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All but one pub in a Cumbrian town has closed for the weekend as thousands of travellers gathered for the first day of the world-famous Appleby Horse Fair.
A total of 30,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Appleby-in-Westmorland over the next week for what is one of Europe’s largest horse fairs, with 10,000 of them from the gypsy, Roma and traveller community.
Those who arrived today wasted no time enjoying themselves as they were seen taking their horses for a wash in the River Eden which runs through the town, while aerial photos showed fields packed with caravans as gypsies arrived in convoys of traditional horses and carts.
The 250-year-old four-day event is held just outside Appleby, which has a population of around 2,500 people and many of those living in the town have left for the weekend to avoid the crowds.
Local pubs have also closed their doors, with only one public house expected to remain open in Appleby and the surrounding villages over the next four days, with locals expressing concern over the threat of ‘chaos’.
A woman rides her horse through the River Eden during the Appleby Horse Fair, the annual gathering of travellers in Cumbria
A group of women were all smiles on the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria
A girl is thrown from her horse which was startled as she washed it in the River Eden on the first day of the annual Appleby Horse Fair
Due to high temperatures expected over the weekend, visitors to the fair have been advised to make sure their horses get plenty of extra rest and rehydration
The tradition of gypsies and travellers washing their horses in the River Eden (pictured today) stems from the 20th century
Travellers have flocked to Appleby (pictured today) for the first day of one of Europe’s largest horse fairs
People set up a large tent as they attend the first day of the annual Appleby Horse Fair
Fairgoers seemed to be in good spirits as the historic event started today
A boy rides a horse over a pedestrian crossing at the Appleby Horse Fair, in north west England
Fairgoers have been enjoying Thursday’s warm temperatures on the first day of the fair
Travellers start to arrive at the Appleby Horse Fair. The fair began in 1775, but did not come to be primarily associated with the traveller community until more than a century later
By the 1900s the fair had evolved into a major traveller event that attracted families from across the UK and Europe
A family are pulled by a pony and trap on the ‘flashing lane’ outside Appleby on the first day of the Appleby Horse fair, which returned to its traditional early June dates this year having been put back to August in 2022 in order not to clash with the Queen’s diamond jubilee
A group of police officers walk past a man on a horse during the Appleby Horse Fair
People ride their horses through the river during the Appleby Horse Fair, the annual gathering of gypsies and travellers in Appleby, Cumbria
The gathering is sometimes known as ‘the New Fair’ because of Appleby’s medieval borough fair, held at Whitsuntide, which last took place in 1885
A police officer holds a horse for a member of the traveller community in Appleby-in-Westmorland today
A man uses a car to exercise his horse after arriving in Appleby on Thursday, June 8
A youth rides a horse along the road in Appleby-in-Westmorland today
Cumbria Police has struggled in recent years to ensure the safety of the event, and some locals have alleged travellers were behind thefts from a local Co-op in a nearby town that left store staff ‘badly shaken’.
Police are investigating reports that women from the travelling community walked out of a supermarket with three trolleys laden with goods on Tuesday night after using children to distract staff.
A campaign group has been pleading for tougher police action amid claims that officers are being hampered by ‘political correctness.’
A witness told MailOnline: ‘Travellers sent children into the supermarket first to run riot and distract the security guards, that are only employed during Fair time.
‘They were followed by several men who started shouting and behaving aggressively toward the predominantly female staff.’
Yet the event began in traditional style on Thursday with horses being washed in the River Eden and raced along the ‘flashing lane’ behind the main field, where potential buyers gather to haggle over them.
Yesterday, travellers began arriving for this year’s event. Many were sitting in traditional caravans, whilst others were in trailers, their horses pulling them along.
Despite the worries of the local community, travellers were enjoying the sunshine as they arrived for the first day.
Martina Wright was watering her horse Apache at the spot in the River Eden in the centre of Appleby where the tradition has gone on for generations.
Martina, 28, from Newcastle, said: ‘It’s going to be a great weekend, it always is but the weather this year seems to have brought more people out than ever.
‘I always bring Apache down here and give him a swim in the river, he loves it and it helps keep him cool.
‘You have to be careful because it drops off quite steeply into deeper water but he’s a good strong horse and a good swimmer, he loves it.
‘He’s 18 years old and he’s a wonderful horse, he won best horse of the year at Appleby four years in a row for best overall health and the safest swimmer.
‘This is one of the fair’s big traditions. They used to wash the horses in the river and then take them up to the flashing lane to be sold.
‘These days I think people just do it for pictures to post on social media.’
Bridie Gallagher, 36, arrived in Appleby from southern Ireland with her three young children and wider family earlier in the week.
She said: ‘I love this place, it’s the highlight of the year in the gypsy calendar and it’s a chance to meet up with people you haven’t seen all year.
‘The atmosphere and the community is unbeatable and it’s a friendly place where everyone can have a craic and enjoy themselves.
‘I can’t remember so many pubs being closed before and for that reason it seems a little quieter, they’ve tried to force everyone outside of the town.
‘The Crown and Cushion pub is normally full of travellers but this year it’s closed.’
Martina Wright, 28, (pictured) from Newcastle, was watering her horse Apache in the River Eden in the centre of Appleby
A woman climbs out of a traditional Romany caravan during the annual horse fair in Appleby-in-Westmorland
An Elvis Presley tattoo is seen on the hand of a member of the traveller community at the fair
A member of the traveller community washes her horse in the river Eden during the annual horse fair in Appleby-in-Westmorland
RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: ‘The weather plays a huge role in the fair and the forecast says it’s going to be a hot one’
The RSPCA has advised that horses should not be worked too hard in the hot weather
The Appleby Horse Fair is expected to see 30,000 visitors to the town over the next week, with 10,000 of them from the gypsy, Roma and traveller community
Long queues formed at the entrance of the world-famous festival in Appleby today
Travellers in an intricately-adorned horse-drawn wagon arrive at the Appleby Horse Fair today
A boy sits inside a plush green wagon on the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair today
The fair happens at a crossroads point 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, but research has found the charter was cancelled before it was ever enacted.
The gathering is sometimes known as ‘the New Fair’ because of Appleby’s medieval borough fair, held at Whitsuntide, which last took place 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 traveller event that attracted families from across the UK and Europe.
The Appleby Horse Fair has been a mainstay of the gypsy calendar since the early 20th-century.
The tradition of gypsies and travellers washing their horses in the River Eden stems from the 20th century.
After the end of the Second World War, the fair received a further boost as the evolution of transport allowed gypsies and travellers to come from further afield with ease.
A man rides through the River Eden with a child as the horses take the opportunity to cool down
A member of the traveller community leads their horse to be washed in the river Eden during the annual horse fair in Appleby-in-Westmorland
Members of the traveller community drive their horse drawn buggies in the river Eden during the annual horse fair
A member of the traveller community sits on his horse in the river Eden
A traveller rides his horse through the river during the Appleby Horse Fair, the annual gathering of gypsies and travellers in Cumbria
The fair has survived successive attempts to close it down, including in 1967, when the local authority cited poor sanitation.
Increased attendance has brought controversy as well, with homeowners in the area complaining about congestion and poor behaviour in the past.
A horse that drowned in the Eden as it was being washed in 2007 triggered an investigation by the RSPCA.
A man with a braided ponytail stands on a horse as he washes the animal in the River Eden
He then crouched on the animal’s back as the horse waded through the river
A man with a tattoo of Jesus and the words ‘Our Father’ surrounded by stars hold the reins of a horse
A topless man in black shorts grimaced as he washed his horse in the River Eden
A young boy also washed his black horse in the river, which runs through the small town
Rodney, aged 11 months, is lifted onto the back of a horse-drawn wagon by his mother on the first day of the annual Appleby Horse Fair
A boy in matching top and shorts, wearing black socks and sliders, leads a small, white pony
Scores of caravans are adorning the fields outside Appleby, while horses have been seen out to pasture
Some travellers arrived in traditional horse drawn wagons while others came in more modern caravans
The 250-year-old event is held just outside Appleby, which usually has a population of around 2,500 people
Nine animal welfare charities – who are all members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) – work together at Appleby to support the protection and wellbeing of the horses at the event
Nine animal welfare charities – who are all members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) – work together at Appleby to support the protection and wellbeing of the horses at the event.
The NEWC advised that due to high temperatures expected at the event, visitors should ‘make sure their horses get plenty of extra rest and rehydration to help them stay happy and healthy’.
RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: ‘The weather plays a huge role in the fair and the forecast says it’s going to be a hot one.
‘Just as it’s important for us to drink plenty and not work too hard in hot weather, it’s important for our horses.
‘They need to have regular access to water, be drinking after being worked and be tied up in the shade.
‘Owners may need to have more patience than normal as horses sometimes don’t want to drink if they are in an overstimulating environment.
‘Due to the nature of any horse fair, where animals are traded, and especially given that Appleby comes off the back of Kirkby Stephen, owners may not know how much their horse has been worked beforehand so we want to encourage people to err on the safe side and not overdo it, especially in the conditions.
‘Day trippers should not be bringing their dogs to the Fair. Most people know by now that leaving a dog in a car on a hot day can be fatal but unbelievably some people still take the risk and we’ve had to rescue dogs at 14 of the past 15 events.
This morning, horses were seen enjoying a dip in the River Eden as the Appleby Horse Fair got underway
A woman rides her horse through the river on the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair today
A woman rides a horse through the river on the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair today
People ride their horses through the river during the Appleby Horse Fair, the annual gathering of travellers in Cumbria
People were seen smiling with glee as they rode their horses through the river at Appleby
People on the banks of the river watched on from the shore as a woman rides her horse in the rover
Horse drawn carriages were also seen being taken into the River Eden, which runs through Appleby
A man rides his horse through the river during the first day of the Appleby Horse Fair on Thursday
‘This isn’t the only danger though, we now know that exercising your dog on a hot day can be just as hazardous, so please don’t put your pet or yourself in that position.’
Yesterday people were seen sat in the bow-top caravans being led by horses along a road in Appleby, ahead of Appleby Horse Fair which begins on Thursday.
A man in a grey vest and jeans was seen leading two decorated white horses pulling the caravan behind them.
Two horses were also pictured towing a caravan while two people sit in the caravan at the reins.
Travellers in traditional caravans were seen arriving in Cumbria ahead of one of Europe’s largest horse fairs
People were seen sat in the bow-top caravans being led by horses along a road in Appleby, Cumrbia, ahead of Appleby Horse Fair which begins on Thursday
On Monday, a man, thought to be a traveller, trotted a pony into a pub ahead of the fair as stunned drinkers watched on in bewilderment.
The footage, captured at the Crown and Cushion Pub in Appleby, shows a white pony being trotted through the entrance and into a bar area filled with drinkers.
In the video, a man in a white T-shirt and shorts can be seen walking in with the pony as stunned drinkers watch on and children get up to stroke it.
It is thought the animal’s owner was hoping to secure an impromptu sale so brought it through the bar of the pub to show it off.
People living in the area have likened it to the Wild West and said there have been numerous incidents of disorder and disruption.
One onlooker said: ‘You can’t believe the audacity of these people to bring a horse trotting straight into a pub.
The event is expected to see 30,000 visitors over the next week with 10,000 of them from the gypsy, Roma and traveller community
A horse tows a man in Cumbria ahead of the Appleby Horse Fair on Thursday
‘No one blames the landlord, there’s nothing he can do when his pub has been completely taken over, it’s a question of mob rule and there’s nothing he could have done.
‘It was clear that the horse was being put up for sale and was being shown off to potential buyers.
‘It’s bad enough that the streets of the town are taken over for horse trading without it happening inside our pubs as well.
‘Every year we go from a peaceful town to being overrun by drink-related disorder in the streets that make the place look like a town from the Wild West.’
A man races by in a one-horse shay in Appleby, Cumbria, ahead of Thursday’s fair
A woman sits on top of a four-wheel horse carriage in Appleby, Cumbria
A man and two teenagers relax on a two-wheel horse carriage in Appleby, Cumbria
Two men ride a carriage drawn by a horse in Appleby, Cumbria, ahead of Thursday’s fair
Appleby Primary School will be closed on the first full day of the fair following a risk assessment over the safety of children.
There have also been claims that a travelling families have slashed open hay bales to feed horses and a new bar area will be opened in a field adjacent to the showground despite the objections of locals.
Appleby Fair Community Group (AFCG), set up by local people to oppose the ‘infliction’ of the fair, says there have already been numerous concerns reported.
The AFCG said eggs were thrown at people and passing cars, liquid chucked at people or squirted from water pistols and drunken fights often broke out on the streets of Appleby and neighbouring Kirkby Stephen.