DOZENS of youngsters are being trained to hunt.

Richard de Prez, joint master of the Cheshire Forest Hunt, said the group was becoming increasingly popular with children.

“There are a lot of new young people,” he said.

“Certainly they have brought in a lot of their friends who have joined recently.”

He said was important to any organisation.

“Looking ahead we have to see the new masters coming through,” he said.

The Cheshire Forest Hunt will hold the event for children at its Over Peover-based kennels between Boxing Day and New Year.

About 100 youngsters are expected to attend the meeting and many will join the hunt.

Mr de Prez said smaller jumps would be created for the young riders to help them gain experience.

“They follow the hunt and the trail and if they take to it then that’s great,” he said.

Under the 2004 Hunting Act it is a criminal offence to hunt with hounds. However, chasing a scent trail, exercising dogs and flushing out foxes are still legal.

Mr de Prez said the youngsters would learn about those rules, which Labour introduced. “They get an understanding of it,” he said.

“We explain to them how hunting has changed and what the law permits us to do.”

Mr de Prez believes more young people are joining the hunt because of its popular social scene.

This month more than 350 members aged between 16 and 26 attended the young supporters’ Christmas party at Mere Golf and Country Club.

The group, which started the festive parties three years ago, also meets once a month and arranges other events.

“There’s a very good social life within the hunting,” he said. “It’s very much for young people.”

He also believes the popularity of horse riding - and the freedom given to hunt members - are also attractive to youngsters.

“To be invited to ride across farmers’ land to follow the hunt is a real privilege,” he said.

The Cheshire Forest Hunt already meets twice a week.

It holds several events during Christmas, but the main meeting is on Boxing Day.

At least 50 riders should take part in this year’s hunt, which will cover land near Knutsford.

Mr de Prez said hundreds of people were also expected to visit the Duke of Portland pub in Lach Dennis to watch and support the group.

“They get to see the splendour and the traditions and the heritage of the hunt,” he said.