Fine weather sees high numbers at Appleby Horse Fair

10 June 2024

The Saturday of Appleby Horse Fair 2024 was one of the busiest in recent years, with the number of caravans and bowtops in attendance up on last year.

Last year saw 1,197 bowtops and caravans recorded at the Fair. However, this year’s Fair saw 1,287 bowtops and caravans, which was still down on the 2015 record high of 1,297.

Drones were used for the first time at this year’s Fair to enable the accurate counting of vehicles. The 2024 figures saw a slight drop in the number of bowtops at 112, with 1078 caravans, 32 tents and a further 65 vans or wagons, used as accommodation.

Whilst there was a drop in the number of food stalls at the 2024 Fair, overall stall numbers were at 268, which was up on the 244 recorded in 2023. Although this is still below the 2016 record high of 276.

Fine weather also brought large numbers of day visitors into the town on Saturday.

Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Coordinating Group (MASCG) and Westmorland and Furness Council’s Director of Thriving Communities, Steph Cordon, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved in the response to the Fair, for their hard work and dedication. There has been a particular focus on community engagement ahead of the 2024 Fair and number of improvements were in place, as result of feedback received from residents.

“This work has included the installation of barriers on the leisure centre car park, temporary traffic calming measures and improved signage, as well as the introduction of a secure footpath and renewed fencing on Flashing Lane. We have also increased the provision of litterbins and Portaloos, and our cleaning and street sweeping teams have worked exceptionally hard to keep the streets looking clean and tidy.

“Trading Standards officers, in a joint operation with Cumbria Police, also seized unsafe counterfeit goods on sale at the Fair, including, cosmetics and perfume, sunglasses and electrical goods.”

“This multi-agency approach, combined with listening and acting on feedback from all the communities involved, has helped create a safer and more enjoyable experience for residents and visitors,” Steph continued.

“We’re now well into the final phase of this year’s Fair and our cleaning teams are out in force in Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and outlying areas, picking up litter and sweeping the streets in the final, post-Fair, clean up. We hope to have this work completed by the end of the week, but if any local residents are still experiencing Fair related issues, they can report them online using the Community Action Group form at

People will have a further opportunity to provide feedback on the 2024 Fair at the Post-Fair Public Meeting, hosted by representatives from the MASCG, which will be held at Appleby Public Hall on Wednesday 26 June, between 7pm and 8.30pm.

The policing of the 2024 Appleby Horse Fair saw more proactive enforcement than ever before, particularly in the days and weeks leading up to the Fair, which included the seizure of caravans and other vehicles suspected of being stolen and related arrests. 

This was intelligence led and targeted the minority of people from the local and visiting communities who commit crime and cause problems, to enable those attending the fair it enjoy it safely whilst minimising the disruption on the local community.

Road safety is always a major priority. As part of Cumbria's Vision Zero, the main arterial roads leading into Appleby were robustly policed, which was a significant factor in preventing any serious road traffic collisions and reducing congestion on the roads in and around Appleby.

During this operation, Cumbria Constabulary ran Operation Tramline from 3 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.

Operation Tramline resulted in 30 mobile phone Traffic Offence Reports and seven other road traffic offences.

As well as Tramline, Cumbria Police also utilised an AI camera with the purpose of targeting drivers on their phone whilst behind the wheel or driving without a seatbelt. The camera was used on the A66 at Kirkby Thore (3 – 7 June) as well as on the M6 (3 – 10 June) where it captured more than 1,000 potential offences.

The Constabulary was also proactive in issuing tickets in Appleby for traffic and parking offences.

Cumbria Police also utilised its own Road Safety Camera vans, which recorded more than 200 speeding offences on the A66 and A685 (3 – 9 June) and the force worked alongside the DVSA to identify defective vehicles and other issues.

This proactive approach to policing resulted in the number of arrests rising significantly once again. During the Fair itself, the Constabulary made 74 arrests (42 arrests were made in 2023 and 18 in 2022).

However, the proactive approach in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of the Fair, including significant enforcement targeting drivers unfit through drink or drugs, saw an additional 28 arrests made - resulting in a provisional figure of 102 arrests during the whole of the policing operation.

Officers also issued more than 500 tickets (Traffic Offence Reports), whilst more than 100 vehicles were seized including for being suspected of being stolen, being suspected of having been used in a crime, causing an obstruction and driving without insurance.

Superintendent Dan St Quintin, Gold Commander for Appleby Horse Fair, said: "Whilst the arrest figures will grab the headlines, it is important to note that the majority resulted from the proactive enforcement action being taken, particularly on the roads, including the seizure of vehicles suspected of having been stolen elsewhere in the country.

 "We make no apologies for this approach, because it targeted offenders from all communities to prevent crime at the Fair.

 "The message will go out that people who commit offences elsewhere in the country and then come to Appleby Horse Fair risk being arrested and having their vehicle seized.

 "I am proud of the action taken to keep all the communities involved in the Fair and the road network safe. I thank and commend the hard work, fairness and diligence of all the officers, partner agencies and others who have worked really hard to facilitate this year's fair. 

“Drink and drug drivers were identified and arrested whilst people who still think it is acceptable to drive without using a seatbelt or whilst distracted by their phone received fines and points on their license.

 "Whilst our officers were exceptionally busy, particularly on Saturday, police on the ground reported that the vast majority of people they interacted with were cordial and positive. Levels of actual violence, public order and anti-social behaviour were very low.

"As people head home today, I would urge them to drive with caution so that they and their loved ones get home safely. And I would remind anyone who ignores this message that our officers remain on the lookout and will take action if necessary as you leave the county."

RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said, “There are a lot of wonderful people and animals at the Fair, who it’s really enjoyable to meet and get to know. You only need look at the Appleby Horse Project’s Best at Appleby Awards, which celebrate horse health, happiness and horsemanship.

“Unfortunately, there is also an element of people who think it’s okay to drive horses to the point of exhaustion, and disappointingly we’ve seen the most serious results of that this week.

“Everyone knows about the horse who died at Jubilee Bridge on Wednesday, but we had a Shetland pony who died in the residential section at the back of the Trade Field on Saturday too, which showed all the signs of exhaustion.

“We believe a lot of overworking was happening at night, though it was not being reported, and we had to deal with the consequences the day after. In the case of the Shetland, we were called to the stallion early in the morning, and suspect he was overworked in the evening.

“A lot of our warnings and interactions were about exhaustion and if the weather had been a little bit hotter we may have been talking about more than these two deaths.”

Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd, Gypsy and Traveller representatives on MASCG, commented, “Appleby Fair is all over for another year, and it was a very good fair, with a few highs and lows as usual. 

“The low point was the death of two horses with signs of being worked to exhaustion.  As far as we know this is the first - time horses have died in this way at Appleby and we hope it is not a sign of increasing disregard for animal welfare, in spite of the efforts of RSPCA and welfare charities to educate and improve the standards, We have condemned the people concerned in the strongest possible terms. Animal cruelty brings shame to the Fair, and we are fortunate that the overwhelming majority of Gypsy and Traveller people have very high standards of horse care. 

“On the positive side, we were very pleased to confirm that the new footpath and barriers on the Flash were a step-change in safety for everyone. We have worked closely with Highways for months in the planning for these improvements, and we backed their safety plans, in spite of some whingeing and sniping, so we were pleased and relieved when it worked exactly according to plan. 

“Good news for some and bad news for others was the change to more pro-active policing. We saw a much higher number of fixed penalties and uplifted vehicles, mostly for traffic offences including many by local residents, and a significant number of stolen caravans were recovered. When people come to Appleby Fair and break the law, they have no excuse. 

“All in all, it turned out to be a wonderful fair, and in spite of the cold wind it was enjoyed by everyone. We would like to thank all the Agencies which have worked for the last year to keep the fair safe and enjoyable for everyone. Even the best laid plans can take unexpected turns, but this year it seemed to work like clockwork, so well done to everyone concerned.”