meeting at Crown Inn at High Newton at 9.30am; Lunesdale Foxhounds meeting at the Dalesman Inn, Sedbergh, at 10am; Ulverston Foxhounds meeting at The White Lion, Patterdale, at 9.30am; Blencathra meeting at Market Square, Keswick, at 10am, and Wensleydale Foxhounds meeting at Hawes at 10am.