Preparations are underway in County Durham to assist Travellers and Gypsies passing through the county to Appleby Horse Fair.

The event, in Appleby, Cumbria, will take place between Thursday 7th and Wednesday 13th June. A number of Temporary Stop-over Areas (TSOAs) will be available in Teesdale and South West Durham to help with the flows of people moving to and from the Horse Fair.

The nine TSOAs are all on traditional travelling routes to Appleby. They are located at Westerton Layby, Gurney Valley, Tindale Park, Wackerfield Layby, Winston Corner, BroomieLaw Picnic Area, Stainton, Shaw Bank, and Guidepost Corner, Bowes.

The TSOAs will all be open from Friday 25th May to Friday 22nd June. The Temporary Stop-over Area at Gurney Valley, Bishop Auckland, will be open throughout the summer.

Durham County Council’s Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Service (GRTS) will provide facilities at the TSOAs such as temporary toilets, rubbish collection and, in some cases, water supplies for animals.

Officers from the GRTS and neighbourhood wardens will make regular visits to the TSOAs as well as to any unauthorised campsites.

The TSOAs are being provided as part of an initiative from the South West Durham Business, Residents and Travellers Forum and the Teesdale Residents and Travellers Forum.

These forums include representatives from town and parish councils, Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council and the local business community, as well as representatives of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The chair of the Teesdale Residents and Travellers Forum, Mike Taylor, said, “The forum members have met several times since last year’s Appleby Fair to look at and address any issues that arose during the migration period.”

“This we hope will go towards a seamless passage through Teesdale for the Travellers going to and returning from the fair this year.”

Sergeant Simon Rogers, of the Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Policing Team, said, “The police and our partners will be monitoring the migration through Teesdale and will be supporting our communities.”

“Some residents accept the migration of Travellers through Teesdale at this time of the year, but others have concerns about the potential for trespass and there can be feelings of unease from the settled community.”

“Our joined-up approach means that in recent years we have experienced a relatively small number of incidents directly related to the Travellers.”

Temporary signposts will put up to show the locations of TSOAs and to advise local people and road users.

The organisers of the Appleby Horse Fair are urging those coming to the event with trailers (towed caravans) not to arrive at the site of the fair too early, especially if their route takes them over Alston Moor because there are less temporary stopping places there this year.

One of the fair’s organisers, Billy Welch, said, “I would like to appeal to the Gypsies and Travellers not to arrive too soon at the designated camping area to give the council time to prepare for people heading towards the fair.”

“I would also like to ask them to be careful where they chose to camp and to consider the dangers. Please avoid camping on any blind bends, on the brow of a hill or too close to main roads or on junctions.”

“Please be very wary of traffic, especially where horses are concerned, and please show consideration for motorists and other road users. Please show consideration for local residents and for the area you are camping on.”

Durham County Council’s neighbourhood protection manager, Ian Hoult, said, “We are committed to working with our partners to provide TSOAs for Gypsies and Travellers, which are equipped with a range of facilities that wouldn’t be provided at an unauthorised camp.”

“We would encourage those making their way to Appleby Fair to use TSOAs as they travel through County Durham.”

People staying on the TSOAs will be able to speak to a nurse in confidence about any health issues and get advice on matters such as immunisation, staying healthy, getting NHS appointments, child development and parenting issues.

Any members of the public who would like to speak to the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Service should telephone 03000 261 000.

Barnard Castle Police will provide updates on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Barnard-Castle-Police-424214384422274.

You can find out more about Appleby Horse Fair – “the biggest and best in Europe” – at www.facebook.com/Appleby-Horse-Fair-the-biggest-and-best-in-Europe-156461144392128/.

Appleby Horse Fair is the UK’s best-known gathering of Gypsies and Travellers. The fair dates back to 1750, with some claiming its roots can be traced as far back as 1685.

(Featured image courtesy of Bryan Ledgard, from Flickr Creative Commons.)

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