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Thousands of travellers are arriving in the small Cumbrian town of Appleby this morning as they prepare to take part in the annual horse fair.
The week long event attracts members of the gypsy community from around the world, and has previously been featured in popular Channel 4 show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
However this year’s Appleby Horse Fair has already been hit by a row over an ‘invasion’, as a large number of traveller families have pitched cars, caravans and horse buggies on the town’s privately owned golf course.
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King James II granted a Royal Charter in 1685 allowing a horse fair to be held ‘near the River Eden’, and every year thousands of travellers come from around Britain and the rest of the world to take part.
The horse fair, which runs from today until next Wednesday, is the largest and one of the oldest fairs of its kind anywhere in Europe. Travellers and horse dealers gather at Appleby, in Westmorland, in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, to meet old friends, conduct business, but primarily to trade horses.
HISTORY OF THE APPLEBY FAIRThe Appleby Horse Fair has been held every year in early June since 1685 when King James II granted a Royal charter in 1685 allowing a horse fair ‘near to the River Eden’.
However many gypsy historians say it has been taking place for at least 500 years with some believing it goes all the way back to Roman times.
Originally an event for trading livestock of all types it became known as a specialist horse fair owing to its popularity among gypsy traders.
It traditionally begins on the first Thursday after the first Tuesday in June and ends on the following Wednesday.
In 1965 Westmorland Borough Council attempted to shut down the event but were forced to back down after a huge outcry.
With its rolling hillsides and lush green pastures the countryside around Appleby is some of the most beautiful in Britain.
But last year’s event was blighted after some of the travellers left piles of rubbish, including used nappies and broken bottles strewn around hedges and fields prompting a flurry of complaints from locals.
Many were left furious with the mess left behind with some accusing Eden District Council of not doing enough to clean up.
One irate local described the scene as being like ‘an open sewer’ claiming the portable toilets were overflowing.
The man, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘They got serviced once a day.
‘They are filthy and overflowing. You wouldn’t let your dog use them.’
Mr Hooper said that, in response to these concerns, Eden District Council has allocated additional street cleaning facilities both during the fair and to assist the clean up operation afterwards.