Shock rise in Aylsham foodbank use

Latest statistics show a steep rise in the numbers of Aylsham people – including children – being fed by the Cromer and District Foodbank.

Between January and August last year the foodbank’s two Aylsham centres both recorded sharp increases compared to the same period in 2018.

Aylsham Parish Church distributed food to 34 children during the 2019 period, compared to 14 in 2018 – a 140pc increase. At Aylsham Recreation Ground pavilion the rise was 35pc, with 82 children fed.

The total number of people fed at the pavilion rose by 67pc, to 240, and at the church by 105pc, to 90.

A foodbank spokesman said: “Increased demand has been met by increased donations, but our concern for 2020 is that we continue to receive donations that meet an ever-increasing demand.

The main reasons for the rises continued to be benefit problems – with people having to wait about five weeks to their Universal Credit payments – and low incomes, with short term, or zero hours contracts, causing hardship.

“The challenges for us in the new year are to maintain the service of meeting the needs of people in crisis through food parcels and signposting to get the professional support,” the spokesman added.  “Plus, we would like to develop further services.  For this to happen we need to have food and finances continue to be donated by the people of North Norfolk. 

For further information email or call 07826 376343. There are foodbank collection points in Aylsham Tesco and in the parish church.

Lights switch-on: All you need to know

Santa hats on – Christmas is coming to Aylsham!

The town’s switch-on celebrations begin at 4pm this Friday, November 29, and include: games and activities, street food, Christmas tree festival in the parish church, Christmas market in the town hall, craft market in the Black Boys car park, Father Christmas in the Eclipse Hair Studio (34 Red Lion Street from 4.30pm), dancing and singing from local schools, a children’s area in the old Post Office yard, and Pirate Joe and Agent Orange live on stage.

Santa will join the traditional lantern parade from St Michael’s School to Market Place for the 6.30pm switch on which will be performed by Anglia TV weatherman Chris Page and broadcast live to viewers.

Many local businesses will stay open late, offering hospitality to visitors.

Market Place will be closed from 2pm to allow time for setting up. Red Lion Street and Penfold Street will close later in the afternoon, once the school runs are over.

See pictures after the event on our social media and in the next print issue of Just Aylsham.

Broadland Dance spectacular!

Hurry and get your tickets for Broadland School of Dance’s (BSD) spectacular show at Norwich Theatre Royal this Sunday, November 24.

There are two performances, at 2.30pm and 7pm. You can buy tickets here:

BSD, which holds classes in Aylsham and Wroxham, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The school’s show is called Icons and will feature more than 230 students, from aged three upwards, taking part in 50 individual routines and songs.

Former pupil Rose Mason, now a professional dancer, will also be taking part with some of the school’s most advanced dancers.

Rose, and fellow professional dancer Rachael Crocker, has also helped the teachers with choreography.

The show is a celebration of iconic music, song and dance  – which organisers say will have you dancing in the aisles.

“We have ballets from iconic composers and musicals old and new, with some favourites you are sure to recognise!” said teacher Katy Carroll.   

“We hope you will enjoy our spectacular display of talent featuring dance genres from ballet, modern, jazz, tap and contemporary and new to BSD Acrobatic Arts. You will also see some of the singing talent within the school.”

Booming success sparks volunteer crisis

One of the biggest community projects to benefit Aylsham this century risks becoming a victim of its own success.

More volunteers of all ages, abilities and interests are badly needed to make sure Youngs Park and Aylsham Football Club continue to flourish and offer the town top-quality facilities.

The SOS comes as Youngs Park, which opened in November 2015, marks its fourth birthday and prepares to throw a celebration thank you party, on November 23, for its volunteers.

The committed group of current volunteers was becoming “thinly spread” and struggling as use of the site continued to snowball, according to Ian Potter.

Ian is chairman of Aylsham FC and a director of the charitable trust which owns the 20-acre site and Youngs Park community building.

He is urging people with or without an interest in football to volunteer and help the whole community while giving themselves a sense of satisfaction and making new friends.

As well as being Aylsham FC’s base, the Youngs Park building is also used heavily by many other local organisations ranging from Slimming World, to bridge and karate clubs, a pre-school group and by Norfolk County Council for Speed Awareness courses.

It is also hired for occasions such as christenings, wedding receptions and wakes.

All profit from renting out the building was ploughed back into maintaining and improving the site to make sure it remained something the whole community was proud of and wanted to use, said Ian.

But keeping it all going with a limited pool of volunteers was becoming an increasing strain.

“We opened four years ago with 18 football teams and now we’ve got 30,” said Ian.

“We rent the site out seven days a week and there’s now about 70pc occupancy during the week – 100pc at weekends. What we’re proudest of is the original idea and that more than £1m  was raised by Aylsham FC, with help from the Youngs family and local community.

“Today it’s successfully run 100pc by local volunteers. We now have growing pains due to the successful scale of growth and will need to limit further growth of our football teams and community use if we cannot find more volunteers.”

People were needed for everything from running the bar during events to organising football tournaments.

“We need fresh people with fresh ideas and skills,” Ian added.

The dedication of those who had helped since the facility opened meant it had always made a profit and, with the help of fundraising events and grants, they had been able to carry out more than £50,000 of improvements to the site since opening.

Ian added: “When you go home, as a volunteer you feel good because you are giving up your time to improve a vibrant community hub used every week by hundreds of local children and people from all walks of life.”

If you would like to get involved, email: or ring Ian on 07944 915310

Flashback to when Youngs Park was opened four years ago.

Biddy’s Tea Room to host festive play

A Christmas Carol is back at Biddy’s Tea Room in Norwich and Biddy’s kitchen in Aylsham this year, after playing to sold-out audiences in 2018. This popular festive play by local theatre company.

The Keeper’s Daughter’s take on the Charles Dickens’ classic is quirky and contemporary, with just two actors playing all the parts; miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge, of course, and his long-suffering clerk Bob Cratchit and his family, as well as the three famous spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Expect puppets, improv and surprises; this is a gripping ghost story for friends and families.

Supported by Arts Council England, the Norwich-based theatre company’s production of A Christmas Carol is an hour long and is suitable for all those aged five and over. The performances at historic Biddy’s Tea Room, on Lower Goat Lane, take place up a flight of stairs, however, the same production will also take place at Biddy’s Kitchen in Aylsham on Sunday 15th December and Sunday 22nd December, with those performances accessible for everyone.

The Keeper’s Daughter will be performed at Biddy’s from Tuesday 3rd December to Sunday 22nd December, with multiple performances on some of the dates. Tickets are just £10 each (£7.50 for under-14s) and include mulled apple juice and home-made mince pies. Bookings can be made via Biddy’s website at: or via Ticket Source at:

Success for Marriott’s Way Runners despite the weather

This year 369 runners braved the downpour for Broadland District Council’s annual Marriott’s Way 10K yesterday (Sunday 6 October). The race, now in its eleventh year, saw runners gather to make their way along the bridle path raising money for charity and challenging themselves despite the torrential rain.

Broadland District Council Chairman, Cllr Karen Vincent, started the race in Aylsham. The runners raced along a 10 kilometre section of the 26-mile long Marriott’s Way footpath, bridleway and cycle route, and were met by a cheering crowd in Reepham market place.

Cllr Vincent then congratulated the winners and awarded them their trophies. Each runner was also received a medal.  

The race raised money for Norfolk Trails, with £1 of every runner’s entry fee being donated to the Marriott’s Way so it can be maintained and enjoyed for years to come.

After listening to feedback from runners last year improving the sustainability of the race was something that was very important to runners and the organising team. This year saw Broadland District Council introduce several green initiative for race day, including medals made from sustainable wood, a paperless booking system for runners and donating all jumpers and sweatshirts left at the start line to Big C.

This year was also the third Marriott’s Way Children’s Fun Run, sponsored by the Bure Valley Railway. Around 20 children and young people took part in the free, one-mile run, some while wearing their favourite fancy dress outfits. All participants were awarded a Children’s Fun Run medal.

Cllr. Justine Thomas, Member Champion for Sport said: “Every year, the Marriott’s Way 10K is popular with runners and spectators across Broadland and beyond. It is always a fantastic day and it was wonderful to see such an excellent turn out despite the challenging weather.

A special mention must be made for all the volunteers who braved the conditions and ensured the event was such a resounding success.

“It was also brilliant that so many young runners want to get into exercise and don wonderful costumes in the Marriott’s Way Fun Run for the third year.”

For a full list of results, visit

Marriotts Way 10K 2019. Route from Aylsham to Reepham running on the Marriotts Way. Picture: James Bass Photography
Marriotts Way 10K 2019. Route from Aylsham to Reepham running on the Marriotts Way. Picture: James Bass Photography
Marriotts Way 10K 2019. Route from Aylsham to Reepham running on the Marriotts Way. Picture: James Bass Photography

Latest on possible Aylsham car-park charges

A probe into the use of free council car parks in Aylsham and Reepham is on the cards.

Members of Broadland District Council’s Economic Success Panel want to find out whether workers parking all day in the two market towns’ car parks are deterring shoppers who can’t find empty slots.

The panel is recommending to Broadland’s cabinet that there should be a “comprehensive review in consultation with town and parish councils” throughout the district to provide information for a car-parking management plan.

If space blocking was shown to be a problem, parking charges could be introduced, as they already are in neighbouring North Norfolk, and South Norfolk, Broadland’s sister local authority area.

The recommendation followed an hour-long discussion on Monday night (August 19) when the panel considered a detailed report, prepared by David Disney, operational economic development manager with South Norfolk Council.

It made particular reference to Aylsham’s Buttsland and Burgh Road, and Reepham’s Station Road car parks and concluded, among other findings, that introducing charges – with the first hour’s parking free – would solve space-blocking, increase footfall and place the costs of running and maintaining car parks on users, rather than on all taxpayers.

Mr Disney said footfall was the lifeblood of market towns and the national evidence was that if a driver couldn’t find a space in one car park they would try two others. If unsuccessful, they would leave and never return to that town.

Increased footfall had followed “quite distinctly” in South Norfolk towns, including Wymondham and Diss, after the introduction of a free hour’s parking and then charges.

But panel member councillor Peter Bulman said: “What I don’t see is any evidence of market research in Reepham and Aylsham – we’re only being given national information, or about South Norfolk Council. I would want to be persuaded with some hard evidence that this is not a solution looking for a problem.” 

Councillor David Harrison, who represents Aylsham, warned that the town’s Buttsland car park was leased by Broadland from its owner, the National Trust, which would “want its share” if the council began charging for its use.

He asked whether Broadland would consider handing over the running of its Aylsham car parks to Aylsham Town Council.

“It’s all about localism – this is what we’re supposed to be doing. Why not leave it to be decided as a local issue by the town?” he said.

Councillor Stuart Beadle, who represents Reepham, said Broadland had a number of car parks throughout its area (there are 12) but only Aylsham and Reepham had been singled out in the report for the possible imposition of charges. 

He said: “Reepham and Aylsham would be subsidising off-street parking throughout the district and that’s not fair.”

In a statement before the panel meeting, Aylsham Business and Enterprise Forum (ABEF) said it was concerned that whatever decision was eventually made should not adversely impact its members, either in terms of income or providing community events.

The statement went on: “Parking in Aylsham seems to be a growing problem. The main car parks, in Burgh Road, the Market Place and the Buttsland, are increasingly found to be full for much of the day, while on-road parking in some areas is creating problems for residents.  If parking fees are to be introduced, ABEF hopes that these factors will be taken into consideration.

“We hope that local traders, voluntary organisations and residents will have the opportunity to make their views known before any proposal is adopted.”

  • What do you think? Email:
David Harrison.
Photo credit ©Simon Finlay Photography.

Nursery closure heartbreak

Heartbroken Dawn Cordner is closing her Aylsham’s children’s nursery on Friday (August 16) because she says government-funded “free” places have made it unviable

Dawnie’s Little Stars, based in the Drill Hall for almost seven years, is the only business of its kind in Aylsham and parents will now have to look outside the town for similar care, according to Dawn, 42.

The closure will mean the loss of seven jobs, including Dawn’s.

She has been in the childcare business for 17 years, previously working for the former Aylsham Playgroup. When its committee disbanded, Dawn saved the service by launching her Little Stars nursery.

Dawn said she had taken the “very, very hard” decision to close because of the increasing gulf between the amount of money the business received from funded places and her ever-increasing running costs.

Parents of three and four year olds are entitled to “free” nursery places funded by the government and paid to nurseries, via the local authority, at the rate of £3.65 per hour,

Some two-year-old are also entitled to free, funded places,  with nurseries receiving £5.20 per hour to care for them.

But Dawn said the true cost of providing care was much higher and her business had been forced to plunder its meagre profits to make up the deficit and stay afloat.

She charged non-funded places at £7.50 per hour for three and four year olds, and £8 an hour for babies, reflecting the true cost of providing quality child care.

Now, with 75pc of the 30 children on roll qualifying for funded places, Dawn said she simply couldn’t afford to carry on.

“It’s exhausting trying to run a business when all the overheads are going up but the funding stays the same. I’m taking less and less and it just can’t go on,” she explained.

“The team works very hard and very long hours for the  minimum wage (£8.21 per hour). We love the children and the nursery’s reputation is second-to-none – but it doesn’t pay the bills. Dog walkers and cleaners earn more than us. We’re providing a champagne service for lemonade money.”

Parents had been sad but very understanding when they learned of the nursery’s closure.

“They wonder what the government is thinking of, allowing this situation to happen,” said Dawn.

“I am so sorry and so sad that I’ve had to do this. This has been my life and my passion but the worry has badly affected my health over the past two years and I had to take this heartbreaking decision. I’ve no idea what I will do next.”

Pictured: Dawn Cordner (centre) with Shining Stars room leader June Crook (left) and deputy manager Becky Rayner.