Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rockland New Inn: Welcome to Alix and John

July 27th 066

THE on-off drama at The New Inn in Rockland St Mary continues. Now it’s good news again with a husband and wife team having taken over on July 17th. Alix and John Freeman come to Norfolk after a stint in Nottinghamshire. “We’ve been all over the place looking for the perfect pub and when we came down the hill here for the first time, I  just looked at it and said ‘Wow’” said Alix. “And that was before I’d even seen the boats on the dyke.” But once again there’s a “but”. Once again it all depends on a deal being done with the pub’s owners Punch. “At the moment we’re managers,” added Alix. “We hope to become tenants, but we’re still negotiating.” In other words everything is all rather temporary. Getting a B&B service going for fishermen is the first priority – Alix is looking to charge roughly £35 a night with a cooked breakfast thrown in. And as I chatted to them this afternoon a Dutch couple on bikes were preparing to put up their tent in the garden. T&B I guess they call that.

Nothing is ever certain with this pub, but I’ve got a good feeling about these guys. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

For Sale: a smugglers’ haunt


THE COCKATRICE, yours for half a million quid. A five-bedroomed former pub situated, as estate agents Durrants put it, “in a superb riverside location on the River Yare [with] wonderful views over marshland and the river.” The blurb is very good on the hectares of land outside and the bedroom measurements inside, but they’re missing the big picture. Because this building, wind-whippingly isolated on the road from Heckingham to Reedham Ferry, was notorious as a smugglers’ pub. Market it that way chaps, and see your viewings double. Durrants reckons it stopped being a pub in 1922. My understanding is that it hung on till 1931. Certainly when the Broads writer Arthur Patterson passed by in 1930 there was:

“one wherry at its staithe, where a score or more were at one time keen to moor when thirsty. The day hath long passed when smugglers crept to and landed at the staithe at night and “Breydon Pirate” is all but extinct.”

There’s much more where that came from in my Wherryman’s Way book. Perhaps the estate agents would like a copy?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Wanted: young legs for old mill


IF you listened closely at the annual get-together of the Friends of Hardley Mill last week, you might have heard a quiet creak or two in the background. It wasn’t the sails going round on this recently restored windpump, it was ancient bones complaining after years of tramping up and down the mill’s internal staircase. The latest project has been to take away a temporary gallery (pictured here a year or so ago) which ran around the building’s cap, and replace it with something more solid. The project, Peter Grix explained at the mill’s AGM, had been more complicated than expected. And whilst it would be completed within weeks, it had taken its toll amongst the volunteers. Because one of the many amazing things about Hardley Mill is the age of the men who have carried out most of the hard graft. The majority of them are in their 70s and 80s. “Running a windmill like this is high maintenance and to be honest, we’re crumbling a little I think,” Peter told the meeting. The answer? Younger volunteers of course. I can’t find contact details on the mill’s website at the moment, but if you want to volunteer or just find out more, email me at and I’ll pass the message on.