Travellers meet in Appleby for fifth day despite delayed horse fair

Travellers meet in Appleby for fifth day in row despite horse fair being delayed due to Covid – with families racing pony and trap through historic town

  • Travellers arrived on Sunday in Appleby for the annual horse fair despite police urging people not to visit 
  • The Appleby Horse Fair had been postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions until later this year on August 12
  • But today, families were seen racing their ponies through the historic town for the fifth day in a row  

Dozens of travellers arrived in Appleby today for the fifth day in a row, despite the annual horse fair being postponed due to Covid-19 until later this year.

Families were filmed racing their ponies through the historic town today after police had urged people not to travel there.

Photographs posted online show visitors lining the banks of the River Eden in the centre of the Cumbrian town on Saturday, with some riding horses and sitting on carts.

It is understood there were between 300 to 400 people in the town on Saturday, but less than a dozen caravans. 

The annual event, which normally draws in around 10,000 Travellers and Gypsies from across Europe in the first week of June, was cancelled last year for only the second time in its 250-year history. 

It was then postponed from its usual date of the first weekend in June until August this year, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  


Dozens of travellers arrived in Appleby today for the fifth day in a row, despite the annual horse fair being postponed due to Covid-19 until later this year


Families were filmed racing their ponies through the historic town today after police had urged people not to travel there

Visitors have ignored official advice as they arrived for Appleby horse fair despite the famous Cumbrian village fair being postponed until later this year. Pictured: Two men with their horses were in the river on Saturday

The Cumbrian town basked in glorious sunshine, while one man held his horse by its reins as it nears a wooden fence and onlookers sat on the grassy verge next to the river 

Travellers were seen riding through the town on Saturday, with their horses and carts (pictured) as locals looked on from the street sides

In April, the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) met again, discussing plans for the Fair to go ahead this year, the News and Star reported.  

It was agreed it would go ahead from August 12, providing there were no changes in Government regulations and recommendations around large outdoor gatherings and events.  

Travellers were seen riding through the town on Saturday, with their horses and carts as locals looked on from the street sides. 

Others took their horses into the river Eden while other visitors sat on the river banks in the basking 66F sunshine, watching as the horses walked around the water. 

Billy Welch, a representative on the MASCG, confirmed earlier this week that members of his community were doing everything they could to keep safe ahead of the fair, with everyone eligible receiving the vaccine, the publication reported. 

A spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary said: ‘Those planning their traditional, annual, horse fair visit were asked to stay away and make plans for later in the summer.

‘We are grateful to those who have heeded this message. However, a number of people have arrived in and around Appleby on Saturday.

‘Whilst there are no coronavirus regulations preventing people from travelling to different areas of the country and everyone is currently free to travel where they please domestically for a holiday or day trip, there are Government restrictions on gatherings of more than 30 people. These restrictions remain in place on public health grounds.’

Others took their horses into the river Eden as traditionally they washed their mounts in the river Eden before leading them up to the show field

Two police officers were seen standing by on the river bank as families sat on the grass, watching the horses be washed in the water 

Travellers were seen riding through the town on Saturday, with their horses and carts, as locals looked on from the street sides

One man was seen washing his horse in the river Eden, while another sat on the horse’s bare back as he rode it into the water on Saturday

The force urged people not to travel to Appleby over the weekend. A ‘significant’ number of officers were in the town on Saturday, police added. 

Les Clark, who is the chair of Appleby Horse Fair MASCG and the deputy chief executive of Eden District Council, said that it was preferable for a new date to be set as there would otherwise ‘be an increased likelihood of ad hoc gatherings’. 

The date in August was chosen to allow the vaccination programme extra weeks to roll out from the Government’s original roadmap date of June 21, Mr Clark said, which is currently under jeopardy due to new variants of the virus spreading in the country.     

Last year, police and gypsy leaders urged people not to travel, but to the fury of locals around 100 arrived with their horses in the Cumbrian town in the first weekend of June. 

One local said: ‘Everybody knew this was going to happen, there was no way they would stay away and they were able to arrive here without being checked.

‘For the week leading up to the fair there were gypsy caravans parked around the town which would disappear and then turn up somewhere else.

‘We have an older population in this area and people in the town are being cautious about coronavirus. We hoped the gypsy community would respect that but it’s no surprise to see them here.

‘The police did nothing to stop them coming and took no action as they were riding their horses up and down the street.’ 

Visitors have ignored official advice as they arrived for Appleby horse fair. Pictured: a man on a horse arrives for the Fair on Saturday

A family with two young children rode their horse and cart through the town on Saturday as they arrived for the fair which has been postponed until August due to the Covid-19 pandemic 

After being cancelled last year for only the second time in its 250-year history, the Fair has been postponed from its usual date of the first weekend in June until August 12 this year, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic

Les Clark, who is the chair of Appleby Horse Fair MASCG and the deputy chief executive of Eden District Council, said that it was preferable for a new date to be set as there would otherwise ‘be an increased likelihood of ad hoc gatherings’ (pictured: two horses walk through the town) 

Before the fair started a Mr Welch, known as the Shera Rom or Head Gypsy, warned families to stay away. He said: ‘The fair is cancelled and I will not be coming to open the gates.

‘We have spread the word round our community and I hope people don’t show up. The current situation with Covid-19 is bad and I wouldn’t want any of my family put in danger or the chance of the settled community being put in any danger. Over the weeks there you will see people moving around the country. This is what we do, it’s our heritage.’

The event would normally bring 10,000 gipsies in around 1,000 caravans and a total 30,000 visitors to watch the showing and trading of horses. 

Traditionally the travellers wash their mounts in the river Eden before leading them up to the show field.  

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