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Travellers head to Appleby Horse Fair which typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors

Travellers have been spotted heading to Appleby Horse Fair - a traditional gathering that typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors - after it was cancelled last year for the second time in its 250-year history due to Covid-19.

The Fair at Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, was postponed this year from its usual date of the first weekend in June and is instead taking place from Thursday, August 12, until Sunday, August 15.

The event would normally bring 10,000 visitors in around 1,000 caravans and a total of 30,000 people to watch the showing and trading of horses.  

Travellers were seen riding in horse-drawn carriages near Kirkby Lonsdale yesterday, where many are based for a few days on their way to the annual gathering.

Despite its postponement, visitors have been seen arriving for the famous Cumbrian village fair as early as June 5.

Families stop at Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria on their way to Appleby Horse Fair,  which was postponed this year from its usual date of the first weekend in June and is instead taking place from Thursday, August 12, until Sunday, August 15

Ian Williams from Preston, Lancashire, approaches Kirkby Lonsdale, where he will stay for a few days on his way to Appleby Horse Fair. The event typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors

A boy runs his horse along the road near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, where travellers are based for a few days on their way to Appleby Horse Fair. Last year, police and traveller leaders urged people not to travel to the event after it was cancelled

Par Doherty and his son, aged four, from Durham, sit outside their caravan at Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, on their way to Appleby Horse Fair. The date in August was said to be chosen to allow the vaccination programme extra weeks to roll out from the Government's original roadmap date of June 21

South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) workers and Cumbria Police will be carrying out daily verge patrols to check that motorised caravans are parking at the allocated temporary stopping points and ensure there are no issues on the routes being used by travellers, reports the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald.

SLDC locality officer John Barwise said: 'Through our arrangements leading up to and during the fair we want to ensure the movement of gypsies and travellers through the district is safe and enjoyable for everyone and to reduce the impact on the environment.' 

Billy Welch, a representative on the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), previously confirmed that members of his community were doing everything they could to keep safe ahead of the fair, with everyone eligible receiving the vaccine. 

And Les Clark, who is the chair of Appleby Horse Fair MASCG and the deputy chief executive of Eden District Council, earlier said that it was preferable for a new date to be set as there would otherwise 'be an increased likelihood of ad hoc gatherings', according to News and Star. 

The date in August was chosen to allow the vaccination programme extra weeks to roll out from the Government's original roadmap date of June 21, Mr Clark added, which is currently under jeopardy due to new variants of the virus spreading in the country.

Last year, police and traveller leaders urged people not to travel, but to the fury of locals around 100 people still arrived with their horses in the Cumbrian town in the first weekend of June.

Children from the Wilkinson family from Bradford take Nellie the goat for a walk during their stop at Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, on their way to the annual gathering

A tattoo reading 'Irish traveller' pictured on a man making his way to Appleby Horse Fair. The event would normally bring 10,000 visitors in around 1,000 caravans and a total of 30,000 people to watch the showing and trading of horses

Families stop at Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, on their way to Appleby Horse Fair, which is the largest gathering of travellers in Europe. At the event, people traditionally wash their mounts in the river Eden before leading them up to the show field

Relatives Savannah Wilkinson (pictured left), aged four, and Margaret Wilkinson (right), 82, from Bradford, at Kirkby Lonsdale

One local said at the time: 'Everybody knew this was going to happen, there was no way they would stay away and they were able to arrive here without being checked.

'For the week leading up to the fair there were gypsy caravans parked around the town which would disappear and then turn up somewhere else.

'We have an older population in this area and people in the town are being cautious about coronavirus. We hoped the gypsy community would respect that but it's no surprise to see them here.

'The police did nothing to stop them coming and took no action as they were riding their horses up and down the street.'

Despite its postponement, visitors have been seen arriving for the famous Cumbrian village fair as early as June 5. Pictured: Two men with their horses in the river around two months ago

The Cumbrian town basked in glorious sunshine on June 5, while one man held his horse by its reins as it nears a wooden fence and onlookers sat on the grassy verge next to the river 

Travellers seen riding through the town on June 5, with their horses and carts as locals looked on from the street sides

Others took their horses into the river Eden in June. Traditionally they washed their mounts in the river Eden before leading them up to the show field

Mr Welch, known as the Shera Rom or Head Gypsy, had also warned families to stay away. He said: 'The Fair is cancelled and I will not be coming to open the gates.

'We have spread the word round our community and I hope people don't show up. The current situation with Covid-19 is bad and I wouldn't want any of my family put in danger or the chance of the settled community being put in any danger. 

'Over the weeks there you will see people moving around the country. This is what we do, it's our heritage.' 

He said that when the Fair was called off in 2001 during the foot and mouth outbreak, the Gypsy and Traveller community 'respected the decision and stayed away'. 

Traditionally, travellers wash their horses' mounts in the river Eden before leading them up to the show field.

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