A HUNT has apologised to a hospice after patients were left distressed by hounds chasing through their peaceful grounds.

Several hounds from The Braes of Derwent Hunt broke away from the pack after apparently picking up the scent of a fox, leading them through Willow Burn Hospice, on Maiden Law Bank, near Lanchester, on Monday.

Witnesses described scenes of mayhem as the hounds were rounded up, with police having to close busy main road nearby until it had been cleared.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Willow Burn Hospice said the incident “not only distressed our service users and staff, but has caused distress within the community.

"Willow Burn Hospice is taking action to minimise the risk of this happening again and contacting the necessary channels."

A spokesperson for anti-hunt campaigners Hunt Monitors said they had arrived on the scene at 1.30pm on Monday, when they noticed hounds in the hospice grounds.

A spokesman said: “A staff member told us she had witnessed seeing a fox running through the grounds and then the hounds were all over the place.

“We asked if we could spray the area where a fox had been seen running with (the deterrent) citronella to hide it's scent and she gave us permission.

“As the area was being sprayed more loose hounds were still running around so we tried to gather them up and send them in the direction of the hunt.”

The spokesman added a 92-year-old man was seen wandering around the grounds in a distressed state looking for two sheep that have lived in the grounds for some years.

Inspector Keith Wardle, of Consett Police, said: “The Braes of Derwent hunt were out on Monday, they had laid a scent trail for the dogs to follow.

“While in the area of Maiden Law and Lanchester the hounds picked up a live scent and strayed into the hospice grounds and onto the road at Maiden Law.

“We have spoken to the manager of the hospice today and a Braes of Derwent representative has attended the hospice and apologised. We are planning to speak to the hunt to offer some word of advice for next year.

“Officers attended on the day purely because at one point the hounds were in the road. A police vehicle was used to stop the traffic until the hunt regained control of the dogs.”

Master of the Hunt William Gascoigne, who was not out on the day, said: “With the noise the anti-hunt people are making - blowing horns and spraying citronella - the pack became quite disorientated and we lost three couples of hounds and they ran into the grounds of the hospice.

“The hospice wouldn’t have known they were there, but the anti-hunt people jumped on that opportunity and went and knocked on the door and said the hunt has been through.

“My kennel huntsman went up there yesterday to apologise. They accepted that apology and confirmed that no damage had been done.”