Warm weather sees another high turnout at 2023 Appleby Horse Fair

30 June 2023

Last year saw the highest number of bowtops and caravans (1,231) recorded since 2015. However, this year 1,197 bowtops and caravans were recorded.

The sunshine brought large numbers of day visitors into the town on Saturday.

Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), Steph Cordon of Westmorland and Furness Council, said: “This was my first Fair so I was keen to experience as much of it as possible to see what works well and what improvements can be made for how agencies prepare for and respond to future Fairs.

“The weather on Saturday combined with the high number of visitors brought significant challenges. However, the effort and work of staff from all of the agencies was outstanding and helped contribute to a positive atmosphere on the ground.

“I’d like to thank all those involved in the Fair, as well as the tremendous amount of planning leading up to it, for their efforts. I’d also like to reassure the local people of Appleby and the surrounding area that the agencies which make up the MASCG are committed to always working to find solutions to the issues that do arise each year.”

New for the 2023 event was the ‘Travelling Man’ bar which provided a venue away from the town centre for people to drink.

The ‘Travelling Man’ peaked at around 2,000 people in attendance on Saturday night, with no incidents of concern reported as having occurred.

This year Cumbria Police went further than ever before in the proactive action officers took in the lead-up to the Fair. 

The Saturday prior to Appleby Horse Fair (3 June), an operation was carried out on the A685 as motorists arriving from the A66 were stopped by the police in partnership with the DVSA and stolen vehicle examiners from the National Rural Crime Unit.

The operation resulted in 120 vehicles being stopped and tickets (Traffic Offence Reports) being issued for more than 20 offences ranging from vehicle defects and insecure loads to driving without a seatbelt and driving without due care.

Officers also made an arrest on suspicion of drug driving whilst three vehicles were uplifted – one for no insurance and two on suspicion of being stolen.

In support of this year’s Appleby policing operation, Cumbria Constabulary ran its second Operation Tramline.

Operation Tramline was a five-day operation running from 5 June to 9 June which was run in partnership with National Highways and saw the Constabulary use an unmarked HGV to help officers spot driving offences from an elevated position.

The unmarked HGV patrols covered the A66 in Eden and the M6 road network, in partnership with the DVSA and the Constabulary’s Safety Camera Van team.

In total more than 280 actions were taken during the week.

This included 122 speeding offences and 77 mobile phone offences. There was also more than 25 drivers identified as being over their driving hours and 17 vehicles found with mechanical issues in need of immediate action, as well as three fixed penalties issues for overloaded vehicles.

Action was also taken on not using seatbelts, tyres below minimum tread and vehicles with brake defects. Two vehicles were found to be being driven without insurance and without tax – both were seized.

One driver was arrested on suspicion of drug driving whilst two more arrests were made for possession with intent to supply.

During the Fair itself, police recorded significantly more arrests than in previous years (42 in 2023 and 18 in 2022) whilst more than 200 tickets (Traffic Offence Reports) were issued with more than 20 vehicles being seized for matters such as obstruction and driving without insurance.

Chief Superintendent Matt Kennerley, Gold Commander for Appleby Horse Fair, said: “Whilst arrests are up, the vast majority were the result of proactive actions being taken by officers such as driving offences including driving under the influence - rather than public order incidents.

“The event was controlled by a significant police resource throughout and we are pleased to see there was no significant issues of public disorder or potential public disorder which we have seen in recent years.

“Saturday is usually the busiest day for the Fair and our officers. The high temperatures brought lots of visitors to the town and The Sands area was incredibly busy on Saturday afternoon. However, officers on the ground found the overwhelming majority of people were cordial and positive.

“Road safety has been a major priority for the police this year – as demonstrated by the operations undertaken on the A685 and via Op Tramline in the lead up to the Fair. I urge everyone to be cautious as they make their way home today and ask that everyone using the roads today takes extra care as there may be slow-moving vehicles on the roads.”

Rob Melloy, RSPCA chief inspector, said: “We’re obviously going to be disappointed in the number of exhausted horses we’ve seen over the Fair. Some people were working their horses too hard in the heat and our vets have been busy helping those who needed it.

“The Best at Appleby Awards have highlighted some of the amazing horses and horsemanship at the Fair and we’d encourage the brilliant horse people here to use their influence, intervene or tell us when they see things they’re concerned about.

“Whilst we have a team of animal welfare officers here we can’t be everywhere – it is a big event over a large area and there are hundreds of horses here. Please come to us if you see anything worrying, rather than put it on social media.

“The Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project team have been collecting the views of fairgoers and we will be planning our operation next year informed by this feedback. Thank you to everyone who spoke to them.

“The animal welfare charities are not here to spoil people’s fun, if one of our inspectors stops you next year please stop and talk to us, we’re trying to help in the best way possible for everybody.” 

Gypsy and Traveller representative on the MASCG, Billy Welch, said: Gypsy and Traveller representative on the MASCG, Billy Welch, said: “We’ve had great weather and it’s been a wonderful Fair.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had a really great time of it.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the police at all ranks for their outstanding work, and to all the public agencies on the MASCG for their professionalism in helping to keep this event safe and enjoyable.

“The new open space with a bar at the crossroads proved to be a very successful innovation and was much appreciated as a place for families to meet up in the sunshine, away from the busy town centre.

“All I ask now is that people take care when heading home and I’d ask that all motorists be aware as they can quickly come up on slow-moving vehicles if they’re not careful.”

Note – all statistics provided in the above are preliminary and subject to change. However, they are provided to give the public and the media an understanding of what has occurred in recent days.