Town & Manor of Hungerford News: August/September 2021

Hungerford Town & Manor

Autumn is almost upon us but, as is so often the case as soon as the schools go back, we have been blessed with an Indian summer. This may last a day, a week or a month: one never knows in this country.

It was the weather earlier in the year, however, that determined the fruit harvest from our orchard. This wasn’t great. We take a look below at what promises to be a respectable, if not a bumper, year, and the opportunities that will exist for those who want to help pick the fruit and benefit from whatever bounty nature bestows in 2021.

One bounty for the cows on the Common will be the new 30mph speed limit which is due to become effective by the end of next month. We’d like to reiterate our thanks to those who’ve helped make this happen. As our report on a recent car-on-cow accident shows, this can’t happen soon enough for the Common’s bovine summer residents. 

The summer – and the Common – have provided happier stories in the form of inspiration for the many people who took part in our photography competition. See below for the two winning photographs and links to where all the entries can be found.

The market on Wednesdays continues, whatever the weather (though high winds are a challenge). We offer our usual alliterative assessment of the range of goods available as well as repeating a familiar request to follow the no-parking signs on the High Street on Tuesday nights.

Work continues on the Sparkling Streams project. We’ll bring you a fuller report when the work reaches its conclusion later this year.

As reported last month, we’ve also been dealing with ragwort which some (generally small) animals thrive but other (generally large) ones get very sick if they eat it. As ever, a balance is needed, as well as constant maintenance.

Finally, pigeons have been much in the news in Hungerford recently. We have direct experience of the damage that these birds can cause when found in large numbers – leaks, a lot of stress and organisation, cancelled bookings and a large bill (hopefully covered by insurance) is the brief summary. Remember, the Town Hall is owned by the Town and Manor, not Hungerford or West Berkshire Councils: so it’s us, and not local council tax payers, who’ll be paying the invoices. All the more reason, therefore that we continue to manage our assets as carefully and as responsibly as possible. We hope that this monthly summary shows some of the ways we accomplish this.

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 flower planting initiative which took place in 2017. The entry deadline was 31 July and we have had a fantastic response from keen photographers. Judging took place over the next two weeks and the winners were notified on Monday 16 August.

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

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

Congratulations to Alison Valesoa Laly and Gary Black whose winning images can be seen below. You can also click here to see all the images (which are also on the T&M’s Facebook page).

The Wednesday market

Anyone visiting the Wednesday market on 25 August might have spotted our MP, Laura Farris, and several West Berkshire District Councillors, visiting as part of a fact-finding (and food-finding) trip. All praised the market and, in particular, the fact that it had kept going throughout the darkest days of lockdown under carefully managed conditions.

The items on offer at the street market range from baklava to bacon, from honey to handbags, from plants to plantains and from Red Leicester to red cabbage. The indoor market is now open again and 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. 

Accident on the Common

We had reports that one of the cattle had been injured by a hit and run incident on the Common on Sunday 29 August. Sadly the driver did not stop and so far no-one has come forward to claim responsibility.

The better news in that the heifer is being very well looked after and is responding slowly to treatment. She is being treated by our Hayward, Philip Porter,. A huge thank you goes out to Lauren at the Down Gate who has been helping Philip with the administration of medication and ensuring that the patient has plenty of food and water. As the photo shows, she’s currently taking it easy. All being well she will return to the herd in a couple of weeks.

Should you witness one of the cattle being hit by a vehicle or looking unwell, please report it to admin@townandmanor.co.uk, if you could add any accompanying photos that would be useful. Alternatively please call 07379 058208 to report an incident.

30mph on the Common

On a closely related theme, I am delighted to announce that West Berkshire Council’s Highways department has signed off the agreement to reduce the speed limit over Hungerford Common to 30mph.The Town and Manor has fought hard for many, many years, with the support of Hungerford Town Council and our District Councillors, to get this reduced. Thanks to a team effort we have had this approved. There were many letters of support (there was also one objection). Ploughing through all the formalities (and Covid) took time but it’s now a done deal. The new signage should be in place by the end of October.

Let’s hope drivers comply with the law and reduce the risk they pose to cattle, walkers, cyclists – and indeed themselves and their vehicles – when driving on the Common.

The season of mist and mellow fruitfulness

The start of autumn is, of course, the time when the fruit in our orchard starts to ripen. Due to the late frosts experienced in May and the cooler summer, the fruit is not yet reading for picking.

For many years the Town and Manor has organised fruit picking days, with much of the fruit used for making apple and pepple (apple and pear) juice. Last year we donated much of the crop to be juiced and put in cartons and donated to the food bank. We organise group pickings in conjunction with volunteers from HEAT and St. Lawrence’s Church to collect fruit for their own consumption along with donating it to the food bank and for juicing.

Should you wish to come along and join in, please contact admin@townandmanor.co.uk and we can put you in touch with these volunteer groups as well as informing you of the dates planned for picking the crops which include apples, pears and plums.

Ragwort management

We mentioned last month about our camping to pull the ragwort on Freemans Marsh. This has happened and we filled a large skip with the unwanted plant. 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. There will still be plenty around next year to ensure the food source is available for those creepy crawlies who thrive on the weed.

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.

Water, water…

We had a severe flood in the Town Hall and Magistrates Room in early August. The floodwater  severely damaged the walls and floors in both rooms resulting in both two rooms needing to have replacement flooring and redecoration. The rooms are still being dried out and the oak floors have had to be removed as the water was sitting underneath. We were fortunate that the ceilings didn’t collapse, as that would have increased the cost of repair which is already estimated to be around £50,000. (This will be hopefully be covered by the insurance and so shouldn’t affect our ability to make grants to local groups, but even so…)

As for the cause, this was down to pigeon nests and faeces blocking the drainpipes and causing the water to find an alternative route. The Town Hall complex suffers from pigeon damage to the stonework caused by their nests and pecking but, most importantly, by their faeces which eat away at the stonework. The Town and Manor is extremely grateful to HTC for culling the pigeons in Hungerford and it is a relief that visitors no longer have to avoid their dropping both from the air and on the ground. We envisage that the Magistrates room will be unavailable for hire until at least December whilst we complete the drying-out process and replace the wooden floor and redecorate.

The photos below will give some idea of how damaging and disruptive this flood has been.

Sparkling Streams

A reminder that 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.

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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