School shut and pubs barricaded as 30,000 travellers descend on tiny UK town

Police and the RSPCA are on standby as travellers from across Europe descend on Appleby-in-Westmorland for the biggest event in their calendar.

The historic Appleby Horse Fair remains the continent's largest traditional gathering of the gypsy, Romany and traveller community since its launch 250 years ago.

An incredible 30,000 people are expected to flock to the small town of 3,000 people in Cumbria for a weekend of selling horses in a celebration of their culture.

Despite the influx of visitors, at least 12 pubs in the area have temporarily shut up shop until the fair is over in a move which has been slammed as "racist". A school has also closed.

Previous years have seen roads in Appleby filled with horse and carts as well as horse riders amidst a massive police presence ensuring the fun event doesn't spill into scenes of an ugly nature.

Revellers have already starred in some incredible snaps from the town on Thursday with youngsters bathing their horses in the River Eden and a heavily tattooed woman proudly posing at a campsite which opened at 4am.

Several more will be open but operating differently, according to Appleby Horse Fair.

The decision to close boozers and run others at different opening hours as travellers flock to the area has been blasted by travellers as "racist" on social media but locals say it is a matter of cost and visitors' behaviour.

A seething Facebook user hit out at the decision saying publicans should be ashamed of themselves, she said: "This is absolutely disgusting 'can't afford to pay staff' pay them at the end of the day with all the takings.

"You would think after covid they would welcome as much business as they can. Shame on these pub owners. This is pure racism at its finest absolutely vile these people should be ashamed of themselves."

Another wrote: "If this was happening for a black or Muslims event… closing premises…. There would be outrage."

A third commented: "More fool the pubs that are shut and fairplay to the pubs that are open because the pubs that are open to ALL are going to make a killing lol, it's pure discrimination! If we did this to any other community it would be classed racist!"

A second reason cited for pubs closing for the duration of the fair, is that they cannot afford to hire enough staff to cope with the inevitable demand.

"We don’t choose to close we’re forced to close due to the cost. It’s not cost effective to open," a pub worker said.

A resident added: "All the above places closed during fair week, surely can't all be racist. Perhaps the visitors need to take a good look inwards.

"We don't wish you were not here because of your group status, it's because of your disrespectful manners and actions. All are welcome who can behave in a socially acceptable manner."

While horses will be taking centre stage at the fair, animal charity RSPCA has urged festival goers to not sell or buy puppies and welfare officers will be on hand to help with horses.

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Last year, RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy and his team witnessed an alarming number of puppies being sold and bought at the fair, many who were very sick, and he is keen to warn off people from doing so this year.

He said: "I can't emphasise enough to Appleby visitors, that buying a puppy from the fair is really not a good idea.

"Last year we saw a lot of puppies being sold and some were so sick they had to be put to sleep by a vet.

"It is so tragic, but if people continue to buy them at the fair, breeders will continue to bring them each year."

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