This week saw the first of the biannual Gypsy Horse Fairs that come to Stow on the Wold. The town, and surrounding area, went into complete shut down.
The Cotswold Journal released a statement with the heading "Police in alert after sharp rise in burglaries in the Cotswolds".. Is this just a coincidence or do they cause as much havoc as some of the locals suggest?
So are they really that bad? Personally I have never experienced any problems but sadly after looking at various social media posts and hearing what other locals say, I am in the minority. Local gamekeepers reportedly have to put up with many intruders driving onto their land and report it to the police but the registration plates given are not traceable. Both doors were stolen from a Landrover overnight near Chipping Campden on Wednesday. Some farmers "lock gates that they never have to lock apart from for 2 weeks in May and October", "Cotswold stone walls get knocked down to graze the horses" and worst of all, many pubs, restaurants and shops close. But do they have to close? Who knows - but the loss of earnings for the whole town could be a pretty handsome amount of money.
So where did it all begin? As with many Cotswold traditions you have to go back a very long time and this is no exception.. 1476 in fact! Cutting a long story very short - there was a petition for a charter for two fairs, one in May and the another in October. The charters were granted for May 12th, the feast of Saints Philip and James and the October 24th the feast of St. Edward the Confessor and these dates are still used today to decide the gypsy horse fair. (thank you to the Cotswolds Info website for educating me). With the main income coming from wool, this encouraged people to bring sheep to be sold. Move forward a few hundred years and the fair became a horse market for local farmers, huntsmen and travellers but after a split from the former 2, Stow Fair has become purely a Gypsy "Horse" Fair.. the inverted commas denote that lots of other tat is sold here as well as the odd horse.
We can't argue that the fair attracts lots of people (apparently "not half as many as there once was" as a more senior gentleman told me) and is a fascinating sight for many, but attracting that amount of people does absolutely nothing for the local community if everything closes.
In true Cotswolds style it is just tolerated and we know to lock our doors for 4 weeks of the year, put a lead on the dog during walks and keep a look out for any people looking for "hay", "fuel" or who have "accidentally taken the wrong road" and accept that, in true Hot Fuzz style, the police will actually do very little about it and probably breathe the same sigh of relief as many locals when it is all over and they have moved on.
So what do the gypsies do for us?