Thousands of travellers from across Europe arrive in Cumbria for Appleby Horse Fair

Thousands of travellers from across Europe arrive in Cumbria as Appleby Horse Fair begins while locals close school and shutter pubs

Thousands of travellers are arriving in the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland for the historic fairThe event attracts roughly 10,000 members of the gypsy, Roma and traveller community every JuneIt has been running every year for the last 250 years and brings a total of 30,000 people to the quiet town

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Thousands of travellers from across Europe have begun to arrive in Cumbria as the Appleby Horse Fair gets underway, with locals closing a school and shutting pubs as the festival starts. 

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.

Travellers have already begun to arrive in the town, with many bringing horses, ponies and carriages with them to ‘the New Fair’.

In response locals have closed a school in the area, while pubs have closed ahead of the fair which begins today, June 9.

Organisers for the fair have said at least 11 pubs in Appleby and Kirkby Stephen have confirmed they 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.

The force said it has 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. 

A man washes his horse in the River Eden this morning is the first day of the annual Appleby Horse Fair gets underway

A woman rides her horse through the streets of Appleby-in-Westmorland today, as the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair gets underway

Dollie-Anna, aged two, looks towards her mother after they travelled in a horse-drawn caravan to the Appleby Horse Fair today

A woman poses for a photo on the first day of the annual event, which originated as an event for sheep and cattle drovers, and horse breeders, to sell their stock

A man poses for a photo on the first day of the event. The Appleby Horse Fair has been a traveller-centric event since the 1900s 

Travellers arriving in Appleby this morning with horses pulling along their carriage. The event is expected to attract 10,000 members of the travelling community

A woman rides her horse into the River Eden in Appleby this morning on the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair. The event is expected to last for four days

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.

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The Appleby Horse Fair takes place every year at the beginning of June, with 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. 

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.

‘As part of this mutually agreed compromise, a delegation of representatives from the Gypsy and Traveller Community will gather in the Fair field on Wednesday 8 June, to reinforce the traditional dates of the Fair.

‘The MASCG will also engage with those communities that normally accommodate people travelling to the fair in the days before to ensure that the impact on their Jubilee celebrations is minimalised as well as reinforcing a strong, ‘Do not come early’ message to those wishing to attend the Fair.’

Billy Welch, a member of the Multi Agency Co-ordinating Group, and representative for gypsy and travellers, said: ‘In the spirit of compromise and mutual respect that led to the cancellation of the Fair in 2020 and its postponement in 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m pleased that we have been able to reach agreement on the dates for next year’s fair.

A man attends to his horse and carriage at the side of the road in Appleby this morning. The fair is the largest gathering of its type in Europe

People arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair set up camp on fields in the Appleby area. They are expected to stay for at least the next four days

There were long queues on the roads leading into the area this morning as thousands of travellers arrived for the annual event

A stall holder sets up their market stall on the first day of the show. Traders will sell goods to the thousands of people expected to attend this weekend

Crowds gather on the banks of the River Eden this morning to watch travellers washing their horses on the first day of the horse fair

A man stands next to a horse after washing it in the River Eden this morning, with police officers pictured in attendance at the annual event

‘This decision will enable the settled communities in and around Appleby to mark the Queen’s Jubilee, while preserving the Fair’s historic association with the town at a time that’s as close to the traditional dates, as is possible.’

‘It has also been agreed that, after last three years in which the traditional dates for the Fair have been disrupted for different reasons, we will return to the traditional dates in 2023.’

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, June 6. 

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.’

A group take a dip in the River Eden with miniature pony Robin Hood while they carry a sign saying keep the horse fair alive

Shane Curtin takes his horse for a dip in the River Eden on Wednesday, June 8, the day before the Appleby Horse Fair gets underway

Early arrivals for the  annual Appleby Horse Fair take their horses for a dip in the river Eden in the town on Wednesday, June 8

A group take a dip in the River Eden yesterday with miniature pony Robin Hood after arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair which begins today

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.

Gypsy 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.

A man washes his horse in the River Eden this morning ahead of the Appleby Horse Fair. Travellers wash their horses in the river after arriving before trotting them up and down the ‘flashing lane’ – a closed off rural road – and haggling over them

Tommy (left) and Liam Hamilton, aged four and seven with miniature pony Robin Hood yesterday after arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair

Early arrivals for the Appleby Horse fair yesterday take their horses for a dip in the river Eden in the town

Vienna and Cassius, from Singleton, Lancashire with their family’s horse and trap by the River Eden yesterday

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