Appleby horse fair: Gypsies and travellers wash their horses in the river


Thousands of travellers from across Europe have descended on Cumbria as the Appleby Horse Fair enters its second day today. 

Pictures showed owners washing their horses in the waters of the River Eden, while others rode through the town’s streets in horse-drawn carts.  

A total of 30,000 visitors are expected to congregate in the small town of Appleby-in-Westmorland and neighbouring Kirkby Stephen for the annual four-day event.

Around 10,000 of these will be members of the gypsy, Roma and traveller community, with the 250-year-old fair billed as the largest traditional gathering of the community in Europe.

Aerial photos show hundreds of caravans and horse-drawn carriages have moved into the area, with their owners setting up camp in fields nearby.

A woman rides her horse in the River Eden, on day two of the Appleby Horse Fair, the annual gathering of gypsies and travellers

The washing of horses in the river - which runs through Appleby - is a tradition that has long characterised the historic fair

The washing of horses in the river – which runs through Appleby – is a tradition that has long characterised the historic fair 

This woman ended up taking a dip herself after riding her horse into the River Eden, which flows out into the Solway Firth

This woman ended up taking a dip herself after riding her horse into the River Eden, which flows out into the Solway Firth 

A total of 30,000 visitors are expected to congregate in the small town of Appleby-in-Westmorland and neighbouring Kirkby Stephen for the annual four-day event

A total of 30,000 visitors are expected to congregate in the small town of Appleby-in-Westmorland and neighbouring Kirkby Stephen for the annual four-day event

A man using a bucket to wash his horse in the River Eden today. After being washed horses are usually taken to be sold

A man using a bucket to wash his horse in the River Eden today. After being washed horses are usually taken to be sold 

A woman rides through the River Eden on her white and black steed on day two of the Appleby Horse Fair today

A woman rides through the River Eden on her white and black steed on day two of the Appleby Horse Fair today 

Appleby Horse Fair: Historic event tracing its roots back to 1685

The fair is held outside the town of Appleby, at the point where the old Roman Road crosses Long Marton Road, on Gallows Hill, which was named after the public hangings that were once carried out there.

It was once thought the fair originated from a royal charter to the borough of Appleby from King James II of England in 1685, although more recent research has found the charter was cancelled before it was ever enacted.

The gathering is sometimes known as ‘the New Fair’ because Appleby’s medieval borough fair, held at Whitsuntide, ceased in 1885.

The ‘New Fair’ began in 1775 for sheep and cattle drovers and horse dealers to sell their stock.

By the 1900s it had evolved into a major Gypsy/Traveller event which brought families from across the UK and Europe.

In preparation some local pubs have decided to close their doors during the week of the fair with organisers confirming at least 11 pubs in Appleby and Kirkby Stephen will not open while the event takes place.

In the run up to the fair, Cumbria Police is urging motorists to drive cautiously in the area and told the public to report any concerns they might have.

Police said they have made arrests for theft and drug driving and been called to the scene of a crash where a horse died and three people were injured before the fair started. 

Appleby Primary School, on Station Road, will close tomorrow on June 10 because of the event.

Cumbria County Council said: ‘The closure is due to the health and safety of pupils travelling to and from school during Appleby New Fair.’

The RSPCA is also advising visitors to Appleby Horse Fair not to sell or buy puppies at the event, due to concerns that many may be sick.

‘I can’t emphasise enough to Appleby visitors that buying a puppy from the fair is really not a good idea,’ said RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy.

‘Last year we saw a lot of puppies being sold and some were so sick they had to be put to sleep by a vet. It is so tragic, but if people continue to buy them at the fair, breeders will continue to bring them each year.’

The Appleby Horse Fair takes place every year at the beginning of June, with this year’s edition being held a week later than planned after organisers delayed it to make way for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

It comes after the Covid pandemic impacted on the previous two years, with the fair being cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021. 

Around 10,000 of those gathering at the event will be members of the gypsy, Roma and traveller community, with the 250-year-old fair billed as the largest traditional gathering of the community in Europe

Around 10,000 of those gathering at the event will be members of the gypsy, Roma and traveller community, with the 250-year-old fair billed as the largest traditional gathering of the community in Europe

Tw omen ride through the streets of Appleby on a horse drawn cart as the famous fair enters its second day

Tw omen ride through the streets of Appleby on a horse drawn cart as the famous fair enters its second day 

Aerial photos show hundreds of caravans and horse-drawn carriages have moved into the area, with their owners setting up camp in fields nearby.

Aerial photos show hundreds of caravans and horse-drawn carriages have moved into the area, with their owners setting up camp in fields nearby.

The traditional event - which sees members of the gypsy, Roma and travelling communities gather - usually takes place at the start of June. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid and postponed last year until August due to the pandemic

The traditional event – which sees members of the gypsy, Roma and travelling communities gather – usually takes place at the start of June. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid and postponed last year until August due to the pandemic

This year it is back with a bang as more than 10,000 travellers have set up camp in the tiny town

This year it is back with a bang as more than 10,000 travellers have set up camp in the tiny town

This year's event was delayed by a week to avoid a clash with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations

This year’s event was delayed by a week to avoid a clash with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations

Many have made their way through traffic in the town centre on pony and trap, with some already taking their horses into the River Eden as part of a centuries-old tradition

Many have made their way through traffic in the town centre on pony and trap, with some already taking their horses into the River Eden as part of a centuries-old tradition

Earlier this week, a horse tragically died and three people were injured in a crash between a horse-drawn carriage and a wagon on the A66

Earlier this week, a horse tragically died and three people were injured in a crash between a horse-drawn carriage and a wagon on the A66

Temporary chief superintendent Matt Kennerley of Cumbria Police said: "We were very aware that local celebrations wanted to take place and we wanted to mitigate the impact of the migration into the county on those local celebrations'

Temporary chief superintendent Matt Kennerley of Cumbria Police said: ‘We were very aware that local celebrations wanted to take place and we wanted to mitigate the impact of the migration into the county on those local celebrations’

Les Clark, Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Coordinating Group (MASCG) said: ‘All the agencies involved in responding to the fair were keen to reach a compromise that enabled both the settled communities of Appleby and the surrounding areas and the Gypsy and Traveller communities to arrange and enjoy both celebrations.

‘We’re grateful to the Gypsy and Traveller representatives in the Multi-Agency Strategic Coordinating Group for being flexible on moving the date of next year’s fair to accommodate the celebrations of the Queen’s Jubilee.’

Motorists in the area have been warned that horses and carts will be on the roads, and are being urged to take care.

Earlier this week a horse was killed after it was involved in a crash with a vehicle while pulling a carriage on the A66 on Monday morning.

The busy road, which is one of the main routes into the area, was closed while police dealt with the incident, which left three people who were on the carriage with minor injuries.

Cumbria Police said it had made no arrests following the incident and that the driver of the motor vehicle was uninjured.

Chief Superintendent Matt Kennerley, Gold Commander for Appleby Horse Fair, said: ‘At this time of year we always urge drivers to be particularly careful on the county’s roads.

‘The likelihood of encountering slow-moving traffic is high so we must all be attentive behind the wheel.

‘I urge people to take particular care on the A66, where fast-moving vehicles can come across slow-moving, often horse-drawn, vehicles and also the A685 in the vicinity of Kirkby Stephen, where there are caravans and horses by the side of the road. Whilst we already have large numbers of officers in these areas, we have further increased our resourcing here, to reassure people and help keep everyone safe.

‘By being aware of the potential dangers, we can all do our part to make sure everyone reaches their destination safely and without incident.’

Motorists in the area have been warned that horses and carts will be on the roads, and are being urged to take care

Motorists in the area have been warned that horses and carts will be on the roads, and are being urged to take care

A horse pulls three men through Appleby in the continuation of a centuries' old tradition in the Cumbrian town

A horse pulls three men through Appleby in the continuation of a centuries’ old tradition in the Cumbrian town 

Horses are traditionally washed in the River Eden in Appleby and trotted up and down the 'flashing lane' - a closed off rural road - before being haggled over and bought

Horses are traditionally washed in the River Eden in Appleby and trotted up and down the ‘flashing lane’ – a closed off rural road – before being haggled over and bought

A man washing his horse in a shallow part of the River Eden - which runs through the centre of Appleby in Cumbria

A man washing his horse in a shallow part of the River Eden – which runs through the centre of Appleby in Cumbria 

The gathering is billed as the biggest traditional gypsy fair in Europe and has developed traditions that take place every year

The gathering is billed as the biggest traditional gypsy fair in Europe and has developed traditions that take place every year

This year police have made changes to traffic regulations so local roads can be opened and closed when needed.

The number of temporary toilets has also been increased, and there will be daily meetings of the fair’s co-ordinating group.

In its 250-year history the fair has only been cancelled twice, the first in 2001 during the foot and mouth outbreak and the second in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The gathering is billed as the biggest traditional gypsy fair in Europe and has developed traditions that take place every year.

Horses are washed in the River Eden in Appleby and trotted up and down the ‘flashing lane’ – a closed off rural road – before being haggled over and bought.

There is a market on Jimmy Winter’s Field with stalls selling everything from fashion to horse-related wares.    

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