Although a large open space annual events which compete with the cattle grazing are limited to one major let and 3 or 4 minor events each year where rent for the hire of the space is charged at commercial rates. The income from the sale of grazing rights and events goes towards the cost of maintaining the Common Port Down.
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In recent years the Trustees of the Town & Manor of Hungerford have taken advantage of EU Environmental grants and subsidies that are available to farms. The Town & Manor is considered by government to be a farm in it’s own right and each year applications are made to Natural England to support the maintenance of the area for long term protection or biodiversity of the plants, trees and shrubs, the pasture, birds and animals that inhabit the area. This income is used to defer annual management costs for replanting, renovation, pest control and traffic control.
The Common Port Down is registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and the Countryside, Rights of Way and Wildlife Acts 2000/04 and the management is operated within the constraints of these laws, the details are posted on 6 signs at the entrance gates.
The Port Down has been known by that name for 6 centuries, maybe before and has been subject to the Right of Common and as such is recorded in surveys and charters of Edward III, Henry IV and Edward IV. Through the centuries there have been many attempts to obtain the land and rights for private exploitation and gain also these days there is always the threat of government needs.
Despite this over the centuries the acres have grown and now there is a total of 220 acres which make up Common as we know it today. Part of the Common Port Down is put aside for the War Memorial Ground and for the Cricket and Football Clubs, also an area for a children play area. To do this, in 1951 Commoners agreed not to exercise their rights for 99 years the duration of the lease.
There have been additions by acquisition, land swaps and legacies and the Trustees of the day have been always mindful of their responsibilities also of the opportunity to expand their estate whenever possible. However since 1965 it has not been possible to increase the areas subject to Common Rights so any future additions would exclude rights.
So why is it called Port Down?
- “Down” is the description of a rounded hill that is fairly straight forward and derived from the Saxon word “Dun” for a hill.
- “Porte” is a Saxon and French word for a gate and Latin “Porta” so Port Down a gated road which leads to Kintbury or into Park Street on the way to the centre of the town or out of town to Denford and Inkpen.
The Trustees have always taken a relaxed attitude towards the use of the Common by both residents and visitors for recreational exercise and relaxation, and this will continue but more people make more demands on the management, by wear and tear and therefore cost. Modern laws are limiting access the Common which is beneficial to the area and will give added protection to an Environmentally Sensitive Area and it is important that everyone acknowledges and respects this when taking advantage of this unique area of England.
Trustee of the Town & Manor of Hungerford.
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