ALMOST a thousand years of history continued in the New Forest yesterday as hundreds of people gathered to watch the annual Boxing Day hunt.

Despite changes in the law making it illegal to hunt foxes, around 50 riders took to the fields around Brockenhurst along with their hounds to continue a tradition dating back to Henry VIII.

The event, organised by New Forest Hounds, was one of 200 hunts taking place across the UK yesterday and was supported by close to 300 people and almost as many pet dogs.

With horns blaring and turf flying the riders, aged from ten through to 60, set off from outside the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst shortly after 11am.

Fox hunting was banned in the UK two years ago so instead the dogs are trained to follow a scent laid down by hand before the chase starts.

New Forest Hunt joint secretary Graham Ferris said: "We are back up to the number of people we had riding with us before the law changed, so despite the changes hunting is still proving very popular. It's as exciting now as it ever has been, but following a trail is certainly easier for younger or less experienced riders."

He added that it had taken a lot of perseverance by the hunt's dog man Michael Woodhouse to re-train the dogs to follow scents instead of trailing foxes.