MORE than 1,000 people crowded the streets of Abergavenny today to see the start of the annual Monmouthshire Boxing Day Hunt.

Around 70 riders and hounds gathered in Cross Street outside the Angel Hotel for the hunt which saw huge crowds lining the streets in the town.

The traditional event organised by the Abergavenny Hunt Committee has taken place since the 1700s and was lead this year by James Davies.

Liz Egerton, who has been master for the last five seasons, was yesterday riding on Johnny a nine-year-old horse.

She said: "I have been riding at the hunt all my life. It's excellent to see the amount of people here. It’s probably the same amount as last year in the 1,000 region.

"We have a number of different scents to follow throughout the day - it should be exciting."

While the Hunting Act, passed in 2005, made the hunting of foxes illegal, local hunts such as the Monmouthshire hunt go ahead with 'drag hunts' where an item of cloth is dragged to lay a scent for the hounds.

Among the children riding this year was Grace Davies, three, of Llanddewi Skirrid, on her 10-year-old pony Max.

Rob Davies, 44, Grace's father, said: "My wife and I have taken part in the hunt since we were children and this is Grace's second time. It always brings a big crowd as it clearly means something to a lot of people."

Molly Brymer who is two and a half-years-old from Cwmyoy took part in her first hunt yesterday on her 6-year-old pony Chas.

Hannah Layrent, 33, a dental receptionist and Molly's mother, said: "It's all great experience to ride in the hunt. She's been riding for a while and competed in a few local shows."

Sue Owen, 58, of Bank Crescent, Gilwern, said: "This is our first time coming to watch the start of the hunt. My sister is over from Australia and we thought we'd come down to see the riders and the dogs.

"It's a great tradition and to see so many people here today."

Cllr John Prosser, chairman of Monmouthshire Council, said: "It's a great event and one that brings people from all over.

"I always say it's one of the best tourist attractions in the county. It's a great community event and a pleasure to see so many people in good spirit on Boxing Day."