£15,000 for community projects

Community projects could benefit from up to a £5k investment as the Victory Housing Trust Community Fund opens for its latest round of funding.

The fund, which is offering £15k in total, is inviting bids for activities and initiatives which are making a difference in Victory’s area of operation, which is mainly in North Norfolk.
The funding can be used to meet different needs, such as for capital projects, venue hire, equipment, start-up expenses, and training across themes including health and wellbeing, community cohesion and tackling disadvantage. A key criteria is that all applications should involve or have the potential to involve residents of Victory Housing Trust.
The fund was launched in 2008 to make a difference to people’s lives and since then Victory has awarded more than £500,000 through 174 grants. In the most recent round of funding, in April 2019, £20,500 was awarded to six projects. This included £2,500 to Lighthouse Charity Trust to set up a Men’s Shed in Sheringham.
The deadline for applications is September 27 and all the bids will be assessed by a panel made up of Victory residents, supported by the Norfolk Community Foundation which administers the fund on Victory’s behalf.
Lisa Collen, interim managing director of Victory Housing Trust explained: “We are looking forward to offering this investment to some great causes in our area an,d if you have a community project which fits our criteria, please do make an application.”
Applications for grants can be made by any organisation or group established for charitable purposes, provided there is a formal structure which allows for monitoring of activity and feedback – official charitable status is not necessary.
Anyone wishing to find out more and apply can do so via the Norfolk Community Foundation website:

Soapbox Derby fun

There were thrills, some spills and a lot of fun at the Cromer Soapbox Derby this year.

With 30 karts and 35 drivers from as far afield as the Midlands, the event has been hailed a great success by carnival chairman Tony Shipp.

“We had the biggest number of karts, it was great weather – the heavy rain held off until after the event – and it was a great afternoon,” he said.

The route took in the A149 and Beach Road and there were some fast times recorded.

The winner of the adult class was Oliver Richardson, who completed the course in 26 seconds. The winner of the 16-18-year-old class, Christoper Daykin, clocked a winning time of 27 seconds, and in the 10-15-year-old class, Alfie Childs and Emily Flowerdew tied for the prize with a time of 35 seconds.

North Walsham applies for £1 million to revive town centre

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), working in close partnership with North Walsham Town Council, Regenerate North Walsham CIC and other community partners, have recently put in a bid for North Walsham to the Heritage Action Zone funding scheme.

The grant fund, administered by Historic England, would allow North Walsham to restore the town centre’s historic character with a particular focus on Market Place and its adjoining roads. The plans have been created through a strong local partnership and will complement the planned improvements to St Nicholas Court precinct, which was recently awarded £100,000 through the NNDC Market Town Initiative. It is hoped that Historic England funding would support town centre regeneration by improving accessibility, highlighting the town’s heritage and encouraging cultural activities.

A decision on the bid is anticipated in the autumn. If successful, a programme design phase would follow, entailing further community engagement and consultation preceding the formal start of the project in April 2021.

Cllr Virginia Gay, member for North Walsham Market cross and NNDC Portfolio Holder for Culture & Wellbeing, said: “Our hope is that North Walsham will benefit both economically and culturally, welcoming local residents, the surrounding communities and visitors alike. It was very inspiring to see so many people come together in support of our application.”

A fab night of music at Theatre Royal

I never got to see the Beatles perform live, possibly due to the fact that I wasn’t born until 1966.

My discovery of the Fab Four came much later when, as a 12-year-old, I found a stack of LPs and a portable record player belonging to my stepmum, a huge fan who also never got to see them live.

So last night’s performance Let It Be at the Theatre Royal was a right treat for us both.

The show looked back at the musical history of the “mop tops” through the recreation of signature performances such as the Royal Variety Show and Shea Stadium, interspersed with newsreel and adverts from the time. How we chuckled as the newly-married bride lit up with the voiceover slogan “time for a Capstan”.

The four performers were faultless musicians, swapping from guitar to piano and back. The joke back in the day was that Ringo Starr wasn’t the best drummer in the world, he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles. You certainly couldn’t have said that about Ben Cullingworth as a believable Ringo. He was joined on stage by Richard Jordan as John (he passed the test with my stepmum, John was her favourite), John Brosnan as George and Emanuele Angeletti as Paul.

The first half was a tour through the Beatles’ back catalogue from early days to the Sgt Pepper years, the second half an imagined reunion for John’s 40th birthday taking in each band member’s solo material. This included a stunning version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps with the guitar solo masterfully played by ‘George’. George didn’t event play that on the original, it was Eric Clapton.

The audience ranged in age but had one thing in common, they knew the words to all the songs and were encouraged to sing along and get up, clap and dance.

A couple of crowd pleasers ended the concert – Let It Be and Hey Jude – before a standing ovation. A truly uplifting evening of music from one of the worlds best and biggest bands.

“Kill* for a ticket” – Patsy Webster (stepmum)

(*Don’t actually kill someone, obviously. The show runs until Saturday and tickets are still available.

Gay Webster

Pictures: Paul Coltas

Deserved honour for play fundraiser

North Walsham fundraiser Matthew Smith has had his work for the community recognised with the award of the MBE in the Queens 2019 Birthday Honours List.

The honour is for his work as business manager for Sheringham Woodfields School and founder and trustee of North Walsham Play, for services to children with special education needs and disabilities.

He said: “The letter arrived in early May so keeping it a secret has been a real challenge but it’s great to finally have this out in the open. I feel so humble to have been nominated and chosen. I have only ever done what I feel is right/best with the time and skills I have been given.”

He thanks the person or people who nominated him and added: “I must also say a massive thank you to my very understanding wife, two children and parents for all their support, advice and patience!”

He started his campaign to improve play provision in 2015 when his first son was a year old and he and his wife realised there was very little that their child would be able to grow up and enjoy within the town’s open spaces.

“North Walsham is the largest market town in North Norfolk and the play provision was very poor given this fact. But instead of moaning about it, or taking to Facebook to bash the council, I decided to see this as an opportuntiy and hence the registered charity North Walsham Play was formed in early 2016. Our aim has been to create accessible, fun and inclusive play parks for all.”

With a positive working relationship with North Walsham Town Council, the group has which has been able to do “amazing things”.

To date, in excess of £200,000 has been secured to allow for three new parks to be installed. The first was a small play park at Woodville within one of the town’s housing estates. “This small yet perfectly formed park was the first in the town to include equipment accessible to children in wheelchairs,” said Matthew.

The second project was a large £94,000 play park within the Memorial Park. “This large themed play park has amazing facilities that have been welcomed and enjoyed by many hundreds of families. The feedback has been amazing. Again, the park includes equipment accessible for children and adults in wheelchairs. All items are within the same park, there is no segregation or fencing off of certain items of equipment,” said Matthew.

The third park, to be installed in mid-July will see a state-of-the-art, 13-piece outside gym installed at the Memorial  Park. Four pieces of equipment will enable users to generate energy as they exercise allowing them to charge devices whilst exercising.

This plan has been supported by a large grant from Sheringham Shoal Fund (administered by the Norfolk Community Foundation) plus a grant from the Postcode Lottery Trust.

But he said: “We’re not stopping there. We are now focusing our efforts on a new skate park to replace the much-loved facility at Trackside. The current skate park has served us very well but its now time to look to the future. We have a consultation on Friday, July 12, 6pm at Costa Coffee for all who want to come and support (free food and drinks).”

And he added: “North Walsham Play has a brilliant and perfectly-assembled committee of dedicated volunteers. We might not be the biggest committee, but I think our track record speaks for itself. I couldn’t have done this on my own, so even though the award was given to me, there are many people who have helped make this possible.”

New move on pub plan for North Walsham

The future of a key building in the centre of North Walsham, which attracted expressions of interest from pub chain JD Wetherspoon and is owned by North Norfolk District Council, will be reviewed and all possible future options identified.

The former town council offices on New Road have been the subject of interest from the company since 2014, but no final contract has ever been signed, despite North Norfolk District Council’s best efforts.

The new cabinet at North Norfolk District Council, chosen at a full council meeting on May 15 following the local elections on May 2d, has decided to look again at what the building could be used for.

Virginia Gay, cabinet member for culture and wellbeing, and ward member for North Walsham Market Cross, said: “This is an important building at the entrance to our attractive market. It’s an absolutely crucial asset for North Norfolk.

“We want the best result for our town, which has great potential to become a significant destination, and its people. But we have an obligation to protect the interests of all North Norfolk’s council taxpayers and ensure that they receive best value for their money.

“The Wetherspoon question has hung over us for far too long and that hasn’t been fair on anyone.

“We are concerned for the future of this building and we will look at all possible options to make sure that it no longer stands empty and unused.

“North Walsham is an increasingly vibrant community, a great place to live, work and study, and this building needs to play an important part into the future.”

An options appraisal for the building will be brought to a future meeting of the cabinet.

North Walsham Town Sign

Grant boost for canal lock restoration

Work will start this summer on restoring Ebridge Lock, the best-known of the six along the North Walsham and Dilham Canal.

The project, estimated to cost up to £35,000, has been made possible thanks to a £26,000 EU LEADER grant to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust which is working with the canal owners to regenerate the 19th-century waterway.

The funding will cover the cost of manufacturing the top gates and “stop planks”, which block off the lock enabling repairs to be carried out. 

Volunteers will carry out the restoration with some professional help and the trust is appealing for donations to cover the cost of specialist contractors, materials such as bricks for the lock walls, and equipment hire.

“The Ebridge Lock area has become a magnet for locals and tourists to walk, fish, boat or just sit since the Old Canal Company (OCC) restored the reach to Ebridge,” said  trust chairman Ivan Cane.

“However, the waters are only held back by a wall of cement bags placed at the top of the lock some 60 years ago. This grant will lead to the replacement of the bag wall with new gates – that will sustain the present level of water for people and nature, as well as being a visual reminder of the past. This will also be the first stage in the restoration of the second lock on the canal.”

Bacton Wood Lock, one mile upstream, has been restored over a 10-year period by the OCC, which owns that stretch of the waterway, and volunteers.

Once nearly nine miles long, the canal opened in 1826 to ferry cargoes to and from mills and communities along its route. But it went into decline with the arrival of the railway and the last wherry sailed it in 1934.

Disuse led to the waterway becoming choked with vegetation and Ebridge Lock, along with the rest of the canal infrastructure, rusted, rotted and crumbled. 

It is the most visible of the canal’s locks, standing beside the road from North Walsham to Happisburgh, on Ebridge Mill Pond.

Centenary of conception for cherished town hospital

It is a milestone year for North Walsham’s War Memorial Hospital. For a century ago a public meeting sowed the seed for its creation.

The hospital’s Friends group is asking for public help in tracking down information about that historic first gathering.

And they are also using the 100th anniversary to recruit more members to carry on the tradition of community support for the much-loved health care unit.

The original hospital was opened in August 1924, but its conception was five years earlier – as the nation recovered from the pain and carnage of the Great War.

A meeting was held in 1919 to seek local people’s backing, and funding, for a “cottage” hospital. It aimed to care for the community’s sick and to remember the local soldiers who gave their lives in the war.

Records of the meeting are scarce for the Friends would like to hear from anyone with local history or family archives which might shed a bit more light on that vital first meeting.

Friends chairman Keith Jarvis said: “Our hospital was born through public support, and we are proud to carry on the tradition.

“Even though the hospital is run by a health trust, the extras we provide make a difference to the lives of patients, families, friends and staff. We are looking for new members to support our efforts – and have some fun and friendship along the way.

“And we hope there may be people out there who can help with our detective work in tracing more details of the public meeting that started it all.”

The foundation stone for the original hospital was laid on September 18 1919. The unit was opened in August 1924 by Princess Marie Louise. Today’s hospital, opened in 2012 after the original was demolished, is run by the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.

Thanks to continuing public donations the Friends pay for improvements and extras beyond the basic “health service” budgets – from a £22,000 revamp of the day room to Christmas gifts for patients.

To find out more about the friends and to make contact visit the website

The hospital opening in 1924 (PICTURE: North Walsham and District Community Archive)

Hospital Friends members in the revamped day room (PICTURE: Richard Batson)