A life of success and kindness

Mourners will today pay their respects to successful Aylsham businessman Mick Neale who has died aged 74.

Mick saw his North Walsham-based Ashford Commercial grow from a local windows firm to a major national construction company.

But he was also well-known and respected in the local football world, as a family man and an unsung supporter of local good causes.

Daughter Louise said: “We are proud of what dad did in life but also of his kindness, compassion and generosity, and he never forgot his humble beginnings.”

Mick died after a two-year battle with leukaemia, and donations at his funeral in Aylsham parish church today at midday (Friday Sept 10) were for Norfolk’s Big C cancer charity.

He was born the youngest of seven children in 1947 in Hindringham, grew up in Langham where the family lived in a Nissen hut near the airfield, and attended the village school, before high school in Wells and college in King’s Lynn.

His early working life included spells on a turkey farm, at Fakenham Laundry and farm labouring. After being a foreman at J D Wright builders, who built the Green Lanes estate in town, he set up Oliver Neale builders with partner Ray Oliver, before launching Aylsham Construction on his own.

In 1996 he had the chance to buy Ashford Windows, which over the following 35 years expanded into a company providing windows and doors for councils, housing associations, education campuses and health trusts across the nation. It has grown from four to more than 70 employees.

Mick, who was managing director until son Matthew took over recently, said the growth was a result of a mix of hard work, good attitude and a bit of luck.

Football was a major part of his life – with the highlight of hitting the bar at Carrow Road playing for Holt against Gorleston in the 1964 Norfolk junior cup final.

He coached youth football, beginning when Matthew was in the team and was president of Aylsham football club.

A club spokesman said: “Mick was a mainstay of the club for many years as a player and sponsor – a tremendous bloke who got on with everyone he met, and provided unsung support wherever he could in the local area. He will be sadly missed.”

Mick was a popular regular at the Feathers, where he played darts, and the Black Boys, as well as an avid follower of horse racing. He met wife Jenny in the Railway Tavern in Holt. They married in Edgefield in 1968 and moved to Aylsham on buying their first home in Sir Williams Way.

They marked their golden wedding in 2018 and enjoyed travel including to his favourite place Mauritius. He enjoyed family life and was proud grandad to five grandchildren.

Mick Neale with his wife, Jenny and two children Matthew and Louise.

Just Regional sold to US firm

A successful hyperlocal publishing company has been bought by an American media group in a deal which will boost local news in Norfolk.

Just Regional, founded in 2008, produces 10 monthly magazines, covering six Norfolk towns and four Norwich suburbs. Over those 13 years the company has grown, achieving national recognition for its service and products, which have led the field of local news publications.

In 2019, it caught the eye of US company Medici Media, which made an approach and after many months of negotiations a deal has now been finalised.

The acquisition of Just Regional will be the first foray into news publications for Medici Media, which procures and distributes news content worldwide, in addition to providing film project development support for animated, specialty and feature films, with offices in Plymouth, Chicago, Las Vegas and London. Medici Media intends on moving a portion of its operations to Aylsham which is close to Norwich.

CEO of Medici Media, Timothy Mucciante said he was impressed with the company and its products, saying he had never seen anything of a similar quality in the US.

“We had been wanting to start in the newspaper business and I realised there was nothing like Just Regional in America. The magazines look really good and there’s an obvious passion for local news.”

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed negotiations, but enabled Mr Mucciante to see how the company adapted to the conditions, moving its news coverage online and – unlike many larger, less agile media companies – retaining advertisers, readers and staff as a result.

“I’m delighted with the acquisition of Just Regional and looking forward to carrying on the great work that everyone has been doing,” he said.

Just Regional founder Lee Todd said: “This is going to be a great opportunity for local news and I am very pleased to be connected with Medici Media. We have moved with the times and are looking to continue with our excellent service to local communities.”

Mr Todd will be staying at the helm of the Aylsham-based operation, which employs nine office staff and over 100 distribution staff. Tracey Bagshaw will also be continuing in her role as group editor.

Mr Todd said: “Readers and advertisers will still be dealing with the same people with the same community values we have always had. That will never change.”

The Just Regional offices in Aylsham.

Ready for your close-up?

Fancy your five minutes on the silver screen?
Well you could have your chance as a new film being shot in Sheringham is looking for extras.

Norfolk-born film director Ella Glendining will be filming her BFI-funded short film in the town next Wednesday and Thursday (September 8 and 9) and is on the look out for extras for a couple of scenes.

Would-be actors of all ages are sought to for funeral scene and those in their 20s and 30s are needed to appear at a beach party.

Ella was named among Screen International’s Screen Stars of Tomorrow in 2020 and her new project tells the story of a disabled woman returning to her sleepy seaside hometown for a friend’s funeral.

Ella said: “I grew up in Elsing, near Dereham, but spent a lot of time in Sheringham in my late teens and early 20s as one of my best friends lives there. I am interested in telling regional stories about growing up in small towns and villages as ‘other’. I am disabled and all my work is somewhat linked to the disabled experience.

Ella Glendining is shooting a film in Sheringham.

“I adore Norfolk and Sheringham and, although I live in Brighton now, I am always looking for excuses to return.
“I am very inspired by the beauty of the Norfolk coast. The film is about a new mother feeling torn between her old life and her new, trying to discover her identity as a parent, and it’s also about love.”
Extras will not be paid but Ella hopes they will enjoy the experience of being on a film set.
If you’d like to be involved you can email

Volunteers needed at Youngs Park

Youngs Park and Aylsham Football Club are looking for a band of new volunteers to help out with a range of jobs.

Youngs Park was opened in 2015 and, as well as being the home of Aylsham FC, it has become a key community facility throughout the year.

Ian Potter, Aylsham FC Chairman and Youngs Park Director, said: “We have created a fantastic community facility. Our football club and Youngs Park facility is 100 per cent run by volunteers and we are open 52 weeks of the year to the community.

“Success over the last five years means we have growing pains and really need your help.

“If you are looking to help your community and meet some new people, then please contact us now.

“A few hours’ volunteering could make the world of difference to us and your wellbeing, in a friendly and Covid-safe environment.”

The club has a range of opportunities, but particularly needs volunteers for:
– Serving refreshments at the weekend
– The bar on Saturday afternoons and some evenings
– Adult fixture secretary
– Volunteer coordinator lead role

More than 750 people visit Youngs Park each week with over 30 football teams and groups such as Slimming World and fitness classes based there.

Ian added: “Our profits are reinvested and we have secured grants to ensure we continue to improve the quality of our facility, which our community can be very proud of.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email the club on

Man jailed after cannabis find in Marsham

A man has been jailed after officers found hundreds of cannabis plants in Marsham (near Aylsham) last year.

Bruce Knowles, aged 52 and of Great Heath Road in North Elmham, was sentenced to 42 months in prison at Norwich Crown Court yesterday (Thursday 5 August 2021) having pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis.

Officers executed a warrant at a commercial unit on Norwich Road, on Wednesday 9 September 2020, and discovered a cannabis factory containing 354 cannabis plants in various stages of growth, along with hydroponic equipment.

A subsequent investigation established Knowles owned the unit and further enquiries identified he had been purchasing a significant amount of cannabis seeds

The cannabis seized had an estimated street value of between £47,700 and £119,000.

Bruce Knowles

The Marsham cannabis farm

Sean’s going home after covid ordeal

Sean Hunte has spent almost the whole of 2021 in hospital after suffering serious covid-19 complications. And now, after 203 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, he has left hospital to continue his recovery at home.

Sean, from Eaton received a guard of honour from the team on Docking ward and critical care staff after starting his treatment on 3 January.

Sean, who works as a cover supervisor in schools, was on critical care for 120 days and has been on Docking ward for the last five weeks.

He praised the care and support he received during his seven month admission.

“The care I received has been fantastic and the staff have gone beyond what I expected,” he said.

“The nurses and physiotherapists have been really friendly and when I was feeling down they really supported my mental health and the staff being nice to me has got me through the dark times. I had six nurses around my bed singing happy birthday to me last Thursday when I turned 58. Some of the staff I do not know because I was out of it, but Skye and Ross have been brilliant and are really good people.”

Sean has had adaptations made to his house to help with his mobility, said he was looking forward to continuing his rehabilitation at home.

“I have had dark times being in hospital for seven months and I want to get home to see my wife and two boys. I am looking forward to my wife’s cooking and having some good Caribbean cooking. I could not keep much food down, but I’m now ready for some good Jamaican and Antiguan food.”

And he said his experience meant he was urging people to get vaccinated.

“Covid is deadly serious and it is definitely the best thing to do is to get the vaccine,” he said. “The general feeling of being wiped out was horrendous, I was experiencing horrible hallucinations and it was very difficult not being able to talk when I had my tracheotomy. I used to play tennis three days a week and went to the gym, but I still cannot walk without an aid.”

Sam Higginson, NNUH Chief Executive, said: “It is fantastic to see that Sean is well enough to go home, which is testament to the great care he received from our teams and we wish him all the best with his ongoing recovery.”

A video of the guard of honour can be viewed here

Cromer’s peerless pier show is back and flying high!

Oh, Cromer Pier show – it’s good to have you back, writes Richard Batson

After a lost summer laid waste by lockdowns, this cocktail of seaside stage tradition has returned in all its glory – with a few new twists to add to the flavour.

Animated backdrop projections add another dimension to an already multi-faceted masterpiece. And instead of two alternating shows, this year there are different guest performers every week to keep the show fresh through the whole season, which finishes on October 2.

Opening night kicked off with Tucker – a firm favourite of show fans returning with his brand of warm cheeky humour. He is a perfect foil for headliner host Phil Butler, another returnee whose talents as a comedian, magician, singer and dancer make him the perfect man to lead this traditional but modern variety show.

Show host Phil Butler. Picture: William Jarvis.

Vocalists Rob McVeigh and Marina Lawrence-Mahrra take the lead on pop and show songs including rousing numbers from the Greatest Showman and a pulsing Cuban sequence.

But the cast is most powerful when the team comes together during the big musical numbers such as Mary Poppins, Masquerade, and Les Miserables, which fill the stage with song, a talented team of dancers, stunning sets and colourful costumes adorned with feathers and sequins.

A very colourful Mary Poppins. Picture: William Jarvis.

Special mention must go to this year’s specialist act Duo Fusion UK – Connor Byrne and Tiffany Gaine – whose circus style aerial and acrobatic routines are mesmerising. The pair flew in unison over the front rows of the audience, and some of their contortions on stage drew audible gasps from the crowd.

There are no local children joining the cast this year, to lessen the covid-19 risk, and the “bubbled” stars are not doing their usual after-show mingling for the same reason, which is a shame because many feel like family friends we have known for years and enjoy catching up with. But they hope that will change as things progress.

Make sure you don’t arrive late – because the opening sequence on the projection screen taking us from a closed theatre to the current show’s revival is poignant and powerful – and a reminder of how glad we should be to have live variety back at the end of the pier.

For tickets and show details, including the line-up of guests, visit

Arrests after police break up illegal rave

Three people have been arrested and sound equipment seized after police shut down an unlicensed music event in the early hours of Sunday.

 Police were called shortly after 1am by a member of the public reporting a suspected rave at Woodbastwick. Officers found approximately 100 people in a wooded area in the early stages of an unlicensed music event.

 Police vehicles were used to block the entrances to the site to prevent further vehicles from entering, before officers went in to monitor the event, seizing generators and sound equipment were seized. The site was cleared by 5am.

 Officers have launched an investigation in order to identify the organiser(s) of the event and enquiries are ongoing.

 Three people were arrested in connection with the event:

–              One man aged in his 20s on suspicion of drug and driving offences. He has since been released on police bail.

–              One man aged in his 20s on suspicion of drug offences. He has since been released with no further action being taken against him.

–              One woman aged in her 30s on suspicion of drug and driving offences. She has since been released on police bail.

Chief Insp Kris Barnard said: “These events are not only illegal and unsafe, they also cause unnecessary damage and disruption.  Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances leading up to the event and where we can prevent, disrupt or stop a rave taking place, we will do everything within our power to do this in order to minimise the impact on local communities. We hope this robust action acts as a deterrent to anyone who may wish to organise events like these in the future.

 “I want to thank members of the public for their patience and support as we worked to bring this event to a safe closure.”