CROWDS gathered in their hundreds at Ludlow Castle for the colour and pageant of the traditional Boxing Day hunt – which could be the last held under the hunting ban. Up to 100 people on horseback and 80 hounds arrived for the hunt, with many times that number prepared to follow in cars and on foot. But days of sub-zero temperatures and frozen ground led to a decision to hold a hunt parade down Mill Street but not to proceed with the hunt itself. Supporters of fox-hunting believe that this might have been the final Boxing Day hunt before the law is changed to ‘legalise’ the sport, following the introduction of a ban in 2004. The Conservative Party has said that if returned to power it will allow Government time for a Bill to make fox-hunting legal again, with a free vote for MPs. But Oliver Dale, master of the Ludlow Hunt, said nothing could be guaranteed. “We will have to see. Even if there is a change of Government it will hardly be high on the list of priorities so it is far from certain that there will be time to change the law by this time next year,” he said. He said that fears that the ban on hunting would mean the end of many hunts and wreak havoc on the rural economy have not proved to be the case. “I am amazed how resilient hunting has been. There is a huge amount of public support and many hunts, including Ludlow, are perhaps stronger than they were before the ban,” said Mr Dale, who has been master for four years. “Hunting has been a traditional part of the countryside and rural life for hundreds of years.” Mr Dale described the ban as illconceived legislation that was driven by “class” rather than any concern for the welfare of foxes. The Ludlow Hunt meets on average three times a week between September and March.