From the News and Star
The fair, which is the highlight of the travelling community’s social calendar, got underway yesterday.
Rows of beautiful bowtop, coloured caravans lined the town’s Fair Hill – their home for the next few days.
Horses and foals galloped through the town centre where tourists gathered to watch, as the fair – which is mainly a trade event – opened for business.
On the side of the road a makeshift blacksmith’s shop was set up for hooves to be replaced and repaired.
And on the Fair Hill site hundreds of people browsed the stalls selling everything from candyfloss, to babies clothing and hare stew.
One Appleby resident even opened up her garage to sell refreshments and I Love Appleby Horse Fair t-shirts.
Steve Wakeman, 48, had travelled to the fair with his caravan and horses from Worcestershire.
He said: “This is my second time at the fair but the first time with horses. I arrived on Wednesday and I’m hoping the weather is going to stay nice.
“I made the bowtop caravan myself and the bottom of it dates from 1906.”
Appleby Fair attracts about 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers and more than 30,000 visitors. Sunday is the traditional main visitors’ day.
The fair transforms the town of Appleby, as it normally has a population of around 2,500.
About 200 police officers and staff are on duty every day helping to keep the fair safe. They are working with a number of other agencies to make sure the event, which has been marred by violence in the past, runs like clockwork.
Eden Council is responsible for road safety, waste management and licensing at the horse fair.
Michelle Skeer, assistant chief constable of Cumbria, said: “I think the number of visitors to the fair is increasing because of the popularity of the TV show.
“There has also been more media interest too.”
The county’s police operation is running 24 hours a day.
Mrs Skeer added: “We want both the settled community and the travelling community to enjoy the event. We have seen a slight increase – about 10 per cent – in the number of mechanised caravans arriving at the fair and about a 25 per cent increase in the number of bowtop caravans.
“A lot of the travelling community arrived for the fair earlier than usual because of the Jubilee bank holiday.”
Billy Welch, a Gypsy spokesman for the fair, said: “I think the popularity of TV show has definitely seen tourist numbers to fair increase without a doubt.
“The fair is going nice and smoothly. There was some problems with traffic first thing yesterday but the police got a handle on it and sorted it out.
“Everyone has been saying the same thing – there are more people here, which surprises me a bit because of the current economic situation because it affects us as well as everyone else.”
The RSPCA has sent its team of specialist equine officers to Appleby.
It will have 32 officers there during peak times, including the charity’s newly appointed specialist equine officers.