Town & Manor of Hungerford News: April/May 2021

Hungerford Town & Manor

Closer and closer it gets…the government’s roadmap promises a partial relaxation later in May and something approaching normality in June. If all this comes to pass – as we hope it will – the Town and Manor is ready.

Work at the Common, the Marsh and the fisheries has continued throughout lockdown (as it can by law and as it needs to by the decree of nature). The wonderful open spaces that the Town and Manor maintains are and have been available for all to use. As we mention below, please treat these special places with the respect they deserve.

As we mentioned last month, the cows are back on the Common. Please treat these with the respect they deserve, too.

Our outdoor market also continues to thrive in the High Street on Wednesdays and is the best place for your weekly shop for everything from oranges to olives and from bacon to bread. Now the regulations are being relaxed, the market is spreading back inside as well – all in accordance with the latest guidelines. 

The Town and Manor, as you might have noticed, has some ceremonial (and practical) roles to fulfil in the life of the town. The month just past is normally the highlight of our year, as it has been for centuries. As described below, we conducted these in April in truncated form and with all the social-distancing regulations in place. Here’s hoping for a return to to more public celebrations in 2022.

It’s worth remembering that the Town and Manor not only maintains its land and property (including the Town Hall) at no cost to the public but is also able to have enough left over to make grants to local community groups. See below for the the donations so far this year. We welcome applications from other Hungerford-based charities or organisations.

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 run and 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. 

With the regulations relaxed on the 12 April, it was great to have the indoor market, along with the non-essential outdoor market traders back. The sun shone and there was a very happy atmosphere amongst stallholders and shoppers alike. Long may it continue. Please continue to observe any regulations. 

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. 

Hocktide and Court Leet-lite

The period after Easter saw (as it has done “since time immemorial”) the Hocktide Court and Court Leet of the Town and Manor. Due to Covid, these were shortened and combined this year (which explains the suffix in the heading). After last year’s cancellation, we felt it important to continue the ceremonies as best we could given the restrictions.

Why is this important? When something’s been around as long as the Town and Manor has and has (uniquely) survived, it’s worth taking a step back and reflecting on what it was originally designed to do and how it has since adapted. This article in Penny Post offers one view on these points. You can also visit the Hungerford Virtual Museum’s website for others. 

The main business of the day was the formal appointment of the new Constable. The photo below shows outgoing Constable Greg Furr and the new incumbent, Peter Joseph. We look forward to Hocktide in 2022 and hope that this, along with all other public events, will by then able to return to normal. Meanwhile, we have done our little bit to show that life goes on…

Dogs on the Common

Dog Walkers on Freeman’s Marsh are reminded that the ground-nesting birds’ season started in March. 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.

The cows are back

Please be aware that they will be very skittish, having found a new freedom after being over-wintered in barns and enclosed space (know the feeling). Please keep your 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.

Common clear-up

Following on from our clear up on the common on 20 March to clear the ever increasing amounts of rubbish that visitors and locals residents leave every time they visit, we have joined forces with HEAT (Hungerford Environment Action Team) to have litter pickers available. Lauren Weir from the Down Gate pub has kindly offered to host litter pickers and rubbish bags for walkers to collect and pick up litter whilst out walking. We would request that any items collected are taken home and put in the volunteers’ bins as we have no rubbish bins or collection facitilies on the common. The Town and Manor Trustees are very grateful to HEAT and the Down Gate staff for implementing this project.

Road signs

The Town and Manor has put signs on the common asking drivers to slow down and to warn the of the cattle. Sadly, last Friday, one of these signs was ripped out the ground and thrown into the nearby tree. it’s not clear to us what purpose this has served. Our signs are there to improve safety by reminding drivers that cattle on the common, especially when they’ve just arrived. These acts of mindless vandalism put drivers, walkers and cattle at risk whereas their purpose is to draw attention to and so reduce just these kinds of danger.

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 admin@townandmanor.co.uk 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.

Bear in mind that the more the Town and Manor has to spend on clearing up rubbish, the less it has available for grants to local organisations. And speaking of which…

Donations

The land and property that the Town and Manor owns in Hungerford is managed for the benefit of the community. The Town and Manor is a charity, so the profits can efficiently be provided to good causes in the town. Recent donations include… 

Hungerford Youth and Community Centre have received £3,000, as well as the funding of a laptop computer. Both have been match funded by The Good Exchange.

The Hungerford Cricket Club, the Hungerford Primary School’s Mindfulness Garden and the Camburn Trust have each been given funding since the beginning of the year.

So far this year, the Trustees have donated over £6,500 to local charities.

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 admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 01488 686555.

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