A BOXING Day tradition saw almost 100 competitors roll out the barrel and raise cash for the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.

Colne Engaine’s Boxing Day Barrel Hunt is now in its 17th year.

Competitors set off from the Five Bells pub to find barrels hidden along a route through the village before racing back to the historic inn.

There are two routes – a three-mile ‘Champions’ route for adults and a shorter trek for families and under-12s.

The beer barrels have to be carried to the pub where the hunters can claim a prize donated by the sponsors of the event, including the Five Bells, Adnams brewery, Winefantastic, Bookers Cash and Carry and Tidy Gardens.

The first teams back in each category also receive a shield.

Spokesman Brian Fleming said: “Even the wet weather on our traditional Boxing Day Barrel Hunt did not dampen the spirits and desire to participate in this annual event.

“The numbers were down on previous years but what we lacked in numbers was defiantly made up for with enthusiasm, especially as we had a fly-past by the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance while out on a training flight.

“However, we still had 98 starters and raised just under £500 for the air ambulance.”

This year’s Champions route winners were Team Bradbury – made up of David, Iona and Francesca Bradbury – who got the first barrel back in just 10 minutes.

Harvey Guthrie won the under-12s in 13 minutes.

Five Bells owners Darran and Caroline Lingley treated the teams to mince pies after the hunt.

Mr Fleming added: “Over the 17 years this event has been running we have raised in excess of £9,500 for the Essex air Ambulance so thanks are due to all those who support us.”