Town & Manor of Hungerford News: July/August 2021

Hungerford Town & Manor

Summer is here (with some relapses) and a lot of the Town and Manor’s work continues last month’s theme of taking place outdoors. This includes not only our regular market and our various restoration and management projects but also a number of events which we’ve hosted in conjunction with the Hungerford Summer Festival.

These events included a look into the world of water meadows, river habitats and bats – see more below.

Our photographic competition has now closed and we look forward to sharing the two winning entries with you later in the month (once we’ve been through the difficult task of deciding which the winning ones are…)

Work on the Sparkling Streams project continues, as do two seasonal tasks – topping the Common and pulling ragwort. For more on the what and why on these, see the section below.

We’ve also decided we need to clarify a few points about the Town and Manor in response to some communications on the Hungerford Noticeboard FB group (see the first section below). 

Finally, no Town and Manor update would be complete without a mention of our wonderful weekly Wednesday Market which has continued without a break during the pandemic. The indoor market is now back as well. See you there…

The role of the Town and Manor regarding the Common and the Marsh

In response to a number of communications posted on the Hungerford Notice Board Facebook page, it seems appropriate to clarify a few points in relation to the role of the Charity, the Town and Manor of Hungerford, with regard to the Common Portdown and the Marshes.

  1. The Common is part of the Estate of the Town and Manor. It is managed by the Town and Manor on behalf of the whole town. It is a grassland and is managed as such. The cattle are an integral part of the management of it. Dogs and their owners are welcome to enjoy the Common and should observe the guidelines as set out in the notices printed at all the entrances. Dogs are to be under control at all times and their excrement is to be collected and placed in the bins provided. The responsibility for the behaviour of the dogs is entirely down to the owner at all times.
  2. The same applies to the Marshes. Some of these are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and accordingly the guidelines for dogs and their owners are highly important and must be observed. Again, the cattle are an integral part of the management of the area undertaken by the Town and Manor for the benefit of all the citizens of the town.
  3. All the cattle are monitored at least twice every day and the husbandry of the livestock is taken very seriously.
  4. All the boundary fences of the Common and the Marshes are the responsibility of the neighbouring properties, not of the Town and Manor. We do monitor, to the best of our ability, the security of the fences but the maintenance of these is not down to the Town and Manor.
  5. All footpaths duly signposted are the responsibility of West Berkshire Council. The Town and Manor assists, where necessary, with keeping them clear, on a voluntary basis.
  6. The Town and Manor welcomes input and observations from the public. These should be addressed by email to . Clarification can then be communicated directly to the contributor. Unverified social-media comments are not helpful as they disseminate fake news.
  7. “The great cattle hunt” involved a failure of a neighbour to maintain their fence. The effort involved in retrieving the cattle from 300 acres of woodland was remarkable and a perfect demonstration of the lengths we all go to ensure the wellbeing of the animals in our care. Any suggestion to the contrary shows a lack of awareness and is hurtful to those involved.

The Wednesday market

Let’s now turn to the Wednesday market, probably the most regular and visible aspect of the Town and Manor’s work.

As many of you know, the wares on offer at the street market range from muffins to Mozzarella, from honey to humous, from sausages to satsumas, from hydrangeas to handbags – I could go on. Our indoor market, now open again, offers a wide range of craft and collectible products. All in all, there’s no better place to shop. Our continued thanks to all the traders who, in the last couple of months alone, have braved conditions ranging from heatwaves to thunderstorms.

We end we our usual reminder to observe the no-parking signs on Tuesday night – see below.

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. 

Wildflower photography competition

As mentioned last month, the Trustees of the Town and Manor launched a wildflower photography competition for all wildlife and nature enthusiasts following on from a wild lower planting initiative which took place in 2017. The entry deadline was 31 July and we have had a fantastic response from keen photographers. Judging will take place over the next two weeks and winners will be notified on Monday 16 August.

There are two categories, each with a £100 prize:

  • The best photograph showing the flowers
  • The best photograph showing a pollinator on or within the flowers.

Many thanks to all those who entered and the Trustees look forward to meeting the winners and handing over their prize money. The winning pictures will be posted on the Town and Manor Facebook page and in this column next month.

Recent events

The Town and Manor was delighted to have hosted three events during Hungerford Spring Festival this year. Allwere well attended and feedback from those participating was very positive.

The Harvey’s Meadow walk included a historical overview along with a detailed guide to the many varieties or rare watermeadow flowers and fauna.

The river-dipping evening was guided by our Waterkeeper and gave a fascinating explanation to the habitat to be found in the water and riverbed.

The Go-Batty evening was a huge success with our regular Bat-man Dave Endecott from Oxford. He brought with him different species of bats along with a tiny baby who was only a few days old.

We look forward to next year’s Summer Festival and seeing more of you at our events next year.

Dog bins

A reminder that West Berkshire Council (WBC) empties the bins around the Common and Freeman’s Marsh once a week (unfortunately there isn’t the budget for emptying more regularly).

WBC and the Town and Manor politely request that local dog owners take their bagged poo home, especially during the busy summer months. This will prevent the build-up and overspill around the bins. This not only creates a dreadful smell, but also a health hazard to humans, cattle and many other habitat species.

• See also the section above, The role of the Town and Manor regarding the Common and the Marsh.

The cows

Another reminder – 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.

• See also the section above, The role of the Town and Manor regarding the Common and the Marsh.

Sparkling Streams

The Town and Manor, as part of the Sparkling Streams project, is undertaking river and habitat improvements on and around Freemans Marsh. Further information can be found in this article (on Penny Post) and this one (on the AONB website). This is in addition to our main project of restoring the river Kennet at Eddiington.

Firstly, on the River Dun on Freeman’s Marsh, we are working with the Environment Agency to put in some flow deflectors. Deflectors are a common approach to river restoration as they create variable flow conditions, narrow flow paths, deepen mid-channel flow, improve bank protection, and provide an area of refuge for fish in slow-flowing water.

Secondly, on the River Shalbourne we are working with Natural England to look into having a bit more water out onto the old water meadow on Freeman’s Marsh. We are currently consulting with specialist river environment engineers to ascertain the best method to achieve this.

The work will continue until the end of the 2021 with the evaluation and reporting process being completed by the end of February 2022.

Topping and ragwort

You may have seen that the Common has recently been topped. This is a common method used by farmers to eliminate the amount of stemmy grass in the area. This will result in having good-quality grass coming back for the next rotation. If the grass is too long, the cattle won’t graze it and instead will over graze the shorter grassy areas.

Due to the volume of rain and sunshine recently, the grass has grown well and has had to be cut in some places. We have to wait for the grass to seed before cutting to ensure there is good growth for next year.

Please be careful when walking through the long grass. We regularly have sightings of adders, and be aware of ticks both on yourself and on dogs.

On Freeman’s Marsh we will be pulling ragwort over the next couple of weeks. Ragwort is a native biennial which is a food source for a wide range of insects: however, its poisonous qualities make it harmful to cattle and horses –  another example of the Town and Manor needing to make decisions about its land management, balancing sometimes competing considerations for the benefit of all. 

The photo below (from Wild Horse Welfare) shows exactly the kind of scene that the removal of the ragwort is designed to prevent.

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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