In a few months' time, the well-known Lanark and Renfrewshire Fox Hounds will move into its 250th year with an anniversary ball – hopefully when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Established in 1771 as the Roberton, or Glasgow Hounds, their present kennels, on the outskirts of Houston, have been occupied for the past 170 years, ensuring L and R is knitted into the history of the area and is an accepted part of the community – as well as being a colourful sight to behold out on their daily exercise.

One of only eight remaining hunts in Scotland, the L and R is run under a committee structure with two 'masters', Sheila Gillespie and Derek Anderson, managing the day-to-day business of running the hunt, taking care of staffing issues, maintenance and the organising of meets purely on a voluntary basis.

Foxhunting in Scotland is currently controlled by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act which came into force in 2002 and all registered Scottish hunts have signed up to the Code of Practice for Scottish Mounted Foxhound Packs, operating under it since 2018/19, although this looks likely for review again this year.

This allows hounds to flush out foxes but not to kill, though they can still cover miles each day travelling between coverts along organised routes through fields, around headlands and over hunt fences.

The current pack consists of 25 and a half couple(51) all of which have extensive bloodlines and bred for the country they have to contend with.

A balanced pack, their breeding is planned very carefully by huntsman, Tom Haddock, who has a particular passion for breeding hounds and can rhyme off sires and dams for generations back and, of course, knows each hound by name.

All are home-bred, though 'stallion hounds' from other packs are carefully chosen to improve the stock and increase the gene pool. None are sold and the old tradition of puppy walking, where the young pups are sent to private homes for a few months, still occurs – after which the pups will return to the kennels to join the pack and learn the daily routine.

Hounds are strong, robust, healthy and extremely good-natured. At meets, it is not unusual to see them being patted and hugged by followers, adults and children alike.

They are exercised every day, 365 days a year taking the same route and have become a part of every-day life for the local villagers, many of whom support the hunt either taking part or through donations.

From August until March, the hunt meets twice a week, with hounds followed on foot on Tuesday and horseback on Saturdays. The Masters organise these by liaising with farmers, landowners and Police Scotland then check ground, fencing, providing hunt fences for the mounted meets and generally making sure everything runs smoothly for all involved.

The field can range from quiet weeks of just 10-20 but at busier times of the year, such as Boxing Day and New Year's day hunts, there can be as many as 60 riders following from all walks of life – from the unemployed to business people.

Most farmers and landowners are still in favour of the hunt and take advantage of the fallen stock recovery service, as well as the pest control measures especially before and around lambing time.

The new generation taking over from their fathers and grandfathers want to see it carry on with the L and R now covering Renfrew, Inverclyde, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, and keen to go further afield if necessary.

The more recent introduction of the 'hunt ride' – which is an organised ride around country not normally accessible to most, followed by tea and some excellent home baking – has proved very popular and is something the hunt plans more of in the future to try to encourage more people back into the countryside.

Raising funds throughout the year through race nights, dances and auctions – the most recent of which drew in £4500 – plus a more formal annual hunt ball, keep the funds rolling in allowing them to donate to various charities but also helps keep the sense of community alive.

Last year, through funding and donations, the kennels had a £16,000 upgrade, with the project succeeding with the help of many volunteers.

A friendly, well-organised hunt, they are always keen for new members, happy to explain what they do and why and are always looking out for new ways to keep themselves viable whilst respecting the environment, the countryside and those who live in it.