SPIRITS were high in Lacock on Boxing Day as thousands poured into the National Trust village for the annual Avon Vale Hunt.

Close to 3,000 people gathered in the High Street outside the Red Lion pub, before 70 or so riders, set off with their hounds across the Wiltshire Countryside in glorious conditions.

Joint hunt master Stuart Radbourne was delighted with how the day went and he was full of praise for all those who chipped in to make the event possible.

“It was a hugely successful and enjoyable day for everyone involved. The crowds came out in force to see us off, it was a great atmosphere,” he said.

“I have been involved in he hunt for 17 years and this is my fifth as a hunt master and it is an absolute pleasure to be part of.

“The sun was shining, there was no rain, so it could not have gone much better. It is such a scenic route through Lacock and Gastard.

“None of this would have been possible though without our many helpers, including the farmers who let us ride on their land, other landowners, Lacock for letting us set off from there and to the crowds and riders as well - it is a really big team effort.”

MP for North Wiltshire James Gray usually takes part in the hunt but three weeks ago his horse died, so instead he joined the masses to cheer on the riders.

“It was a shame he could not join us but he was cheering us on which was good to see,” said Mr Radbourne.

“It was also great to have Mike Smith ride along with us again. He has now done it 59 times which is quite the achievement. He is adamant that he will be back for number 60 and I believe him. It was just such an enjoyable day. It is good to burn off the Christmas meal from the day before too.”

The Avon Vale Hunt first began in 1888 by Captain Spicer.