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A happy end to the Hampshire Hunt on Boxing Day

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On Boxing Day, hundreds of men, women, children and dogs gathered at the Butts in Alton, an ancient Anglo-Saxon town, for the Hampshire Hunt.

This was a breakthrough.

As the name suggests, the Butts was used in medieval and Tudor times for the weekly archery practice required of all men, who were expected to be able to defend their country. In recent years, the local council in its lesser wisdom closed this common land against the hunt and its followers. Parliament, which contains even less wisdom than the typical county council, had legislated against any hunts with two or more hounds.

Walk out with two of your dogs, and you will be breaking the law if they chase a hare.

But now, for the first time in recent years, the Alton council has reopened the Butts to the hunt.

This is only fair, since it is common land and owned by all the people. The Hampshire Hunt has been careful to obey the law when riders and hounds head out into the country.

A big crowd showed up, and the French Horn, a nearby inn, served sherry.

There was only one problem.

The recent snow and ice were too dangerous for the horses, so no one was riding with the Hampshire Hunt, or many other hunts, on this Boxing Day.

However, the hounds made an entrance. Off lead, of course, and in their usual good spirits.

They are lovely - relaxed, amiable, gentle with children, and completely obedient to the horn of their huntsman.

After meeting all the other dogs on the common and all the hunt followers, the hounds were summoned by their huntsman and swept eagerly up the road to the local community hospital.

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There they greeted a 98-year-old hunt supporter, confined to her wheelchair, and made her very happy.

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