Town & Manor of Hungerford News: March/April 2022

Hungerford Town & Manor

March has been a month of completion here at the Town and Manor, specifically with two major projects that were started last year. Both have to do with water: one in a good way and one not.

Our Sparkling Streams project has been completed and should enhance and protect these precious waterways and the animals and plants that depend upon them for decades to come. See below for more and a couple of links which provide more about the project.

The flooding in the Corn Exchange complex last year necessitated some major repairs and we took the opportunity to give the whole place a thorough facelift. The final bits of work should be complete any day now, after which we’ll once more be fully open as an elegant and flexible venue for hire.

There are a couple of new things, too. This will be the first summer that the cattle (indeed, everyone who uses the Common) will have the extra protection of the new 30mph limit and, we hope, some speed indicator devices. The cattle will be returning soon: more below on this.

There’s nothing new about Hocktide, of course: this ceremony has medieval origins but has been celebrated in only the most abbreviated form due to the pandemic. We’re glad to announce that it will be back in full this year: see the section below for more.

Finally, we also have a few reminders: about the excellent Wednesday market (and the parking requests on Tuesday night), a letter about cattle-proof fencing and how to report any tree problems – three examples of the variety of tasks we are occupied with, this month and every month.

Sparkling Streams

Our Sparkling Streams project needed to be completed by 31 March and it was: our section was completed before the deadline and under budget. This video shows what the project intended to achieve and this project overview shows what has been accomplished.

In March we had the help of the St. Lawrence’s volunteer group to help with planting up vegetation. One the river work had been finished, plant life needed to be restored for habitat to be created. Mother nature would in time have done this by herself: we have merely given her a helping hand (indeed, several helping hands, as the photos below show). 

Keeping an eye on the trees

As mentioned last month, we are removing ash trees with ash die back from around the Common and the Marshes to keep the area safe for your enjoyment. Our Waterkeepers Rob and Jimmy regularly survey the trees – however should you think a tree (and ash or anything else) is looking dangerous, or has heavy broken branches, please do let us know by emailing ellie@townandmanor.co.uk and we will investigate.

And speaking of trees, you may have seen the timber at the Kintbury gate from earlier felling. This has not been abandoned or forgotten about but is waiting to be removed.

However due to the very wet weather we have been having, the ground is too wet for a heavy vehicle  (tractor) to come and take it away. We will wait until the ground dries out and firms up before moving the wood. Decades of carbon catchment and environment improvement will be ruined by churning up grassland on the Common.

Cattle and SIDs on the Common

The Trustees would like to thank all drivers who have reduced their speed on the Common in line with the new 30mph limit. Sadly, a few still decide to drive dangerously so putting the lives of walkers, cyclists, dogs and cattle at risk. As a result, we are working closely with Hungerford Town Council to introduce SIDs – Speed Indication Devices – on the Common. These are increasingly common and show your speed, along with a message or a face with a happy or a cross expression, as you approach the device.

We are planning to install these mobile devices prior to the cattle arriving on the Common. The cattle will start to arrive mid-April. They can be very skittish when they are first turned out, as they are young animals of around 12 months in age. To them, this is a gigantic playground and they are both excited and nervous about their surroundings. It might be an idea to keep your dogs on leads, when walking near the cattle as they are unlikely to have so far seen many people or dogs.

A clean-up on the Common

In anticipation of the cattle returning, we are organising a Commons clear-up on Sunday 10 April. Should you wish to come along and help out, we will be meeting outside the Downgate pub at 10.00am. Bin liners and litter picking sticks will be provided. Please make sure that you wear gloves to prevent any cross contamination.

Thereafter – indeed at all times – please ensure that you do not leave any rubbish on this beautiful tract of land. If there doesn’t happen to be a bin nearby or if (as sometimes happens) it’s full, please take your rubbish home with you and deal with it there.

Fencing the cattle

And going back to cattle-related matters, a reminder that we have sent 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.

The Town Hall restoration all but complete

We are finally at the last stage, for now, with our renovations at the Corn Exchange. Indeed, as I write, the flooring there is being restored. This will take five days to complete: that will be the finishing touch to the fresh and updated look of the building.

The Trustees plan to continue the refurbishment in the coming years: due to the building’s’age and design there is always ongoing restoration work. Hungerford is unique in that the Town Hall is owned by the Town and Manor charity, not the local council. A majority of the restoration costs has been funded by the Town and Manor charity. This beautiful building is not supported by public funding or council-tax payers’ money.

The building is available to hire for events –whether it be for family parties, christenings, wakes, weddings, events of any size we can accommodate your needs. The rates of hire are competitively priced for a venue of this size and all local residents with a Hungerford postcode qualify for a 25% discount.

Please contact Tara on admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 07880 311731 to arrange a viewing and to talk through your requirements. We can also provide a list of suppliers to help in the organisation of your occasion.

Hocktide

Our annual tradition of Hocktide is planned to go ahead this year, after not being able to hold these events in the way we traditionally have done during the last two years due to Covid. It is important to uphold our traditions to ensure they are continued for many more years to come. These festivities have been celebrated for over 700 years, and it is believed that Hungerford is the only town in the country that still upholds the traditions of Hocktide.

In 2021, we did manage to hold a much curtailed version of of the Hocktide Court and Court Leet and you can read a report of that here. Hopefully, 2022’s events will be back to normal – and with a refurbished Town Hall and Corn Exchange (see above) as the venue.

Tickets for the Hocktide lunch at 1pm on Tuesday 26 April are available to all members of the Hungerford community and friends. Tickets (£50 a head) are available from Crown Needlework, 115 High Street, Hungerford, RG17 0LU.

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.

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 cattle, the trees and event licences).
• Freeman’s Marsh and Hungerford Marsh (including maintenance, the cattle 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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