A very special place, Freeman’s Marsh covers 90 acres of wildlife habitat that straddles the Rivers Dun and Kennet, and the Avon Canal to the west of Hungerford. The marsh is home to a wide variety of wild birds, plants and animals – some of which are rare in southern England. It is also a place enjoyed by many people who live in Hungerford, and by visitors from further afield.
However, some of the wildlife species associated with the Marsh, such as water voles and ground-nesting birds, have declined over recent years.
Your help is needed now to ensure that you and your children are able to enjoy the wildlife of this special place far into the future.
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 of both resident and migrating birds have been identified, extraordinary numbers for such a small area of countryside.
Monitoring of birds occurs annually, and will be extended to include 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.
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. Find out more about Bird Ringing here.
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 the Public Events on Freeman’s Marsh below.
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.
This river work will allow the verges to grow up which will stabilise the banks and shelter the water giving a haven for fly life and other aquatic animals that are so essential to the well being of the rivers.
The new management policy for the rivers and fishing in Freeman’s Marsh is to add wildlife facility wherever possible. For instance the river bank restoration should add protection for the Water Voles, the protection of the fly life will allow better populations of Brown Trout and Grayling and the installation of bird boxes will encourage more successful fledging of small birds and owls.
The photographs show the installation of hazel coppice groynes upstream of the Ash Pool on the River Dun. This work is being carried out by enthusiastic supporters of the Conservation Group, under the direction of our Water Keeper, Rob Starr, and Environment Consultant, Sally Wallington.
Reports of bird sightings are encouraging, with Green Sandpipers, Water Rail, Snipe, Little Egret, and Kingfisher being spotted within the more secluded areas of the marsh.
A Glossy Ibis took up residence for several weeks in December 2010, and a pair of Chinese Swan Geese were befriended by some families of Canada Geese in May 2011. See our short video of the Glossy Ibis below.
The Town & Manor works closely with Natural England regarding Commons and Land Management. Click here to find out more.
Free Walks, Talks and other events on the Hungerford Common Port Down, Hungerford Marsh and Freeman’s Marsh
Find out our next event on the Things to Do in and around Hungerford page
To book, or for more information, please contact us by
Tel 07932 322163
If you’ve ever wanted to find out more about conservation, or fancy helping out, then we need you! Freeman‘s Marsh Conservation Group aims to raise awareness of the value of the marsh, and enable local people to get involved in helping to look after and manage this environmentally precious area.
All hands on deck! We’ve plenty of opportunities to protect and enhance Freeman’s Marsh, by helping with one of our many conservation projects. Whether it’s just for the day, or several days/weekends, you’ll have fun, learn new skills and meet new people, all while helping to make a real difference to the Marsh.
To find out more, or join one of our projects, please contact us at email@example.com or call 01488 685081.