Since 1775, Gypsy and travelling communities have brought their horses to the small market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, to the annual horse fair which, this year, attracted around 10,000 members of their community, towing 1,200 caravans, and an estimated 30,000 visitors. A partnership between Cumbria Police, the Gypsy and Traveller Community, Eden Council and the RSPCA organise the event.
The horse fair, Europe’s biggest gathering of its type, has now become a major spectator event, particularly to watch the horses being taken into the River Eden to be washed and ridden bare-back before being sold. The sellers also race their horses up and down the road to allow prospective buyers to assess their form and fitness.
The event is not without its problems. This year one local resident complained that some travellers had broken her padlocks and her fence to camp on her land. Another woman was hospitalised on Friday, after being hit by a racing horse and trap, possibly as she crossed the road. Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner has called for the event to be banned. However, trouble at the event was said to be low, with only 7 arrests made over the five days of the event.
I visited the horse fair on Saturday along with three photographer friends. It is certainly true that you have to look out for your own safety, particularly on the road where the horses and traps are racing by. In spite of that, we had a lovely day, enjoying the unexpected sunshine, the photography and ending up having a drink together before leaving for home.
A few of many pictures taken from the riverbank (click image to open gallery):