THE country’s second-oldest hunt, which can trace its history back to William Cobbett’s ground-breaking Rural Rides travelogue, celebrated its 200th anniversary meet on Boxing Day.
Ross Harriers feature in the book of the journalist, political reformer and MP, who recorded staying at the current Bollitree Castle home of Grand Tour presenter Richard Hammond and riding out with them next day at Orcop in 1821.
Fast forward two centuries, and hundreds turned out to greet riders, horses and hounds a week last Monday (December 27) when they met in the centre of Ross-on-Wye for a scented trail hunt.
Lady huntsman Miriam Walkuski said afterwards: "We at the Ross Harriers would like to say thank you to all the lovely support we received on our annual Boxing Day meet at the Market Square.
"It may have been my first Boxing Day meet as lady huntsman, but it’s the Ross Harriers 200th, and is great to see the support is still there."
This Is Hunting UK said the Harriers were founded by "a Mr Taylor some time prior to 1820".
While the earliest minutes date from 1877, the "first documented evidence was by William Cobbett during one of his Rural Rides".
"On Thursday, 15th Nov 1821, he travelled from Bollitree Castle, near Weston-under-Penyard, now the home of Richard Hammond, to Old Hall, near Pencoed" and spent "a whole day most delightfully passed" hunting.
Last November, the hunt celebrated the event with a scented trail meet on the same ground at Orcop.
And This is Hunting posted then: "Today, the Ross whose country within South Herefordshire, stretches to the Black Mountains in the West to Much Marcel in the East is mainly a bitch pack having moved to smaller kennels in May this year, shared with the Leadon Vale Bassets.
"They are managed by an enthusiastic, new young team who have successfully transferred the hounds to a man-made scent which hounds are diligently following; whether laid from horseback or bike.
"As the new bond between the young huntswoman and the hounds grows, the complexity of the laid trail is being increased. Fields are good and people new to hunting are getting involved.
"Meets are openly available and local antis will come and observe from time to time giving credence to what they see."
While some took to social media to criticise hunting and the Harriers’ Boxing Day meet, supporters pointed to a post by Herefordshire Hunt Saboteurs under the headline "When Trail Hunting Is Not A Lie", which said they "hunt within the law" and had used "four artificial trails" when watched hunting in Broad Oak last autumn.
The trail is made of "sunflower oil, human urine and an artificial fox scent made from a fox repellent called Scoot, which is soluble in water, non-volatile and non-persistent in soils".
One supporter posted of the Boxing Day meet: "Nice to see the majority of locals are for the local drag pack and the fact it is saying thank you to the town it represents and relies on for supportâ¦
It’s a drag pack that hunts a human runnerâ¦ a bonafide drag hunt."
Another described the meeting of the hunt in the town centre as "a wonderful sight".