HORSES took centre stage at an annual fair as hundreds of travellers took over a historic market town.
The Wickham Horse Fair took place yesterday and saw around 300 horses paraded and sold in Winchester Road.
Elsewhere, a funfair was held in the Square and market stalls selling a variety of antiques, tack, fur capes and blinged-up shoes, were set up nearby.
The fair has been held on May 20 for around 200 years and it attracts up to 2,000 travellers from all over the country.
The busy event, which often sees rowdy behaviour – including a brawl last year – passed without trouble and there was a large police presence.
Some travellers have been attending the fair for more than 50 years.
Seventy-year-old Vic Howard, from Paulsgrove, said: ‘I come every year to see if there’s anything worth buying. But it’s the people that keep me coming back.’
Another long-time attendee, Fred Matthews, 89, from Partridge Green, said: ‘I’ve been coming here since 1948. It is a good fair for this part of the country, as good as Appleby.
‘It’s more commercial now but everybody brings their best.’
Wickham Horse fair, which was also shown on Channel 4 TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, does not have an official organiser, but the authorities worked closely with the police and other organisations such as the RSPCA to ensure it went smoothly.
I come every year to see if there’s anything worth buying. But it’s the people that keep me coming back.Vic Howard, 70, from Paulsgrove
A team of specialist RSPCA equine officers were in attendance along with a vet from Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
RSPCA chief inspector Cathy Hyde said the horses were in a better condition than in previous years.
She said: ‘There were no major welfare issues with any of the animals.
‘We had to remove one dog from a car because of the warm weather but that was dealt with by way of a warning. The vet performed a few minor treatments but it was generally very positive.’
The fair attracted mixed views from residents.
Jenny Mackinnon, 59, said: ‘There is a lot of cars but it is only one day.
‘I would like to see it continue as it is traditional.’
Another resident, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, said: ‘We have to move our cars, lock everything up, businesses have to close. It is a major inconvenience.
‘Also how much money is being spent on this?
‘If anyone else organises a show they would have to pay. It is one rule for one community and another for everyone else.’
The police said no crimes were reported this year.