Travellers ride horses through river in the rain as hundreds arrive the biggest gypsy gathering in Europe

TRAVELLERS have descended on Appleby for the biggest gypsy gathering in Europe – with some fair-goers spotted braving the rain to ride their horses through the River Eden.

Families in brightly-painted wagons have been converging on the town in Cumbria since yesterday ahead of the Horse Fair, with horse and carts seen racing down the roads.

Two women, undeterred by the rain, ride horses through the River Eden

The pair were spotted riding their nags through deep water at the gathering

Water came all the way up to the horses’ heads as they waded through the river

A dark brown and white horse is seen speeding down a road in the town

A group of travellers congregate in Appleby ahead of the weekend’s festivities

Two young boys ride a horse and cart through the Cumbrian town

Another youngster takes advantage of the muddy site on his quad bike

A man and a young boy watch horses grazing at the fair’s site

Three young boys trudge through the muddy grass, as rain pours on Appleby

A man rides his horse and cart down the road. The fair is the biggest of its kind in Europe

In pictures taken today, young children can be seen trudging through a caravan site in pouring rain – while other visitors set up makeshift shelters on the site.

And others were spotted trying to make the best of the bad weather, with one little boy taking the chance to have a go on his quad bike in the thick mud.

Meanwhile, some travellers set up stalls to sell their wares ahead of the fair’s main days – Friday to Sunday.

Two horses are left to graze at the site of the fair, which is set to welcome 30,000 visitors

Two man chat from the steps of traditional traveller caravans

Appleby Horse Fair is a key event in the traveller calendar, but this year visitors face being banned from taking part in one of the event’s biggest traditions.

Heavy recent rainfall has seen the ramp to the River Eden closed – meaning the estimated 30,000 visitors heading down will not be able to wash their horses there.

The annual event is where where members of the travelling community congregate to show off their horses.

They parade through the Cumbrian town before making their way to the River Eden to give them a wash.

Dr Robin Hooper, chief Exec of Eden District Council, said: “Public safety and animal welfare is always of paramount concern at Appleby Horse Fair.

The festival’s roots can be traced back 200 years and has recently faced accusations of animal cruelty.

A man crouches in the doorway of a particularly ornate caravan

A man stands behind his stall, which sells traditional pots and pans

A man relaxes beneath a makeshift canopy to protect himself from the downpours

Two men seems to be enjoying themselves as they don wellies on the caravan site

“Due to the heavy rainfall Appleby has experienced over the past 24 hours it is in the best interest of public safety to close the ramp at the river for the time being.”

This year the event, which stretches until Monday, will be closely watched by the RSPCA.

It’s the charity’s biggest deployment of staff of the year.

It will see 33 officers attending during peak times including specialist equine officers.

RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “Every year we learn lessons to take into the next.

Travellers and their brightly-painted wagons began descending on Appleby for the annual fair yesterday

As travellers made their way to Appleby heavy rainfall resulted in the ramp to the river Eden being closed

In previous years riders would take their horses to the river Eden for a wash

This year’s event will be closely watched by the RSPCA

Specialist equine officers will also be out in full force

Travellers make a road-side camp as they head towards Cumbria for annual gathering

“Last year the number of horses being worked to exhaustion was a big issue.
“Working an equine repeatedly over several days, even though it may appear to have recovered, has an accumulative effect.

“I’m urging people to be vigilant and report anything  that concerns them.”

There will be six other horse organisations involved.

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