ORGANISERS OF the 2012 Bampton Charter Fair say that yesterday's event went "pretty well", despite lower attendance and "disappointing" pony sales. And they've flagged up that people "were thoroughly enjoying themselves", the event had some excellent music and the funfair was "heaving" later in the evening…
The event, granted a charter by Henry III in 1258 and one of the oldest surviving Charter Fairs in the country, normally coincides with half-term week, but this year's event didn't. Organizers say that this, possibly combined with variable weather, may have been the reason for a lower attendance than normal.
They also say that the pony sales – a traditional and key feature of the event – were disappointing due to the "low level" that the market has dropped to, but poultry sales were strong. Stags, the auctioneers in charge of the sale, agreed on both points.
"Yesterday's Fair went pretty well and people seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves," said Humphrey Berridge, a spokesman for the event. "Numbers were slightly down because it wasn't half-term week, which is unusual, but when the school buses arrived back into Bampton at about 4pm, it built up again. At the very end – about 7pm – the funfair was heaving with people. We got away with the weather. Compared to last year – when it absolutely poured – it was pretty good.
"There were some things which I thought were better this year. The music was excellent this time. The various musicians got together casually and just started playing in the streets, which I thought was very good.
"The pony sale side of things was disappointing. There were 29 horses and ponies booked in to be sold. Only five turned up and none of those sold at all. I think that it's just the sales of ponies at the moment. The market has dropped to such a low level, that there's nothing happening. But there was tremendous interest in the poultry, of which there seemed to be a huge number being auctioned off, and that seemed to go pretty well."
Stags, the auctioneers in charge of the pony and collective farm sale at nearby Luttrell Farm, agreed.
"We were disappointed with the ponies," said Chris Clapham, one of the Stags' auctioneers, "but the rest of the sale was OK, with the tack inside and the other bits and pieces, and the poultry sold away well, but the horses… there's just no trade for it."
Asked why that was, he said: "The horses that are here aren't what would traditionally be at Bampton Fair – the Exmoor ponies. There are none here, so you've only got five potentially riding ponies, all carrying reserves, and you're going into a time of the year when they are going to cost a lot of money."
Elsewhere, the organizers were reporting positive feedback from traders, who had pitched their stalls throughout the town.
"They all seemed pretty happy," said Humphrey Berridge. "A lot of them come year after year. Overall they were pretty content and I think most of them will come again next year, which is the real measure that they are happy with what's happening."
The event helps to raise money for local projects and organizations. Figures aren't currently available for this year's event.
"But it won't be a huge amount," said Humphrey. "We can't charge people to go in, the only money we get is from stallholders, and we have a lot of overheads to pay out. Usually it amounts to around £4,000. Not a vast sum, but it all goes back into local things."
The town is now beginning to return to normal.
"The astonishing thing was that by 8am this morning, Bampton had been completely cleared, all the streets had been cleaned," said Humphrey. "Mid Devon always do a marvellous job. They come before it's light. The whole of the funfair has gone and that area is completely filled with camper vans, because we've got the folk festival starting today. That changeover happens overnight. It's quite amazing… "
Was Humphrey looking forward to next year's Bampton Charter Fair?
"You bet I am!"
And what about Stags, the auctioneers?
"We love it here!" said Chris Clapham. "That's what it's all about. Plenty of people really enjoy it."