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Hunts hit by the big freeze

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Hardy hunters on horseback gathered for their traditional meetings amid scenes unchanged for hundreds of years - despite being hit by the big freeze.

Hardy hunters on horseback gathered for their traditional meetings amid scenes unchanged for hundreds of years - despite being hit by the big freeze.

The weather meant one of the biggest local hunts broke with tradition by leaving their horses behind.

The Albrighton Woodland Hunt started off on foot from the 350-acre Hagley Park, near Stourbridge, yesterday morning with the horses left in stables.

Around 300 people gathered in front of Hagley Hall as 33 traditional English hunting dogs were prepared ready to lead off.

Master huntsman Peter Swann said: "It was not safe to do the hunt with horses. With the hard ground and the snow it could have led to them injuring themselves.

"It is frustrating but there was nothing we could do about the weather.

"We are so pleased with the turnout and it shows that we still have a lot of support out there."

The hunt followed its traditional path which spans from Bridgnorth down to the River Severn at Stourport and then eastwards to Bromsgrove, north to Wombourne and west back through Claverley.

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Meanwhile hundreds gathered for the Meynell and South Staffordshire meet at Blithfield Hall in Admaston, near Rugeley, in keeping with a tradition dating back to the 18th century.

The cold weather prevented any hunting from being done at Blithfield Hall but hundreds of people turned out for the annual meeting anyway.

Hunt secretary Lucy Boulton said: "We couldn't hunt this time because of the conditions but lots of people came to enjoy the spectacle."

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