Town & Manor of Hungerford News: March/April 2020

Hungerford Town & Manor

Obviously, Coronavirus is dominating everything at the moment. This month’s summary is thus concerned with three things: what ] the Town and Manor is still doing; what it has stopped doing; and what new things it’s taken on. We end with a slightly bizarre tale of a stopped clock…

Business (more or less) as normal

With a large estate of about 450 acres to look after, this is a particularly busy time of year.

• Our river keeper, Rob Starr, is working flat out with tree work, fencing and clearing the marsh and common for the summer. The river is still very full of water and access is quite difficult as the land is so wet. Our assistant keeper is self isolating.

• The orchard is being prepared for this year and we still have loads of apple juice and cider to dispose of.

• Meetings of the Trustees are going ahead via the Internet – a first for us.

• At the moment, we have continued with the weekly outdoor market. Stallholders were limited to food sales only and a strict control on numbers and queuing was enforced. The decision to hold the market invoked a lively discussion on social media. Interestingly there was no criticism from those who attended. There is a clear necessity for people to buy food. The law still allows such markets to open and we will continue as long as it is allowed, with even stricter separation enforced.

• The Town Hall has virtually closed down, however, it can still be used for essential things like blood donation. All the great Antiques Fairs are off as well as our regular users like Camera Club, yoga, dance classes and Church on the Rock. 

• We shall continue to graze cattle and the cows will be back in mid April. With their new-found freedom, they can be a bit lively for the first couple of weeks. Whilst we hope people will still enjoy these beautiful open spaces in these troubled times, please exercise extra care when visiting whether this is in a car, or walking. This is especially pertinent to dog owners – whom we welcome – and would ask to keep your dogs on short leads when near the cows. The cattle are an essential part of maintaining the SSSI and part of our rural payment scheme. The Common and Marsh lands are provided as a facility to the town at no expense to the rate payers.

• We managed to plant some replacement trees by the Kintbury and Inkpen road junction on the Common. These are disease-free elms and we have put in over twenty of these to start replacing the 70 or so that were lost to Dutch Elm disease. The plan to plant 800 trees in association with The Woodland Trust under the auspices of The Rev Mike Saunders will hopefully take place in the autumn.

On hold for the moment

• The indoor market has closed, thanks to all who came and supported it. The outdoor market (see above) will continue for food sales only as long as the law continues to allow it.

• We have cancelled the whole of Hocktide, but intend to hold a ‘Hoctobertide’ later in the year. I am honoured to have been asked to remain as Constable until we can revert to a proper election of officers, hopefully in about six months time.

• Most of our six staff are not coming in to work.

• Sadly, charitable donations have been put on hold for the time being and our plans for VE and VJ Day are in the balance. I hope the Twinning Anniversary in August  may still go ahead.

What’s new?

• The greatest revolution has been the use of modern technology for conference calls. This is brilliant and has enabled us to hold meetings and move things along.

• The non-use of the Town Hall complex saddens me but we’re delighted that the building has been made available to Geordie Taylor and the Hungerford Self isolation Network which is distributing necessities to those in need or need help. I would welcome suggestions as to other uses of this centrally located building to assist us all.

• Like every other organisation, the Town and Manor is facing some tough challenges. Since we’ve being going since the fourteenth century, however, I am sure with some wise decisions and careful management we should last another 700 years.

Time stands still

Hungerford Town Hall’s clock decided last weekend that going forward an hour was not something it could cope with, so it stopped at 2am on Sunday night. It is such an integral part of the town that the Town and Manor felt that, even though it was grimly symbolic of everything else coming to a stop in these troubled times, we must try and get it going as soon as possible.

This involves turning off the wireless aerial in the tower for 24 hours and getting the experts, Smith of Derby, to come to mend it. However, this long-established company is not doing repairs during the crisis. Just when we feared that time would stand still for weeks, at noon on Monday the clock kicked back into action and had the right time on all four faces. Hungerford’s Big Ben was back and no one had to get an enormous ladder out and hang off the hands like Harold Lloyd. I’m not sure if this is something the Constable is obliged to do if required  but, fortunately, didn’t need to find out…

• Parking on in the High Street

Please observe the ‘No Parking after midnight’ signs put up on Tuesday afternoons in some bays on the Town Hall side of the High Street.

Some traders set up very early in the morning but can’t do this if vehicles are parked there. 

• The responsibilities of the Town and Manor

The Town and Manor of Hungerford is a unique institution, the only such body in England to have survived (in other places, the functions and assets of these organisations have been assumed by local councils). Some reflections on its past, and its present, role can be found here.

Many aspects of the Town and Manor, including its ownership of the Town Hall, make it look like another tier of local government (which it is not) and as a result many people are unsure of what aspects of local life it is responsible for. These are some of the main things that the Town and Manor does, all at no cost to the local residents:

• Hungerford Common (including maintenance, the cows,  the paths, the trees and event licences).
• Freeman’s Marsh (including maintenance, the cows, the paths and the trees).
• The trees in the High Street from the Canal Bridge to junction of Atherton Road (maintenance).
• The Croft (including grass cutting, trees, posts and event licences).
• The Town Hall (including bookings and maintenance).
• River Kennet and River Dun (including weed cutting, debris clearance and bank maintenance).
• Hocktide (all aspects of the festival).

For any problems, issues or enquiries relating to any of these matters, please contact Jed Ramsay on admin@townandmanor.co.uk.

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