Town & Manor of Hungerford News: July/August 2022

Hungerford Town & Manor

With the Common, Freeman’s Marsh and the rivers – among other responsibilities – to manage, the Town & Manor could fairly be described as an outdoors organisation. In July, apart from our necessary but largely unexciting meetings, pretty much all of our activities were al fresco. The month was of course very, very hot so this was perhaps a mixed blessing. None the less, nature called (as it always does) and we were ready…

This column reports on three outdoor public events, part of the Hungerford Summer Festival, which explored and celebrated our remarkable local landscape. We also had two sessions with two other outdoor organisations – the AONB and Defra – with which we have long worked closely closely. Unplanned outdoor activities cropped up as well as we also needed to conduct  some emergency bridge repairs.

The cattle are, of course, outdoor animals although, as we mention below, if the drought goes on for much longer they’ll need to go back to their farms earlier than their normal departure date of October as the dry weather has made the grass a lot less nourishing than usual. Until they go (indeed, at all times), please observe the 30mph signs on the Common.

Even our Wednesday markets are outdoors, setting up on the High Street at an absurdly early time every Wednesday morning – please remember to observe the no-parking signs that are in place from midnight on Tuesday. Olives, oranges, oleanders, honey, humous, haddock, cheddar, chocolate, chops and many other things besides are available from about 8am until about 2pm.

The Town & Manor is also anticipating a season a few months hence when outdoor life will reduce. For some, this will be when the cost-of-living crisis really starts to bite in the shape of massively higher fuel bills. The Constable’s Fund has recently been set up to help address this for local residents: the section below explains both how you can donate to it, if you can, and benefit from it, if you need to.

We conclude with a remarkable photo of a kingfisher just about to ignore the message on the sign on which she is so elegantly perched. Hats off to Andy Sherwood for his perseverance in capturing this wonderful image.

The Hungerford Summer Festival

The Town & Manor supports the Hungerford Summer Festival each year and in 2022 we organised three events as part of this annual celebration.

On 1 July The Town & Manor’s Riverkeeper, Rob Starr, hosted an early morning walk along the River Dun at Freemans’ Marsh to discover secrets of the river, which focussed on discovering the thriving habitat of a chalk stream.

On 7 July there was a landscape, history and wildlife walk and talk on Harveys’ Meadow. This area of marsh is a fascinating place for rare wildlife to thrive and those attending had the opportunity to get to know the abundant fauna and flora on this ancient land and which is managed for farming and wildlife.

Our third, and final event on 22 July was the much loved ‘Go Batty’ bat walk. Many thanks to Dave Endacott from the Oxfordshire Bat Group for leading this. The evening event saw the group meet some live bats before taking a stroll through the fishery to see and hear them as they fed on the River Kennet. It was a fascinating evening for all.

A visit from the AONB

Members of the North Wessex Downs AONB Council of Partners met at the Town & Manor recently.

As part of their visit, they walked to the site where work was completed on the River Kennet last year. (This photo was taken on the bridge over the new off-take channel, which connects the main river with the historic channel.)

The AONB was, along with the Town & Manor, Action for the River Kennet and the Southern Stream Farmers’ Group, a partner in the recently-completed Sparkling Streams project which helped restore the degraded tributaries of the River Kennet and significantly enhanced the river at Eddington Mill in Hungerford.

This needed to have been completed by 31 March and it was: our part of this important project 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.

A visit from Defra

Our River Keeper Rob Starr recently hosted a team of ecologists from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) who visited the Town & Manor Estate to learn more about the management of the land and issues affecting the water courses.

As you can see, both organisations picked some good weather for their visits: and the water was indeed sparkling.

Freeman’s Marsh

Walkers on Freeman’s Marsh were informed on 22 July that the Ash Pool bridge was unsafe and needed to be repaired. The bridge was repaired on 25 July and re-opened the following day.

The Constable’s Fund

The Town and Manor of Hungerford has launched The Constable’s Hungerford Fund in response to the cost of living crisis. The Town and Manor is “inviting those in the town who can afford to ride out the crisis to donate into the fund to directly help those that can’t. For every £1,000 raised by the public, the Town and Manor will match that with a further £1,000 of funding, up to a limit of £10,000. In parallel with the fundraising, The Town and Manor also invites the less well-off households in town to apply for a grant of £100.”

For more information on how to donate, please visit The Good Exchange website. Households can apply now by sending an email to constablesfund@townandmanor.co.uk or by post to The Constable’s Fund, The Town Hall, High Street, Hungerford. RG17 0NF. Once approved, payments will be made from 1 October 2022.

Speeding on the Common

The Town and Manor has installed a speed indicator device (SID) on the common to monitor the speed motorists are travelling. (Hungerford Town Council has also installed two other ones at various locations around the town).

Thank you to all those drivers who are sticking to the new lower limit of 30mph on the Common. With the longer and warmer days we’ve been having, more people have been visiting the Common and we want everyone to enjoy their time here. The cattle are an important part of the seasonal cycle of the Common (and have right of way) so please be aware of them when driving or walking your dogs.

The cattle

The cattle will still be grazing on the Common for the next few months. Due to the very dry weather, the grass has dried up and the cattle are being fed hay by the farmers who have their herds on the Common. The cattle have plenty to drink and have enough to eat. Should we continue to have a drought, the cattle may be taken off the Common earlier than the end of October and taken back to their farms for the rest of the season.

Available for hire

As mentioned before, the floor in the Corn Exchange has been repaired following last year’s floods and is looking like new. The building is available to hire for events of all kinds. 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.

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. The Town and Manor politely asks drivers picking up goods not to use this road as we have had several near misses last year.

For anyone who has been worried about the slightly uneven ground at the market, we’re delighted to report that last month West Berkshire Council re-surfaced all the parking bays on which the traders set up. There was a problem with a mains water leak, perhaps caused as a result of these improvements, but that has now been sorted as well. The surface is thus currently billiard-table-smooth: not that there will be much opportunity to play billiards there on Wednesday mornings given how busy the area gets when the market is in full flow.

Please continue to observe the no-parking signs from midnight on Tuesday as the traders set up very early in the morning.

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.

No fishing?

They say that the best things come to those who wait. For local photographer Andy Sherwood, this is certainly true.

He captured this stunning image of a female kingfisher near Dun Mill Lock following an eight-hour wait over two days after spotting the bird flying around the area.

The sign is a very convenient perch for her but something tells me she’s not going to be following what is written on it. Fair enough: the kingfishers were here before we were…

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