A HANDFUL of travellers descended on Wickham on Wednesday despite the cancellation of this year’s horse fair.

Police were on hand to speak to those families who had set up in the village after the event was called off.

In April organisers confirmed the fair would not take place this year following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Superintendent Alison Heydari said: “You may have noticed some of our officers out and about in Wickham yesterday (Weds 20 May).

“As you may know, Wickham Horse Fair had been due to take place yesterday. It had been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak – a decision that was taken following consultation between representatives from the event and local authorities, including ourselves, Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council.

“Our officers were there to speak to people and explain the regulations on public gatherings, as they have been doing since the lockdown began.

“We’re pleased to say that only a handful of people came to Wickham for the event today, and they left shortly afterwards. Everyone understood the need to cancel this year’s event and no issues were reported.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their co-operation and help in keeping people safe."

Winchester City Council had previously said the charter would continue to be honoured even after the cancellation of this year’s event.

A council spokesperson said: “We are aware that concern has been expressed that the Royal Charter for the fair requires that some people must attend every year to preserve the right to hold the annual event and would like to make clear that this is not the city council’s interpretation of the charter rights. Therefore, the right to hold the event in future years will not be affected by its cancellation this year and there is no requirement for anyone to ‘maintain’ the charter.

“Please do not to come to Wickham on 20 May to attend the event, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, remember - stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

The one-day event, which dates back to 1289, is massive part of the traveller community's calendar attracting people from across the UK.

It is a place to buy and sell horses as well as a huge social gathering for Gypsies.