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Surprise filming in Aylsham

Shoppers in Aylsham on Good Friday did a double take when they saw Boris Johnson coming out of Coxford’s Butchers. Surely the prime minister wasn’t taking a break to pick up a pound of sausages…

Closer examination soon revealed that it wasn’t him – and the film crews might also have given a clue that the town was taking a starring role in a TV production.

Filming was being carried out for This Sceptred Isle, starring Kenneth Branagh – a Sky drama about the UK’s response to the covid-19 crisis.

Branagh plays Boris Johnson, and the series looks at how the government dealt with the crisis along with how health staff and others on the frontline made the big decisions about how to respond to an unknown adversary.

On Friday, Branagh was filmed in locations around the town including the Drill Hall, the town hall, and the butcher’s shop.

Johnny Payne, who runs Coxfords along with Jason Gibbons, said it was “an honour” to have his shop in a scene and that the crew spent a couple of hours filming.

This Sceptred Isle is expected to be shown in August 2022.

Police move to allay dog theft fears

A rash of posts on social media provoking concerns about dog thieves has led to police issuing a statement to put minds at rest.

Community pages on sites such as Facebook have had lots of posts from dog walkers concerned about being targeted by thieves and apocryphal reports of attempts to take dogs by force, but police have quashed these, saying there have been no such crimes reported to them.

“We are aware of concerns and rumours circulating on social media about dogs being stolen or men in a van, including a van allegedly marked with the RSPCA logo, acting suspiciously around people out walking with their dogs.

“Please know there haven’t been any crimes recorded this week that relate to dog thefts nor have we received any reports of dogs being stolen from a property or while out walking with their owners over the last week.”

It went on to say that one person in North Walsham had reported a man in a Transit van asking questions about their dog, but no further reports had been received.

The RSPCA also moved to quash rumours that dog thieves were posing as RSPCA inspectors, and the police statement added: “The RSPCA has told us that a number of incidents circulating on social media claiming people are impersonating their inspectors do not appear to have been actual cases of people trying to pass as bogus officials.

“It’s important to know there are very few incidents whereby an RSPCA officer will approach someone in public unless they witness animal cruelty or see an animal in immediate danger. Officers will also wear RSPCA brand clothing and always carry RSPCA identification. RSPCA officers do not have power of entry or seizure unless accompanied by a police officer.”

But while they said there was no increase in threats to pets in the area, police stressed that any incident or concern – especially anyone claiming to be from the RSPCA – should be reported to them by calling 101.

“Try to give us as much detail about the person or the vehicle they were in as you can. And do not hesitate to call us on 999 if a crime is happening and you need our help.”

Chief constable set to retire

Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey has today announced he will retire in June after completing 35 years’ service with the police.

Mr Bailey, who has led the force for the last eight years, said: “I have been extremely proud to lead Norfolk Constabulary as chief constable for the last eight years.  However, after 35 years in policing, the time has now come to look to pastures new.  So, following careful consideration, I have made the decision to retire.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey

“During my tenure as chief constable, the force has faced many challenges, including the last year policing in a pandemic and I am indebted to the support given to me from a dedicated and talented team of chief officers, alongside that of our Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green.

 “I also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my officers and staff for their hard work, commitment and dedication in policing our county and making Norfolk Constabulary a force to be truly proud of.”

Since 2014 he has held the National Police Chief’s Council portfolio for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations and has been the NPCC lead for Violence and Public Protection since 2016.

 “As the NPCC lead for child protection, violence and public protection, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people, leading our service’s response to some of the biggest challenges within law enforcement today. Together, I believe we have made a real difference and immensely proud of the work we have achieved,” he said.

Festival is cancelled

This year’s Worstead Festival has been cancelled – but organisers have vowed that local charities which usually benefit will not lose out.

The event, which was due to be held over the weekend of July 24 and 25, was cancelled last year because of covid-19 restrictions and uncertainty over what will be allowed this summer means organisers have also halted this year’s.

The festival in a previous year.

“This last year has been extremely difficult for us all and we all really wanted the festival to happen,” said the Jane Bond, chairman of the trustees. “It’s unlikely that a government decision allowing the festival to proceed will be made before June 21. This would give insufficient time to complete arrangements to safely deliver the festival.

“The aim of the festival has always been to help local charities, so with that in mind the trustees have decided to grant money to local good causes instead of putting it towards organising a festival this year.”

Totally staffed by volunteers, the Worstead Festival was first held in 1966 to raise money to save the village church. It has grown into a weekend of family entertainment celebrating rural life, farming, crafts, produce and the heritage of Worstead and North Norfolk.

Roxanne’s running to make memories

Unable to take part in the annual Memory Walk in aid of the Alzhheimer’s Society, Sheringham mum Roxanne Demmen decided to organise her own sponsored event to raise much-needed funds.

“My granddad had Alzheimer’s so every year we do the Memory Walk but this year it wasn’t happening so I thought I should do something,” she said. “I am currently running 5km five times a week for five weeks – I’ve called it the 555challenge.

“After losing our wonderful granddad a few years ago to this disease, and our other granddad now facing the same diagnosis, I know all too well how much this affects families.

“Memories are so precious, and this year has hit everyone hard, but the elderly haven’t been able to stay connected and sociable which has been devastating. Time is precious and we should make memories while we can.”

Roxanne with daughters Rosa and Fearne at one of the Memory Walks. This year they will be taking part in their own event to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Roxanne, who worked at The Splash, has been joined on her runs by friends, family and well-wishers wanting to help. “It’s all about getting out and keeping active,” she said. “I’ve had people who don’t run, or don’t even jog coming along with me which is cool.”

And during the Easter holidays she will be joined by her daughters Rosa, aged nine, and seven-year-old Fearne, who will be on their bikes.

She says she is not a dedicated runner and that the regular runs are taking their toll, but in the past she has completed an ultra-marathon – a 30 mile race – so she thinks she will stay the course.

She has set up a Just Giving Page with a £200 target and she is already well on the way. Anyone wanting to give her a little push can click here

Demolition day…

Sheringham’s Splash leisure centre is being demolished to make way for a new venue – The Reef. Work knocking down the building is well under way and photographer Gareth Gabriel has put together a gallery of photos showing the downfall of the popular centre.

Its replacement is set to open in August and will have a six lane pool, gym, spinning studio and other facilitities including a cafe and a larger car park.

To see more photos visit Gareth’s website https://www.garethgabriel.com/

Neglected horses have a new life

Nineteen horses and ponies saved from neglect at a Welsh rescue centre are now enjoying happier new lives thanks to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

The animals first arrived in Norfolk 18 months ago, but the Redwings team was unable to talk about them until the recent conviction and sentencing of the former owner of the Whispering Willows Sanctuary.

Last November, a total of 137 horses from Whispering Willows were taken into the care of equine welfare charities across the UK after serious welfare failings were uncovered. After pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, the sanctuary’s former owner was banned from keeping all horses for 10 years.

Redwings, which has its HQ in Aylsham, offered a new home to 23 of the horses, who arrived in varying states of poor health and four had to be put to sleep shortly after their arrival when it became clear that their health issues were too great to overcome.

After receiving basic care they so badly needed the remaining 19 horses made a good recovery and have been named after NHS hospitals in a tribute to the country’s frontline healthcare workers.

Alexandra, Gwent, Paget, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Royal are pictured above at the Redwings specialist behaviour centre where they are learning to be less nervous around people and overcoming the trauma of their previous lives.

Nic de Brauwere, Redwings head of welfare and behaviour, said: “One of the saddest things was that people believed the sanctuary was offering a wonderful home, however it was clear that the horses were receiving wholly inadequate levels of care.

“There were horses who, due to their age-related ailments – compounded by their lack of care – were needlessly suffering and the kindest and most responsible thing to have done would have been to put them to sleep long before we got involved.”

Nic, who is also the chair of the National Equine Welfare Council and helped to co-ordinate the charities involved in the operation, added: “Too many times we’ve seen sanctuaries struggle and fail when owners take on too many animals without the necessary care knowledge, experience or finances, which is why we’ve been calling for the regulation of rescue centres and sanctuaries as a vital next step to protect the welfare of animals in the UK.”

To support the care of the horses now living at Redwings, please call 01508 481000 or click here to donate

Mammoth event lined up!

A mighty herd of mammoths will follow this year’s trail of T-rex sculptures for the popular Break GoGoDiscover trail of 2022.

This year’s event – fearsome yet friendly T-rexes – will have dates set soon and will be the start of a two-year trail “of prehistoric proportions”.

The 20 sculptures – part of a Jurassic jaunt around Norwich this summer – will not fade into extinction and will return in summer 2022 along with a mighty herd of Steppe Mammoths – and this time it will go countywide.

Bringing colour, fun and beautiful art across Norwich and Norfolk, GoGoDiscover is delivered by East Anglia based charity Break in partnership with Wild in Art and the 2022 trail will also celebrate our Deep History Coast. The steppe mammoths tie in with Norfolk being home to the discovery of the largest and oldest mammoth ever found in Britain.

Peter Marron and Ellie Edge with a T-rex and a model of a mammoth which will be hitting the streets of Norfolk in 2022. Photo: MARK BENFIELD

As usual all the sculptures will be decorated by local and national artists and sponsored by businesses from across the region.

After both the family-friendly trails are over there will be a charity to raise vital funds for Break, a charity which helps vulnerable children and young people across the region.

Break will be announcing some of the partners and sponsors who have already stomped on board for 2022 very soon but is now calling out for other businesses to get involved.

Peter Marron, GoGoDiscover project manager said: “We are so excited to once again be working with Wild in Art to bring a two-year art trail to Norwich and Norfolk, which will bring tourism and economic benefits to the region, put smiles on people’s faces, encourage adventure and exploration of our beautiful county and raise awareness and vital funds for Break.

“The 2021 T-rexes all have sponsors already and look amazing – we can’t wait to start sharing more news and sneak peeks of them very soon! But now is the time for businesses to sign-up for 2022 and be part of this truly unique and exciting event, while supporting Break.”

Businesses and community groups interested in getting involved in GoGoDiscover should visit break-charity.org/gogodiscover or email peter.marron@break-charity.org

GoGoDiscover follows the success of GoGoHares in 2018, GoGoDragons and GoGoGorillas. Previous trails have raised over £1m for Break.