One of the delights of the year is the annual horse fair at Appleby-in-Westmorland, and we usually have a stroll around the town to see this bit of old England. Technically, it’s the Appleby New Fair but in more recent decades it has been rebranded as the Appleby Gypsy horse fair – it even gets a mention in the television series Peaky Blinders.

The present fair began in around 1775 as a livestock fair for farmers, becoming a fair with traveller links around 1900.

It’s hard to say who exactly runs the fair, though Cumbria County Council provides some facilities. There is no fair charter, just a prescriptive right by tradition. There is no charge to attend, for this is very much a people’s fair – one reason some members of our present government would like to see the back of it. Under home secretary Priti Patel’s new policing act, Gypsies coming to the fair risk having their homes confiscated, plus jail sentences and unlimited fines.

Like all rotten laws I hope Patel’s Act is tested to destruction – technically even ordinary campers and ramblers could become victims of this vicious legislation. I look forward to breaking this law myself as often as possible. I sometimes wonder why my late father gave up five years of his life to fight Hitler?

Around 10,000 travellers come to the fair each year, among them British Romanichals, Irish Travellers, Scottish Gypsy and Traveller groups and Kale (Welsh Romanies). The visitors camp up on Gallows Hill just outside the town, where the horses are tested on the Flashing Lane and goods are traded, fortunes told etc. All the fun of the fair! In the town horses are washed in the River Eden.

Today, as we walked by there was even a piper playing on the river bank, a sound that would have been very familiar in medieval Appleby.

A liaison committee now plans and runs the fair. Billy Welch, the Shera Rom (head Romani) – does a grand job representing the travelling community.

So if you want to see a bit of old England before the unimaginative suits in politics ban it altogether, get to Appleby either tomorrow or Saturday, which are the best days. If you are driving it’s best to get there early for a parking space (around 40,000 visitors come to the fair) or better still use public transport – there’s bus service from Penrith and a railway station on the Settle to Carlisle line.

7 thoughts on “A Stroll to the Appleby Horse Fair

  1. I hope they never do manage to ban it – may it continue for centuries more! It looks exceedingly quiet – is that because it’s the first day today? Decent weather for it anyway (although it could be much warmer).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Unimaginative suits in politics’ is right. It looks a great fair and it would be a sad day for our country if it was banned. I must admit I hadn’t known about Patel’s Act, but it seems in keeping with her outlook – the woman is a nasty piece of work.
    Still, I’m glad you enjoyed attending this year, and may you enjoy many more to come, despite the government’s best efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It was interesting as always and we were shocked at the fake stories about litter put out by some of the papers. It seems there’s little objective reporting left.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s