Saturday, 21 July 2012

Thurne Dyke: Albion by Accident

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I’VE chatted to the hard-working volunteers at the Albion’s Womack Water base. I’ve clambered on board to be shown around by skipper Mike Sparkes. I’ve even hired a day boat from Burgh St Peter specifically to take photos of her at Reedham. But too much and too little wind on various frustrating occasions have meant I’d never seen the wherry under sail until today. And it was all the better for being entirely unplanned. Up in Wroxham for something else, I took a scenic route home via the village of Thurne – another Northern Broads outpost that has passed me by over the years.

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Frankly I was a bit disappointed by Thurne and was about to give up when that black, gaff-rigged sail suddenly loomed large over the marshes. (Womack Water is of course just up and across the river.) And for once my timing – at the mouth of Thurne Dyke - was perfect. Admittedly, sodding motor cruisers kept ruining my best shots and there wasn’t quite enough blue in the sky, but I’m reasonably happy with what I got. Albion is remarkably difficult to photograph well. The sail is just so large that it unbalances the picture. And of course you are at the mercy of the wind direction too.

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But the best thing about it was the lack of fuss. I was the only one taking photos. (Albion’s sail is on the horizon in this last one.) Everyone else was getting on with the serious business of messing around in boats. Round here at least, the Black-Sailed Trader is just another routine part of this beautiful landscape. Maybe Thurne’s not so bad after all.

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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Still searching for a Yarmouth accent


MOST bloggers use a clever bit of software to see how many people visit their website.  It’s vanity of course. Who wouldn’t log on in the hope that their hits are soaring? But as well as numbers, my one tells me what people have searched for. Statcounter calls it  “recent keyword activity” and all the usual stuff is there. People looking for pubs, B&Bs and footpaths; local history buffs brushing up on their Billy Bluelight etc.

But the most surprising stat for me is the number of people who go into Google and type “Yarmouth accent” into the magic box. There’s so little on that subject that this blog comes in at No 2 on the strength of an almost throwaway line in a piece on St Nicholas’s Church in Great Yarmouth. 

I quoted my (Suffolk-born) father-in-law swearing he could tell the difference between a Yarmouth and Lowestoft accent when he grew up in the 1940s/1950s. But did one exist now? This was November 2010 and it prompted a couple of replies, including one from Norfolk dialect expert Peter Trudgill, though even he was relying on research from the 1970s. But if statcounter is to be believed there’s still plenty of interest out there. So is there an accent? And how would you define it? Answers on a comment page please.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Off the Beaten Broads: St Benedict’s Church, Horning


HORNING is one of the Broads’ honeypot villages with a steady stream of tourists beating a path to the souvenir shops and the cafes. It’s not spoilt though and the staithe still retains the charm so beautifully summed up on the first page of The Big Six by Arthur Ransome:

“The staithe? Everyone knows the staithe where boats tie up when calling at Horning. Everyone knows the inn at the bend of the river above it, and the boatbuilders’ sheds below it, and the bit of green grass beside it, and the pump by the old brick wall, and the road with the shops on the further side of it. The staithe is the centre of that riverside world. In midsummer it is a crowded place, what with boats coming and boats going and visitors from up and down the river stepping ashore there as if in a foreign port.”

But if you’re in the mood for solitude, you could do a lot worse than seek out the village church, which in true Norfolk fashion is some distance from its potential congregation. Even by boat, the elegant St Benedict’s lies one substantial meander downstream on the Bure. By road you must head half way to Ludham Bridge and then search it out among the green lanes.

Instantly recognisable by its cream washed northern nave wall, it has a number of other curiosities: its own staithe (peer closely at the sign in the bottom right of my photo); a great view of Ranworth church (just visible on the horizon to the left of St Benedict’s in the same photo) 202and a good example of a so-called “scratch dial” – a crude sundial used by medieval priests to tell the time for their masses.  But it’s the staithe that took my attention. There are plenty of churches near the river on the Wherryman’s Way, but I can’t think of one that has its own dyke, its own staithe. You approach it down a narrow footpath which opens up onto a well-tended boardwalk along the Bure. Frustratingly you can’t walk for more than a few yards in either direction – in fact looking at the OS map there appears to be precious little of the Bure around here that you can walk along. All in all that means there’s not a lot to do, but nevertheless it still felt quite a special place. And one last thing. I’ve never seen so many gravestones carved with images of boats. This, it seems, is where old Broadsmen and women like to end their days. And that’s a good enough recommendation for me.