Appleby Horse Fair

The Appleby Horse Fair is an annual gathering for Gypsy, Romany and the travelling communities. The event has existed under the protection of a charter granted by James II since 1685 and it remains one of the key meeting points for these communities. Around 10,000 travellers are expected to attend the week long event who traditionally come to buy and sell horses.



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Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2015 /  Getty Images

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High Steppers

The Horse Fair that takes place in the historic market town of Appleby in Cumbria, United Kingdom is the traditional event where gypsies and travellers gather together each year. The event remains one of the largest and oldest events in Europe and gives the opportunity for travelling communities from all over the country and further afield to come together to meet old friends, celebrate their culture, music and folklore and to offer an opportunity to buy and sell horses.

The event which attracts thousands of visitors each year has existed under the protection of a charter granted by King James II in 1685 and it remains the most important event in the gypsy and traveller calendar. I spent some time there over the first couple of days this year and a few of the pictures are below…the fair continues until next Wednesday 11th June.


Oh, and in case you didn’t know ‘High Steppers‘ means a horse trained to lift its feet high off the ground while walking or there you go.




Jason Plant made a 2-week journey to the fair from Stoke on Trent with his family in a convoy of bow top wagons



Trevor Jones from the Wirral makes the brews for his family on the first day of the fair…

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…he also operated an old knife sharpener…

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Trevor sits on the steps of his bow top and has a morning brew


Bow tops are lined up on the camp site in Appleby

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Tilly-Raine Barnes, 3, from Rosendale in Lancashire sits on the steps of her parents bow top with ‘Pip’ the dog


Alistair Mitchell from Rosendale in Lancashire stirs his morning cuppa


Hayley Price, 4, sits with her sister Candice, 16 months in the grass outside their bow top in Appleby


Brian Regent sells wrought iron pots and kettles on the campsite

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An Irish gypsy walks his horses and wagon to the campsite in Appleby


Bow top and horses

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Traditionally taken into the river to be washed and groomed a horse is ridden out of the River Eden in Appleby as an RSPCA officer looks on

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A visitor to the fair reacts to the camera


Two men ride a sall horse and trap trough the town


A young boy stands with his two horses

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Riding a horse and trap along what is called the ‘mad mile’ in Appleby


A street entertainer dances in the street as he plays Irish folk music


A young girl peers out of a window in the back of her bow top

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Appleby camp site during the horse fair


High Steppers


A man waits to see the horses come past on a road into Appleby


A man sits outside his caravan on one of the camp sites


A man sits and his wife has a snooze as they enjoy the sun wait for the horses to be ridden past on the ‘mad mile’ – They’ve been coming to the fair for 43 years!


A girl rides her horse along a road in Appleby


Waiting on the mad mile


Horses and traps are driven along the mad mile…

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A father and his son take a walk into town


Horses are walked down into the town to be taken into the River Eden to be washed and groomed…

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A man stands waiting for horses to be brought past on the way into Appleby town

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Three girls walk a donkey along a road

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Horses are traditionally taken into the River Eden to be washed and groomed…

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Two men sit on the river bank and watch the activities

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Technical stuff – For those who are interested in these things all the above pictures were shot with either a Leica M9 with a 50mm f2 Summicron lens and a Fuji X-Pro 1 with an 18mm f2 lens (28mm equivalent on full frame). Images were edited with Lightroom 5 and Photoshop. All images are edited minimally using only techniques that could be achieved in a traditional darkroom.


Some of the pictures I shot were used over on the Daily Mail website and further information on Appleby Horse Fair can be seen here

See more of my work on my website and blogs below…..

Ian Forsyth Photography

Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth/ London News Pictures