Around 150 people attend hunt kennels open day in Petworth

Around 150 supporters and interested parties made their way to the hunt kennels in Petworth, for an open day and a chance to meet the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray hounds.

Huntsman Adrian Thompson and kennelman Nick Prior gave tours of the living quarters, valet room and hound lodges to a succession of distinguished guests including Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie and Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing.

Also there to watch the day unfold against the backdrop of Petworth Park were John Gardiner, deputy chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, and Charles Mann, founder and force behind the pressure group Vote-OK.

The joint masters also greeted Jim Barrington, a leading light of the Middle Way Group which attempts to find a workable solution to animal welfare issues in the light of the ban on foxhunting.

Once a vocal opponent of hunting, Mr Barrington was a guest speaker at the hunt's farmers' dinner earlier in the year.

He and fellow guests enjoyed a photographic show staged in the hounds' feeding room, which brought together images of the hunt's past as well as portraits of kennel life today.

After introducing the day's events, the Master of Foxhounds, Paul Lyon-Maris, handed over to Nick Herbert, shadow secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs.

A former master of the Newmarket Beagles, Mr Herbert delighted the crowd by revealing imminent boundary changes will lead to the kennels falling within his constituency.

After tea served by the hunt supporters' club, Mr Herbert and the more energetic followers joined Adrian Thompson on a walk with hounds up to the lake in the park.

"We were delighted by the show of support for our historic kennels," said Mr Lyon-Maris, "and grateful for the chance to explain how life there continues much as it has for the past 300 years and how hounds enrich not just the Petworth landscape, but the countryside as a whole."

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