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All aboard for canal trips

Weekend and Boxing Day boat trips are about to get under way on Norfolk’s only sailing canal with locks.

From Sunday (November 26) at 2pm, passengers will be able to take an hour’s gentle cruise along a restored stretch of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, enjoying a glass of alcohol-free mulled wine en-route.

The trips, on Saturdays and/or Sundays, plus Boxing Day (subject to wind, rain or ice), will run between the millpond at Ebridge and Bacton Wood lock, about a mile each way.

Passengers will travel on a pontoon equipped with an electric outboard motor so that it glides almost silently through the water. It has been fitted with picnic benches and a table and there will be a giant umbrella on board, in case of showers.

Graham Pressman, boating officer with organisers, the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, said there was room on board for 10 passengers.

The crew of two will talk about the canal’s past, present and hoped-for future, and about wildlife on the canal which includes otters, kingfishers, little egrets, grey wagtails, water voles, marsh harriers, dragonflies, deer, and many varieties of fish.

“Passengers will be able to enjoy the short talk, have the pleasure of a boat trip and a glass of mulled wine during a really pleasant hour on the water,” said Graham, who hopes the canal’s many visitors will combine their walks with a cruise.

A round-trip will cost £5 per person and passengers will be able to buy a warming cup of alcohol-free mulled wine and souvenirs. Proceeds will go towards the cost of restoring the second-hand trip boat (Elsa), which the trust was given earlier this year, and for further restoration work on the canal.

Elsa needs repairs to her woodwork and a hole in her hull, grit blasting and painting. Graham said the bill might run to several thousand pounds but, if the money could be raised in time from the pontoon trips and any other sources, he hoped she would be ready by next summer.

A timetable for the pontoon boat trips will be on display on the noticeboard at Ebridge in good time for the first passenger trip. Anyone wishing to climb aboard can turn up at the advertised times, or book by calling Graham on 07585 160 772. Bookings first, then walk-ups, as space is available. More trips might be organised according to demand.

Showcase Gallery has joined forces with the canal trust to offer an ideal Christmas present for those proud of their local heritage.

Anyone taking out membership of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust before Christmas Eve, either for themselves or as a gift, will be entitled to buy this year’s full-colour North Walsham Calendar for the discounted price of £4.50, a saving of £3 (one per household).

Would-be members can join the Trust at the Showcase Gallery, on North Walsham’s Market Place, which has produced and sells the calendars. They feature many local views, including a photo of Ebridge Mill pond on the canal, taken by trust officer Julie Kelleher.

Members can help with the restoration effort in a variety of practical, administrative and social ways. Entry to canal film nights is free and they also receive a quarterly newsletter packed with information. Volunteer work parties are held on two Sundays of each month.

Annual membership costs £10 for an individual or £15 for a family. Anyone interested in joining can also visit the membership section of the trust’s website at www.nwdct.org or write to The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust  Membership Secretary, 25 Drovers Way, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertforshire, CM23 4GF.

 

 

 

Mobile phone signal boost for North Walsham

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has welcomed news of a big improvement to mobile phone reception in North Walsham.

The MP has recently been informed that a new communications mast is being built at the town’s Anglia Water Marshgate sewage works , and is forecast to become operational by the end of the year. It will be used by mobile phone operators 02 and Vodafone.

Norman said: “This is a major boost for the town’s residents and for those who need mobile phones for their work and businesses. I also thank residents for their support in the long campaign that helped to bring this about.”

A large part of the town should benefit from improved mobile phone signal. In particular, a swathe of the town from Marshgate to Spa Common and the Brick Kiln Estate which has had poor mobile phone signal should see a significant improvement.

It follows a long campaign by residents, supported by Norman Lamb and local councillors led by Eric Seward, for better mobile phone reception in North Walsham. Earlier this year a planning application for a new communications mast at the town’s sewage works was made. It received widespread public support and planning permission was given by North Norfolk District Council in June.

Travel agents launch fifth annual gift appeal in aid of Break charity

Hays Travel, in Aylsham and Sheringham, has launched its fifth annual Santa’s Sleigh appeal to spread cheer and change the lives of vulnerable children and young people this Christmas.

The team is asking people to pop into either branch and donate new, unwrapped items such as toys, gift sets, toiletries, household goods, stationery items or books in aid of the children and families that Norfolk-based charity Break supports throughout East Anglia.

Break supports young people in care, children with disabilities and families who need support, helping them through difficult times and securing a brighter future.

Branch manager of Hays Travel Aylsham (former CAS Travel) and initiator of the appeal Jo Dobbie said: “I like to be involved with the local community and there is nothing better than supporting a local charity especially in the festive season. I absolutely love Break’s ethos and this is a great opportunity for us to show support.

“I initially started Santa’s Sleigh at the Aylsham branch, and then got Sheringham on board with it too. It created bigger awareness for ourselves and for the appeal and we’re pleased to say they will be joining us again this year.”

Danielle Gravestock, senior fundraising officer for Break, said: “We can’t thank Hays Travel enough for the support they give us each year by organising their Santa’s Sleigh appeal.  We are very grateful to all their staff for organising the appeal and everyone who is contributing goods to support it. These gifts really do make a difference to the children and young people we support.”

Santa’s Sleigh started on Saturday and will run for four consecutive weeks until December 9.

Pictured are branch manager Jo Dobbie, Sam Antoniades-Cork, Mark Heffer and Karen Ashford.

 

Multi-million pound investment in sport for North Norfolk

A £12.6 million investment in state-of-the-art sporting facilities in North Norfolk will go before councillors next week.

The multi-million pound investment would see a £10 million new leisure centre with a swimming pool at the Splash site in Sheringham and a £2.6 million indoor tennis centre with gym at a new North Norfolk Community Sports Hub in Cromer, with satellite tennis facilities across the district at Fakenham, Wells and North Walsham.

The proposals will be considered at the council’s overview and scrutiny meeting next Wednesday. The reports will then go to Cabinet on December 4. If the proposals are supported they will go to full council on December 19 for the funding to be agreed.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: “We know that keeping fit and active is important for residents. These ambitious plans would see a £12.6 million investment in sport and active leisure; that’s a wise investment for the Council as well as good news for the community who will benefit from better sports facilities.”

The North Norfolk Community Sports Hub would be created in partnership with Cromer Academy and part-grant funded by the Lawn Tennis association (LTA) and should be built by mid-2019 if councillors approve the proposals.

The new facility will include:

  • Three indoor tennis courts
  • Changing rooms
  • Toilets
  • Reception area
  • New bar/lounge and viewing gallery
  • 20 station-gym with an area for free weights and fitness
  • Studio space for fitness classes

In addition, a grant from the Lawn Tennis Association will provide for improved tennis facilities across the district, to drive up participation.

Building costs are estimated to be £2.6m for a ‘framed fabric’ indoor tennis facility or nearly £4 million for a traditional built facility.

Nick Amis, chairman of Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association, said: “It has always been my aim to increase the sporting facilities at our club and we have been fortunate to have received support for very many years from NNDC in various forms. This project will enable us to increase our already well established coaching programme for 140+ juniors. We will be able to accommodate all ages and abilities in the new facility, bringing in other local clubs to use the new indoor courts and keeping fitness levels up, which is a key part of the NNDC plan for healthy living.”

Cromer Academy principal Dr Geoff Baker said: “These are fantastic and creative proposals that will make a lasting difference both to our pupils and the wider community.

“Sport is already a really important part of life at Cromer Academy and this investment will give our young people even more opportunities to take part both as individual players and in teams, and develop key social and leadership skills.”

The feasibility study for the replacement of the Splash Leisure and Fitness Centre in Sheringham considered three options: refurbishment of the existing site; a new build and a new build plus a health spa facility.  The new build option was by far the best value and will be taken forward if the proposal is approved by councillors.

It is recommending that a new leisure centre with a swimming pool is built on the site, partly funded by the sale of land for a hotel development.

The new build option, without the health spa, would see:

  • A £10 million investment in a new leisure and fitness centre
  • A 25m six lane pool
  • A learner pool
  • A splash pad/ fun water
  • A 50 station gym health and fitness suite
  • One large dividable studio
  • A spin studio
  • Two treatment rooms
  • A café

The study estimates that the new leisure centre will take around two years to complete and be open to the public from October 2020. Splash will continue to be open as usual to customers and members while future investment plans are considered by the authority.

PICTURE: CHRIS TAYLOR PHOTO

One-off chance to cycle un-opened NDR

For one day only, cyclists are being invited to explore the westernmost sections of the A1270 Norwich Northern Distributor Road before they are opened to traffic.

The new dual carriageway is nearing completion between the A1067 Fakenham Road and the Drayton Lane roundabout, and these stretches will be open to cyclists from 10am to 4pm on Sunday  October 29 as part of the Norfolk Walking and Cycling Festival. These sections of road, and Drayton Lane to A140 Cromer Road, are expected to be opened to traffic in November, provided good progress is maintained on the major A1270/A140 junction.

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, said: “We are very pleased to give local people a chance to see the road before it’s open to general traffic, and to explore the new cycle-ways and links to Marriott’s Way and communities such as Horsford and Thorpe Marriott.

“This will be a one-off opportunity to ride on a traffic-free main carriageway, but maintaining and improving permanent cycle links is an essential part of the project. Once the whole NDR is finished, it will still be possible to use new and existing paths and quiet lanes to get from Fakenham Road to Postwick without setting foot or bicycle wheel on the road itself.”

Volunteers from main contractor Balfour Beatty, and from Norfolk County Council’s NDR and  ‘Pushing Ahead’  teams will be joined by others to provide supervision at key locations, including the Fir Covert Road and Reepham Road roundabouts, where cyclists will have to crossing live traffic.

John Birchall, NDR public liaison officer, said there had been many requests to run or cycle on the main carriageway before it opens to vehicles. “The 29th is primarily a family cycling event, and explorers will be able to decide for themselves how much of the three miles of dual carriageway or connected paths they ride. We are aiming to focus on runners when the last sections of the route, north of Postwick, are nearing completion next spring.”

Access on and off the NDR itself will be at the Fakenham Road, Fir Covert Road, Reepham Road and Drayton Lane roundabouts, but people coming from further afield will be able to park at the site compound off New Drayton Lane (NR10 3AN). Marriott’s Way also connects to the new cycle paths along the NDR, but is less suitable for road bikes. A leaflet and plan can be downloaded from the Pushing Ahead website.

 Photo: Pashley

 

Hares trail heads for North Norfolk

North Norfolk will play host to two of the Moongazer Hares planned for a countywide trail next year in aid of the charity Break.

The decision to support the charity was made at a meeting of North Norfolk District Council’s cabinet.

Break is 50 in 2018. Following the successful GoGoGorillas in 2013 and GoGoDragons in 2015, the charity has devised a new sculpture trail for 2018.

In addition to a Norwich trail of Hare sculptures called GoGoHares, Break is for the first time establishing a countywide Moongazer Trail. Sponsors are being sought for the event, which will start on June 24 and run until September 8.

NNDC has agreed to sponsor two hares and set aside £15,000 to cover the project.

It is believed the most suitable locations for the NNDC Moongazer Hares are likely to be Holt Country Park and Bacton Woods.

Nigel Dixon, NNDC cabinet member for economic development and tourism, said: “The advantages are multiple – generating funds for a charity which has long and historic links with North Norfolk, attracting large numbers of visitors to the locations where the hares are sited and benefiting local businesses.”

Maggie Prior, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project for the whole county from a cultural point of view, appealing to families and people of all ages. “We would love to see a hotspot of several hares created in North Norfolk, with ‘our’ two being just part of a greater number in the district.”

There will be an app for each trail and a map available to download. There will be a reward for completing the entire trail – each plinth will have a 4-digit code to collect. All of the city trail hares will have their ears pointing upwards, whereas all of the county trail hares will be looking up to the sky – or gazing up at the moon – with their ears flat against their backs.

Small businesses encouraged to bid for concession pitches in North Norfolk

Start-up businesses and small traders are being given the chance to secure their own pitches across North Norfolk.

It follows a decision by North Norfolk District Council to increase the number of concession pitches across the area. It will increase consumer choice, benefit taxpayers and open up more opportunities for local businesses.

Judy Oliver, portfolio holder for asset commercialisation, said: “Our concession locations have always been popular and many businesses have come back year after year because of the opportunities the sites provide.

“Following a review of our portfolio, we have now identified some further possible sites for concessions. This will provide opportunities for more local businesses and a wider choice of facilities for locals and visitors, as well as providing further revenue for the council and the district.”

The sites are in places such as busy car parks and seaside promenades and the concessions typically include hot food and ice-cream vans, but NNDC is hoping to expand the offerings and will consider any business that wants to bid for a pitch.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick said: “Taking on a concession pitch can be a great way for start-up businesses to test the market and hone their skills before looking for bigger premises. The rents are more affordable than on fixed premises and running costs are lower.”

Two supporters of the concessions scheme are Nathan and Adele Boon (pictured), who signed a three-year deal last season on a pitch in Overstrand for their business, The Bucket List, which sells buckets of chips with homemade toppings.

Adele said: “It had been an idea we had wanted to pursue for a while but we needed the location to be just right. The concession at Overstrand gave us a very well-kept position overlooking the beautiful North Norfolk coast. Having the site has given us a fantastic concept and created the ability to grow our business fast.

“We promote the area and use it at the forefront of advertising through social media, and it has certainly worked. We couldn’t be happier with our pitch.”

North Norfolk’s concession businesses have traditionally operated between April and December but NNDC is looking to bring the 2018 start date forward to March, so that businesses can make the most of Easter.

To apply for a concession pitch, visit www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/concessions. Applications must be submitted by early January.

Youngsters take on new show for latest performance

Talented youngsters will be taking on a new show when Norfolk Youth Music Theatre stages its latest production.
Director Adrian ConnelI was recently tipped off about a show, The Battle of the Boat, that had just been written and was yet unpublished. It had some performances by the National YMT at the Rose Theatre in London to trial it.
He said: “After contacting Ethan Maltby, the composer, to discuss performing the show I realised we had both gone to the same school and Ethan grew up three miles from where I did. It also turned out that I had been his chaperone in Edinburgh in the 1980s when he was a 16-year-old percussionist in the National YMT playing for Whistle Down the Wind. I knew his mother and a trombonist who regularly plays for the Norfolk YMT had played for the Rose Theatre production of The Battle of Boat.”
(The cast includes Aylsham High student Eleanor Diss, from Briggate, Isobel Holroyd, from Aldborough, Megan Howlett, from North Walsham and Mabel White, Aylsham.)
The Battle of Boat is a courageous tale of a group of children trying to find their place in a world at war in 1916. Frustrated by their inability to join the soldiers in battle, the children decide to do whatever it takes to help in the war effort.
However, they soon have to tackle their own conflict in the form of a local gang of bullies who will stop at nothing to see every plan they form fail.
Adrian said: “It’s heartwarming, funny, emotional and exciting and a true celebration of the steadfast British spirit that shone through during WW1.”
The script uses the language and emotions that young children use, particularly from the wartime era. It’s deliberately simple and littered with the nonsense youngsters get up to. Despite its innocence the music is extremely difficult.
Maltby and co-writer Jenna Donnelly began their writing partnership in 2010 with a commissioned piece for the opening of the Kent Youth Games. They went on to write the percussion-musical DrumChasers in 2011, narrated by Stephen Fry.
The show will run November 1-4 at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, 7.30pm nightly, with a 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday. Tickets are £12, concessions available.
Norfolk YMT is taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.