MORE than 1,000 people gathered in Abergavenny town centre to see the start of the annual Monmouthshire Hunt yesterday.

Riders and hounds gathered in Cross Street outside the Angel Hotel for the Boxing Day hunt, organised by the Abergavenny Hunt Committee, and a traditional event since the 1700s.

"There is always tremendous support for the hunt which sees up to 45 riders aged between 12 and 65 taking part," said rider and master, David Harrison, of Abergavenny, who has taken part for 30 years.

"Monnmouthshire has seen hunts take place in the county for 300 years and it is an important part of rural life."

Spectator Danny Evans, 45, of Raglan, brought daughter Cerys, nine, to see the horses.

"We come with family and friends every year. It’s a lovely tradition and fantastic for Cerys to see the horses and hounds," said Mr Evans.

Peter Neville, 35, was among the crowds with two of his children - Alice, six and Izzy, 10 - and their friend Millie Edwards, seven.

"It’s a jolly nice way to spend Boxing Day morning," said Mr Neville, of Llandewi Rhydderch.

"We always come to watch, then go for a walk up the mountain afterwards."

Sophie Ward, of Abergavenny, aged three, was attending for the second time with mum Anne.

" It’s nice for Sophie to see all the horses. She enjoys watching them ride off," said Mrs Ward.

The crowds showed their support by clapping and cheering as the riders and hounds set off towards Monk Street before reathering on the outskirts of the town for th hunt.

For both the Monmouthshire and the Tredegar Farmers' Hunts, the Boxing Day weather was more reminiscent of a damp day in early November than the festive season - but it meant horses, hounds and riders got a good run out, in contrast to last year when ice and snow made conditions too dangerous for anything more than a parade.

Upward of 350 people turned out to watch the Tredegar Farmers' Hunt gather at Bassaleg's Tredegar Arms prior to galloping a short distance down the A468 and off into the country. Huntsman David Harris led more than 40 horses and riders.