In an earlier post I mentioned in passing the Appleby Horse Fair and I thought I would revisit it and add a few more images.
The fair takes place annually at the beginning of June and centres on the former county town of Appleby, once of Westmorland now of Cumbria. The fair has been in existence since the sixteenth century when horses were the mainstay of agricultural work plus horses transported the armies that waged the wars across the fells, Appleby is not too far south of the border city of Carlisle with the Scots just across the Solway Firth. Things quietened down a little in these debatable lands with the Union of the Crowns under James 1st& VIth ( he was James the first of England but was already the sixth of that name of Scotland ) So illegal sales of horses to the Scots gave way to other money making ventures. The Appleby Fair was once part of a chain of fairs which took place around the country, which one by one have fallen by the wayside or have changed their character so much to be unrecognisable. Buying and selling was the mainstay of these fairs, cattle, horses and other goods. Horses and their equipment are still a large part of the Horse Fair scene, plus other items you never knew you needed.
The camp and the market area are together on top of a hill that overlooks the town centre and there is a regular traffic of people and horses between the two, one of the daily rituals is taking the horses down to the River Eden which flows through Appleby so the horses can be washed. It’s purely coincidental that the mile or so route is perfect for the young men to show off their horseriding skills and you do have to keep an eye open for the traps as they flash past.
Down by the river is the popular spot for the tourists and photographers
as they watch the horses and riders plunge into the water. Again it’s pure coincidence that it’s a chance for the young men to show off again.
All around are the incessant chatter of accents and deals being done as the horses are tethered up or paraded or paraded around in front of potential buyers
Up until recently the horses shared the road to the camp with other traffic, which could be interesting
Apart from the smell, horse manure on the roadway doesn’t help a cars braking distance. While there is a lively atmosphere the Police are always in discrete attendance along with the animal welfare charity the RSPCA. So while there’s fun to be had at the fair there’s also a steadying hand. The event generally runs from a Wednesday to the following Wednesday, though after the middle weekend things rapidly calm down and the travellers start to make their various ways out of Appleby, it is a feature of both the build up and the break down of the fair, the long line of traffic on the main A66 route being held behind a group of horse drawn caravans with impatient HGV drivers drumming their fingers on their truck’s steering wheels as they wait to get past.