Hunting supporters were determined to maintain their Boxing Day tradition on Wednesday despite being unable to stage their annual pursuit in normal fashion.

The Braes of Derwent Hunt in north-west Durham is among those affected by the lingering restrictions imposed in the wake of the Foot-and-Mouth outbreak.

Hunting was cancelled nationally following the onset of the virus, in February.

But while it has resumed in most rural areas of the country, Northumberland and Durham remain two of the few counties still subject to animal movement restrictions.

Braes of Derwent members and supporters are eagerly awaiting clearance from Defra to allow some form of hunting to take place before the end of the season, in late March.

But they came together yesterday, in Lanchester to observe one tradition of the usual Boxing Day hunt.

The Boxing Day event, the Braes of Derwent's biggest hunt of the year, has begun in recent years with a goblet, known as a "stirrup cup", of mulled wine being served up at the Queen's Head pub in Lanchester.

Despite being unable to hunt, around 75 huntsmen and women and their supporters packed the pub yesterday to enjoy more than the odd stirrup cup.

It was also a rare chance for locals to view the Braes of Derwent fox hounds, virtually confined to kennels in Whittonstall since February 23.

Twelve-and-a-half couples of the hounds, 25 in lay man's terms, were paraded in front of the pub while the toast was taken.

Braes of Derwent chairman Alan Chapman, the acting Master of the Hunt, said: "It's a nice chance for the hunt supporters to come together and see the dogs.

"Regardless of the politics of the issue, a lot of people in the village enjoy seeing the hounds on Boxing Day. It's a bit of a traditional spectacle, which we tried to stage in some form.

"We felt that due to the on-going restrictions we should not take the horses, but at least people got the spectacle of the hounds," said Mr Chapman.

He added that should Defra give the all-clear in coming days hunting should resume by the end of January, following discussions over permitted routes with local farmers and other land-owners.