Hotel could be turned into homes

An award-winning hotel and wedding venue in Drayton could be converted into housing.

A planning application has been sent to Broadland District Council, asking for permission to turn Stower Grange Hotel into three homes.

The application comes following the owner’s concerns that the business, which is also a restaurant, may be “unsustainable” and that he was planning to retire.

The property, which was built in the 1600s and was used as a rectory, has been on the market since 2021.

A planning statement submitted to the council said: “Due to an uncertain and potentially unsustainable future as a hotel, further accelerated by the impact of the recent pandemic, the client and owner of Stower Grange Hotel has reluctantly explored the more viable use.”

A pre-application was made recently to assess the viability and was considered acceptable by the council.

The planning proposal went on: “The conversion will continue to respect the existing listed building and landscape with minimal alterations throughout to preserve the existing access, views and internal layouts… This natural conversion to keep the existing building preserved … [will ensure] a continuity of building use and appearance to preserve the existing architecture that will be largely indistinguishable from the current building.”

The plan will be considered by the council’s planning committee in due course.

Walk this way!

A sponsored walk by pupils at Langley Pre-Prep and Prep School has raised money to help fight a cancer which affects children in particular.

All the pupils – aged from three to 13 – and staff at the Taverham school walked, skipped and ran 1km around the grounds in aid of Sarcoma UK.

They hoped to raise £500 but think they may have raised more than that.

Roger Outwin-Flinders, head of prep at Langley, said: “We are always proud to support good causes – both locally and nationally. This year, the Crows House has chosen to support Sarcoma UK and they organised the sponsored walk involving the children and staff.”

Richard Davidson, chief executive at Sarcoma UK, said: “Our charity relies solely on voluntary donations and the efforts of our fundraisers and supporters, so we are delighted that the children and staff decided to help us help those who are affected by sarcoma.”

Sarcomas are the third most common cancer in children, making up 11pc of all cancers in children in the UK, and a child is diagnosed nearly every other day.

The charity funds research, offers support, and campaigns for better treatments.

Freya’s our own little swan

An aspiring ballerina has had her dream come true, winning a much sought-after role in an upcoming production of Swan Lake.

Freya Mills auditioned for a part in the production being performed by the English Youth Ballet at Norwich Theatre Royal later this month and was thrilled to gain a place.

Mum Claire said: “This was Freya’s first audition. For a young ballet dancer, performing in Swan Lake in her home theatre is a dream come true! And it’s a wonderful experience and privilege to train with EYB Principal Ballet dancers and other young dancers from all over Norfolk.”

Nearly 200 dancers from schools in Norfolk and Suffolk auditioned for the parts in March, and 92 were chosen.

Since then they have taken part in more than 60 hours of rehearsals, which Freya, a former Norfolk Primary Cross Country Finalist, is taking in her stride.

“As well as dancing, she does athletics, artistic roller skating, is in a 5k running club and has taken part in the Race for Life for several years,” said Claire. “The whole family are so proud of Freya and the commitment and effort she puts into everything she does.”

Freya, 12, a pupil at Taverham High School, said: “I’ve LOVED every rehearsal! The best part, so far, has been learning new steps and routines in a big hall. I’m really enjoying it.

“I love watching the professional dancers, too – they look so graceful. I can’t wait until I can go en pointe! Nanny and Grandad have taken me to see ballet at the theatre, so seeing behind the scenes of a production is amazing. I’m so excited about the performances and a bit nervous, too, but I know my routines and I can’t wait!”

Freya has been dancing since she was five, studying ballet and tap with Judy Habbitts School of Dance, in Drayton.

She recently achieved her ISTD Grade 3 in ballet, as well as gaining a distinction in Grade 2 tap.

She and the other youngsters will be taking part in the three performances, on July 21 and 22.

Historic tower restored

Work has been completed to restore Drayton Lodge, a 15th-century tower which had lain derelict for centuries.

The restoration project was a collaboration between Hidden Talents Homes, who are building homes on the Drayton High Road site, and Historic England, who restored the lodge at a cost of £80,000.

Dr John Alban, honorary senior lecturer in the School of History at the University of East Anglia, completed the research and wrote the text for the two information boards, on behalf of the Paston Footprints Project, a group dedicated to preserving the memory of the Paston family.

He unveiled them earlier this month, saying: “This is an auspicious day. Drayton Lodge may be a small building and one perhaps not widely known, but it is important in many respects and therefore deserves not to be overlooked.

“It is one of the earliest examples in England of the use of brick – in this case, in a building designed to have a fortified appearance, even though it had little actual military strength.”

The building has connections with the Paston family and Sir John Fastolf, a Norfolk knight who – through his long and impressive military career in the service of the three Lancastrian kings during the Hundred Years’ War in France – gained a fortune from the profits of war.

This was reinvested in buying numerous estates in England, and in a major building programme which, in the 1430s, saw the simultaneous construction of Caister Castle, Hellesdon Manor House and Lodge, and Drayton Lodge itself.

The history of Drayton Lodge is intriguing. It has variously been described as a “plaisance”, a hunting lodge and a strategic lookout post, but it was probably originally conceived as a small, fortified manor house.

Like the much larger Caister Castle, it is significant as an early example of a brick-built, fortified structure.

The Paston family acquired the lodge after Fastolf’s death, and it was during their ownership that the building was attacked by the forces of John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who contested their ownership of the manors at Drayton and Hellesdon.

“Much of the lodge’s history is obscure, but we know that after Fastolf’s death in 1459 it was acquired by the Paston family, who used it, variously, as a hunting lodge or as an occasional retreat where banquets were held, and as a local administrative seat where manorial courts took place,” said John. “In 1465, a large force of the Duke’s armed retainers entered the Paston manors of Hellesdon and Drayton and ‘beat down’ the Paston properties there. Drayton Lodge was left as a ruin, which the Pastons chose not to repair.”

The lodge fell increasingly into a sad state of disrepair, which resulted in it being placed on Historic England’s heritage at risk register.

“Its recent conservation is therefore to be welcomed – and congratulations and thanks must go to Hidden Talents Homes and Historic England for their excellent partnership work which has not only seen the building removed from the register but has ensured that it will survive to provide enjoyment and inspiration for future generations,” said John.

Dr Rob Knee, a co-director of the Paston Footprints Project, said: “With the presence of the information boards at this site, the Paston Footprints Project has now provided information and explanations for all of the surviving buildings in Norfolk that tell the story of the Paston family.”

The sky’s the limit

When two of Norwich’s largest hockey clubs – Wanderers and Grasshoppers – got together in 1990, they did so with the aim of getting into the national league.

And last year, more than three decades later, that vision finally came to fruition with the Norwich City Men’s first team winning the East Region league to join National Conference Midlands, the third tier of English hockey.

NCHC Mens 1st Team

Now, after a season in the national league, the team – which plays at Taverham Recreational Facilities – is celebrating a dream come true.

Promotion saw the team’s travel increase remarkably, with away days to Loughborough, Nottingham, Birmingham and Lichfield amongst the longest, and away teams all travelling to play at Taverham.

The squad dug incredibly deep, week in week out, and put on a show every time.

A spokesman said: “It was lovely to have so many people attend the matches, and the team were extremely proud to represent Norwich City. This was especially felt when they saw crowds of 200-plus attend the Norfolk derby versus Harleston at TRF, which most certainly kept the bar team busy in the clubhouse.”

NCHC against Harleston

After some impressive results in a debut campaign – even vying for promotion for a while – the team ended the season in third place with the aim of pushing higher next year.

Norwich City Hockey Club is always looking for new members of all ages, male and female, and all standards.

For information about joining the club, email

To find out more about what TRF has to offer, email

Soprano takes centre stage

A Wroxham-based soprano will be taking centre stage at a special concert in Norwich at the weekend.

Katalin Prentice will be the soloist with the Pakefield singers when they present Glory and Grandeur, a concert for organs and choir, and featuring anthems including Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer and Buxtehude’s Toccata in F as well as works by Mozart and Mascagni.

“I feel honoured to be invited to sing the soprano solos with the Pakefield Singers under the direction of conductor Vetta Wise and to be a part of this truly magnificent musical project,” said Katalin, who is Hungarian and has lived in the UK for 11 years and in Wroxham since 2015.

A dentist by profession, she stopped working when pregnant with her first daughter – she now has two – and said classical music and singing has always been her passion.

“Shortly after I moved to the United Kingdom I started vocal training with Nan Christie in London, and soon after relocating to Norfolk I met my lovely singing teacher, Vetta Wise, who has been guiding me on my musical journey ever since,” she said. “With her help and support in 2017 I completed the one-year opera course at the Associated Studios Performing Arts Academy in London, gaining a diploma in opera singing. In 2019 I finished my Trinity College ATCL Performers diploma with distinction.”

Complications with both her pregnancies took their toll and she said it has taken her a while to retrain her voice, but she has now been chosen for this important role at St Peter Mancroft on Saturday night.

She also recently took part in two international competitions, winning an honourable mention at Odin International Music Competition and the Grand Prix at the Alpin Triglav 2021 International Music, Dance and Fine Art Competition.

“As a result of winning the competition in July 2022 I performed at the prize winners’ gala concert in one of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, the Crystal Hall in Rogaška Slatina (Slovenia) representing the United Kingdom,” said Katalin.

The concert is at 7pm and tickets are £12.50, under-16s free. Tickets can be bought on the door or from

Head runs to help guide dogs

Drayton Junior School head Alison Read has completed a special run to raise money for Guide Dogs.

Alison completed the London Landmarks Half Marathon in two hours 14 minutes, raising more than £200 for the charity.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to meet guide dog Maci and guide dog puppy Barnabee when Norwich Guide Dogs visited Drayton Juniors,” she said.

“It was amazing to hear from Maci’s owner about the crucial role that Maci plays in her life and hear all about Barnabee’s training.

“I said at the time that I would really like to raise funds for the charity, so here I am!

“With a close friend experiencing sight loss, I know just how important staying independent is, and if the money raised can go towards someone having their very own Maci then that will be worth 13.1 painful miles.”

Annette Smart, Norwich Guide Dogs fundraising co-ordinator, said: “It is very rewarding to know that our talks in schools lead to vital fundraising for Guide Dogs.

“It all started when one of the school’s pupils met Maci in a local supermarket. He then asked the school if Maci could visit.

“I think Maci may be organising a ‘thank-you’ visit for Alison and the children will be surprised to learn what the school head did in the Easter break!”

Alison has previously run with a visually impaired person as a guide, allowing him to enjoy running.

To find out more about booking a speaker, sighted guides, volunteering or any other aspect, visit

Dad’s smash walking challenge

Two intrepid walkers have reached the finish line of a 190-mile challenge – and smashed their fundraising target for a hospital intensive care baby unit.

Long-time friends Matt Dyke and Martin Church braved howling wind, torrential rain, blisters and muscle strains in an epic coast-to-coast trek from Cumbria to Yorkshire in just five days.

Soggy start in Cumbria

When the going got tough they had to split into two teams so they could walk at their own pace – with Matt finishing a day earlier than Martin, from Horsford.

But they reunited to triumphantly arrive at Robin Hood’s Bay together and grabbed ice creams to celebrate licking their challenge.

Their efforts have so far raised almost £8,500 for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit, which helped both the dads when their babies arrived prematurely.

The total is way beyond their £5,750 target – and they hope further donations will come in now they have completed their challenge in less than their six-day goal.

Shortly after finishing, Anglian Water field technician Martin, 41, said: “I am just so tired – I just want to get home, see the family, have a pizza and get a good night’s sleep.

“The highlights were some stunning scenery, especially in the Lake District which was full of lambs, and the team camaraderie. The lowlights were a knee injury, which meant I let Matt go on at his own pace, and the tough terrain which was bleak at times.”

The finish line

Matt, 37, a project manager for Wall Engineering in North Walsham, added: “It was much harder than we imagined. Even the flatter bits, where we thought we would make up time, were tricky – boggy, slippery and you were having to jump over or walk around obstructions, mud and water.

“Our bodies are battered, bruised, blistered and swollen but we’re completely overwhelmed by the support, words of encouragement and donations received.

“My highlight was seeing Martin battle on and reuniting with him to reach the finish together.”

Both men paid tribute to their support team – driver Colm McGilway and sports therapists Sally Ling and Lisa Payne from Up and Running Treatments, who repaired their aching bodies along the way, plus various friends and guests who joined them for stretches of the walk to boost any flagging morale.

Donations towards their fundraising can be made via