No hunt for Ottery as historic New Year meet moved

Ottery will be without a New Year hunt after organisers break with decades old festive tradition due to shooting constraints.

The East Devon Hunt will now meet at Woodbury Castle on January 2 instead, leaving the town without a meet for the ‘foreseeable future’.

A statement from the organisers said: “It is not a decision we have taken lightly but we all have to move with the times, and as that time has come, we believe the new arrangements will safeguard the future of our traditional Boxing Day and New Year’s Day meets for years to come.”

The joint masters of the East Devon Hunt, Mike Hext, Lucy Wastenage, Helen Clarke and Chris Stephens said they are breaking with a festive tradition which dates back more than 20 years because of ever increasing pressures on the areas in which they hunt.

They said the hunt can only operate through the hospitality of the farmers and landowners in East Devon and must always respect their wishes.

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The joint masters’ statement explained: “Changes in farming methods, including a lot more arable land, as well as areas that accommodate shoots and a general urban sprawl have all been contributory factors in the changes that have been made.”

It follows on by saying the hunt has appreciated the hospitality Ottery St Mary has shown them over the years, and the ‘idyllic setting of the square on News Years Day’.

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But concludes: “Unfortunately the horses and hounds would have to travel several miles before we could begin hunting in a suitable area and this would deter many from coming and therefore reduce the atmosphere”

Mike Hext has since said if there were changes to the circumstances they would welcome a return back to Ottery, but say for the foreseeable future this is unlikely.

The new venue will be on Woodbury Common, traditionally the venue for the Boxing Day hunt, but due to the constraints the East Devon Hunt have swapped it around, and will now meet at Honiton Cattle Market on December 26.

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