All of us were glad to see the back of 2020 but its successor hasn’t proved to have been much of an improvement. None the less, as the previous year’s updates have shown, the Town and Manor has managed to accomplish a number of things in 2021, despite the often challenging circumstances.
In most cases, simply stopping was not an option – nature can’t be put into lockdown and animals can’t be furloughed. Much of our work involves managing the land that we own for the benefit of the whole community. Not only are areas such as the Marsh and the Common as a result available free of charge for public use but any profits made from the Town and Manors activities are not paid out to shareholders but put back into the community in the form of grants.
One of the Town and Manor’s assets is the Town Hall (the only privately owned one in the country) but there was a moment back in August when many of the trustees wished it belonged to someone else. A major flood (caused by pigeon droppings blocking gutters) could have been a lot worse but still caused extensive damage. As we report below, the major repairs have now been done. Once finished, the building will be in a better state than it has been for some time.
The Sparkling Streams project, on the other hand, was both planned and welcome. This was conceived and executed in partnership with other local environmental organisations and we’re delighted to report that it’s recently been completed, a week ahead of schedule. See below for more.
One thing that has been on our to-do for as many years as we can remember is the matter of getting the speed limit reduced on the Common. This is particularly important between April and November when motorists, walkers and cyclists need to co-exist with cattle. We’re delighted to announce that a concerted campaign involving many people including the former Constable Nick Lumley, our district councillors and Hungerford Town Council has finally produced the desired result and the new 30mph signs now in place. Please observe them.
As usual, the cows have now left the Common for the winter but the’ll be back again in April. Hopefully they will have slower traffic to contend with.
Another regular event is our Wednesday market (8am until about 2pm) in the High Street and the Corn Exchange. Please be sure to observe the no-parking signs that are in place on Tuesday night.
We finish with two photos showing what the Town Hall looked like shortly after the floods. It’s in a much better state now: but the image is a timely reminder that, if you own something, then it needs looking after (sometimes at short notice). That’s what the Town and Manor has long been doing in Hungerford and will continue to do, in 2022 and beyond…
30mph – at last.
Following on from confirmation from West Berkshire Council regarding reducing the speed limit on Hungerford Common, the signage was – after more than 20 years of campaigning – changed on 6 December. Many thanks to all those who supported this campaign, including the district councillors and Hungerford Town Council.
Whilst this is great progress, it seems a number of drivers will still ignore the limit and treat the Common as a race track driving at ridiculous speeds, putting cattle, cyclists, dogs and walkers at risk as well as themselves.
The Town and Manor is liaising with Hungerford Town Council to discuss options of traffic calming measures to slow down speeding drivers. The Town and Manor would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who respect the speed limit and slow down for the users of the common.
Now more cows (for now)
All the cattle have now been taken off the Common, the final dozen being removed by their farmer owner last Thursday. They only graze there during the spring and summer months when the grass is constantly replacing itself and is lush and nourishing. At this time of year, however, there is very little growth and so not enough nutritious grazing to go round.
Being organic, our beef is sold to retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. Look out for the label that states “origin: Berkshire” as the meat may well have come from our Common so can truly claim to be hyper-local. We will miss them: however, it won’t be too long before the grass starts to wake up again, heralding the return of the herd in mid-April.
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 garlic to geraniums, from scones to satsumas and from Brie to bric-a-brac, 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.
Tracking the trees
As mentioned last month, every year an arborist 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 will eventually 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 but 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.
Now that the Town Hall has been dried out using powerful dehumidifiers, and now the replacement oak flooring is just about laid, the building has just about recovered from the flooding in August.
The redecoration is due to start in January, and will take around four to five months to complete. We will work around our bookings, and once completed, the community of Hungerford will have a refreshed Town Hall as it will have undergone a major facelift. This is a very exciting project to update the Town Hall and creates a wonderful environment to host events.
We are seeing an increase in demand for weddings, as well as more fairs, parties and other events. Should you want to hold your event at the “go to” place in Hungerford, please contact us at [email protected] or call 07880 311731 and we will be more than happy to discuss your needs.
The Town Hall complex is available for hire for all types of events. Local charities and residents receive a 25% discount on charging rates.
During the autumn the Town and Manor was involved in the Sparkling Streams project to make 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 was in addition to our main project of restoring the river Kennet at Eddington.
This project has now been completed (after nearly two months of work and a week ahead of schedule). We had a visit from DEFRA to the site during the course of the works and the inspectors were very impressed to see the progress the project was making and were able to envisage the end result. Fortunately, the weather was on our side, and very little time was lost due to poor working conditions.
Due to the environmental sensitivity of this project all of the materials used for this project were sourced on site. Not only does this save fuel and time it benefits the whole environment by not bringing in alien materials.
This hugely benefits the existing wildlife by not bringing in diseases and harmful bacteria from other vicinities. Keeping it all on site means that we can re-use sarsen stones (the post-glacial remains of a cap of Cenozioc silcrete that once covered much of southern England) and wood that came down in the winds. The area will now be allowed to settle over the coming weeks allowing the grass and vegetation to re-grow. We shall then be looking for volunteers to come and help plant up more vegetation on the banks to make this area of the Kennet even more beautiful, as well as giving nature a boost in supporting wildlife habitat. We plan to have an open day next year for you to come and have a look at the restored River Kennet.
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.