HUNDREDS of horse-drawn vehicles and caravans have been making their long annual trek to Cumbria all week as the Appleby Horse Fair starts today.
Around 2,000 caravans are expected at the week-long event, which takes over the town during the first week in June.
Police have been warning drivers to take care in the build-up to the fair as roads, particularly the A685 between Kirkby Stephen and Brough, become congested.
Officers said problems had been encountered near Appleby Golf Club over the weekend when travellers set up temporary camps.
The landowners issued notices requesting the travellers move on and police said ‘the vast majority’ left.
Believed to be the largest gypsy fair of its kind in Europe, it attracts around 10,000 travellers and more than 30,000 visitors.
A website set up by the event’s Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) describes it as “a traditional gypsy fair, like a big family get-together.
“People particularly enjoy sitting on the riverbank and watching the horses being washed.
“The atmosphere is one of good humoured holiday banter and people come to enjoy themselves.”
There is no set programme but the horses are washed and trotted up and down the flashing lane most days. There are also markets in the public hall and on the Market Square.
The RSPCA said it was operating a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to dogs being left in hot cars this year and was advising owners to avoid bringing them.
Last year the owner of a German shepherd was ordered to pay £10,000 costs and banned from keeping dogs after the animal was rescued from a hot car.
“I can’t decide whether the message isn’t being received, or if people just think it won’t happen to them,” said RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy.
“Dogs die in hot cars. It can and will happen to you if you leave your dog in a car on a warm day.
“Dogs shouldn’t be brought to the fair at all, it is quite simply no place for them.”
The RSPCA will have 27 officers at the fair during peak times including specialist equine officers from all over the country.
Last year help arrived just in time for a horse that was found exhausted, dehydrated and hypothermic after being overworked on the flashing lane and left in harness in full sun with no access to water.
Eden District Council said it was trying to minimise the impact of the event on the local community with a street cleansing operation.
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All licensed premises who open during the fair have signed up to a voluntary charter restricting opening hours for Thursday to Sunday.
As part of the clean-up operation the town will have an extra 39 litter bins and two cleasing teams working from 6am-7pm.
Robin Hooper, Eden council’s chief executive, said: “A great deal of preparation has gone into the planning of this year’s fair to help people enjoy the event safely.”