Monday, 25 March 2013

Picture Post: The Guardian does the WW

WW guardian map

THE ARTICLE is great too, but I fell in love with this image the minute I opened Saturday’s Guardian. Rachel Tudor Best is the artist. I think she’s summed up the Wherryman’s Way in a very beautiful and succinct way. See Patrick Barkham’s accompanying words here. Click on the artwork to bring it up full frame and you might spot Billy Bluelight.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Picture Post: St Wandregesilius by air

St Wandreg aerial

DID I mention that aerial photographer Mike Page has more than 45,000 images in his collection? After Buckenham and Cantley (see previous post), he’s just dropped this one into my inbox. It shows the burnt out ruin of St Wandregesilius at Bixley taken a few summers ago. (Read the full sad story here.) That southern wall looks all the more precarious from on high …little more than a facade. How long can it survive in that state I wonder. Thanks again Mike.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Picture Post: Buckenham and Cantley


AERIAL photographer Mike Page continues to get some great shots. These latest photos show just how wet the Yare Valley is after a sodden start to 2013. From a WW perspective the first one also shows just how splendidly isolated The Beauchamp Arms is. That’s Carleton Beck winding its way down to the river in the foreground. The road to the pub is shown by the avenue of poplars. Buckenham Marshes lie on the other bank. And with Katy W’s help, we think that the light-coloured building almost on the horizon is Hassingham Church.


This next one downriver is even wetter. We’re now looking across the marshes towards Cantley with the sugar works looking oddly insignificant on the far left. Thanks as ever to Mike for his generosity in sharing his photos.

* Mike Page’s website can be found here.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Woods End takes it to the Edge

Woods End 010

IT’S all change at The Woods End at Bramerton. This historic pub re-opened just over a week ago with a complete new look. In fact it’s now “Water’s Edge, Woods End” with new leaseholder Lee Webb determined to throw off a bad reputation – especially online. That’s the power of Tripadvisor: that’s the tyranny of Tripadvisor some would say.

The master plan, says Lee, is to make the Water’s Edge a “destination restaurant” with the main market being the thousands of people down the road in Norwich. Wherryman’s Way walkers will rejoice that it’s to become an all-day venue too. He’s not there yet, but the plan is for an 8am start with breakfast, coffee and Danish pastries available for hungry ramblers.

And while he’s a leaseholder, he stresses that he pays rent  to a property management company rather than a pub chain. In other words he’s not tied, drinks-wise. Real ale fans are offered Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Woodforde’s Wherry. On the menu; starters of leek and potato soup, crispy pork belly, pan-seared queen scallops, salmon gravadlax and icelandic prawns; the mains are more crispy pork belly, crispy chilli beef, pan-seared sea bass and char-grilled sirloin steak. Starters are £5 or £6. Mains vary from £8.95 to £18.95.

Above all, he stresses, he wants to be reliable. Always open, seven days a week, without the annoying hand-written “Due to Family Illness…” notes that have been known here in the past.

So can he make a go of it? Maybe it’s because I’ve written so many of these New Dawn pieces that I’ve grown a bit more world-weary with each one. Lee’s answer though, is resolutely upbeat. “I’m going to bring service back to the industry,” he says. “If you’re going to have to keep getting up to get served you might as well be at home. We’ll come to you and we’ll look after you.”

There’s been no big launch yet. He’s been happy to let people find him so far. But 130 covers for Mothering Sunday wasn’t bad for Day Three. Good luck to you, Sir.

* Read about the last new dawn at Woods End in 2010 and my bid for “Boots as well as boats” in 2009.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Langley Staithe: still good for bad birdwatchers

barn owl

THIS miserable winter deigned to ease a little this afternoon. But while the thermometer in my garden claimed 8 degrees, it didn’t feel like it down at Langley Staithe.

This beautiful spot continues however, to offer easy pickings for the lazy birdwatcher. I spotted the first barn owl before I’d even got out of the car. Unusually he was hovering over the water before retreating to his favourite patch – the marshland to the south of Langley Dyke. A  heron was there too, looking to go fishing in one of the smaller dykes that criss-cross this landscape. Then a kestrel with surprisingly yellow talons in the woods to the north of the dyke and finally a second barn owl up towards the Yare.

Normally the owls glide gracefully. Today’s Force 5 meant it was all a bit hurried and hurtled. But throw in a couple of crested grebes on the river and it wasn’t a bad haul for 15 minutes work.

Then the sky grew black from the east, the wind picked up and the rain started. There’s nowhere to hide out here. The grebes’ ornate head plumes started to look ruffled, the kestrel retreated grumpily along the telegraph poles as I approached and the owls disappeared completely. Winter was back and we all went somewhere warmer.

* Photo by Nigel Blake taken from the RSPB website. More on barn owls from them here.

* My drivetime Barn Owl article here.

Langley: WW footpath closed till May

Langley 0313 005

A REMINDER that the Wherryman’s Way footpath between Langley Staithe and Hardley Staithe remains closed.

The paperwork next to the stile says it will re-open on May 17th once flood defence work has been completed. In the meantime walkers are denied any riverside access between The Beauchamp Arms and Hardley. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Bixley: St Wandregesilius– a revival?


REMEMBER St Wandregesilius? The gutted church in the hamlet of Bixley which I visited last October. Destroyed by arsonists in 2004 and almost untouched ever since, I said it was the saddest and most unloved place I’d ever been to in Norfolk.  Well I stand by “saddest”, but perhaps I was wrong about “unloved”. Here’s a comment posted on the blog soon afterwards by Mark Tatum-Smith from the Orthodox Church of the Joy of All Who Suffer at Mettingham in the Waveney Valley:

Hello Steve, I just came across your blog post now and share your sense that Bixley is a hallowed and special place. You may be interested to learn, however, that our church has established a clear historical link with this ancient shrine, and that just over a year ago we commissioned a new ikon of St Wandregesilius, translated the life from the French edition as well as composing a canon (series of hymns) in his honour.

You can read the full document here. In essence the church has traced a link between Mettingham (through its ancient castle) and Bixley. Today’s trustees in Mettingham see St W as “an inspiring and holy saint, as relevant for us today as he was for our ancestors in earlier times.” 

They continue: “Whilst St Wandregesilius was never able to fulfil his wish to make a pilgrimage to the British Isles, the trustees hope that the publication of this Life and the painting of a new ikon of him will spiritually bring this Saint of God back to this area where his relics and holy memory were once so honoured.”

Intriguing. Who knows what that might mean for the Bixley church in the long term.

* See the first article here.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Loddon: Aston before villas


IT’S only the Nissen huts on the right of the picture that help me place this scene. Everything else about Loddon Staithe is totally unrecognisable 50 years on. Both boats and buildings belonged to the company which was known as Princess Cruisers and Aston Boats. scan0020

This is 1961 as the hire boat boom was gathering pace across the Broads. And it’s one of a number of great photos lent to me by Terry Howes, whose father Ron was yard foreman in the 1950s and 1960s. Before escapes to a Spanish villa became commonplace, a two-week holiday on the Broads was a big adventure. I’d love to know how many people the industry employed in Loddon in those years. Boats are still being hired from Loddon of course. But it’s much of a niche market these days.