Appleby Horse Fair

14 06 2013

Having got the idea to attend the Gypsy horsefair at Appleby from my fellow blogger Stravaiger John who attends most years, I decided to attend myself this year. I am a fan of both Romany Gypsies and horses so it was a no-brainer really. My photos are all taken on my digi-camera (on which I can’t see what I’m doing so just have to wait until I load them up) and there were huge crowds there so most photos are pretty compromised in their composition but, anyway, here they are…

I took the train from the nearest rail station of Langwathby as I knew driving into Appleby would be impossible – judging by the several-mile long stationary traffic queues from every direction into Appleby I was right on that one! It was superb weather and a Saturday so I shouldn’t have been surprised by the crowds but, when I reached the main road along the riverside, I was stunned at how many people were crowded along one street. It was literally wall-to-wall people all the way along and for the next mile up out of the village. I think another year I’ll try to go on a quieter day…

I first arrived down by the river bank where the horse-washing takes place. This is great to watch and you could probably sit all day in the sun on the riverbank (which many seemed to be doing) and watch…

AHF - Crowd on River Bridge
Note the crowd on the road-bridge over the river – no room for cars!

AHF - Glossy Black Exiting River
Also the crowd in the river

AHF - River Washing from Bridge
View from the Bridge

AHF - Photographer on Beach
More serious photographers – possibly press?

AHF - River Wash

AHF - Bucket Wash

This horse loved it so much he was washing himself – he was constantly pawing the water with his front hooves to get that lovely cool water under his tum! His washers were wetter than him when they came out ๐Ÿ˜‰

AHF - The Splasher

There was a section of river which was so deep the horses had to swim – most of them loved it just the same…

AHF - Horse Swimming

I then turned my attention to the horses on the street. I’m pleasantly surprised at today’s Gypsy horses… while there are still the standard piebald (black & White) or skewbald (brown & white) cobs of fairly common breeding, there are also some stunning beautifully-bred finer horses. There are some really unusual horses too. I tend to go for colours mostly though and so a lot of these horses are just a nice or an unusual colour. Starting with this palomino cob which I’d say was almost a strawberry roan palomino – a colouring I’ve certainly never seen before…

AHF Palomino Cob

My favourite pony of the day – a really pretty little red roan which looked almost like a show pony – unfortunately too small for me to buy! This pony was really sweet as well as pretty and loved being petted…

AHF - Little Red Roan

AHF - Pretty Red Roan

My second favourite pony was this really unusual very small cob – I’ve never seen a miniature cob before. I made sure I complimented the owner on this one and, while I was about it, asked him for directions to the ‘Flashing Lane’ and the vardos – he was very helpful…

AHF - Stunning Skewbald Pony Cob

I also liked this good-looking normal-sized black cob…

AHF - Beautiful Black Harness Cob

This heavy cob is getting a nice snack off his owner!

AHF - Horse's Snacktime

A nice skewbald which would be big enough for me ๐Ÿ™‚

AHF - Nice Skewbald Horse

I then set off up the hill out of town towards the camp areas and the aforementioned ‘Flashing Lane’. Now the Flashing Lane probably isn’t what you were thinking… it’s actually where the gypsies take their trotters and gigs to show them off. The usual method of showing them off is to trot at full pelt up and down the lane. Now these horses can move – their trot must be almost as fast as a normal horse’s gallop or thereabouts.

This lane is pretty dangerous as the horses fly past in both directions and, for some reason, many visitors see fit to stroll along the actual lane with their backs to the oncoming speeding horses. How no-one gets mown down or why they haven’t the sense to go the other side of the fence (or up the banking as I did), I’m not really sure. How the flying horses bearing down on each other in opposite directions don’t collide I’m not sure either but it would be horrific if they did and would result in seriously injured horses. I was cringing in case that should happen but luckily it didn’t while I was there.

Most owners were fine and only trotted their horses up and down a couple of times but there were abuses taking place – notably a young man who raced his horse repeatedly up and down the lane at terrific speed continuously. The horse must have been becoming exhausted but he’d wound it up into such a state it was just going faster and faster. I deliberately didn’t take any photos of him and pointedly lowered my camera as he approached so he could see I wasn’t impressed – as I was where he was turning round, he hopefully noticed!

AHF - Flashing Lane Trotter
(I didn’t let the horses get close enough for most of these photos but couldn’t tell on the ‘viewfinder’)
AHF - Flashing Lane

AHF - Trotter in Action
Someone taking it nice and gently…

My favourite trotter passed me and I had to run down the road while snapping this one…

AHF - The One That Nearly Got Away

I then went to the camp areas to look at the Vardos and painted wagons and buy myself an ice cream – this lovely chestnut by the carpark looked bored…

AHF - Bored Pretty Chestnut

A nice dapple-grey, vardo caravans and gypsy family…

AHF - Dapple Grey & Vardos

A nice palomino pair…

AHF - Palomino Pair

and I’m sure this is my Uncle Lionel with this lovely cream dun (didn’t know he was a gypsy ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

AHF - Nice Cream Dun

Typical camp scene…

AHF - Note the Kettle

Modern-day Harness Stall…

AHF - Harness Stall

Vardo for sale!

AHF - For Sale Vardo

Beautifully painted vardo and wagon…

AHF - Beautifully Painted Vardo

AHF - Beautifully Painted Cart

And finally, a vardo-van! Wonderful! ๐Ÿ™‚

AHF - Vardo Van!




14 responses

20 06 2013

Brave lady! I would never be able to go there without bringing a lorry-full home with me! I can’t go to Ballinasloe Horse Fair over here for the same reason…
I stupidly went to the Beaulieu Road Sales (New Forest Ponies) with a horsebox once, to meet up with a friend and deliver a pony I’d broken-in for him, and I came home with 8 foals!
Everyday is a school day, because I’ve never heard them called Vardos before, around here (Irish midlands) they seem to be simply known as barrel tops, and I think growing up we just called them romany caravans. I *LOVE* that van conversion!


24 06 2013

If that vardo-van conversion had been for sale and at a price I could afford, I’m sure I’d have come home with that. But 8 foals? What did you do with them?


28 06 2013

I was involved with a hay contractor/sheep farmer at the time. He cleared out a barn for me, and they spent the winters indoors using up all his ‘end bales’, the bales that got the ‘weathering’ on the outside of a stack etc. (perfectly good hay, but not pretty enough to sell to high end horse owners & equestrian centres). And once the ewes and lambs had grazed the fresh grass down short each spring, the ponies would come outside and follow the ewes around the grass fields & pastures all summer. Giving the ponies access to good grass, whilst keeping the laminitis risk to a minimum.
We sold a couple off as 2yr olds, and the rest we gelded & reared on to 4 yrs. I then broke them in, using a fab (and brave!) young lad from the village, and they went to a local riding school. I kept in touch with my ‘boys’, and got regular updates from the riding school and subsequent new owners as they progressed through their little furry lives ๐Ÿ™‚


28 06 2013

That’s a great story – you didn’t let any of them go to waste. You sound pretty knowledgable about horses – I have to admit to never having broken any in! In fact, I’ve only ever (joint) owned one and that was years ago…


15 06 2013
Scotlands Mountains

That vardo van seems to be what you need for your Scottish forays Carol ๐Ÿ™‚


15 06 2013

It certainly does – I fancied buying that more than any of the horses even! ๐Ÿ˜‰


14 06 2013
Mrs B

Great pics ^_^ We’ve actually de-toured through Appleby before just to say *been there, seen that* as I was a massive fan of the Gypsy wedding programs (and all the other Gypsy related docus come to think of it, ha!). Little bit crowded for my liking but GORGEOUS horses ^_^


14 06 2013

It was very crowded – I’m not going on a Saturday again, nor a Sunday – I’ll make it either the Thu or Fri next time…


14 06 2013

Smashing collection of photographs Carol. I’ve watched this event on TV and also various ‘Gypsy wedding’ type programmes as I find the culture interesting as it’s survived despite the general reluctance of the modern world to accept it, outside of events like this.
It’s contrasting on them how a lot of the girls seem to dress like Jordan yet have very traditional and reserved ideas about any relationship outside marriage. In the 1950’s in Scotland social workers used to separate some traveller children living in tents from their families, putting them into care, much like native Australians and supposedly parentless orphans as well, shipping them out to start new life’s under the guise of ‘helping them improve’.
The good old days. If this policy had been around earlier my own mother might have been one of them sent to Australia as she grew up in an orphanage and was placed into service in a large ‘Downtown Abbey’ style house as soon as she turned fifteen


14 06 2013

I read a lot of books about the earlier Scottish travellers (well, some of them were Irish but they were travelling around Scotland) who worked on the farms etc. The books are written by the gypsies themselves and are great reading and a lifestyle I personally would have loved. My mother and me both reckon we have some gypsy in us with the amount of wandering we like to do and the fact we don’t settle well in one place.

The modern ‘dress’ is really strange though isn’t it? They do seem to have sort of double-standards with it.


14 06 2013

Looks like an interesting day, far more so than the ‘big fat gypsy weddings’ which appear on TV. The fellow in the 15th photo from last looks like he’ll suffer with sunburn the day after…


14 06 2013

I think there’d have been quite a bit of sunburn on the blokes afterwards – it was hot all week and they would have been shirtless all week too! I didn’t see much suntan lotion being splashed around…


14 06 2013

lovely pics


14 06 2013

Thanks – I bet those guys with the long lenses on the river beach got much better ones though! My main problem with the miniature digi-cameras seems to be that I can’t see a damn thing in the viewfinder – Richard’s recently started using one and he can’t either. We just point in the general direction and see what comes out!


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