Rare edition of Black Beauty being auctioned for Redwings

A limited 1915 edition of Black Beauty is being auctioned to raise funds for Redwings Horse Sanctuary in honour of the classic novel’s 140th birthday.

The rare copy, complete with beautiful colour illustrations by famed equestrian painter Lucy Kemp-Welch, was donated to the charity by a supporter who asked that the book be sold to help care for horses in need.

Anyone wishing to become the proud owner of this beautiful piece of history can view the book at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell until November 25 as part of a special exhibition celebrating Black Beauty’s landmark anniversary. Silent bids are welcomed up until this date and bidding slips can be obtained and submitted at the Museum or by contacting Redwings on 01508 481000 or

Redwings, which has a visitor centres at Aylsham, rescues more than 150 equines every year from abandonment and neglect, and currently cares for more than 1,500 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules every day across the country.

The money raised from the auction will help care for the animals now safe in the sanctuary, and support Redwings’ rescue, welfare and education work nationwide.

The silent auction is just one of the ways Redwings and the museum, along with a number of organisations in and around Norwich, have partnered with Visit Norwich to celebrate Black Beauty’s special birthday this summer.

Redwings is also providing fun talks and activities at the museum for families on horse welfare during the school holidays, and has donated an eye-catching life-sized model of a black horse for its exhibition.

Everyone is also invited to meet and enjoy a cuddle with the charity’s very own Black Beauty – a stunning Friesian horse called Maya – at its Redwings Aylsham Visitor Centre, which is open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 10am to 4pm, and entry is free.

Maya, who was rescued from terrible neglect in 2010, is available to sponsor for just £12.50 per year which goes towards caring for Maya and her friends, providing another way for Black Beauty fans to honour their favourite book and help horses in need.

To find out more about Redwings, visit

Clarkes Aylsham up for auction

After five years standing empty in Aylsham Market Place, the historic Clarke’s Ironmongers is to be auctioned with a guide price of £450,000-£500,000.

The public auction by Horners will be held at Aylsham Town Hall on Wednesday, September 27, at noon, being sold as a freehold with vacant possession.

The detached building is mainly 18th century and is Grade II listed. Repairs and improvements are needed to be carried out by any potential new business.

There will be open house viewings on Saturdays, August 26, September 2, 9 and 16, 10am-3pm or by special appointment through sole agents Cockertons on 01692 500839 or 01263 711167 or through Horners on 0800 975 4416.

Blickling Ibiza and Proms: Gallery

People from all over Norfolk partied at the weekend with the annual Classic Ibiza and Blickling Proms concerts. Here is a selection of pictures courtesy of Revival Productions. Read more about the weekend in our upcoming print issues.

Ex-Aylsham Football Club skipper saves life of man in Run Norwich 10K race

Former Aylsham Football Club captain and paramedic Dale Gedge was back at work today after he and others saved the life of a competitor who suffered a cardiac arrest in yesterday’s Run Norwich 10K road race.

Dale, 34, sprang over the barriers and raced to help after seeing a man collapse a few metres from him on Theatre Street, close to the finish line.

“As soon as he hit the ground it was quite obvious it was not just exhaustion but something more serious,” said Dale, who grew up in Aylsham, attended Aylsham High School and who has been a paramedic for 10 years.

“When I got to him he wasn’t breathing, had no pulse and was unconscious. My training kicked in. At that point Jacob, one of the event medics, came to see what he could do to help too. We started CPR. I got the defibrillator pads on the man – I assume Jacob had brought the defibrillator – and delivered a shock.

“Then an armed response vehicle police officer arrived with a medi pack. I secured the patient’s airways while the police officer handed me everything when I requested it.

“After a bit more CPR, he started breathing again – it’s just incredible, amazing, when that happens. We had only shocked him once. I’ve been to hundreds of cardiac arrests in my time as a paramedic and it usually takes several minutes to get to the place where it’s happened.

“But on this occasion the patient was receiving CPR within about 30 seconds and the defibrillator arrived about a minute after he collapsed. That meant the odds went from being massively against him to being in his favour.”

The victim, Tim Warner, 53, from Dereham, had then regained consciousness and began talking. By the time he was carried into the ambulance he had even managed to wave at the concerned crowds, according to Dale.

Mr Warner is understood to be recovering in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

“I don’t normally see a cardiac arrest happen – we arrive there later – so it was all a bit surreal for me,” Dale added.

News of the drama had spread widely today and Dale said he had received some “lovely messages” via social media.

He stressed that he was one of several people who had helped Mr Warner and added that the CPR skills he had used could, and should, be learned by everyone.

“They’re not paramedic skills,” he said. “Anyone can learn CPR and be ready to help in a situation like that.”

He was also keen for communities to make sure there are defibrillators near at hand. “If a defib had been 10 minutes away, there could have been a very different outcome,” he said.

He praised Aylsham Football Club for having its own defibrillator at the club. Dale was club captain but hung up his boots two months ago after a long playing career in Aylsham.

“I’ll just be playing socially in future,” he said, “and going along to support the boys.”

Heritage open days in Broadland

There is something for everyone to enjoy at this year’s Heritage Open Days in Broadland, including an exciting mix of living heritage.

As part of England’s biggest heritage festival, which takes place from September 7-10, people will have the chance to visit a folk fair in Aylsham, find out about family history in Acle and even explore the Hindu Temple in Tunstall.

Visitors can enjoy 13 events across Broadland, eight of which are on offer for the first time this year.

Cllr Karen Vincent, Broadland District Council’s Member Champion for Heritage, said: “Heritage Open Days provides a great opportunity for people both in the area and further afield to explore some of the district’s hidden gems.
“There really is something for everyone this year – from a vintage cycle rally along Marriott’s Way to the Victorian rectory Hautbois House, home to the GirlGuiding activity centre.”

Girlguiding Norfolk is also opening the doors of its Archive Resource Centre in Hautbois for the first time this year. The brand new, purpose-built centre houses treasures from the organisation, such as old uniforms, which people can look at over tea and homemade cakes.

Gain first-hand experience of Indian culture and an introduction to the country’s street food at the Hindu Temple in Tunstall. There will also be stalls with clothing, artefacts and henna, as well as dance performances for visitors.

Pre-book tours of the former RAF Coltishall and Thorpe Lodge, home of several prominent Norfolk families including the Harveys and now the offices of Broadland District Council, are also available.

For more information about Heritage Open Days in Broadland, visit

• Hautbois House, which will be open to the public as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.

• Take a tour of Thorpe Lodge, once home to wealthy local families including the Harveys.

Aylsham’s Daisy in Wonderland for one week only!

This month, Aylsham’s own Daisy den Engelse joins the cast of Alice Back In Wonderland, which is being performed from 26-29 July by Norwich Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Company. Alex Dalgleish caught up with her to find out what brought her to the stage.

In the show, Daisy will be taking on a dual role, playing the parts of Loreena (Alice’s sister at home in Oxford) as well as Wonderland’s Queen of Diamonds. That can’t be an easy job – if nothing else, it’s twice as many lines to learn! Fortunately, Daisy has plenty of stage experience: “I got started right at the beginning of high school,” she says. “I had a tiny role in one production. It was the smallest part you could possibly have without technically being a stagehand, and I just remember absolutely loving it!

“I took it so seriously, and I just came offstage every night feeling totally elated. I left on such a high – it was absolutely fantastic!”

Previous performers in the Youth Theatre Company’s summer shows have included Sam Clemmett (who went on to play Harry Potter in the West End) and Me Before You star Sam Claflin. That’s a lot of star power to live up to, but Daisy fully intends to carry on acting once the show ends, and she hopes to make it into drama school.

She’s not too bothered about what she acts in, though: “I’ll play anything they’ll let me! I’ll even take a non-speaking role. To me, that’s an opportunity to really focus on what you want to put across to the audience, and it challenges you to manage that without words.”

“On the other hand, the last time I was at the Theatre Royal, I was playing the main character in Antigone. I had about as many lines as you possibly could have in a single play, but it was amazing to perform. It was a chance to get inside the character’s head, because you could see exactly where she was coming from. I loved that.”

So what is it that first brought Daisy to the stage? “There’s nothing else like it!” She laughs: “I’ve tried sports, all sorts of things, and nothing gives you the same feeling. I think acting is an opportunity to step outside of yourself and leave all your problems behind for a while; you can just be totally involved in someone else’s life. If you’ve got the opportunity, you must try it!”

She clearly enjoys it. But the auditorium at Norwich Theatre Royal can seat around 1300 people, so there must be some nerves on opening night. “That’s a real benefit of doing these shows; I’m so much more confident than I used to be. I was actually quite shy.

“These days, I feel much more able to just talk to people, to smile and say hello. And it turns out that you get smiles back – people are actually quite friendly!”

That confidence is going to come in handy this summer. Alice Back In Wonderland is a sequel to the much-loved Lewis Carroll book, which Daisy read in preparation for the role. “It’s a really happy, playful book. It’s full of wonderfully strange things that you’d never expect, and that comes across in our play as well. We’re following those characters a little bit further down the line, and I think that’s really nice.”

The show imagines what might have happened after Alice returns home to boring old England. Despite being determined to follow in her Uncle Lewis’ footsteps and become a mathematician, she’s sucked back in to Wonderland, which is being threatened by the Red Queen and her army of chessmen.

Featuring 280 talented young actors, dancers and musicians, it’s a big show. So what can audiences expect? “They can expect happy tunes, wild dancing and a lot of crazy characters. Expect to come out of it happy – you’ll definitely go home feeling good!”

Alice Back In Wonderland, Wednesday 26-Saturday 29 July, at 7pm, and Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets £7-£12. Discounts for Friends, Over-60s and Under-18s. Captioned performance on Saturday29 July at 2pm.
To book, log onto or call the box office on 01603 630000.

Daisy den Engelse

Aylsham service station is not just any garage… it’s an M&S garage!

The long wait is over – Aylsham’s new petrol station and Marks and Spencer will be opening tomorrow morning, Wednesday July 26th.

The new £2m Burgh Road BP service station has been a hive of activity for the past 24 hours as staff worked through the night to stock the shelves.

When the ribbon is cut at 8.30am tomorrow it will mark the end of a decade-long fuel drought in Aylsham, with motorists having to head along the A140 to Alby or Roughton to fill up.

The garage, M&S Simply Food store and Wild Bean Café will be open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, according to service station manager Daniel Sirdar.

And the opening fuel prices went “live” on the board outside the new venture yesterday afternoon – £113.9 per litre for unleaded petrol, and £115.9 per litre for diesel.

The first customers will receive a range of discounts and a free bag for life for their shopping.

“The atmosphere’s been really good, positive and excited,” said Daniel, 28, who lives in Norwich. The new venture has created 23 jobs – four full-time.

“The site manager who was working here on the build said that in his eight years’ experience he had never had so many people trying to come on to a site and ask when it was opening!”

Daniel invited anyone with comments, criticisms and compliments about the new development to get in touch with him.
The service station also includes a toilet accessible to disabled people as well as a baby changing-room.

Lloyd Mills, chairman of Aylsham Town Council, said he was personally “very pleased” that the project had been completed.

“It will save people quite a long trip for fuel but I think the M&S shop has been raising even more interest than the garage!” he said.

Andrew Kenney, BP district manager said: “The new store and introduction of the M&S Simply Food range means we have been able to create 23 new jobs for people in the local area. It’ll be open late providing customers with a selected range of Marks & Spencer’s high quality fresh, innovative food alongside the best of BP fuels and our very own Wild Bean Café.”

Manager Daniel Sirdar

The new BP petrol station and M&S shop on Burgh Road

the shelves are fully stocked

Popular head teacher retires

After 15 years at the helm of John of Gaunt Infant and Nursery, head teacher Fiona Chant is retiring, but she will definitely be remaining active in Aylsham.

Fiona came to Aylsham from a deputy headship in Hertfordshire back in 2002 and time working in Borneo and (the less far flung) Northamptonshire.

“Norfolk and Suffolk were always counties we loved and had ambitions to move to, both for the coast and for the lifestyle,” she said.

“John of Gaunt was the first headship I ever applied for and I was delighted to be successful in that application.”

When she arrived, Fiona found she was asked to build bridges and links with the community and, 15 years on, she is immensely proud to know that that is exactly what she and her team have managed to do.

“This school is at the heart of the community and has great relationships with parents.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but for me it’s time to go.”

Fiona and Vanessa Scargill, from Aylsham High School were two of the pioneers of The Aylsham Cluster Trust (TACT), which was designed to improve the education of children and families in the area.

“To have a formalised partnership is very unusual and that is something which gives me particular confidence as I get ready to retire from the headship,” said Fiona.

“We wanted to set up a system which was sustainable and didn’t rely on an individual strong personality to work.

“Jamie Olney, the recently appointed Head of School at Bure Valley School, applied for the post partly because of the partnership and support of other schools within TACT.”

The TACT family learning day is another example of the type of family engagement which Fiona rates highly. She describes it as an opportunity for parents to understand how schools work and how they can get involved in their children’s learning.

So does retirement mean feet up and cruises? Unlikely, it would seem.

“I will continue to be involved with TACT and contribute to the School Direct teacher training programme, as well as take on the junior vice presidency for Aylsham Rotary Club,” she said.

“We have a new puppy and a family, including grandchildren. I’m a very enthusiastic gardener, traveller and scuba diver.

“So no, I won’t be twiddling my thumbs and I will still be very involved in the Aylsham community.”

And a final word about Fiona’s replacement, Clare Toplis: “I’m so pleased both for her and the school. She will build on a successful school and make it even better. There was a very strong field for the role and she was certainly the best.

“There is a fantastic team of teachers, teaching assistants and support staff here and our staff retention is very high, which I hope tells its own story.

“Clare will also be supported by Duncan Spalding, executive head teacher; Jo Tuttle, business and community director from the Aylsham Learning Federation; and of course the strong governor board, chaired by Mike Downes.”

Mr Downes thanked Fiona for her many years of running the school and said: “During Fiona’s time at John of Gaunt, she has constantly striven to improve the education of every child in the school and given them the best education possible.

“So many children have left this school with a fantastic start to their educational journey and a love of learning.

“The school has developed into a vibrant and supportive community in which everyone feels valued and secure. So many families owe Fiona and all the staff a debt of gratitude for the way they have given their children a love of learning, security and individual attention unmatched anywhere.”

Fiona Chant, the outgoing head teacher at John of Gaunt.