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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Appleby Horse Fair

behave yourselves!

It was Brian’s idea to visit Appleby Fair. I’ve never been before and so, we went.

For those who don’t know about this, its primarily a horse-dealing event. Its also a major social event for gypsies and travellers with thousands of people turning up.

And its a place where there is great spectacle and excitement and a bit of danger. If you are a bit short on male hormones and you long for the whiff  horse, combined with frying bacon and fish and chips, then this is the place to go.

appleby fair 1

We parked in a field out of town for a fiver (proceeds to the Air Ambulance – they must be making a good income from this) – and, as we shuffled through the crowds into Appleby, it seemed that we were on a horse and trap racing circuit. Every few seconds, a horse pulling a small cart would hurtle through the pedestrian traffic to shouts from all concerned. There were many very close misses. Luckily, horses do make quite a noise on a hard road, and they don’t specially like knocking people down.

appleby fair 2

having disappeared into the crowds ahead, they hurtled back again for more shouting and close misses.

In the town, Brian chatted to various members of the Cumbrian constabulary whilst  several youths and a couple of girls swam their ponies in the River Eden. This drew enormous crowds. The water was quite deep at one spot and the horses swam for a few yards before clambering onto the stony beach.

appleby fair 5 appleby fair 6

Later, in another place (I was getting a bit confused by this time) there were caravans and camper vans and Dublin number plates and three or more Gypsy Petrelongos in their caravans reading palms – and burger vans, sausage and mash vans, fish and chip shops, toy stalls for the kiddies, ceramics stalls, soft furnishing and clothing stalls and stalls selling iron kettles and pans and horse equipment. And girls – some very young,  in skimpy and gaudy clothes teetering on skyscraper heels and men in vests and hats sweating testosterone, some talking in that over-fast Irish/English that nobody can understand (many of you will have seen  the Father Ted Eurovision Compere)

appleby fair 4

Its a very macho thing. You’re not supposed to smile too much, but to look a bit hard. You can smile whilst dealing, or you can smile whilst scamming people out of twenty quid notes chasing a playing card but the rest of the time you have to display a manly unconcern about the fact that a tonne of horse has just hurtled by your left ear at 35 mph, sucking all the dandruff out of your hair and removing paper cash from any unzipped pockets.

All around there were displays of extraordinary horsemanship and a particular leaning-back style of riding. Saddles were not used. There was often great speed and hooves sliding on the road. There was kicking and protesting, but I didn’t see any cruel treatment and most of the horses looked fit and groomed, with, maybe just a couple of exceptions.. There was a heavy RSPCA presence.

And there’s lots and lots of ready cash around.

The only things missing were the knurr and spell competition and the bare knuckle fighting. This caused a certain amount of disappointment. Maybe they do the fighting later on…? (I don’t want to join in by the way….)


Meanqueen said...

Last year a horse drowned because some stupid man took it into a deep part of the river.

I used to drive up and down the A66 for B & Q, and hated to see the horses trotting along within inches of 40 tonne trucks.

I think this is one tradition we can do without.

Mike Knipe said...

There are idiots everywhere, Llona - driving a horse drawn caravan on the A66 seems not such a good idea, but there are signs all over the place warning drivers to expect horses and caravans.
But passing a horse in a 40 tonne truck "within inches" seems more than idiotic or stupid to me, its criminally irresponsible and it has lead to at least one death in the last 2 years.
Driving like that on the A66 is the tradition that I think we can well do without. The stupid man who drowned the horse got jailed.

Oldmortality said...

I must say you've really nailed that "hard, macho" look.
"Would you buy a used horse from this man?"

Meanqueen said...

Yes, I saw the signs Mike, and me being a professional driver I always slow down to a walking pace and give the horse as wide a berth as I can. But sadly you are right, idiot drivers should have the book thrown at them. Horses and trucks using the same main trunk road is not a good mix. I'm glad the man who drowned the horse was jailed.

Ian Jones said...

I've been twice, and each time the highlight was the train home through Ribblehead. If I tried to leave a campsite in the same state they leave the countryside around Appleby I would rightly be fined or punched in the face for being an antisocial, ignorant, self centered, unthinking tw@t.

John J said...

That Pieman looks well 'ard!


Mike Knipe said...

Thanks Llona - The A66 can be quite mad anyway - even without the horses. I'm soon going to have the challenge of crossing it on foot - over the crash barriers..... this may be stupid too....?
What can I say, OM and JJ - apart from the fact that horses tend to ignore me whenever I get on the back of one - and tend to do whatever they feel like doing. Want to buy a picture of a horse?
Yes, Ian - often very messy, and not the state that most hillwalkers would leave a site in. I'm not sure why you would return for a second dose if you didn't enjoy the first one, though...?

markswalkingblog said...

Mike, I saw a RSPCA fly on the wall doc not long ago featuring the Horse Fair and there seemed to be quite a few issues with people leading their horses into deep water. However the biggest issue and the most shocking was the number of people the officers had to sort out who had left dogs in cars in the hot weather. This included the distressing footage of three greyhounds who had died or were seriously ill by literally cooking in the car. What is the point of bringing your dog along to this sort of event and then leaving them in a hot car. Leave them at home or put them in the kennels for the day - not difficult. Rant over !! Good post however :o)

Mike Knipe said...

Lots of people had dogs with them - but apparently there were four dogs that had to be extracated from visitors cars this year. We used to get this a lot in hospital car parks...
There was a big and active RSPCA prescence, including a vet. They seemed to be supervising the horse swimming. Most crossed a short, deep bit