AS predicted here a few months ago, The Swan at Loddon is up for sale, its owners clearly having given up on it. The estate agents’ board went up today offering the old coaching inn as a freehold property. Will anyone else take it on a pub, as a restaurant, as a hotel? How about a cafe on the ground floor and flats upstairs? There are lots of questions for Enterprise Inns and any new buyers. And lots of potential too. The blurb makes clear just what an extensive property this is; two bars, a dining area suitable for 20 covers, a beer cellar, an entire four-bedroomed flat on the second floor and sizeable outbuildings at the back on a one acre site. So what about the tiny market that still musters every Monday? A cluster of stalls huddled on the car park constitute Loddon’s last claim to be a market town. And what about the Loddon Swan Bowls Club and its manicured green? All the Victorian writers raved about it and I guess it could have been in existence for much longer. The “Tenure details” section of the sale document runs as follows: “Freehold with vacant possession on completion (except in respect of the Bowling Club which has no formal agreement to use the Bowling Green). Ouch. Let’s hope for a new owner with a heart and a sense of history.
Friday, 25 February 2011
The owners of the New Inn at Rockland St Mary say they hope to have the pub re-opened by Easter. There are no guarantees, say Punch Taverns, but certainly that’s the plan and they’re “currently talking to interested parties”. Phew, some hope for this classic Wherryman’s Way staging post at last. But it’s becoming a familiar pattern isn’t it? Close down as winter approaches, re-open with a quick link of paint come the Spring. If it is that difficult to make a go of it throughout the year, then perhaps some pubs are going to have to make this pattern official and try to cut the overheads in the process. And perhaps so-called “micropubs” are the way ahead. There are none in our part of the region, but a boozer in Kent keeps winning awards by keeping it simple, low key and low-cost. The Butchers Arms at Herne is a free house – a whole different ball game admittedly – but I wonder if it shows the way ahead for some of our back of beyond Broads pubs.
Friday, 18 February 2011
JUST a quick word to say that I’ve got another blog up and running …I know, one was more than enough wasn’t it? It’s because I’ve started to write a second book – provisionally called Riverside Norwich. For much of the time I wrote the Wherryman’s Way in splendid isolation. But this time I’m experimenting by posting regular updates on a separate blog to show what I’m researching and how I think I’m doing. And, crucially, asking people for their suggestions. Riverside Norwich will look at every inch of the Wensum and the Yare across the Greater Norwich area, it will for example take in Lakenham (Yare) and Taverham (Wensum); two areas where I bet very few residents know much about their local waterway. Like the Wherryman’s Way book, this one will include riverside walks and I’m also keen on helping canoeists find good spots to get in and out. (Is it me or is canoeing really starting to take off?) There are two big caveats. One, I haven’t got a book deal yet and two, not a single person has commented on that site yet! But hey, it’s early days. The last book took five years, so don’t hold your breath on the follow-up. It’s my “difficult second album” remember. So in future it’s Broads stuff on this blog and “Riverside Norwich” stuff on the other one. Finally thanks to @overbychristmas on twitter for focusing my mind on the difference between the two.
* Picture shows the Yare just upstream from Lakenham, one of several beautiful reaches only accessible to us paddlers. Riverside Norwich can be found here.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
THANKS for all the Tud suggestions (see comments to post below). In particular thanks to Pete Chambers who suggested Mattishall Burgh as a place to take pictures. This was the Tud near MB early this morning – the first decent morning for photography in what feels like months. One more fascinating Tud fact; in May 1900 plans were put before Parliament to build a “Norwich to Dereham Light Railway” along the Tud Valley through places like Hockering and Honingham and joining the old MG+N line at Hellesdon. But since I have lost two followers since I started tweeting about the Tud I shall now swiftly move on….
Thursday, 3 February 2011
OK, this might be cheating, but I need your help. I’m plotting a new book at the moment; similar style to The Wherryman’s Way but different area. And probably more on where to canoe. But suffice to say I’m researching the River Tud – and I’m not getting very far. I know it runs from roughly Dereham to its confluence with the Wensum at Hellesdon Mill. There’s some nice stuff about the old stately home of Costessey Hall being built on its banks – especially as that’s now the site of Costessey Park Golf Club. But where’s the source? Wikipedia says “south of Dereham”. My shiny new OS map of Dereham and Aylsham sort of agrees, with the line of blue running out somewhere closet to Spurn Farm. Meanwhile a book on Shipdham claims that it is the source for the Yare, the Wissey and the Tud, although it gives the vicinity for the Tud rather vaguely as “near Thomas Bullock Primary School”. Away from the source, where can I get a good photo of it, is there any sort of vista at Hockering or North Tuddenham for example? For the moment we’ll have to live with this view in winter sunlight taken between Longwater Lane in Costessey and the golf course. It’s a modest little river but I think it deserves more than the 200-odd words I’ve so far mustered.All info welcome.
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
EVER been on those riverboat trips which leave from Norwich and head downriver? Poet Julia Webb did and came back inspired. Inspired to write Yare Song:
The river flows on
surges over and under me,
marsh lover, mud flipper
down amongst the groundlings,
I am scaled and slithered:
strings of weed for hair,
dipping my shade-fingers
amongst bubbles and eddies,
spark-netted on the meanderings
of the mind’s own river,
hearing the shadow-ghosts
of all those drowned girls: witches,
dipped down deep amongst
the slippery tendrils,
warbling in the reeds, singing.
As you leave the city, Julia explains, “the skipper gives a commentary about wildlife and river history and on the way back he leave you to your own thoughts. I found it really inspirational for writing and although I began by writing about the natural aspects of the river I found my mind wandering to the darker history of rivers dunking women to see if they were witches etc. There is something timeless and mystical about river travel somehow.” Hear, hear. Thanks to Julia for allowing me to publish Yare Song. Do we think she’s got the gig as the Wherryman’s Way Poet Laureate? Either way you can find her blog here. And thanks too to Cameron Self at Literary Norfolk for the shout.