“It’s to give something back” says Appleby Fair-goer as town hit by devastating floods

 

09 December 2015 / Mike Doherty

Fans of Appleby Fair – the biggest annual Gypsy horse Fair in the UK– are clubbing together to help the people of Appleby Town recover from the devastating effects of the worst flooding the area has seen for fifty years.

Lisa Housley, the founder of the 37,000 strong Appleby Fair community Facebook page, has set up an online fund for Gypsies, Travellers and settled people who go to the fair to ”give something back to the people of the town in their hour of need.”

The town, in Cumbria, was hit at the weekend by the worst storm seen in the North West of England in fifty years, reckon weather experts. Because the River Eden runs through the town, the town suffered particularly badly and rising river combining with the torrential rains, soon had the streets under at least four foot of water.

The Mayor of Appleby, Hugh Potts, told the News and Star about the devastation. “This is serious,” he said. “Appleby is just a little town but everyone will pull together in a situation like this.”

Stephanie Evans, also from the town and speaking about her family home, said: “We were just watching it all get destroyed by the water. It’s absolute devastation.”

The fund to help the people of Appleby, which has only just been set up, can be found by following this link: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/lisa-housley. Lisa Housley is urging anyone who has enjoyed the hospitality of Appleby Fair to give what they can to show their support and to “give something back” to the town that has hosted the Fair since it started in its current form in 1775. Any money raised will be given to community charities in Appleby to help them recover from the floods.

Speaking to the Travellers Times, Lisa Housley said that the Fair held every June – which regularly tops 30,000 people – is “the Mecca for Romany Gypsies and Travellers” and also has a lot of regular fans who are not from those groups.

Lisa has been going for nearly 30 years and says: “It’s such a lovely horse fair and a unique atmosphere. There is always someone to talk to and it’s really friendly, the quality of the horses is outstanding.”

The most iconic image of the Fair, says Lisa, is the banks of the River Eden where the horses are taken into the water to be washed.

“On a nice sunny day in June”, she says, “what is nicer than a picnic on the banks of the river watching the action as thee young Gypsy and Traveller men and women meet and wash their horses. The horsemanship they show when riding a horse which is swimming in the river is probably something you won’t see anywhere else”.

The Travellers Times contacted Eden District Council to see how the town was faring in the aftermath of the flood and were told by council worker Barry Cooper that although the storm had abated, the danger was not over yet.

“We have moved from acute phase of the emergency to a recovery phase,” he said. “However, there are further storm warnings and we are all on alert for more bad weather on Wednesday and Thursday.”

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