TRAIL hunting has been banned from the Malvern Hills after two local hunting groups "caused havoc" on Trust land.

The Malvern Hills Trust took the decision to ban trail hunting after concerns were raised over the behaviour of two local fox hunts.

The organisation's trustees have suspended licensing of all trail hunting on its land indefinitely after the Ledbury Hunt and Croome and West Warwickshire Hunts fell foul of trust bylaws.

According to MHT papers, breaches include dogs being out of control, unauthorised use of quadbikes on Trust land and a lack of evidence for actual trail hunting being carried out.

Trail hunting involves involves people on foot or horseback following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds or beagles.

A trail hunt should involve laying a trail for the hounds to follow and is intended to ensure a real fox is not killed or injured.

Reports shown to MHT board members said that, during the monitoring of ten separate hunting days, only one trail was ever seen being laid and this involved a sock being dragged across a field for a couple of minutes.

A woman visiting the hills also reported being forced off a bridleway by a hunt travelling at speed causing serious concerns for the safety of her child.

Board members were told the hunts were witnessed encouraging their hounds into areas of cover – where wild animals are likely to be found – in breach of the Trust’s trail hunting policy and in areas reported to be almost impossible to physically lay a trail through as they were impenetrable on foot or by horse.

Nick Weston, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "We applaud the trustees for making the right move and banning trail hunting for good on its land.

"The tide is turning against fox hunting and its ‘trail’ hunting activities which have been exposed as a ‘smokescreen’ to cover up the chasing and killing of animals."

The decision to end ‘trail’ hunting comes in advance of a National Trust meeting to discuss the future of trail hunting on its land after members at its recent AGM voted overwhelmingly for it to be banned.