SANTA Claus isn’t the only one who wears a red coat at Christmas, for there will be plenty on display when more than a dozen packs of foxhounds, beagles, basset hounds and harriers gather for their annual Boxing Day meets across Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

For those unable to wait, the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt will be holding its traditional Christmas Eve meet – this time at 11am tomorrow (Saturday) – in the centre of Upton when Father Christmas usually puts in an appearance, mounted on a horse not a reindeer, and distributes his own brand of seasonal goodwill.

The colourful Boxing Day spectacle usually attracts huge crowds, with the best attended in this area being the meet of the Ledbury Hunt, which draws several thousand spectators who pack the pavements of the market town as the horses and hounds move off after the meet in High Street.

Other hugely popular meets are those of the Worcestershire Hunt in Droitwich and the Croome and West Warwicks in Pershore.

These days, of course, a trail is laid for hounds to chase down, but the spectacle remains the same with galloping and jumping over some of the hunt’s best country. Many long hours will have gone into washing horses and cleaning riding kit, polishing boots and plaiting manes to make the turnout as smart as possible, probably only to be undone by the first canter across a muddy field.

While knowledgeable foot followers will drive ahead to secure the best viewing points, many others will make attending the meet and renewing old friendships the limits of their Christmas exercise.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "The Boxing Day meets are always an important part of Christmas, whether you are from a town, village or rural community. This year we hope the support will ensure the day is bigger and better than ever."

Boxing Day meets, all starting at 11am unless stated, include:

Albrighton and Woodland Hunt, Hagley Hall, Hagley, Stourbridge.

Clifton-on-Teme Hunt, The Hop Pole, Bromyard.

North Cotswold Hunt, High Street, Broadway.

Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt, Broad Street, Pershore.

North Herefordshire Hunt, Corn Square, Leominster.

Ledbury Hunt, Feathers Hotel, Ledbury (at 10.45am)

North Ledbury Hunt, The Bell, Bosbury.

Worcestershire Hunt, Lido car park, Droitwich.