Pony & Snap
Adrian Ashurst provides some practical photography tips when photographing the unique Appleby Horse Fair.
Adrian’s Top Tips
Here are my practical tips to help you enjoy your visit to Appleby Horse Fair:
- Travel early to Appleby and park in a supervised and manned car park.
- There are interesting areas for taking your special photographs
- Walk up to the main camp site and take an opportunity to browse around the trade stands.
- Watch the blacksmith shoeing horses and view the old vintage caravans.
- Always maintain your personal safety wherever you are standing during the event, be aware of horses and foals that may be trotting at speed.
- Drivers need to take extra care, respect other road users and please be patient.
- When taking photographs visitors should be respectful and if anyone says they object to having their photograph taken then my advice is to move on, as there are many others who will not mind.
- If you go down to the riverside you should be mindful that as horses are walked into towards the water some younger horses may panic and rear up.
- Some of the travellers are happy to talk and share their experiences of Appleby Horse Fairs of years gone by.
- Camera clubs may organise day trips to the Appleby Horse Fair. Sharing the expertise of working with professional photographers will give you an inside view to capturing the best shots available.
I have thoroughly enjoyed photographing the characters and action at the annual world-famous Appleby Horse Fair for the last five years.
Steeped in history, the fair offers thousands of visitors the opportunity to witness and record the unique atmosphere for themselves.
It is the largest and one of the oldest fairs of its kind anywhere in Europe. Thousands of travellers and horse dealers from around Britain and the rest of the world gather at Appleby, in Cumbria’s Eden Valley, to meet old friends, conduct business, but primarily to trade.
King James II granted a Royal Charter in 1685 allowing a horse fair to be held ‘near the River Eden’ and it is held annually during the first week in June. The best days to visit this year’s event are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 5 to 7 June.
The fair has a major impact on traffic in the local area. Horse-drawn vehicles come to Appleby from all around the country, so there is a concentration of slow-moving traffic arriving in and leaving Cumbria in the days before and after the fair.
The roadsides within a twenty mile radius of Appleby are made ‘no parking’ areas to help avoid traffic congestion. Accommodation for visitors is booked long in advance and therefore many people choose to be day visitors. However you must be patient when driving to the town as you may experience long queues and delays.
There are a number of pubs in the town that sell good food and there are a number of mobile food outlets. On the outskirts of the town most of the travellers stay at the dedicated campsite with food and toilet services available.
One of the main sights to photograph at the camp site is the exercising of the horses and ponies up and down a half mile stretch of private road. It is important to note that there may be visitors walking at the side of the road and sitting on the banking watching the action.
If you are taking photographs then you must be alert to fast horses moving up and down in both directions. In addition you may see the busy blacksmiths at work and people buying and selling traveller memorabilia.
Some of the older gypsy caravans are well worth photographing. It is good manners to ask the owners of these caravans before you commence taking any photographs.
The main road from the campsite down to the River Eden is a good place to capture the true atmosphere of the event. Remember the pavements may become very crowded with visitors and the horses have to negotiate the cars on the road.
Because there are traffic restrictions and parking is at a premium in the town centre, it is advisable to arrive early. There are a number of manned car parking areas in and around Appleby town centre and it is advisable not to park on the roads.
The best place to see and experience the true atmosphere can be found at the River Eden where the horses and foals are washed. In order to ensure the animals are treated humanely, the RSPCA have inspectors at the river side every day.
In order to capture the best photographs of the event, I often venture into the River Eden to get close up but once again I must keep my wits about me to avoid any horses that may run loose.
I use tried and trusted Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras with zoom lenses to capture the many characters and action.
It is advisable to keep your camera equipment to a minimum as when you are walking miles it can weigh heavy.
Have a great and memorable day at Appleby Horse Fair, stay safe and remember this traditional unique event is the travellers’ annual opportunity to meet their families and friends. As a visitor you will be welcomed and I am sure like me you’ll be keen to return year after year.