Gypsies and travellers who met in Appleby over the weekend – ignoring calls to stay away as the traditional June horse fair was postponed – have gone their separate ways leaving the town quiet today.
Scores of visitors arrived in the town over the weekend for what is normally the Appleby Horse Fair dates, despite it being rescheduled to August.
Their arrival prompted a large police presence in Appleby and led to criticism from locals who said the visitors’ presence showed a disrespect for the residents of Appleby.
However, the turnout was a fraction of the huge numbers of gypsies and travellers who usually make the journey to Appleby Horse Fair each year and this has received praise from community representatives who say the vast majority heeded their advice to stay away.
Gypsy and traveller representative Billy Welch said: “We are very pleased that the recommendations have been followed so well.
“We always knew there was a chance that some people would turn up regardless, and we are not even sure if the people who came to Appleby this weekend are in fact gypsies and travellers.
“We know that there was a steam train full of visitors, and the local tourist boards have been encouraging visitors to the town in June.
“This is a free country and we cannot order people to do anything, but we are very pleased that common sense has prevailed, particularly because all over the rest of Cumbria the car parks and camp sites are full to overflowing, and the Appleby harness races went ahead as normal last weekend.”
Representative Bill Lloyd added: “We are aware that there was some anxiety among residents in the outlying areas about people ignoring the recommendation to stay away, so I made an 100-mile round trip to visit 30 known stopping places between Kirkby Lonsdale and Appleby, travelling via the A685 at Brough.
“In that whole 100-mile circuit I saw only two bow top wagons and two small trailers, so I would say that the gypsies and travellers have been 99.99 per cent compliant and they have stayed away as they were asked.
“Police have confirmed that only a handful of gypsies turned up in the town and that there was no trouble.
“I have been informed that the majority of people on The Sands were visitors, many of whom came for a day out the steam train.
“Many thanks to the many thousands of people who did as they were asked.”