The clocks may have gone back but the Town and Manor continues to look forward and to meet the various challenges that its ownership of the land and property in and around Hungerford provides. This month these have include speeding, building repairs and Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.
The co-existence of cars and cows on the Common has once again proved to be troublesome this year. Good news is that the battle to get the speed limit lowered to 30mph has proved successful: less good has been the recent accidents involving cattle. More on this – including a piece of evidence and why the Common can’t be fenced – can be found below.
Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, or Ash Dieback, is a universal problem from which the Town and Manor has not been immune. Having conducted our annual survey and studied the conclusions, several of these diseased trees will sadly need to be felled.
The damage caused by the pigeons to the Town Halls roofs and gutters is now being repaired and this will give us the opportunity to give the building a bit of a facelift. This is, as I’ve mentioned before, maintained and run at no expense to the wider community.
The Sparkling Streams project is proceeding well. so too are our ever-popular Wednesday markets in the High Street and in the Corn Exchange. Please continue to observe the no-parking signs on Tuesday night as otherwise some of the traders will not be able to set up.
October was TV month for the Town and Manor as it – and in particular the work of its Hayward – was featured in a recent programme on Meridian. You can see a summary and a link below.
We end with a photo montage used to illustrate three events that we held earlier this year on the subject of the wildlife for which, along with its land and property, the Town and Manor is responsible for. When more of these are arranged we’ll provide more information. These residents include bats, swans, trout and cows and we welcome and support them all. The pigeons, on the other hand, we just have to put up with…
I am delighted to announce that the Town and Manor has received confirmation from WBC Highways that the speed limit will be reduced on Hungerford Common.
For many years the Town and Manor has, along with the Town Council, campaigned for the speed to be reduced. Two years ago, the then Constable Nick Lumley, our Hayward (the person who looks after the cows), the Mayor, Helen Simpson, our district councillors and other supporters met with WBC Highways department to put the case for reducing the speed limit on the Common.
After a great deal of pleading and the provision of evidence, it has finally been agreed to have a 30mph speed limit. These signs should be being installed by early December. What matters then is that they be observed. The regulations will be being monitored and, if problems persist, we shall jointly be considering what other measure might be required and how the evidence can be gathered to support our case.
Sadly, it seems a number of drivers are ignoring the current limit and treat the Common as a race track driving at ridiculous speeds and putting cattle, dogs, walkers, cyclists, other motorists and themselves at risk. Speed limits are there for a reason and, whether cattle are on the Common or not (which they aren’t in the winter – see below) there are also other users to consider.
Sadly this last month has seen this cows hit at least four times. Not only are vehicles likely to be seriously damaged but there is also the pain and suffering to the cattle to consider, as well as the livelihood of the farmer.
As numerous TV police procedural programmes have shown, few crimes leave no evidence. The most recent incident was no exception with the front grille of a Mitsubishi being found near the scene. This is available for collection from the Town and Manor any time…
It’s not just fast cars that cause problems for cattle: yappy dogs can wreak their own special brand of havoc. Shortly after dawn on 2 November, for instance, the Hayward and his assistants were rounding up the herd on the Marsh when they were interrupted by a dog walker who allowed his brown and white Jack Russell to panic a steer: as a result, the job will need to be completed with another dawn start the following day. “An apology would have been nice,” the Hayward commented. Better still, of course, would not have let this happen at all. I thought dogs were meant to obey their owners, and that owners were meant to recognise when their dogs needed controlling? Not always, it seems…
The cattle depart
The majority of the cattle have now been taken off the common to return to their respective farms for the winter. This solves the avoidable problem mentioned above for the next few months. Many might ask why this a cattle-free Common is not adopted permanently, or at least that fences be put up to stop them straying onto the road.
This isn’t possible for a number of reasons. Our Countryside Stewardship grant compels us to graze the Common with cattle, which is also a time-honoured tradition. As for fencing, the cost would be vast and impact on the money the T&M was able to distribute to local charities and community groups. That aside, the CROW (Countryside Right Of Way) Act forbids our doing this. The cattle are a seasonal part of the Common. It should also be remembered that when they are there they have right of way.
The Wednesday market
The Wednesday market continues and we would like to thank all visitors to the market for their support during Covid-19 restrictions. The outdoor market continues to thrive and we have new stallholders. From shoes to satsumas, from bacon to bird seed and from sundried tomatoes to sourdough bread, this is the best place in the area for your weekly shop.
The Wednesday indoor market continues in the Town Hall, and we have seen an increase in footfall which is very positive news.
Should you wish to have a stall in either market, please contact [email protected] for more information.
The market takes place every Wednesday from 8am (though they set up far earlier than this) until about 2pm. Please see below for important information about parking arrangements from midnight on Tuesday.
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 T&M on TV
In late October Meridian News came to see our Hayward and a very good piece was aired on Tuesday night. (This also included an interview with the landlady of the Down Gate pub, Lauren Weir, who sees first-hand the speeding motorists accelerate once they have rumbled across the cattle grid.)
Tracking the trees
Every year an arborologist surveys and writes a report on all the trees for which the Town and Manor is responsible. This includes the those on the High Street, as well as those in The Croft and on the Common.
We have a number of ash trees within the estate and, as elsewhere, many are suffering with Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). The first signs of this fungal disease is dead and blackened leaves hanging amongst the live foliage. The fungus finds its way under the bark and over time will kill the tree.
The Town and Manor keeps regular checks on its ash trees all year round, and this year we will have to fell trees that have become unsafe. Not only is this a health and safety issue, we want to try and reduce the spread of this disease. More information about Ash Dieback can be found here.
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. This will prevent the build-up and overspill around the bins. This not only creates a dreadful smell but is also a health hazard to humans, cattle and many other habitat species.
Following from the Town Hall flooding caused by pigeons’ mess and nests blocking our drains, we are starting to make progress on the repairs.
The building has been dried out using powerful dehumidifiers and now the replacement oak flooring is being laid. Once this is complete we will start the redecoration and give the Town Hall a facelift.
This is a very exciting project to update the Town Hall and create a wonderful environment to host events.
Events in the Town Hall
We are seeing an increase in demand for weddings, as well as more fairs and partie. We look forward to welcoming an ever-more diverse range of products and events into the Corn Exchange. Should you want to hold your event at the “go to” place in Hungerford, please contact us.
Local charities and residents receive a 25% discount on charging rates. Should you wish to hold an event, please email [email protected] or call 07880 311 731 to enquire about availability.
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.
Work has recently started on the improvement to the River Kennet upstream of Eddington bridge. This will narrow the river to create a better flow of water to enhance riparian life and improve water quality as well as creating new areas of vegetation key to biodiversity.
We will also be restoring a small offtake which will enable water to re-connect to the flood plain known as Undy’s meadow – important to preventing Hungerford from flooding resulting from extreme weather due to climate change. This work of course comes at a time when climate change is being discussed at COP26.
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 [email protected] or call 01488 686555.