The World Famous Horse Fair Gathers Thousands of Roma and Travelers
Thousands of travellers, gypsies and tourists have arrived in the picturesque town of Appleby-in-Westmorland for its annual horse fair, which takes place this year from 2-8 June. The world’s biggest gathering of its kind, the Cumbria-based fair is expected to attract about 5,000 travellers and thousands of visitors.
Appleby (located in Cumbria, England) was originally known as the County Town of Westmorland. It developed after the time of the Norman Conquest by virtue of its strategic geographical location. It is an ancient town, set in a great loop of the River Eden. Appleby can claim its beginnings from the time of the Celts, Romans and Vikings.
Appleby Horse Fair (the largest traditional horse fair of its kind in the world) was set up by Charter under the reign of James II in 1685 and has been an annual event since that time. Originally, it was a venue for the trading of all types of livestock and general merchandise. Its popularity with the large numbers of gypsies who would come each year eventually led to the occasion being known as a specialist horse fair. Today, Appleby Fair is the venue of one the largest remaining gatherings of Romany people.
The event is held during the second week of June, beginning on the Wednesday of that week and with the main horse sale on the Tuesday of the following week. Harness races and celebrations lead up to this sale day and horses are lead trotting up and down the lanes in order to show them off prior to the sales. The field which is the main site for the participants is found on the outskirts of Appleby. It was originally known as Gallows Hill, due to the nature of its usage in earlier times. However, it is now called Fair Hill and looks West over the town of Appleby and East toward the Pennines.
During the two weeks of the Fair, horses may be found everywhere…in the river, on its banks, along the green, on roadsides and lanes, or even tethered outside hotels, shops and public houses (the local taverns). The ownership of a horse can, by wheeling and dealing, change several times throughout the course of the Fair and sales are usually clinched with a slap on the hand, after a one-to-one bartering rather than a traditional type of auction.
The Appleby Fair survived an attempt at closure by the Westmorland Borough Council in 1965. The main activities take place on Fair Hill with most horse trading taking place at the crossroads and on Long Marton Road where horses are shown off by trotting up and down at speed. Many of the horses are taken down to ‘the Sands’, near the town centre and beside the river Eden, where horses are ridden into the river to be washed.
Experienced visitors made some tips for future visitors.
• Be prepared for bad weather. There is little to no shelter available. Fair Hill can be muddy, so bring wellies!
• Don’t bring your dog, as they can startle and frighten horses and don’t leave dogs in cars in hot weather
• Don’t approach or pet horses without permission of the owner
• Arrive by train or bus to avoid congestion and parking fares – visit our ‘How to get to Eden’ webpage for more information. If you are visiting for the day, using public transport to travel to Appleby is recommended, because of the problems with congestion and safety when travelling by car.
The 2017 Appleby Horse Fair will be held Thursday 8 to Wednesday 14 June, with the main days for visitors being Friday 9, Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June.
For more details, please visit the official web-site http://applebyfair.org/
Human Rights Fund “Progress”
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