On the wagon! Gypsies saddle up traditional horse and carts as they head to Appleby Fair for weekend
- Travellers saddled up traditional horse and bow top carts as they head to Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria
- Visitors from the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling community are arriving through Brough for the 250-year-old fair
- Fair is usually held outside Appleby and attracts around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers and 1,000 caravans
- Already travellers have clashed with locals after setting up an overnight camp at the Upper Eden Rugby Club
Travellers from across the UK saddled up traditional horse and bow top carts as they head to Appleby Horse Fair being held from tomorrow after last year’s festival was suspended due to Covid restrictions.
Visitors from the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling community are arriving through Brough, Cumbria with their horses and caravans for the 250-year-old fair which has only been cancelled twice – last year amid the pandemic, and in 2001 due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
The fair, which is billed as the biggest traditional Gypsy Fair in Europe, is usually held in early June outside the town of Appleby and attracts around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers, 1,000 caravans, hundreds of horse-drawn vehicles, and around 30,000 visitors.
It is believed that the fair originated in the late 18th century as horse dealers and sheep and cattle drovers sold their stock on Gallows Hill, not far from Long Marton Road near where the Appleby Fair is held – and that by the 20th century it had morphed into a Gypsy event.
Over the years, the mass gathering has generated allegations of violent crime, animal cruelty and mess left in the town. However the RSPCA, which patrols the fair, has said just a small minority of visitors have ever shown scant regard for animal welfare.
Already travellers have clashed with locals in neighbouring market towns when they decided to set up an overnight camp at the Upper Eden Rugby Club when their camp was sprayed with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders.
This year an agreement was reached that the organisers – the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group – would host the event subject to any potential changes in Covid regulations and guidance around large gatherings.
Travellers in Brough, Cumbria, make their way to Appleby, for the annual Horse Fair
Travellers in Brough, Cumbria, make their way to Appleby, for the annual Horse Fair
Travellers from across the UK saddled up traditional horse and bow top carts as they head to Appleby Horse Fair being held from tomorrow after last year’s festival was suspended due to Covid restrictions
The fair, which is billed as the biggest traditional Gypsy Fair in Europe, is usually held in early June outside the town of Appleby and attracts around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers, 1,000 caravans, hundreds of horse-drawn vehicles, and around 30,000 visitors
Members of the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling (GRT) community begin to arrive for the Appleby Horse Fair in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
Travellers decided to set up camp at the nearby Upper Eden Rugby Club when one of their established overnight camps was sprayed with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders
Les Clark, Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair MASCG and Deputy Chief Executive of Eden District Council, said: ‘In reaching this decision the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group has had to weigh many factors.
‘It is preferable for everyone involved – local settled people, Gypsies and Travellers and the local authorities – for Appleby Horse Fair to happen on a set date. Had no date been set, there would be an increased likelihood of ad hoc gatherings which nobody would be prepared for.
‘Whilst the Government roadmap currently states that large events can take place from 21 June, it was the preference of the MASCG that a new date for Appleby Horse Fair be selected later into the summer to allow the vaccination programme valuable extra weeks to roll out.
‘Selecting a date has been a difficult process. As the traditional date is not viable, there has had to be compromise on all sides. As Chair of the MASCG I would like to thank everyone for their patience and for their willingness to find common ground during what is a difficult time for everyone.’
Billy Welch, Gypsy and Traveller representative on the MASCG, said: ‘Whilst the Gypsy and Traveller community would have been happier for the Fair to be held earlier in the summer, we are happy with the compromise date identified by the MASCG.
‘Everyone will have the opportunity to plan a summer break in the UK so it is important that the Gypsies and Travellers who wish to do so have the same opportunity.’
Pauline Foster (pictured) said she and the other travellers ‘were doing no harm’ and had pitched up at the rugby club because their established site had been sprayed with cow manure
Members of the traveller community said they were being victimised and forced off the site for no reason. Pictured: Visitors from the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling (GRT) community at the nearby Upper Eden Rugby Club
Travellers began to arrive in Kirkby Stephen at the weekend ahead of the fair, which attracts around 10,000 gypsies and 30,000 visitors
Locals in Kirkby Stephen claimed threats were made against them as travellers blocked the road during a ‘stand-off.’ They also said there were left furious when police told them they could not close the gate to prevent more travellers coming through – in case those already trespassing on the site needed to leave in an emergency.
The gypsies said they were being victimised and forced off the site for no reason, questioning why the remote spot where they had planned to stay had been covered in manure.
One local said: ‘It was a frightening and intimidating situation to have a camp suddenly set up right in the middle of the community. And to make it worse the rugby club was told it couldn’t lock the gate in case any of them wanted to leave. It’s madness.’
Some pubs and businesses in the town chose to close their doors until after the horse fair is over. But one traveller, Pauline Foster, who was a part of the group, said they ‘were doing no harm’ and the only reason they had pitched up at the rugby club was because the site they had stayed at for years was soiled with cow manure.
The 69-year-old said: ‘There were four or five police vans called and we warned we’d be kicked off double quick. They took pictures of all our caravans and vehicles and said if we didn’t move we’d be charged and if we didn’t pay it they’s follow us to Appleby to get it from us.
Police arrive to the scene at Upper Eden Rugby Club after locals clash with members of the traveller community
‘We were doing no harm at all. The fair begins on Thursday so we’d quickly have moved on into Appleby. The only reason that we came here is because the site we’ve stayed at for years and years was soiled with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders by some farmer.
‘It’s outside the village of Nateby in the middle of nowhere and the travelling people do no harm there. The discrimination and harassment we suffer is getting worse and if this was any other race or culture there would be an outcry, but because it’s our community people let it happen.’
Police were there to make sure the travellers moved on without any further disruption as the eviction notice demanded. One officer told MailOnline: ‘They’re moving without incident and we’ve found them somewhere else to stay.’
Although Appleby itself remained quiet, an influx of travellers arrived in Kirkby Stephen at the weekend ahead of the fair, which attracts around 10,000 gypsies and 30,000 visitors.
Scores of caravans and mobile homes were parked on roadsides leading into the town and horses were tethered to graze on verges as lorries rumbled by inches away on the main road between the A66 trans-Pennine route and the M6 motorway.
Long lines of traffic snaked off into the distance as youngsters driving carriages pulled by ponies raced up and down the A685.
A local businessman said: ‘It feels as though we’ve had one year of peace before it all starts again with a vengeance. While Appleby gets all the visitors and the income that brings, we get nothing but disruption and so many problems that some businesses choose to close down.’
The travellers denied anyone had been intimidating.
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