Appleby Fair June 2011
Fine Bowtops Frisking the Sward - part 1
John Pockett - Vardo Artist & Historian
Last year I reported there were problems with the police giving harassment to the Gypsies and travellers at Appleby Fair. The police and council are already on a 3-year move to try to sort out some of the problems, 2011 being the last of the 3 years.
But at 2010's fair there was a protest in the town: spokesperson Billy Welch tried to give the authorities more understanding of travellers' needs.
So a new line was started to try to stop people coming up with trailer caravans well before fair time. There were notice boards for miles radius of Appleby to stop trailers pulling on laybys and road verges but also allowing horse-drawn waggons and carts to stop over night.
These signs are quite an important new idea, which on the whole people liked, because Appleby is a horse fair, and people should be encouraged to use horses and not be stopped nor allowed to pull on.
Near the village of Barbon is a nice pull-on by the river. The council's put great rocks down but it is quite easy if you unharness the waggon to pull it between the rocks. However, it would be very difficult to get a motor trailer between them, almost impossible.
Now I learnt about the signs from a traveller whom I spoke to at Stow Fair. He always drives up with horses, and he had problems a year before with the police harassing him to move on whilst his horses had travelled a great distance and a lot of hills that day. He was still pressurized to move on, which was pretty unkind, so this new venture may well help Appleby in the long run.
I decided that it wouldn't be easy for me to do my usual way of taking a touring caravan up and stopping in a village outside Appleby for the duration. So this year I decided I would do things in a style I'd never done before and take bed and breakfast.
I started off early, leaving home on the Tuesday, and I'd already booked two nights B & B at Kirkby Stephen, which is a little town not too far distant from Appleby itself. My intention was to spend all day Wednesday going round and watching all the waggons on the move.
Understandably, everybody with horse and waggon wanted to get as near to Appleby as possible for the start of the fair. They let the travellers on at 9 o'clock in the morning on Thursday so Wednesday was quite a sight. There was a lot of people moving about with horses and vans.
A lot of travellers stop on the Fell End between Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale, and literally hundreds of them were waiting to pull on. The end nearer to Kirkby is quieter, with just one or two horse-drawn waggons. Many a year I used to stop at the quieter spot, but it's not favoured by the masses.
On top of the Fell there was a nice tall-wheeled waggon with a special decoration on the door. Also openlots with a dray which had some beautiful fruit decoration.
Fred Walker's waggon was here. It was also at the Stow Fair in May.
A new born foal was up on the Fell. It was quite difficult to photograph because it was in a very marshy area and was skittering about.
This tall-wheeled waggon is a Bill Wright of quite some age. It would have been built in the early 1900s and has been fairly recently restored and decorated. Other people came through with an accommodation top and a flat cart.
The town of Kirkby Stephen featured a line of waggons.
Now off the Fell and the other side of Kirkby Stephen, almost at Brough. This was quite a story. We saw this ledge waggon pulled up on the road verge, and it had only just come off the A66, which is the Scotch Corner to Carlisle road.
It is a tremendously fast road, a frightening road really, especially for horse-drawn vehicles, and this waggon had narrowly missed being smashed to pieces.
A tanker must have been flying along going towards Appleby and Penrith, and there was a transit van, then a camper van, then a number of waggons and carts, including this ledge waggon. The tanker hit the transit van and concertinaed in the back of the transit van, and the van hit the camper. I saw a flat cart which had its backboard smashed, and I'm not sure if another waggon got damaged or not. Regarding the ledge waggon, well how those horses didn't set off with the fright of all this God knows. It could have been an appalling accident.
The guy had come from West Hartlepool through, and he was pretty shook up by the time we got there as it had only just happened. Quite a frightening experience, but this is fairly usual. That road is appalling for traffic. The signs they have now, quite a number of signs, say "Slow down, horse drawn traffic going to Appleby Fair", but lorry drivers don't realise the slow pace of these horse-drawn vehicles.
Getting back to the ledge waggon, this was a brand new waggon and very well built. Tremendously tall and quite a sight. It moved on to Appleby the following morning.
This red openlot was very close to the ledge.
A number of waggons came through the village of Warcop at the same time. Warcop is fairly close to Appleby, and it has a beautiful village green. Because there was so many horses, it was hard to find a good place to tether them.
This was early evening time on Wednesday, and a lot of good quality waggons were waiting to pull on to Appleby. It was a fine sight.
Text / images © ValleyStream / John Pockett Collection 2011.
Transcribed and edited by GypsyWaggons / UK Vardo Project.
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