Wild Bird Conservation and Preservation of Habitat:
Since 2009 the British Trust of Ornithology has trained bird ringers and other assistants, have carried out surveys, ringing and recording the populations of wild birds in meadows and fields around Hungerford.
More than 100 species have been identified of both resident and migrating birds. These numbers are quite extraordinary for a limited area of countryside.
This work will continue in 2013 and extended to practical demonstrations to be held in Freeman's Marsh each month from May to August when the ringers will set up their recording centre at the western end of Freeman's Marsh, downstream of the foot bridge on the south side of the River Dun.
Visitors will be able to see them at work between 08.00 and 11.00 hrs.
Detailed records show that the species caught and ringed represent 35 of all the species recorded in the surveys and it has been established that many residents are successfully breeding and the migrants are returning each year.
This programme of demonstrations of the ringing and recording of the populations of birds is an extension of the conservation work already in hand in Freeman's Marsh. The protection of this government designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship, where educational and guided walks and talks are features to promote the respect and preservation needed for our countryside
Other Work on Freeman’s Marsh in 2009-2013:
Freeman’s Marsh is owned by the Town and Manor of Hungerford. With help from Natural England, the Trustees have developed a plan for restoring wildlife and securing the future of the Marsh for people to enjoy.
Since the original public meeting about the conservation plan to protect Freeman’s Marsh took place, the Town and Manor of Hungerford in partnership with the local community in Hungerford, Natural England, and the Environment Agency have been implementing a 10 year plan to safeguard the many wild plants, birds and animals, some of them rare.
Freeman’s Marsh Conservation Group has been busy on a variety of tasks including hazel coppicing, replanting an ancient hedgerow, removing scrub to allow wildflowers to grow and the narrowing the river to improve the habitat for aquatic life.
Bigger changes undertaken by contractors include the fencing to stop cattle from eroding the banks, and to protect the water vole. Surveys undertaken with BBOWT in 2011 reveal that the marsh is still an important home to Britain’s most endangered mammal. Contractors have now undertaken another stretch of hazel coppicing at the far western end.
The guided events such as river dipping and bat walks have proved very popular and the next event is a talk on ‘Restoring our local rivers’ by the Environment Agency. See Public Events on Freeman’s Marsh.
River Restoration Work Continues in Freeman's Marsh:
The second phase of the capital works started in 2009. New stock fencing has replaced barbed wire around the Spinney upstream of the Middle Hatches on the River Dun. Also a stretch of stock fencing is now installed from Hopgrass Farm downstream to the Ash Pool. This work has excluded the cattle from the majority of the river and in line with the Environment Agency efforts and regulations to retain the quality of the chalk streams in the Kennet and Dun Valleys.
Freeman's Marsh permanent pasture marshland and bog relies on cattle grazing to maintain the ancient plant and wildlife habitats at the same time poaching and treading of the rivers by cattle has led to serious river bank erosion and silting downstream.