HUNDREDS of horsemen, women and children embraced the autumnal chill and gathered in the great outdoors for the first weekend of the hunting season.

Members of the Zetland Hunt, which straddles the border of County Durham and North Yorkshire, were among those to hold their first meet of the season on Saturday.

Hunt master Chris Gibbon said about 90 mounted followers joined the hunt.

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The Northern Echo: Zetland HuntHuntsmen and women gather for the seventh Zetland Hunt since the fox unting ban came into force in 2005

Zetland Hunt will now hold meets twice a week, on average, between now and the end of March, with Boxing Day and New Year’s Day among the key dates in the hunting calendar.

Mr Gibbon, who is now in his sixth season as hunt master, said: “We moved off at about 11am on Saturday and there was a good turnout.

“The first meet of the season is always quite a big day and this weekend was no different.

“The hounds hunted reasonably well, although they are not quite picking the scent up yet.

“It was good to see plenty of children joining in the hunt, they are the next generation of huntsmen and women.”

The Northern Echo: Zetland Hunt houndsThe hounds about to head out on the seventh Zetland Hunt since the fox hunting ban came into force in 2005

The five-hour meet saw the hunters travel around Headlam towards Summerhouse and along the former railway line from Gainford to Piercebridge, near Darlington.

Zetland Hunt covers an area of about 20 square miles of the County Durham and North Yorkshire boundary.

On Saturday, the hunt also held its annual ball, at Forcett Hall, near Richmond, which was attended by more than 450 people and raised money for the organisation’s funds.

Bilsdale Hunt was among the other groups to hold its first meet of the season this weekend, while Bedale Hunt meets for the first time this season later this week.