High turn-out proves hunt ban a success
Dear Editor, More than 300,000 people attended the 314 traditional Boxing Day hunts across the country this year.

Now this success has led to renewed calls for a repeal of the three-year-old ban. Forgive my ignorance, but doesn't the fact that so many people are now riding out with the hounds prove just one thing - far from being a failure, the Hunting Act has actually been a massive success.

Prior to this controversial bill being passed, many people feared it would rip the heart out of the rural economy, putting farriers out of business and leading to thousands of dogs being put to sleep.

These harbingers of doom couldn't have been more wrong. Since these meetings were converted into drag hunts, and no longer indulge in blood sports, more families than ever - including those with very young children - are taking part in this great tradition, ensuring its survival for centuries to come.

The purpose of the Hunting Act was never to put our hunts out of business, as many of the most entrenched opponents would have you believe. It was to allow this sport to continue in a way befitting an enlightened, 21st century society.

I now call on the Countryside Alliance to give up its fruitless fight to reinstate the hunting of wild animals with dogs. Instead of wasting money on this battle - which has been lost - it should instead plough its cash into campaigning for better services and more affordable housing for rural areas. Members profess to be interested in these issues, but I see very little evidence of it.

If they continue to campaign in the manner they are, people are going to become increasingly convinced they only enjoyed hunting for the blood and cruelty.

Hunting is a wonderful pastime, sociable, exhilarating and healthy. Let's accept its format has had to change slightly, in line with modern times, and get on with enjoying taking part.
 BARBARA DUFFY, Worcestershire

A brighter future in store for Longbridge
Dear Editor, At last Longbridge has a bright future to look forward to. It seems a long time since the gates swung closed on the plant, and redevelopment is long overdue.

It's been a difficult two years for the former Longbridge workers, as well as those employed in the shops and services surrounding the former plant. Now councillors are confident the 5,300 jobs lost when MG Rover collapsed will be replaced by almost twice as many new posts.

Let's hope, for once, Birmingham City Council has the power and determination to drive this redevelopment through - without delays or prevarication or blame.

The last thing we need is for it to become another New Street - talked about, planned for, but never materialising.

Let's hope their partners at Bromsgrove Council and Worcestershire County Council are strong enough to keep to their word - and ensure Birmingham keeps to theirs.

We want to believe Longbridge will be replaced, but bitter experience means we are too nervous to start celebrating the news just yet.
 BOB LOWE, By email

Time's run out for Beckham
Dear Editor, I would suggest that the new England football manager breaks with the tradition of previous English football managers and ignores the pleas of Beckham.

The new England football manager should forget the media hysteria surrounding Beckham - hysteria that has created a myth - and consider the fortunes of the whole England team. While Beckham has been playing his 99 games, they have won nothing, except a few qualifying games against lowly nations; hysteria made him captain of England undeservedly.

To my mind, the first impression of the new manager will be created by the team he selects. Will it be the one that previous managers have selected, including Owen?

Meanwhile, Beckham is on his knees pleading for his 100th game; no doubt he wants to go into the annals.

He needs to think how lucky he has been to have been selected for 99 games.
 DOUGLAS WATHEN, Salford Priors

Welcome move on state-funded care
Dear Editor, I was delighted to hear that the Government has overhauled the current welfare system for older people.

At the moment state-funded older people can not choose the type of care they receive. This decision is made by social services and the less expensive care at home option is often the result. This is usually three 15-minute slots of help a day, which may be fine for some, however, evidence shows that many feel lonely, isolated and may receive inadequate care.

From April, social services will provide a sum of money so that the recipients and their families can make their own decisions as to the preferred type of care they wish to purchase and take control of their own futures.

Many privately funded older people make the positive choice to move into a care home. They choose to be able to meet new friends, become a part of a community and join in with social activities, entertainment and outings - interaction that improves health, general well-being and independence.

I welcome the fact that from April state-funded recipients of care will be given the same choice.
 DAVE LOCK, Adept Care Group

Many thanks to Heartlands and The Grange
Dear Editor, Big thanks to Heartlands and The Grange Rehab for the wonderful care they gave when my husband was taken into Selby Hall Hospital and I was taken to the Heartlands with a fractured kneecap, four months ago.

My husband was dying and Heartlands hired a taxi, with room for a wheelchair, and a nurse to be with me. I was able to be with him there and when he died. The Grange Rehab was wonderful, I cannot speak of it highly enough. I will have them in my thoughts always.

God bless you all.
 IDA TAINTY, Sheldon

History under foot to enjoy all year round
Dear Editor, When we take our post-Christmas walk, we should remember that our present footpath network contains some tracks which go back to prehistoric times, and others from every period in history right down to the few, the very few, that are created today.

Most paths are more than one hundred years old.

Before the Great War of 1914, all country people except the gentry made their short journeys on foot or horseback, so that locally paths were as important as roads as a means of communication and in providing mental landscapes.

Many people - perhaps the majority - never travelled more than a few miles from home; the paths encompassed their world, in a world before television and supermarkets, before so may ugly houses and above all, before the motor car.

This is not the beginning of an orgy of nostalgia, but that is not a reason for not preserving or reviving the best from the past.

We can rediscover something of a slower, quieter and more rooted existence by seeking out and discovering familiar paths of the past.

So enjoy your after-Christmas walk, passing through woods, pastures, parks and arable fields, commons and along waterways.

There run, all over England, many miles of public paths to be enjoyed at all times, but especially at this time of year.
 KEN UNWIN, King's Heath

Criminal folly to let baths die
Dear Editor, The elected councillors not wishing to preserve Moseley Road Baths, would appear to be guilty of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

After leaving the army, my wife and I - and eventually sons one and two - lived in rooms with an elderly aunt in a Victorian terrace house for some seven years - no domestic hot water supply, lavatory up the yard, no bathroom. Like most of my generation, for me it was Suffolk Street Tech. Three evenings per week and homework weekends. Eventually we saved up for a deposit on our first house here in Redditch.

For our major ablutions we had to go to Moseley Road baths. A student of building, I have always found the design, craftsmanship and materials at this Edwardian edifice inspiring and eminently worthy of preserving.

To not preserve Moseley Road baths would be an act of criminal folly.
 TOM WAREING, Redditch

And it came to pass
Dear Editor, I read Councillor Hollingsworth's warning letter concerning a United States of Europe with interest. As a boy, over 50 years ago, I attended chapel in Pembrokeshire and the preacher often used to tell us that the Bible predicted a United States of Europe - which book of the Bible I cannot remember.

This was a bit of a mystery to me, as the only United States I was aware of was of course the USA, and this at a time when, to my knowledge, there was no talk even of a Common Market.

So this may be something which even the esteemed councillor can do nothing about.
 GEORGE WALTERS, By email

Battle of the sales
Dear Editor, Why do people queue for hours in the cold, on the morning of December 27, to be the first one through the doors at the post-Christmas sales?

Watching them on the news as they elbow their neighbours in the ribs, in a desperate bid to get the the biggest discounts, I'm glad I decided to go for a walk in the countryside instead.

It's a sad indictment on our society when people fight each other for things they don't need - and probably don't even want - in a shopping frenzy that seems to have become a winter tradition.
 SYD JONES, Warwick

Lowest of the low
Dear Editor, The Sunday before Christmas I took a large bouquet of flowers in a red box to Yardley Wood Cemetery, to the grave of my nephew, little Brian.

Later that day, his mother discovered the flowers had been stolen from his grave.

I would like the person who stole them to know that they are the lowest of the low. Whoever you are, you are a scumbag and have spoiled the entire family's Christmas by stealing these flowers.
 S PANTERS, Kings Heath

Tipping the balance
Dear Editor, One day we are told that the previous Prime Minister has converted to Roman Catholicism. The next day we are told that Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country's dominant religious group. Was it that finely balanced?
 SIMON WALL, Edgbaston