Town & Manor of Hungerford News: March/April 2021

Hungerford Town & Manor

The end of lockdown finally seems to be in sight which will mean a return to more of the face-to-face events we have been deprived of. Our indoor Wednesday market will be returning soon: the outdoor one continues to go from strength to strength and has recently received praise from West Berkshire Council’s inspectors. More on this below.

Spring (for it seems now to be here, despite a few off days) also means that people will be spending more time outdoors, perhaps on the Common or the Marsh. In this issue we’ve looked at some of the necessary regulations that exist to protect these places, some of them involving national legislation. We also repeat a plea to take your litter home with you and to clean up after your dog.

This is also the time when the the cows take up their summer residence on the Common. Please treat them with respect. See below for the best way of getting them to move out of the road (this does not involve blasting your horn).

Pandemic or not, the Town & Manor’s seasonal work on maintaining its land continues. Recently we were delighted to have volunteers from St Lawrence’s Church helping us coppice hazel and make faggots to shore up the riverbank and provide habitat for water voles.

Our Sparkling Streams project to enhance some of our local waterways which we mentioned last month continues, although much the work on this exciting scheme won’t start until later in the year. As soon as there’s anything to share we’ll let you know.

Finally, at the foot of this post we’ve got our usual summary of what the Town and Manor does – it’s a unique organisation and has a special role to play in the life of the town. 

The Wednesday market

The Town and Manor continues to support the weekly Wednesday market. We would like to thank the volunteers who give up their time every week to ensure that visitors to the market are reminded of the regulations during lockdown to maintain the safety and well-being of all shoppers. We are working with HTC, WBC and the Self-isolation Group to ensure the market can continue for the benefit of the community and those who come to visit from nearby villages for their weekly shop.

Even though the regulations relaxing, we will continue to ask visitors to wear masks. Once the non-essential and indoor market traders return on the 14 April, we will not have volunteer marshals. We had a visit from WBC Covid support team on 31 March. They were very impressed with the structure and layout and stated that that our market was top of their list when it came to ensuing public safety and organisation. We would also like to thank HTC for its continuing support to ensure the market is the safest way to shop.

The market takes place every Wednesday from 8am until about 2pm. Please see below for important information about parking arrangements from midnight on Tuesday. 

Hungerford's wednesday market continues during the january lockdown - with a few changes (12th january up to date)

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. 

Coppicing the hazel

We were delighted to welcome a group of volunteers from St. Lawrence’s church to come and join our waterkeepers in coppicing hazel and creating faggots last month. The volunteers worked in their bubble pairs and did not share tools or equipment.

Hazel needs to be coppiced regularly to ensure plants and vegetation at ground level receive sunlight to thrive. Regular coppicing ensures healthy growth and controlled management of the hazel. Faggots are used as supports for the river bank. Once the faggots have been tied, they are then fixed into the river bank. These faggots greatly reduce erosion and collect silt. With silt settling in the faggots. seeds are captured and will germinate and grow to create vegetation and habitat for riverine species. This creates a habitat for watervoles and also improves the overall ecological condition of the river.

I would like to thank the vicar, Mike Saunders for co-ordinating this socially distanced event. We are planning to arrange more volunteer days once lockdown regulations have been relaxed. Should you wish to come and help volunteer with this or future projects please contact call 01488 686555

Dogs on the Common

Dog Walkers on Freeman’s Marsh are reminded that the ground-nesting birds’ season started last month. Please read the signs placed at all the entrances to the marsh and should you wish to let your dog off the lead, please only do so where permitted.

Common clear-up

We had a clear-up on the common on 20 March to deal with the ever increasing amounts of rubbish that some people leave every time they visit. This event was organised by Lauren Anderson-Weir at the Downgate pub, and the Trustees of the Town and Manor are very grateful to her for her help.

These clean-ups are annual events that take place prior to the cattle returning to the Common – unaffected by Covid, they’ll soon be back (see below).  The Trustees would like to thank the responsible members of the public who continuously pick up litter that others leave, not only at these events but throughout the year.

The cows return

This year the cattle are due to arrive in mid April. Please be aware that they will be very skittish, having found a new freedom after being over-wintered in barns and enclosed space (much like us humans as lockdown eases, perhaps). Please keep you dogs under control or on a lead at all times.

Cattle have right of way on the Common. Should they be in the road, please be patient and allow then to cross. Please note that your speed should not exceed the limit. Should the cows be stationary on the road, do not blast your horn. Instead get out of your car, clap your hands and tell them to move in a calm voice and they will oblige. Should the cattle damage your vehicle it is your responsibility to claim on your insurance.

Using the Common and the Marsh

These are there for all to enjoy, amenities which are maintained by the Town and Manor for the benefit of the town. They are special places: and with that comes some regulations, many of which are national law rather than something we have made up. Here are some things to bear in mind…

As the signage on the Common and Freeman’s Marsh makes clear, these areas sit within the North Wessex Downs AONB and are classed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The grass is an important to reducing climate change as it collects carbon. When cyclists and other tracked vehicles unlawfully use this land, it damages the grass and reduces grazing.

Speaking of wheels, please also be aware that the Common and Freeman’s Marsh are listed under the government’s Countryside and Rights of Way Act which states that all vehicles, including bicycles are not permitted to ride on the land and that drones are not to be flown.

We have also had incidents of golfers practising on the common and several golf balls have been collected already this year. As well as the obvious risks caused by a sliced shot, golf balls are extremely dangerous to cattle and dogs as they can lodge in their oesophagus or pylorus and cause asphyxiation or severe gastrointestinal damage which can cause death in a matter of hours.

Please pick up your dog poo and take it home or put it in a dog-poo bin. WBC empties the bins on a weekly basis. Please contact 01488 686555 or email to report a full bin and we’ll request that WBC empty it. It is every dog owner’s responsibility to pick up after their dog. Dog poo carries many potential diseases which can cause blindness and death in cattle and humans. With spring on its way and many families enjoying the Common and Freeman’s marsh for picnic and play, no-one wants to be having to deal with the consequences of irresponsible dog owners.

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 the 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 email or call 01488 686555.


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