A grand day out

I have been out and about for work this week, heading south from Norwich once by train and once by car. I have been to London and the South Coast on business (and also Ipswich twice but that doesn’t count) and by the end of the week I wasn’t quite sure where I was. In London I transitted through Liverpool Street for so long the first view of the capital for generations of East Anglians and also migrants coming from the continent through the Port of Harwich. I have been through the station dozens of times but never really stopped to look before. Now, if you excuse the digression, I lived for a number of years in the East Midlands and the rail terminus in London from there is St Pancras, a station that grabs your attention from the moment you get out of the train with probably the most spectacular roof of any of the London mainline stations. It is a true marvel of Victorian engineering and you really can’t fail to notice it. Liverpool Street on the other hand is normally very forgettable particularly if you go straight on to the tube or out the back door in a taxi. On arriving in London I was running late as is so often the case with trains on this line – I hate to think how this already crowded and near capacity line will manage during the Olympics – so I did my usual blinkered exit but on the way back I had arranged to meet my sister for coffee briefly which gave me time to explore a little.

I saw three things I had never seen before, leastways not knowingly. The first was a 24 hour McDonalds – I’m sorry  – WHY? The second was much more useful, ranks of bikes for hire here and then leave them at your destination elsewhere in the city centre and I’m told that the locals refer to them as Boris Bikes. There’s a legacy if ever there was and I’m sure if he achieves nothing else the Mayor of London can rest satisfied that his name will (hopefully) forever be remembered in connection with what is undoubtedly a very good idea. The third was outside what was originally the main entrance on to Liverpool Street itself and is now there but seemingly ignored. It is a memorial to the Kinder Transport – a refugee movement that rescued approximately 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi controlled parts of Europe in the 9 months before the start of World War 2. They came through Harwich to London by way of Liverpool Street and many will still be alive today who would otherwise have met the same grim fate of their famillies. This memorial stood there proud but, I suspect, largely un-noticed. I certainly allowed myself a few minutes silent reflection before it. London life went on around me and I wanted to scream out STOP, LOOK and LEARN. Every year my wife and I do a couple of train trips for the sake of it – since I was 12 I have slowly been collecting rail miles and there are now only a few branch lines left to do. One of these is the line from Manningtree to Harwich and I have resolved to pay this line a visit in the coming summer so I can pay my own private tribute to those who risked so much to organise the Kinder Transport.

Of course in the summer there will be another grand day out to our celebratory event in Coltishall on August 26th. In that event we will celebrate 100 years since the flood that destroyed the Aylsham Navigation and we will have entertainment, games, exhibitions, food and lots of fun. The Wherry Albion will be in attendance and more details will be published nearer the time. The event will be on Coltishall Common from 14:00 just where the Edwardian Yachts below are moored. There will be a chance to buy the DVD produced by John Parker (see previous blogs) and the book on the definitive history of the Navigation. A really grand day is guaranteed for all and we particularly hope that families will make an effort to come along.

Now I have had a request to talk a little about wherries and Norfolk Keels but that will have to wait until next time. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this lovely spring weather.

Courtesy of Brian Kermode

A night in at the pictures

When we started this thing off it all seemed so far away and it has been hard work to get where we are with different people from the local History Society, the WI and all the Parishes along the Navigations course all doing their bit towards a common end of celebrating the history, flora and fauna of the Aylsham aka Bure Navigation. Along the way we’ve founded a charity and started to prepare an event on August 26th in Coltishall (we still need entertainers for that by the way so if you can help or know someone please get in touch).

Early on in the process we were contacted by a Norwich based independant film maker with a passion for the Broads and he offered to produce a film for publication in 2012 to coincide with the celebrations. John, as that is his name, just got on with it. He would attend meetings and would contact me from time to time about who to see about getting access to so and so or some normally private place. He also asked some searching questions about the history and the copyright of some of our material. We had a fairly early idea of his capabilities when he started to post “tasters” on You Tube (and they are still there if you search for them) but the overall thing was left entirely in his hands rightly as it was his “baby”.

The other evening my wife and a couple of others gathered at Brampton Village Hall, an unlikely venue for a world film premiere, to view the end result on big screen. To say I was impressed is to do it an injustice; the quality and content blew me away with admiration. John has produced a two DVD set with a combined running time of just below an hour. The main piece is a beautifully crafted and narrated documentary entitled “A wherry for Aylsham”. Using a combination of current footage, archive material and close shots of a wherry at work we take a trip up the Navigation from Horstead to Aylsham by way of all the villages enroute. Watching the video you can believe that the trip is taking place today and there are many wonderful local views, some of which are not normally available to the general public. It was a real treat and I can, without hesitation, recommend it for its interest even if you are not particularly interested in matters historic.

The second, shorter, film comes without narration but does have a very lovely musical score. It follows the navigation again from Horstead to Aylsham as it is today and in making it John actually did the trip by canoe. It is beautifully filmed and if you live along the Navigations course there will be bits you can’t fail to recognise.

The set, both DVD’s in a gift box, is available to purchase from BNCT (contact stu.wilson100@btinternet.com) at a price of £7.99. There may be a delay after ordering as to save costs they are being produced to order. It really is a televisual feast for the eyes and intellect.

I’ve never attended a film premiere before and I must say I was surprised by the lack of red carpet and adoring crowds. Perhaps we can find a bit of concrete for John’s hand print.

UPDATE SAT 17th March – Films it seem are like buses, you wait hours for one and then two come along at once. Another presentation has been prepared, by Derek in Aylsham this time, which I saw today. This is a short piece concentrating on the flood in 1912 and made up entirely of archive material. It is not going on general sale but it will be available for talks etc (if you ever want a talk just give me a shout) and will also appear at the Heritage Centre in September. Although very different to John’s film this is also very well prepared and narrated and will be of great interest particularly to local people in the Bure valley.

1st draft of DVD cover (we know about the spelling mistake) !!!!

The Aylsham Navigation on film and you can own a copy

A new DVD set has been produced by John Parker, an independant film maker and Trust supporter for the Bure Navigation Conservation Trust as part of the Aylsham Navigation’s centenary events. It has been wonderfully filmed, edited and narrated and comes in two parts. The first tells the story of the wherries to Aylsham and contains some interesting local material filmed on and around the river in Brampton and Oxnead. The Aylsham Navigation served our communities from 1797 until 1912 when it was closed by a massive flood.

The second disc shows the river from Horstead to Aylsham as it is today; again local scenes can be found. It really is a televisual feast.

Copies can be ordered from Stuart Wilson ( stu.wilson100@btinternet.com ) at a price of £7.99 each (+ £1.00 p&p although we will deliver free locally). Any donations to the trust can also be made by following this link.

Important Meeting and you are invited


Millgate Aylsham

There will be a meeting of the Aylsham Navigation Project / BNCT at 7:30pm on March 27th at Burgh Reading Room. You are cordially invited to attend this meeting and the agenda appears below. BNCT needs to have certain  policies in place in order to apply for grants. Drafts of these policies have been prepared and they can be found below on this page. They will be discussed and hopefully approved at this meeting. If you have any substantial objections can you please let me know as soon as possible otherwise if adopted at the meeting they can be subsequently amended at the next AGM. ( stu.wilson100@btinternet.com )

1. Apologies
2. Minutes of the previous meeting
3. Matters arising
4. Chairmans remarks
5. Financial report including agreement to initial membership fee
6. Policy adoption
    a) Safeguarding Children    
    b) Health & Safety
    c) Equal Ops / Diversity
    d) Data Protection
7. Organisational Structure – proposal to be made on the night.
8. Reports -: ALHS (book and associated), Coltishall Event, Publicity, WI Embroidery, Footpaths and Film by John Parker
9. AOB – it’s a full agenda so please notify AOB in advance.
10. Date and location of next meeting 
You may also be interested to know that we have an article in the currently available edition of Waterways World.
Donations can now be made payable to the Bure Navigation Conservation Trust (or BNCT if you prefer) can be sent to 11 Church Close, Horstead, Nr Norwich, Norfolk NR12 7ET. Alternatively you may prefer to use the BACS transfer system and our account details are Sort code 08 92 99 Account Number 65531640.
Finally we will need help with the event in Coltishall on August 26th so if you are available to give a few hours please let us know as soon as possible. We also need entertainers for the event – do you know anyone who might be prepared to help us out ?

Aurora and Cheese

We’ve had some very welcome rain and it’s done the river good. Visibly the flow is better and the levels below Buxton have improved slightly. No doubt somebody will say it’s been the wrong type of rain but quite frankly the mere fact it fell at all is something to be grateful for. We do need a lot more and apparently the underground levels are dangerously low but I do believe that over a cycle nature balances things out and we shouldn’t worry quite yet although farmers tell me that the current shortage could push prices up in the short term. Having just returned from a shopping trip to our local supermarket I can tell you that prospect is not at all appealing – I know what the official rate of inflation is but unofficially I can tell you that the economic situation is beginning to hurt and at the wrong time in my life cycle. Don’t get me going on some costs which seem to rise weekly not the least of which is cat food. We’ve got 5 of the little darlings and the cost of their food rises weekly. One of our cats shares my passion for cheese but obviously I don’t actually feed it to her although she does get the odd little piece as a treat. Somehow the price of cheese has never really registered with me until recently when it seems to have gone through the roof. It is however one of the few things that I wont give up as I just love it and it also holds memories for me. I had a grand-father who just loved his cheese and I think I must have inherited it from him. I remember he always cut a nibble off the block and shared it with me. The variety changed with the season but his favourite was Wensleydale followed by a good matured farmhouse cheddar.

Talking of cycles we are currently going through a period of high solar activity which arrives cyclically every 11 years. The upshot of this is that the aurora borealis is probably going to be visible in much more southerly lattitudes than normal affording me a chance to see it here in Norfolk. It is an ambition of mine to see this celestial light show whilst I still can and am kind of planning to go north in a few years for a holiday in the hope of seeing the northern lights. Seeing it here would be a really great bonus and, if the clouds break, they say there is a real chance that it will be visible.

I went out last night seeking a view but the cloud cover was too much although the moon was up and very bright breaking through wherever the clouds parted. I went down by the river and looked north but saw nothing although I could hear the river rippling and I marvelled at the light show afforded by the moonlight reflecting on the water. It was almost a personal aurora but I would have dearly loved to see the real thing. I had with me a nibble of cheese, Red Leicester actually, which gave me the opportunity to toast grandad’s memory silently. He was a Yorkshireman and his passions apart from cheese included cricket and brass band music. In addition to a knob of cheese he was always able to produce an orange from his pocket when he took me walking in the Chilterns where he then lived. Looking at the moon rippling last night and nibbling the cheese I could almost hear the sound of brass. I didn’t have an oramge with me but the memory had obviously stuck as I tucked in to one with gusto when I got home.

I remember walking in those hills with grandad and seeing the chalk streams which all eventually fed in to the Thames. I also remember them going dry at times so not much has changed. It is easy to forget but at heart the Bure is a chalk river – it’s starts it’s life as a stream much like those I remember.

The Bure just below Aylsham Bridge copyright Evelyn Simak