Town & Manor of Hungerford News: January/February 2022

Hungerford Town & Manor

There’s a lot to say in this month’s report so I’ll keep my introduction brief.

First off, there are several important environmental projects to tell you about: the Sparkling Streams is now mainly completed but there are others coming up for which we’d love to have your help and support.  

Also mainly completed is the restoration work on the Town Hall which has given us the chance to give this elegant but elderly building a facelift. Come the spring, and Covid permitting, we expect to see it used more and more frequently for a wide range of events.

Speeding on the Common is, as you’ll be aware, never far from our thoughts. One battle has been won with getting the 30mph limit imposed: now we’re trying to get some warning signs put up near the entrances to the Common, a task that’s proving a bit harder than we’d hoped.

We also look forward to the platinum jubilee and extend an offer, in conjunction with Hungerford Town Council, for people to get in touch with ideas.

Finally, the Wednesday market continues to provide the best place for your weekly shop, offering everything from olives to oranges, from bread to bacon and from haddock to honey. See you there!

Sparkling streams

I can’t believe that it has been a year since The Town and Manor won a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and DEFRA. The £40 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund – part of the government’s wider green economic recovery, jobs and skills package – offered funding for environmental projects across England to restore nature and tackle climate change and we were delighted to be able to use this as an opportunity to do some long-planned work on our rivers..

The Sparkling Streams project has enhanced the River Kennet at Eddington Mill and helped to restore the degraded tributaries of the Shalbourne and the Dun. Most of the work was completed during October and November last year and the few minor outstanding aspects will be finished by March 2022.

Chalk streams are globally rare (over 90% of them are within 100 miles of Hungerford) and this project will reverse centuries of damage to these tributaries. The Town and Manor continues to encourage and protect the biodiversity of the rivers Dun, Shalbourne and Kennet. Please click here to watch a film explaining about the Sparkling Streams project and which illustrates how, with some help, nature can restore itself.

The North Wessex Downs AONB was the lead applicant administering the grant award on behalf of the Heritage Fund. The partnership also included Action for the River Kennet (ARK), Hungerford Town and Manor and the Southern Streams Farmer Group.

Nesting season

Dog walkers on Freeman’s Marsh are reminded that the ground nesting birds season starts on 1 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, and please ensure your dog is under control at all times.

And this is not only to protect the birds. Last year we had a number of episodes where dogs chased cattle, causing them to stampede and become not only exhausted but also highly dangerous for anyone – including dogs and people – which get in their way. The cows will be back on the Common soon so be sure to treat them with the respect they deserve.

Hazel coppicing

We are delighted to welcome the return of volunteers, mainly from St. Lawrence’s church, to come and join our water keepers in coppicing hazel and creating faggots.

Hazel needs to be coppiced regularly to ensure plants and vegetation at ground level receive sunlight to thrive. Regular coppicing ensures healthy growth and controlled management of the hazel. The results are then turned into faggots which are used as supports for the river bank and greatly reduce erosion.

It gets even better – the silt that is caught in the faggots then captures seeds which grow to create vegetation and habitat for riverine species such as water voles. This also improves the overall ecological condition of the river.

The coppicing is thus an important task with complex and beneficial consequences – yet another example of the work the Town and Manor does to maintain and protect the land that it owns. And, while I’m on the subject…

Freeman’s Marsh

We also have areas of scrub that our environmental consultant wishes us to address on Freemans’ Marsh. To ensure that we maintain our Countryside Stewardship grants, scrub needs to be cleared regularly. This is to allow natural vegetation and fauna to grow without being overcome by more aggressive species. Clearing the land also helps to redistribute the soil evenly, making it healthier and reducing both erosion and the risk of fire.

We have two dates planned this spring, Thursday 17 February and Thursday 17 March. Should you wish to come and help volunteer with these or future projects please contact admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 01488 686555.

Driving on the Common

We would like to thank all those conscientious drivers on the Common who have recognised the new speed limit and are respecting the new limit. We do hope that by bringing down the maximum legal speed, fewer cattle and cyclists will be injured by speeding vehicles.

Despite the efforts of our CEO, the Trustees and our District Councillor James Cole, it has not so far proved easy to persuade West Berkshire Council to intsall signage near the entrances to the Common reminding drivers of the new 30mph speed limit.

We are also working with HTC to purchase speed activated signs to remind drivers as well as to record excessive speeding. Watch this space for updates on this.

Bridge works

You will have noticed that Network Rail staff are still working on the bridge at Lower Denford. It is anticipated that this will be completed by the end of February. They have removed their site welfare unit from the grass triangle which should give better visibility for those vehicles turning at that junction.

Fencing the cows

We will be sending out letters to all the residents whose properties adjoin The Common and Freemans’ Marsh reminding them of their duty to ensure that their fencing is cattle-proof. It is commonly accepted that the farmer is responsible for fencing and boundaries but in the case of common land such as The Common and Freemans’ Marsh, the law is somewhat different.

Here, the responsibility for fencing on land with common rights lies with the neighbouring properties. I’m sure you’d agree that it is everyone’s interest to ensure that the cattle stay in the areas of The Common or Marsh where they are meant to be and don’t escape on to adjoining land.

A facelift for the Town Hall

As you will doubtless know, the Town Hall suffered a serious flood last July caused by pigeon droppings blocking the gutters.

We used this as an opportunity to give the building a major facelift and, as a result, it’s now an even more wonderful environment to host events. A few tasks (including resurfacing the oak floor in the Corn Exchange) are still in progress but we hope to have this all done by the end of March.

We are already seeing an increase in demand for weddings, as well as more fairs, parties and other gatherings. To enquire about the the go-to venue in Hungerford, please contact us at admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 07880 311731. Local charities and residents receive a 25% discount.

The platinum jubilee

The Town and Manor is working closely with HTC and other local organisations to bring together the community of Hungerford in celebrating 70 years of our monarch’s reign. We would like to hear from members of the public who would be willing to support this event in a voluntary capacity, along with ideas as where best to host a picnic or party along with other events for the whole of Hungerford to enjoy.

It was agreed at the meeting of Hungerford Town Council on 7 February that a preliminary meeting would be held in the Town Hall at 7pm on Monday 21 February to discuss the possible ideas. Please contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk in advance if you wish to attend.

The Town and Manor has a long standing association with the royal family and it is traditional for The Constable to present a red rose to the Queen on historic occasions such as jubilees, milestone birthdays and births of successors to the throne. The Bellman accompanies The Constable to these events for historic and security purposes.

The Wednesday market

The Town and Manor continues to support the weekly Wednesday market. We would like to remind all visitors that the road outside the Town Hall is officially closed to all traffic every Wednesday to ensure the safety of all pedestrians. I politely ask for drivers picking up goods not to use this road as we have had several near misses last year.

Please also observe the no-parking signs in parts of the High Street which apply from midnight on Tuesday.

It is anticipated that the Indoor market will resume on Wednesday 16 February, though there will be no market on Wednesday 30 March to allow for the final renovation works (see above).

Hungerford's wednesday market continues during the january lockdown - with a few changes (12th january up to date)

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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