Thousands of people across Wiltshire turned out for traditional Boxing Day hunts yesterday.

Nearly three years after a hunting ban came into place the hunt is alive and well.

Nationally, hunt campaigners estimated up to 250,000 people watched some 314 hunts set off on what is traditionally the busiest day in their calendar.

More than 2,000 people gathered to cheer the Avon Vale Hunt trot off from the National Trust village of Lacock, where scenes from the next Harry Potter had recently been filmed.

Former master of the Avon Vale hunt, Henry Nurkowski said: "It's absolutely splendid here.

"There is a wonderful, festive atmosphere. People are enjoying themselves. There is no sign of the anarchy and animosity which we have seen in the past."

Monitoring matters, PC Andy Henson said: "It's all been very peaceful. There are no problems whatsoever."

North Wiltshire MP James Gray who took part in the hunt at Lacock used the gathering as a chance to promote the Gazette's Save Our Post Office campaign. Lacock Post Office is one of those under threat. The West's biggest meet was at Worcester Lodge on the Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire, where an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people gathered to see 230 riders from the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt. Delighted hunt spokesman Jo Aldridge said: "It's going really well. There's a huge crowd here. There are lots of families and people who have come to enjoy the occasion and the atmosphere, which is what it is all about."