ONLOOKERS will not be allowed to watch the hounds and horses gather for the traditional Boxing Day hunt meet in Ledbury this year, because of Covid regulations and the need for social distancing.

Veteran Huntsman, Donald Haden said the Ledbury Hunt would also not be riding out anywhere on Boxing Day this year, but planned to go out on Christmas Eve and December 28, to follow pre-laid artificial trails.

Ledbury Hunt secretary, Helen Smith said: “Due to the impact of the coronavirus, the Ledbury Hunt will not be holding its usual annual Boxing Day meet in the centre of Ledbury this year. We are disappointed that the meet will not go ahead but very much look forward to welcoming the usual large numbers of supporters in 2021.

“The Ledbury Hunt have taken this very unusual step - we have been meeting in the middle of the town for over 150 years - in order to prevent any potential breach of legislation regarding large gatherings and also to ensure the wellbeing of the local community who are so supportive each and every year.”

The Worcestershire Hunt and the Croome Hunt in Worcestershire have also pulled the plug on their usual Boxing Day meets.

Chloe Stiley, a spokeswoman for the Worcestershire Hunt, which traditionally has its Boxing Day meet in Droitwich, said: “Unfortunately, this can’t happen this year, but we hope to be there next year. We have to be safe.”

She said of past Boxing Day meets: “We can get up to 2,000 people in lines along the High Street.”

As in other towns, the Ledbury gathering usually attracts scores of riders gathering outside the half-timbered coaching inn, The Feathers.

Many of the adult riders enjoy punch from stirrup cups - so called because they are vessels meant to be drained from the saddle.

It’s the same Boxing Day story for the Croome Hunt, which traditionally attracts big crowds to Pershore Town Centre. But this meet has also been cancelled this year, because of the Covid crisis.

Sally Millington, of the Croome Hunt Supporters Club said: “There will be no meet in Pershore this Boxing Day. In the past, we’ve had a few thousand onlookers lining the High Street.

“We are very disappointed but we have to follow all the guidelines. Hopefully, next year it will be totally different.”

Hunting foxes with dogs is illegal, and by law all hunts must follow artificial trails.