Take a step back in time for charity

A host of entertainment for all ages will be on offer at the annual Mannington Hall Charity Day.
The theme for the event on September 4, hosted this year by the Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers group, is a ‘Step Back in Time’.
Mannington Hall itself will be open with displays of items from yesteryear, including a Gansey display from Sheringham Museum, showing many different jerseys worn by fishermen in the past.
In the grounds there will be craft and charity stalls as well as activities for adults and children. Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers will have plenty of stalls with a range handmade items for sale.
Linda Brown, Organiser of Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, said: “Attractions include classic cars, Simon’s hawks and owls, Minidonks, spinners and weavers from Worstead Weavers, and an exhibition from North Norfolk Railway.
“There’ll be music from folk band Stookey Blue, a ukulele band and Fiddlesticks Morris Dancers.
“The children will not miss out – there’ll be a teddy trail where you can find out about all sorts of bears and get a special knitted Mannington teddy if you take part as well as a wonderful teddy bears picnic led by Karyn who will take you all on a bear hunt. The Puppet Theatre will also be bringing along a workshop for the children to enjoy.”
There will be a wide range of refreshments for visitors to enjoy and an ice cream van will be on site. 
Prizes for the event’s competitions will be presented by authors Isabelle King for the children and David Viner for the adults and they will also be signing their books for anyone interested.
Linda added: “This is going to be a fabulous day out so put it in your diaries now to make sure you don’t miss it.”

READY TEDDIES: Some of the knitted bears that will be part of the charity day at Mannington Hall.

The Mannington Hall Charity Day will take place from 11am-5pm on Sunday, September 4. Entry is £6 for adults and free for children under 16.
The are limited spaces left for craft stalls and anyone interested should contact Linda Brown at

A sparkling seaside treat

A flurry of colourful feathers and pulsing Latin dance kicked off the Cromer Pier Show summer season.

And the spectacular high-energy opening number set the tone for a terrific evening of entertainment.

By the time a flag-waving proms finale sparked a standing ovation, regular showgoers were hailing it as one of the best yet.

The fresh-looking line-up is headed by comedy impressionist Ben Nickless, a Britain’s Got Talent finalist who made a fleeting appearance at the venue last year as one of the weekly guest stars. Now he is back as the main man, and he immediately won over the audience with his mix of impersonations, visual comedy and cheeky banter. A star is born.

His foil for opening week was guest performer ventriloquist Steve Hewlett – a firm favourite of Cromer crowds who never fails to impress with his voice throwing, comic timing, dummies, self-mocking humour and ready wit when interacting with the audience.

A speciality act often provides the wow factor in the pier show and Nadia Lumley’s two routines using giant silver hula hoops are acrobatic, balletic and mesmeric.

Two new songsters impressed with their vocal versatility, with Ferdinand De Leon excelling in a Jersey Boys routine and Holly-Jane Crowter in a Celine Dion ballad belter.

Their combination in Shallow also showcased stunning lighting, scenery, costumes and choreography which are a hallmark throughout this show’s high production values.

A six-strong ensemble of dancers and singers add extra energy and depth to a show which is a sparkling kaleidoscope of colourful entertainment from start to finish.

I have seen many pier shows since 1992, watching them evolve over time, and this must be one of the brightest and buzziest yet.

I could tell you more but there would be too many spoilers for the surprises wrapped up in this gorgeous goody bag of seaside variety entertainment.

t The show runs until October 1, and tickets are available at

By Richard Batson

Firefighters battle blazes

Fire crews are fighting a fire near Wroxham which is believed to have spread to neaby homes.

The blaze started in a field in Ashmanhaugh at lunchtime and seven crews, from Hethersett, Earlham, Carrow, Aylsham, Sprowston and Attleborough, were called.

Unconfirmed reports from people living in the area have said two bungalows in School Road have been “destroyed” and that nearby businesses have lost power.

Firefighters have also been called to other fires in the neighbourhood in the last few hours, including at  Barton Turf, where appliances from Stalham, Wroxham, Martham, Gt Yarmouth, Acle and Gorleston tackled a blaze on open ground in Smallburgh Road.

Crews from Cromer also were called to tackle a fire on Kingsway, North Walsham, this afternoon. Among other fires around the county were blazes in open ground in Heydon, Knapton and on Spa Lane, in Aylsham.

No injuries or damage were reported.

Wildfire warning as temperatures soar

Following a spate of fires around Norfolk, the Broads Authority is issuing a plea for the public to be mindful of the current wildfire risk when visiting the Broads area.

With temperatures soaring in recent days and a prolonged lack of rainfall, many areas of land in the Broads are exceptionally dry, raising concerns about the possibility of wildfires in the near future.

Reedbeds are in particular danger as they have become very dry.

Wildfires can wreak havoc on the landscape, placing people, animals and precious habitats at risk. They spread extremely quickly, engulfing vast areas of vegetation in a short period of time. It then often requires large numbers of firefighting crews and other resources to put them out.

During prolonged dry spells, some natural outbreaks of fire are expected. However, each year there are a number of fires caused accidentally in the Broads area, and we are asking people to play their part to help minimise the risk.

The authority is particularly urging visitors to be extra vigilant when using barbecues, lighters, cooking apparatus on boats and other flammable objects, and to be careful when disposing of cigarette butts and matches.

Disposable barbecues are a real fire risk in a heatwave.

Disposable barbecues pose a distinct risk, and visitors are being asked not to use them onboard their vessels, on the wooden parts of riverside moorings, or near dry flammable ground such as reedbeds. There are designated slabs at many moorings which are available on a first-come first-served basis to put barbecues. Open fires on public land, such as those people might start whilst having a picnic, are also prohibited.

Chris Morphew, Senior Ranger at the Broads Authority said: “Although we are fortunate to not have to deal with the number of wildfires that our friends at other National Parks do, there are still areas of the Broads which are highly flammable, such as reedbeds and arable farmland.

“With the ground as dry as it is at the moment, it only takes a single discarded cigarette butt, smashed glass bottle or careless barbecue to start a wildfire which can cause untold damage to the landscape and put people in harm’s way.

“We understand that it’s perfect weather to get outdoors, but we’re just urging people to be vigilant and to pay attention to what they’re doing and where. For example, don’t create any open flames near reedbeds, remember to put your cigarettes out safely and leave the disposable barbecue at home.”

Reedbed fires present a particular challenge. They contain large amounts of highly-combustible material, cover vast areas and often have difficult road access which affects how easily fire crews can deal with the incident.

If you see something you think might be a wildfire, or you witness behaviour which looks like deliberate fire-starting, please phone 999 as quickly as possible and provide details to the emergency services. Visit the Broads Authority and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service websites for more information.

Meet our own rocking Helles Belle

Brought up in Hellesdon, Kylie Olsson is the face of rock on TV. ADAM AIKEN caught up with her between festivals

Tens of thousands of rock fans who attended this year’s Download festival – and many more who didn’t – tuned in recently when Sky Arts broadcast highlights of the spectacular event.
And it was the familiar face of Hellesdon’s Kylie Olsson gracing our screens as she revisited her role presenting the shows, which featured the likes of Kiss and Iron Maiden.

This year’s festival was a special moment for Kylie, who has been the face of Download coverage since 2011 but who – like every other fan – was left frustrated when the pandemic meant the annual pilgrimage to the east Midlands was put on hold for a couple of years.

Norfolk’s Kylie Olsson is the face of the Download rock festival.

“I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was as the energy in that field, both from the bands and the fans, was infectious,” she said.
“You could tell that everyone was beyond happy to be back at the spiritual home of rock and metal.”
Kylie’s love of music was nurtured back in Norfolk while she was growing up.
She was born in London but her family moved to Hellesdon around 1990, when she was seven, and she went to school at Firside Junior and then Hellesdon High before eventually finding herself at the University of East Anglia.
“I loved it there as it’s a fantastic university. It wasn’t my plan to stay local but the film school there was the second best in the country at that time, so it was a no-brainer,” she said.
Her stint at the UEA also gave her the chance to enjoy live music.
“They have some great bands coming through at the UEA. One of my favourite discoveries was seeing Coldplay with about 20 people in the audience.”
But it’s the heavier stuff that really did it for Kylie, who said: “I’ve always had a huge passion for rock and especially for classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream and AC/DC. Basically, if it has lots of guitars in it then they are my band!”
Before she went to university, she’d already started doing some work at BBC Radio Norfolk.

Kylie studied at the UEA, where she expanded her passion for music.

“I knew that to make a career out of my passion I needed to do both,” she said.
“So the whole time I was at the UEA I was also working at the BBC part-time and then doing lots of work experience in London during the holidays.”
But it wasn’t just work and music that Kylie remembers about her time here.
“One of the things I loved about growing up in Hellesdon is having the freedom to be on a bike – as a kid I literally lived on my bike.
“And one of my favourite things to do would be to bike up to one of the local farms and go strawberry and raspberry picking. It’s just the best.”
Although Kylie headed back to the capital in about 2008 to start a TV career that saw her rise to the heights of Sky Arts, Kylie said she has maintained her links with Norfolk.
“All my family still live in Norwich which means I’m back often to visit them, so I still have a little toe in the city.”

Kylie used her downtime during lockdown to teach herself to play guitar, and she’s launched a YouTube series called Life In Six Strings in which she interviews famous guitarists before getting a lesson from them.
Check out

Wreck of historic royal ship discovered off our coast

The wreck of one of the most famous ships of the 17th century – which sank 340 years ago while carrying the future King of England James Stuart – has been discovered off the coast of Norfolk in the UK, it can be revealed.

Since running aground on a sandbank on May 6, 1682, the wreck of the warship the Gloucester has lain half-buried on the seabed, its exact whereabouts unknown until brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, with their friend James Little, found it after a four-year search.

Due to the age and prestige of the ship, the condition of the wreck, the finds already rescued, and the accident’s political context, the discovery is described by maritime history expert Prof Claire Jowitt, of the University of East Anglia (UEA), as the most important maritime discovery since the Mary Rose.

The Gloucester represents an important ‘almost’ moment in British political history: a royal shipwreck causing the very near-death of the Catholic heir to the Protestant throne at a time of great political and religious tension.

Now a major exhibition is planned for Spring 2023, the result of a partnership between the Barnwell brothers, Norfolk Museums Service, and academic partner UEA. Running from February to July at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, the exhibition will display finds from the wreck – including the bell that confirmed the ship’s identity – and share ongoing historical, scientific and archaeological research.

Prof Jowitt, a world-leading authority on maritime cultural history, is a co-curator of the exhibition. “Because of the circumstances of its sinking, this can be claimed as the single most significant historic maritime discovery since the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982,” she said. “The discovery promises to fundamentally change understanding of 17th-century social, maritime and political history.

“It is an outstanding example of underwater cultural heritage of national and international importance. A tragedy of considerable proportions in terms of loss of life, both privileged and ordinary, the full story of the Gloucester’s last voyage and the impact of its aftermath needs re-telling, including its cultural and political importance, and legacy. We will also try to establish who else died and tell their stories, as the identities of a fraction of the victims are currently known.”

The Barnwell brothers are Aylsham-based printers and live in Wroxham. They are licensed divers and Honorary Fellows in the School of History at UEA. Lincoln said he was partly inspired to search for the wreck after watching the lifting of the Mary Rose on television as a child.

Julian and Lincoln Barnwell with some of their discoveries. PICTURE: UEA

“It was our fourth dive season looking for Gloucester,” he said. “We were starting to believe that we were not going to find her, we’d dived so much and just found sand. On my descent to the seabed the first thing I spotted were large cannon laying on white sand, it was awe- inspiring and really beautiful.

“It instantly felt like a privilege to be there, it was so exciting. We were the only people in the world at that moment in time who knew where the wreck lay. That was special and I’ll never forget it. Our next job was to identify the site as the Gloucester.”

Julian added: “When we decided to search for the Gloucester we had no idea how significant she was in history. We had read that the Duke of York was onboard but that was it. We were confident it was the Gloucester, but there are other wreck sites out there with cannons, so it still needed to be confirmed.

James, Duke of York 1633-1701. PICTURE: Royal Museums, Greenwich

“There is still a huge amount of knowledge to be gained from the wreck, which will benefit Norfolk and the nation. We hope this discovery and the stories that are uncovered will inform and inspire future generations.”

Lord Dannatt, Norfolk Deputy Lieutenant and longstanding resident of the county, is lending his skills and support to the historic rescue project. As former head of the British Army, he works with charities and organisations that have links to the armed services.

“This is going to be Norfolk’s Mary Rose,” said Lord Dannatt. “Julian and Lincoln have touched history, history that could have changed the course of this nation. It’s such an amazing story to tell. Our aim is to bring that story to life and to share it with as many people as possible.”

The Gloucester was commissioned in 1652, built at Limehouse in London, and launched in 1654. In 1682 it was selected to carry James Stuart, Duke of York, to Edinburgh to collect his heavily pregnant wife and their households. The aim was to bring them back to King Charles II’s court in London in time, it was hoped, for the birth of a legitimate male heir.

The ship had set sail from Portsmouth with the Duke and his entourage joining it off Margate, having travelled by yacht from London. At 5.30am on May 6, the Gloucester ran aground some 45km off Great Yarmouth following a dispute about navigating the treacherous Norfolk sandbanks. The Duke, a former Lord High Admiral, had argued with the pilot for control over the ship’s course.

Within an hour the vessel sank with the loss of hundreds of the crew and passengers. The Duke barely survived, having delayed abandoning ship until the last minute.

As well as the Duke of York, the Gloucester carried a number of prominent English and Scottish courtiers including John Churchill, later the 1st Duke of Marlborough.

Diarist and naval administrator Samuel Pepys, who witnessed events from another ship in the fleet, wrote his own account – describing the harrowing experience for victims and survivors, with some picked up “half dead” from the water.

Together with their late father Michael, and two friends including James Little, a former Royal Navy submariner and diver, the Barnwell brothers found the wreck site in 2007, with the Gloucester split down the keel and remains of the hull submerged in sand.

The ship’s bell, manufactured in 1681, was later recovered, and in 2012 it was used by the Receiver of Wreck and Ministry of Defence to decisively identify the vessel.

The bell which helped identify The Gloucester. PICTURE: UEA

Due to the time taken to confirm the identity of the ship and the need to protect an ‘at risk’ site, which lies in international waters, it is only now that its discovery can be made public. As well as the Receiver of Wreck and Ministry of Defence, the wreck has been declared to Historic England.

Following the discovery, the brothers completed an underwater archaeology course with the Nautical Archaeology Society.

Artefacts rescued and conserved include clothes and shoes, navigational and other professional naval equipment, personal possessions, and many wine bottles.

One of the bottles bears a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family – ancestors of George Washington, the first US President. The crest was a forerunner to the Stars and Stripes flag. Uniquely, in addition there were also some unopened bottles, with wine still inside -¬ offering exciting opportunities for future research.

A bottle with the Legge family crest. PICTURE: Norfolk Historic Shipwrecks

The accompanying historical research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Prof Jowitt, will explore not only the failures of command at sea before the Gloucester sank, but conspiracy theories about the tragedy’s causes and its political consequences.

It is also hoped that UEA’s scientific expertise and facilities will be used to analyse some of the finds from the wreck.

The Ministry of Defence’s position is that all artefacts remain the property of the Ministry of Defence; however, where items are positively identified as personal property, ownership will then default to the Crown.

Partners already involved in the landmark project alongside the Barnwells, UEA and Norfolk Museums Service include the Ministry of Defence, the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, York Archaeology, the Leverhulme Trust and Maritime Archaeology Trust. The exhibition is being generously supported by Alan Boswell Group and Birketts LLP.

The wreck of the Gloucester off Great Yarmouth, 6 May, 1682 by Johan Danckerts, 1682. PICTURE: Royal Museums, Greenwich.

Dances from the movies

Dancers from across north Norfolk, including Aylsham and Wroxham, will be taking part in a stage show featuring routines from famous movies.
The Movie Magic show, being staged by the Broadland School of Dance, will be held at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday, May 1.
Students from across north Norfolk attend the school and more than 200 will take part in the Theatre Royal production.
They will perform routines from a selection of iconic films including Encanto, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek and many more.
Performances will take place at 2.30pm and 7pm. See for ticket details.

“These people could be us”

When Darren Ward saw what was happening in Ukraine following the Russian invasion he knew he wanted to do something to help.

But initially he didn’t envisage that he would be driving to Poland with more than three tonnes of aid and replacing it with Ukrainian families fleeing the country to live somewhere safe.

“We were on holiday and saw the news that Russia had invaded,” he said. “We thought we had to do something to help these kids and women. We couldn’t just sit and do nothing.”

An appeal was started around the area, with clothes, toys, medical items and toiletries and sanitary goods flooding in. Darren took a week off work at 24-7 Taxis and, together with his friend Adam, set off in a van and a minibus bound for Medyka, a town on the border between Poland and Ukraine where thousands of families have ended up.

“We got there and there were all these people. Droves and droves of people,” said Darren. “An old guy and his wife had walked 67 miles with just a handbag. He looked me straight in the eye and asked if we could take them. We already had mums, kids, dogs… that was the worst bit, the look on that guy’s face.”

The two men did manage to take several families away and on to Krakow or to railway stations, where they made sure they got safely on the train. He said they were also constantly reassuring them that they were not like the people traffickers and other “shady” men with vans he saw at the aid centre

“The kids were on their phones to their dads and we were telling them that they were safe, that they were OK,” said Darren. “It’s a real hot mess out there. They came out with nothing – one young mum and her kids came with just a Trunki and a rucksack.”

The following day they went back to take more families from Medyka. “I hadn’t driven all that way just to get two people out,” said Darren, who has accused the UK government of not doing enough to get more of the displaced families back here or sending more aid where it is needed.

“There’s so much space there – they could easily land a helicopter with loads of aid.”

And with flights from Krakow to Luton costing “about £12” he said more people could be helped if visas were easier to get.

But in the meantime he plans to do more. He flew back, leaving Adam and the vehicles there to help others, but with diesel for the one-way trip alone costing £2,000, he is turning his attention to helping people when they arrive here.

“We have appealed for things which they need when they arrive. They have left with nothing and need all sorts of things. Anything unwanted can be sold to raise money to buy what is needed.”

He has not ruled out another trip – this time with more people.

And to make this possible he is hoping to get sponsorship from local businesses and hear from others who would like to join him.

“I’d like to have two teams of a bloke and a woman, which is more reassuring,” he said. “You can’t see it or smell it or feel it here in Norfolk and we can’t keep turning on the news and doing nothing. These people were going to work, having a coffee, living their lives one day, and the next they had nothing. They are just like us. It could BE us.”

To offer to help Darren, or to see what donations are needed, email or call 07916 247247. There is also a GoFundMe page – https://gofundme/3ee09901 – where you can donate and find out more about how local people are helping.