THE damp weather did not to deter a large turn-out of supporters for the Torrington Farmers' Association Boxing Day hunt on Monday.
Meeting in Torrington town square outside the Black Horse pub – a tradition dating back to 1940 – hundreds of people gathered to enjoy a mince pie and glass of sherry with the huntsmen before they rode out of the town and into the surrounding countryside.
Chairman of the Torrington Farmers' Association, Tod Marshman said: "I thought the meet went very well; there were many horses and somewhere between 500 and 1000 people there to support them.
"It was a pretty packed square, and I was very pleased with the turn-out."
Keeping the hunting tradition alive, not just in Torrington but in the family, was this year's youngest rider; 18-month-old Oliver Challacombe, the great-grandson of the late Frank Heal, who founded the Torrington Farmers' Association.
His grandmother Lyn Heal said: "He's supporting the family tradition. But he doesn't want to stay still on the pony; he just wants to get going! There's still a lot of interest in the hunt here in North Devon, and they do get a lot of support throughout the year and throughout the country."
This was also the first Boxing Day meet for three-year-old Evie Grace Manley, who joined the hunt alongside father Paul who was also riding.
Mum Angie Manley said: "She's only going out for a short while and then I shall lead her home. But she has been so excited about it all and wanted to come with her daddy. She's been ready since 8 o'clock this morning!"
Mr Marshman said: "It would have made their grandfathers very proud to see them out riding and enjoying themselves."
But this was the last Boxing Day meet for master of the hunt, Ken Ford, who will be stepping down at the end of the season after 11 years in charge.
Reflecting on his time with the pack, Mr Ford said: "As the years have gone by we've managed to work within the law, and do everything we can to keep the farmers happy at the same time. That was the main concern when the law came in; that the farmers weren't going to let us across their ground, but they've been brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
"We've got a good rapport with the farmers in the area and we see most of them during the week. I'd say we have one of the best relationships with farmers in the country."
A charity auction organised by the Farmers' Association earlier in December raised £500 for the Northern Lodge, a home that looks after the mentally disadvantaged in the community, and also the Friends of Torrington Hospital.
Mr Marshman said: "They are not fashionable charities, but they do the most wonderful work and we are pleased to be associated with them. The hunt is still very much part of the community in Torrington, even more so once you get away from the town and into the villages, where there is huge support from the local population."