SIX years after fox hunting was banned, Oxfordshire’s hunts will be stage traditional Boxing Day meets.

Huntmasters say despite the ban, the seasonal gatherings are still as popular as ever.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out at meets in Oxfordshire, or just across the county boundary in Buckinghamshire.

Fox hunting dates back to the 16th Century. Following the ban on hunting foxes, the hunts stay within the law by following artificially-laid trails.

Bicester and Whaddon Chase Hound Club will meet at 11am in the field opposite Winslow Hall, east of Bicester, at 11am, on Boxing Day.

Patrick Martin, of the hound club which has its kennels in Stratton Audley, near Bicester, and was formerly known as Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase, said up to 50 riders could take part, depending on the weather.

He said: “It’s a Boxing Day tradition for lots of people. Since the ban many people have continued to support us.

“An awful lot of people who we don’t see during the year come along on Boxing Day, and we are happy with the support.

“People vote with their feet and come and support us on Boxing Day.”

He said more than 1,000 people were expected at Winslow to se the hounds set out.

The hunt used to meet in the Bicester’s Market Square on Boxing Day, but several years ago organisers were asked to pay £1,000 for crowd barriers for health and safety reasons.

The hunt refused and organisers initially moved the Boxing Day meet to farmland in Launton and later to Winslow.

Kimblewick Hunt, previously the Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks Hunt, which covers parts of Oxfordshire, is meeting at Cholsebury Common, near Wendover, at 11.30am on Boxing Day.

And Chipping Norton’s Market Place will once again play host to up to about 60 riders from the Heythrop Hunt, who will meet outside the Fox Hotel at 10.45am on Boxing Day.

Richard Sumner, joint master of the hunt, said: “We usually have about 60 riders. We get tremendous support.

“It is absolutely packed with spectators, you can’t move in the square. Everyone is welcome to come along.”

Local anti-hunt campaigner Penny Little declined to comment.