Fernie Hunt brings out the crowds in Great Bowden

Thousands gathered in a Harborough village on Boxing Day for the annual meet of the Fernie Hunt.

And among the crowd to watch the colourful spectacle this year was a woman celebrating her 100th birthday.

Fernie Huntsman Derek Hopkins with the hounds during the Boxing Day meet in Great Bowden.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Fernie Huntsman Derek Hopkins with the hounds during the Boxing Day meet in Great Bowden.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

The Fernie Hunt had its traditional annual meeting at Great Bowden, near Market Harborough, in cold, dry weather.

And 100-year-old Olive Chapman, who lives in Market Harborough, was celebrating her big day with a Champagne breakfast at the Welton’s cafe in the centre of the village, with the hunt gathering as a backdrop.

“It was lovely to host the birthday,” said Welton’s boss Nicky Ransome.

“We’re in at 5am to get everything prepared on Boxing Day, and then there’s two hours of madness when the hunt is here.

“It’s mad, but fantastic.”

Chris Parker, master of the Fernie Hunt, said: “We’re very pleased to be here again at the Boxing Day meet.

“It’s a great tradition that’s been going on 300 years and we’re delighted there continues to be such huge support for it both here and all round the country.”

Since the Hunting Act was passed by Parliament in 2004, hunting wild animals with dogs is banned.

There are people who are vehemently against it, but this day was for the hunt supporters, as well as those enjoying what they see as a tradition of countryside life.

Mr Parker said that after assembling in Great Bowden, the Fernie followed an artificial scent trail.

He added: “We do find it rather difficult and confusing to operate within the confines of the act which we very much hope will be repealed at the earliest opportunity.”

But Michael Stephenson, director of campaigns from the League Against Cruel Sports says the act has been a success and claims public support for the ban “has increased substantially” over the past decade.