Representatives of the gypsies and travellers community have responded after people attended Appleby at the weekend despite the postponement of the traditional horse fair.

This year’s event is set to take place on August 12 after a decision was made by the Eden multi-agency group due to coronavirus restrictions and representatives recommended people stay away from the town at the weekend, when it had originally been set to take place.

Representatives of the community have stressed that, although some people visited the town, the overwhelming majority of gypsies and travellers had complied with the recommendation.

They said that estimates based on traffic census reports and caravan counts suggested that in a normal year there may be 10,000 gypsies and travellers and 20,000 to 30,000 visitors for the horse fair.

Estimates for the weekend just gone, they said, suggested that about 100 people had been on The Sands, and 20 to 30 horses.

Gypsy and traveller representatives Billy Welch said: “We are very pleased that the recommendations have been followed so well.

“We always knew there was a chance that some people would turn up regardless, and we are not even sure if the all people who came to Appleby this weekend are in fact gypsies and travellers.

“We know that there was a steam train full of visitors, and the local tourist boards have been encouraging visitors to the town in June.

“This is a free country and we cannot order people to do anything, but we are very pleased that common sense has prevailed, particularly because all over Cumbria the car parks and campsites are full to overflowing, and the Appleby harness races went ahead as normal last weekend.

“We have been fully supportive of police action to enforce the law, and they have put out a statement confirming that they will continue to enforce the Covid regulations in Appleby impartially and by negotiation.”

Representative Bill Lloyd added: “Appleby Fair affects a very wide area in the Eden Valley and the Lune Valley, where large numbers of caravans and bow-top wagons gather before the gates open on the Thursday morning.

“We are aware that there was some anxiety in the outlying areas about people ignoring the recommendation to stay away in June, so on the night of Tuesday, June 1/Wednesday, June 2 I made a 100-mile round trip to visit about 30 known stopping places between Kirkby Lonsdale and Appleby, travelling via the A685 at Brough.

“In that whole circuit I saw only two bow-top wagons and two small trailers, when they would normally be completely full.

“Based on this survey I would say that the gypsy and traveller community have been 99 per cent compliant and stayed away as they were asked.

“Police have confirmed that only a handful of gypsies turned up in the town, and that there was no trouble.”