Author Archives: Just Regional

“These people could be us”

When Darren Ward saw what was happening in Ukraine following the Russian invasion he knew he wanted to do something to help.

But initially he didn’t envisage that he would be driving to Poland with more than three tonnes of aid and replacing it with Ukrainian families fleeing the country to live somewhere safe.

“We were on holiday and saw the news that Russia had invaded,” he said. “We thought we had to do something to help these kids and women. We couldn’t just sit and do nothing.”

An appeal was started around the area, with clothes, toys, medical items and toiletries and sanitary goods flooding in. Darren took a week off work at 24-7 Taxis and, together with his friend Adam, set off in a van and a minibus bound for Medyka, a town on the border between Poland and Ukraine where thousands of families have ended up.

“We got there and there were all these people. Droves and droves of people,” said Darren. “An old guy and his wife had walked 67 miles with just a handbag. He looked me straight in the eye and asked if we could take them. We already had mums, kids, dogs… that was the worst bit, the look on that guy’s face.”

The two men did manage to take several families away and on to Krakow or to railway stations, where they made sure they got safely on the train. He said they were also constantly reassuring them that they were not like the people traffickers and other “shady” men with vans he saw at the aid centre

“The kids were on their phones to their dads and we were telling them that they were safe, that they were OK,” said Darren. “It’s a real hot mess out there. They came out with nothing – one young mum and her kids came with just a Trunki and a rucksack.”

The following day they went back to take more families from Medyka. “I hadn’t driven all that way just to get two people out,” said Darren, who has accused the UK government of not doing enough to get more of the displaced families back here or sending more aid where it is needed.

“There’s so much space there – they could easily land a helicopter with loads of aid.”

And with flights from Krakow to Luton costing “about £12” he said more people could be helped if visas were easier to get.

But in the meantime he plans to do more. He flew back, leaving Adam and the vehicles there to help others, but with diesel for the one-way trip alone costing £2,000, he is turning his attention to helping people when they arrive here.

“We have appealed for things which they need when they arrive. They have left with nothing and need all sorts of things. Anything unwanted can be sold to raise money to buy what is needed.”

He has not ruled out another trip – this time with more people.

And to make this possible he is hoping to get sponsorship from local businesses and hear from others who would like to join him.

“I’d like to have two teams of a bloke and a woman, which is more reassuring,” he said. “You can’t see it or smell it or feel it here in Norfolk and we can’t keep turning on the news and doing nothing. These people were going to work, having a coffee, living their lives one day, and the next they had nothing. They are just like us. It could BE us.”

To offer to help Darren, or to see what donations are needed, email or call 07916 247247. There is also a GoFundMe page – https://gofundme/3ee09901 – where you can donate and find out more about how local people are helping.

Award for taking the lead in sustainability

The Bure Valley Railway won a top honour at the Heritage Railway Association Annual Awards last month for its work on sustainable steam.

The railway was the winner of the HRA Award for Environmental Innovation thanks to taking a leading role in the development and trialling of e-coal – a project becoming increasingly relevant with the end of UK coal supplies and European supplies restricted following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Andrew Barnes, managing director, said: “We are proud to be taking a leading role in the environmental sustainability of steam railways and at the same time be recognised as one of the top steam railways in the country.”

E-coal is made of waste biomass from the olive oil production process, which is blended with coal dust – both of which would otherwise go to landfill – giving a 42pc reduction in carbon dioxide.

The trials, which are ongoing, have the engagement and support of The Advanced Steam Traction Trust, the Heritage Railway Association and Network Rail.

The railway was also runner-up in the HRA Outstanding Visitor Attraction category.

At the other end of the line, at Aylsham station, The Whistlestop Café has reopened with a new menu of homemade cakes and a loyalty card for frequent travellers.

It will be open seven days a week, with special events also lined up.

Coal Trials at Bure Valley Railway

Hugs all round from new support group

Nothing makes you feel as welcome as a hug, and a group of people in Sheringham who were concerned that host families and their Ukrainian guests might feel isolated and need further support are offering lots of them – Hugs in this case standing for Hosting Ukrainians Group Support .

Lots of north Norfolk people have registered to host refugees from Ukraine and Hugs will provide community support for families in Sheringham, Upper Sheringham, West Runton, Beeston Regis, Bodham, Weybourne and West Beckham.

“So many people want to help the Ukrainian refugees by hosting and offering their homes as safe refuge. We felt that one thing we could do was to help support the families who were hosting and also bring them together and their guests to help them support each other,” said Liz Withington, who is a town and North Norfolk District councillor.

“The people coming to Sheringham from Ukraine will have experienced things way beyond anything we can imagine. I felt it was really important that we helped the hosting families and their guests come together and be able to support each other.”

Fellow councillor Colin Heinink added: “There are people in the community who will be able to help those who have been offered sanctuary in our community. This group is a way we can bring those people together to provide the wider support that our families and refugees from Ukraine may need.”

The first meeting, to find people who want to help, will be held on Thursday, April 21, at the Lighthouse Community Café at 7pm.

Ukrainian and Russian speakers who are willing to help families with interpretation and form filling are particularly asked to come along, as well as any TEFL teachers willing to provide support.

Social events will also be arranged as more families arrive to help them make friends and settle in.

Email for more details and to register an interest in the group.

Folk favourite makes a return

Having been put “on ice” for the last two years due to the covid-19 pandemic, Cromer’s popular Folk on the Pier festival is now set fair for the second weekend of May.

Since its last outing in 2019, festival producer Scott Butler has managed to keep the majority of artists and bookings on the programme and is delighted to be back with the final preparations for its 22nd show.

A new team will be running the Fringe events – Folk off the Pier – as a not for profit organisation, which will make sure both arms of the festival get the best attention.

Renowned as “the Best Gig on the North Sea”, Folk on the Pier attracts a mix of well-known and up-and-coming folk, folk-rock and acoustic artists from across the UK.

This year’s line-up is once again a who’s who of award winners including BAFTA Nominated TV Entertainer of the Year Richard Digance and Wizz Jones, who picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

The ever-evolving folk-rock band TRADarrr will play music from their latest album, Strange News, and festival patron Ashley Hutchings will present one of his latest special projects – Dylancentric.

Other acts include the Gerry Colvin Band, Feast of Fiddles, the Spikedrivers – collaborating with Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke in a performance of their concept show Saints and Sinners – Kevin Dempsey, Alan Reid, and the Urban Folk Quartet.

Newcomers Linda Watkins, Martin Harley, and the Redhills will be joined by local acts Christina Alden and Alex Patterson, the Shackleton Trio and Klezmerized.

Closing the festival on the Sunday evening is the band without whom there would probably not be a Folk on The Pier – Fairport Convention.

Fairport Convention who will be playing at Folk on the Pier.

Little did they know when they invented British folk-rock that it would become the inspiration for what has become a very popular and enduring music festival.

There will be a Folk on the Pier warm up event at the Belfry Centre, in Overstrand, on Friday, April 22, featuring festival favourite, singer-songwriter Anthony John Clarke with local act Anto Morra in support.

Visit for more information on this and the festival itself.

Come and meet these woolly wonders

After missing out on two years, the Felbrigg lambing events are back, with lots of mums-to-be and new lambs to see.

“We should be welcoming more than 500 lambs into the world this year so there is a good chance of seeing a live birth,” said Emma Pell, of Felbrigg Hall Farm.

The events will be held over the weekend of April 9 and April 10 and over the Easter weekend – April 15, 16, 17 and 18. The farm will be open from 10.30am until 4pm each day.

Other attractions include Moorend Moisturisers, with their herd of goats and rescue donkeys, vintage tractors and, of course, the chance to cuddle a lamb.

Emma added: “Over the Easter weekend we will also be offering free horse and cart rides to and from the farm.”

For more information and updates visit the Felbrigg Hall Farm Facebook page.

Adult tickets are £7, under-16s are £5 and under-threes go free.

Popular shopkeeper and sportsman mourned

Well-known Aylsham shopkeeper and sportsman Bryan Bush has died aged 75.

Bryan was a popular figure through running the family butcher’s and fish and chip shops in Red Lion Street, and from playing football, darts, tennis, squash and golf.

His younger brother Mike said the family had been warmed by tributes to Bryan which reflected his character as a “private but popular man, who was a gentleman, well-liked and had a lovely personality.”

A funeral service for Bryan is being held at St Michael’s parish church on Friday March 18 at 3pm.

Bryan was born on February 8 1947 in a maternity home in West Norfolk, where he and his mother Joy were marooned for a while due to deep snow. He returned to the family residence at 24 Red Lion Street, which was to be his home for his entire life.

He went to St Michael’s Primary School and was one of the first intake at the new Aylsham Secondary Modern in the late 1950s. He also sang in the church choir and did bell ringing as a child and was a patrol leader for 1st Aylsham Scouts where he enjoyed camping trips in the UK and abroad.

Before joining the family business he trained with R S Bakers butchery business, which included making motorbike journeys to Dereham, with newspapers stuffed inside his waterproofs to keep him warm.

Bryan took over the family business in 1988, mostly working in the butcher’s shop but also helping in the chippy on Saturday nights.

He never married and when he wasn’t working he enjoyed playing sport, including football for Aylsham Sunday, where he was proud to reach a cup final at Carrow Road, playing right back.

Bryan retired in 2016, and enjoyed watching the St Giles cricket team on the recreation ground and supporting the town football club at Youngs Park where his nephew Tom, Mike’s son, plays.

He was keen and skilled golfer, getting down to a single figure handicap at Royal Cromer, where he had been a member since 1980. Bryan was committed to practice and had a daily ritual of either swinging his club on the lawn or putting indoors.

Bryan also played tennis and squash locally, captained the darts teams at the Red Lion, Stonemasons and Unicorn, enjoying a pint and chalking up trophies and successes, and was still throwing arrows on his 75th birthday two weeks before his death.

He died in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on February 22, after a sudden recurrence of cancer, which he had suffered from twice before.

Bryan in his footballing days – fourth from left back row.

Bryan receiving a darts trophy from Stonemasons landlord Jock Cairncross

Storm set to batter Norfolk

Norfolk is bracing itself for the arrival of Storm Eunice, with winds of up to 80mph set to hit the county.

Public transport has been disrupted and many attractions have closed their doors as everyone battens down the hatches in preparation for what meteorologists say will be the worst storm to hit the UK in decades.

The county has been put under an amber warning, meaning it is quite likely that bad weather will affect people, possibly including travel delays, road and rail closures and power cuts.

It is still clearing up in places from Storm Dudley, which battered the coast last weekend and resorts including Cromer and Sheringham are ready for another pounding.

Cromer bore the brunt of Storm Dudley and is now ready for another battering from Storm Eunice. Photo: PAUL MACRO

Trains services have been disrupted with some services being cancelled and others changed to hourly or two hourly. Greater Anglia is asking people not to travel unless they have to and to check before setting off for the station.

KLM has announced that it will have no flights in and out of Norwich airport and motoring organisations and the police are telling folk to take great care if they have to travel on the roads.

All Norfolk’s recycling centres will be closed all day, as will all Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves. Breydon Water has been closed to boats and Blickling Estate, Wroxham Barns and Bewilderwood have also shut up shop.

Love Light Norwich, an illuminated display on the city’s most iconic buildings has also been called of tonight but it is still scheduled for tomorrow.

The main force of the storm is set to hit around noon.

Shows Are Just The Ticket

A comedy romp set in north Norfolk is one of the highlights of the new season put on by Norwich Theatre this spring.
Showing at Norwich Theatre Playhouse in April, The Birds and the Bees is one of a great selection of drama, singing and dancing being shown there and at the Theatre Royal.
James McDermott’s new version of the 2016 Canadian play relocates the action to north Norfolk for what is described as a “hilarious comedy romp” which “tackles topics of sex, love, science, family, and the artificial insemination of turkeys”.
The play – a collaboration with Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – is on stage from April 20 to April 30.
Stephen Crocker, chief executive and creative director of Norwich Theatre, said: “The spirit of determination and love for theatre unites all three venues, and The Birds and the Bees will offer audiences good light-hearted fun, which is just what is needed right now.”

Other feel-good shows planned for the new season include The Addams Family (at the Theatre Royal, April 26 to 30); The Magic of the Beatles, which pays tribute to the fab four at the Theatre Royal on May 11; a night of music from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in Big Girls Don’t Cry on May 18; and the sounds of the Beach Boys in Good Vibrations on July 20.

Frankie Howerd was one of Britain’s best loved comedians for many years but he had a secret life nobody knew about. The story of his clandestine life with Dennis – which lasted from the 1950s until Frankie’s death in 1992 – is told in Howerd’s End, a new play at the Playhouse on May 26.

The year also promises interesting “Evenings With…” including one with Andrew Cotter and his two labradors, Olive and Mabel.
The sports broadcaster added a new string to his bow during lockdown when his online contests between his dogs captured the heart of the internet. All three will be at the Theatre Royal on May 9.

May 15 sees Gill Sims – the woman behind the hugely popular Peter and Jane Facebook page – being interviewed on stage.
Dates have also been set for some 2023 performances, including Rambert Dance’s Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby from January 17 to January 23 and the eagerly anticipated Broadway and UK smash-hit musical Sister Act, which will run from January 9 to January 14.

Tickets are on sale now and can be bought from the Norwich Theatre box office on 01603 630000, or visit where you will find more details of the performances.