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.

Make a date for open gardens

Some of the area’s most beautiful gardens are being opened this spring and summer to help raise money for St John Ambulance.
While the service was in high demand during 2020 helping the NHS deal with the covid-19 pandemic and now keeping busy assisting at vaccination centres, its fundraising took a nosedive.
And now gardens including Sheringham Hall and the Bishop of Norwich’s Garden are holding open days to give the charity a shot in the arm in return.
Sheringham Hall is the first garden to open up on April 17, from noon until 5pm, with Chestnut Farm at West Beckham, near Holt, soon after on May 16.
Visitors to Sheringham Hall, a house designed by Humphrey Repton, will be able to see the walled garden, glasshouses and cold frames which have been lovingly restored.

There are also walks through the woodland, a wildflower meadow and vistas over the park.

Chestnut Farm is a three-acre garden with plants gathered together during the past 50 years and more being added annually, with many rare and unusual species.
A stroll through the old paddock will show off the collection of shrubs and trees forming a small arboretum, many of which will be in blossom and giving off a wonderful scent.

The event at the Bishop’s Garden will be on July 4 but can be booked now.
Pre-booking might also be required at some of the gardens, and while there will be some distancing requirements in place there will be the usual tea and cake – albeit in a different format from previous years.
The charity needs your support so please visit for more Norfolk gardens to visit, times, ticket prices and any necessary updates.
You can also call Georgina Holloway on 01328 700514 or email

Vandals attack golf course

An attack by vandals has meant that the course at Sprowston Manor Hotel and Country Club has been unable to reopen to golfers on the first day that lockdown restrictions were eased.

The damage caused to one of the greens.

Following overnight damage of five of the greens, the long-awaited first day of play has had to be postponed and, in a post on their Facebook page, the venue said that the greens team was checking the damage and would be making urgent repairs in the hope of reopening soon.

Police have been informed and members will be updated.

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.

Oldest fundraiser dies at 97

One of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Charity’s oldest fundraisers, Brian Garrad, has died at the age of 97.

Mr Garrad, from Coltishall, raised almost £4,000 during the first lockdown, becoming Norfolk’s own version of Captain Tom Moore walking round his garden.

He came up with the idea to mark VE Day after his planned trip to celebrate at Buckingham Palace was cancelled.

Brian, pictured here with his granddaughter, Liz, and during his days in the army, set off to cover 10 miles in a month – 70 laps of his garden – but despite having COPD, he did more laps than planned and took part in a mini-parade with his family.

The Hospital Charity Fundraising Team said: “We were deeply saddened to hear that Mr Garrad had passed away. He was a true inspiration to us all and we have such lovely memories of his fundraising efforts and his fantastic VE Day celebrations at home. The money he raised is making a huge difference to our hospital and our thoughts are with all his family and friends.”

During the second world war he served with the 120th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment – an air defence unit of the British Army’s Royal Artillery – and spent the majority of that time in France, often driving ammunition to the frontline.

His daughter, Ruth Dockerty, said: “He was an amazing dad, always looking for a new adventure. He had so many interests including London buses – he ended up owning one – steam trains, gardening, music and Norwich City Football Club. His happiest days were spent at the beach, particularly Walcott.

 “He lived for his family and, even though he had many tragedies in his life, he always kept us positive and his faith in the church saw him through.”

 “We’d like to thank all the nurses and doctors on Dilham Ward who were fabulous to him and us, and David and Lorna from the palliative care team who kept his spirits going by trying to get him home.”

A cup of kindness – for £1

Holt is to become one of the first places in the country to launch a reusable takeaway cup to be used around the town.
Having seen how a similar scheme worked in Shrewsbury, Sarah Tribe, of Greening Holt, decided to set about starting one here, working the same way as many sporting and music events.
“You pay £1 for the cup and then when you get a takeaway tea or coffee it is refilled,” she said.
“With the covid restrictions at the moment you hand in your cup each time and get a clean one – and at the end, when we are all tired of takeaway coffees, you take the cup back and get your £1 deposit back.”

Sarah said around half a dozen cafes in the town had already signed up to take part and the scheme was being set up and managed by the team at the Wandering Whelk café, who are selling the cups.
The scheme is aimed at putting a stop to single use disposable takeaway cups, encouraging the town to move towards becoming zero waste.
Of the seven million single-use cups that are thrown away every day in the UK, less than 1pc currently get recycled and most compostable cups actually end up in landfill.
The Holt Cup is 100pc polypropylene and is designed to be used hundreds of times. They come in a variety of colours and have been designed by Norwich brand consultants One Agency.

The scheme will have its official launch on April 15 and any cafés wishing to join in should email