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Omicron case confirmed in north Norfolk

One of the eight cases of the new Omicron covid-19 variant announced yesterday has been confirmed as being in north Norfolk.

While the exact location of the case has not been revealed, officials said they had been in contact with the person who had tested positive and their household. Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, said the case was linked to known travel to South Africa.

She told the BBC that finding a case in the county was not a surprise.

“While new information is still coming in on this variant, the early evidence has clearly shown a high level of transmissibility, and as such we can expect positive cases to be identified across the country, including in our county,” she said.

She urged people to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” and to take up booster offers, which she said would help to “break the chain of transmission”.

The UK Health Security Agency says this brings the total number of confirmed cases of the new variant in England and Scotland to 22.

Christmas lights information

If you’re heading for the Christmas Lights switch-on you may want to pay special attention to hair and make-up as a new feature film is being shot in Norfolk – and Aylsham will be playing a starring role.

A camera crew will be joining the crowds tomorrow (November 26), for the festive event, shooting scenes for the film, which is being made by Just Regional’s parent company, Medici Media.

Originally to be set in smalltown America, when CEO Timothy Mucciante came to Aylsham he took one look around and relocated the plot to Norfolk.

“Aylsham was perfect for it,” he said. “I knew that as soon as I saw it.”

My Only Sunshine tells the story of Juliet, a single mum who moves to Aylsham from America after her husband dies and leaves her the family home. Making a new life for herself and her son isn’t easy, but with the help of new friends they overcome all that life throws at them and find love, happiness and the place they belong.

“It is a feelgood movie,” said Timothy. “She has her challenges and finds true love.”

She also finds a job in Budgens and, along with all the other local businesses featured around town, it will remain just as we know it and will not be renamed for the film.

“Everything will stay exactly as it is,” said Timothy. “Unless anyone wants to be rebranded, all the businesses will be seen as they are.”

And as well as businesses featuring on the silver screen, Aylsham folk will also be involved – starting with the lights switch-on.

“It will be the first event like this for two years so it will be busy,” said Timothy. “We want everybody to know that if they want to be part of it, they are welcome.”

And as well as local shopfronts being seen by international audiences, Timothy says the film – which is being made with Scottow-based October Studios and will bring a real boost to the local economy.

“That money will all be going to local businesses in Aylsham and the surrounding areas,” he said. “Carpenters, electricians – the cast will need places to stay… it will all help the area.”

Casting is still in progress and the first main scenes will be shot in February and March. The film should be released for Christmas 2022 and although it will be aimed at streaming services, there will be some showings locally for its premiere.

“It’s all very exciting and we can’t wait to get started,” said Timothy.

Town ready for big switch-on event

After the disappointment of the cancellation of last year’s Christmas lights switch-on night, organisers are looking forward to welcoming people to the town centre again.

The festive stalls based in Market Place, Red Lion Street and the Town Hall will open at 5pm before the lights are switched on at 6.30pm. Local shops will also be open late.

There will also be live entertainment in Market Place. Students from Aylsham High School will perform scenes from their production of Joseph and singing duo Cameron and Jordan will appear.

Santa’s grotto will be at Aylsham Heritage Centre and there will be a special post box in the Town Hall to send letters to Father Christmas.

Donna Butcher, Events and Administration Officer at Aylsham Town Hall, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming people to the town centre and hopefully will get everyone in the festive spirit.”

Market Place and Red Lion Street will close to traffic from 2pm and Penfold Street and Bank Street will shut from 4pm.

The bus stops in Market Place will not be in use after 2pm and the nearest alternative stop will be outside Tesco.

Traders to meet MP over market place plans

Angry traders in North Walsham are holding a meeting in the town centre on Friday to air their concerns about the scheme to pedestrianise Market Place.

Under the scheme – part of the Heritage Action Zone project – there will be no through traffic, with set times for deliveries and just a handful of parking spaces for disabled drivers.

Business owners complained about the plans when they were first mooted in 2020, when covid-19 regulations were labelled as “pedestrianisation through stealth”, and once again they are worried that the plans will hurt their livelihoods. But those behind the scheme believe it will actually improve business.

Alan Kelly, who owns Kelly’s Plaice fish and chip shop, said the changes would not help his business, which relied on customers being able to stop outside and pop in to pick up their food.

“They want to turn the Market Place into some Parisian-style café society but this is England. It rains more than the sun shines.

“Yes, certain aspects need upgrading or renewing, I can understand that, but in essence this will stifle trade. Within the last three or four months two shops have become vacant and if they stop people driving through the centre it will make things worse.”

MP Duncan Baker will be at the meeting, which will be by the clock tower at 10am, and said he had been approached by several worried traders and residents.

“My office has received a petition with 600 signatures on it, concerned over the proposals,” he said. “I am meeting with those worried to hear their concerns and we ask that the council listens for once to what people who use the town day in and day out, really want. We saw in the pandemic the council shut the town centre, which was a job to get it back open. We really need far better engagement with the town centre so people feel the businesses are being listened to.”

Alan said he had spoken to businesses in the town, who said nobody had asked their opinion, but North Norfolk District Council said there had been plenty of consultation.

Richard Kershaw, portfolio holder for sustainable growth, said: “After a long period of consultation with residents, visitors and business owners there is definite support for a more pedestrian-friendly marketplace and town centre. We absolutely recognise there has been, and continues to be, challenges for business owners in North Walsham and we are actively working with them to establish their exact individual needs when it comes to this specific project such as the requirements for deliveries and loading.

“With this once-in-a-lifetime injection of funding for the town it is hoped that the regenerated high street will actually bring more customers to their shops and that visitors will want to spend more time in the town taking advantage of the goods and services on offer.”

North Walsham Town Council also said it had engaged with townsfolk throughout and that the plans had changed as a result of responses from local people.

“North Walsham Town Council have at all times tried to consult with the public through meetings, social media postings, canvassing at the market and in media articles encouraging people to engage and let their views be heard.

“We are aware that there are people in and around the town who are unhappy with the proposed changes, as well as the majority who have supported it in surveys and public engagement.

“The current plans produced by NNDC’s designer have changed significantly since the earliest concepts, reflecting concerns raised by public, traders and by the town council. Deliveries to shops are now to be permitted at all times, disabled parking will remain in the Market Place and free parking spaces will be provided in Bank Loke and Vicarage Street car parks.”

Work to start on town’s superstore

Work is set to start later this month to rebuild the Budgens store in Holt, giving the town a permanent supermarket once more.

Destroyed by a devastating fire in June 2020, the store has been missed, with a temporary structure holding the fort in the meantime.

The fire at the Budgens store left Holt without a main supermarket.

Contractors will be at the Kerridge Way site on November 22 and it is hoped the new shop will be open in winter 2022.

Sandra Taylor-Meeds, who has managed the Budgens of Holt store for more than 30 years, will be working alongside Carl Milton, newly appointed managing director of the C T Baker Group on seeing the store rebuilt.

 The planning application approved by North Norfolk District Council states: “The new design does seek to improve on the previous building by reconsidering the elements of the original building and refreshing them to provide a new store serving Holt for the future.”

An artist’s impression of how the new store will look.

 Havercroft Construction will be the principal contractor for the work and as members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme have pledged to make sure the site looks presentable and that work causes as little obstruction as possible to nearby residents.

Where possible, jobs will be sourced within the local area and a large proportion of the materials required will also be supplied from nearby traders.

Whilst construction takes place, the 5,000sq ft temporary Budgens store will remain trading and the Group’s Post Office services will continue to operate from Bakers and Larners of Holt.

Home Delivery customers in and around Holt will continue to be served from C T Baker Budgens of Aylsham.

Trophy to remember inspirational chairman

An inspirational chairman of Mundesley Golf Club has been honoured through a new trophy in his memory.
Donald Stuart died in August at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer, during which he continued to lead the club through a successful membership drive and the challenges thrown up by covid-19.

Donald enjoying a drink at the 19th hole.

And a trophy in his name has been presented to its first winner, Lewis Crosby, following a five-week season of Friday night social golf competitions for under-40s.
Donald’s daughter Fiona, who came up with the trophy idea, said: “The trophy was a good way to encourage younger golfers to join, meet and compete. Dad had enjoyed a similar competition when he moved from Scotland to Leicester aged 33 and made a lot of friends.”

Lewis Crosby receives the trophy from Donald’s brother, Micky.

Mr Stuart, who stepped down only two months before his death, led a club membership drive during his nearly five years in the chair, during which it more than doubled its membership.
“I am really proud of the legacy dad created. He put a lot of time in and sacrificed a lot for the good of the club.”
The trophy was presented by Donald’s brother, Micky, who flew in from Dallas for the occasion and for the funeral in Ludham, his home village, where the church was packed with people from the golfing, banking, business and charity worlds. Donations were in aid of Cancer Research UK and Mundesley Golf Club.
Donald, who was born in Edinburgh to a golfing family, began playing at the age of four. His career with Bank of Scotland saw him working in Leicester, London and Norwich, where he was the regional director for the east of England.
Current club chairman Andrew Keates called Donald an inspiration, saying he was “a man who never complained and always endeavoured to find a fair and equitable way forward”.

War clean-up leads to love

Clearing up the aftermath of the Vietnam war has led to romance for a former Southrepps boy and his bride-to-be.
Henry Marriner, whose parents still live in the village, was clearing unexploded bombs and mines in the country pummelled by air strikes during the gruelling 10-year war which ended in nearly half a century ago.
Mallory Graves, from Nashville, was working miles away helping to reforest areas – some of which were destroyed by American Agent Orange chemical attacks on vegetation designed to strip away enemy hiding places and escape routes.

Mal and Henry celebrate their engagement.

They were strangers working in different places, but both for charities trying to repair the long-lasting damage of the destructive conflict – Henry for the Mines Advisory Group and Mal for the World Wide Fund for Nature.
After meeting during a weekend off in a bar in the city of Hue, a casual friendship turned to romance, more travel adventures together and an engagement up a mountain near Barcelona.
Henry’s parents, Max and Louise, both of whom are retired from army careers, said they were delighted with the news and looking forward to a wedding in Tennessee next summer.
Max, a brigadier who oversaw the British Army’s withdrawal from Iraq, said the engagement was a bit of a secret mission for their former Royal Navy diver son as the couple sailed around the Mediterranean for four months on a 50-year-old boat.

“They went walking in the mountains, but before they left the boat Henry had to hide the ring, pour some champagne into a vacuum flask, and smuggle two glasses into his backpack.
“When he got down on one knee and popped the question on the mountain viewing platform, he had to put the ring on her finger a few yards away so it didn’t fall through the slats.”

Henry’s proud parents Louise and Max.

Henry, 33, a former Gresham’s pupil, met Mal’s family at her brother’s wedding, when he asked for permission to marry her from her father.
Henry spent eight years in the Royal Navy, turning his passion for diving into a career that saw him rise to lieutenant and lead teams clearing modern and historic mines from the paths of military shipping.
He joined the MAG charity three years ago and ran a 500-strong team clearing unexploded ordnance – combining hands-on work on devices with training the locals to detect and defuse explosives, as well as teaching local youngsters English. Mal was supporting sustainable forestry projects and working to counter the trade in illegal timber in south-east Asia and continues to oversee sustainable forestry projects in
Brazil, Uganda and Mozambique, working remotely.
Since meeting they have travelled to India and the Far East, and their sailing odyssey is due to end this winter before their next adventure begins – planning for married life.

Club’s delight after being awarded prestigious grant

The successful development of girls’ and women’s football at Aylsham FC has won the club a £1,000 grant in a nationwide initiative.

Aylsham was one of only 50 clubs out of more than 600 to land a prestigious Mutual Respect Grant from the Nationwide Building Society.

Nationwide committed to donating a total of £50,000 to the grassroots football initiative and asked for applications from clubs explaining why respect is important to them.

Aylsham FC’s application was submitted by Hannah Burton, a player in the club’s ladies’ team and coordinator of the girls’ teams at Youngs Park.

Hannah’s submission said: “We ensure everyone’s opinion is heard before decisions are taken regarding the development of girls’/women’s football at the club. We believe people have different strengths and weaknesses and that every effort should be made to draw on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.

“We feel that within our coaching sessions it is important to allow the girls opportunities to ‘coach’ each other and help each other improve – not purely us telling them how to do everything.”

The application added that the club placed the wellbeing, safety and enjoyment of each player above everything else – including winning.

Speaking after hearing the club had won the grant, Hannah said: “I was delighted. We’ve put in a lot of work with the girls and ladies in the past few years. Parents have commented on how much of a community feel the club has and that’s why their children come to play for us.”

Hannah added that there was strong integration between the men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football teams at the club.

In its female section, the club currently has teams at adult, U16, U11 and U9 levels. The Aylsham Wildcats also offer coaching sessions for girls aged 5-11 on Saturday mornings.

Hannah said she expected the £1,000 grant to be invested in further promoting girls’ and women’s football at Youngs Park.

Aylsham FC Chairman Ian Potter said: “It is fantastic that the hard work of the volunteers has been recognised with a grant for the way we as a community club try to do things the right way and are very thankful for the recognition by Nationwide Mutual Respect Grant.”

Emily Barker, Brand Partnerships Manager at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Mutual respect is something that we value at the core of Nationwide in everything we do, so to be able to give these grants to the clubs that need them most and those that themselves have demonstrated respect on and off the pitch is really exciting.”

ON THE BALL: Women’s and girls’ teams have thrived at Aylsham Football Club.

Fight to save bank services in Aylsham

Talks are under way to retain some Barclays banking services in Aylsham following the company’s decision to close its Market Place branch in January.

Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew launched a campaign after expressing concern the bank’s decision would have a negative impact on many customers,

Now it has emerged Aylsham Town Council has offered to rent out space to Barclays in the Drill Hall to allow for the continuation of some face-to-face contact with customers.

Council chairman Trevor Bennett said: “The Town Council are happy to work with Barclays to assist them in providing the services they are able to in a community building.”

MP Mr Mayhew said he was “delighted” the bank had agreed to formally discuss retaining services in the town.

He said he hoped town councillors would help ensure a resolution was found and added: “I would, once again, thank all those who got in touch and threw their weight behind this campaign, which enabled us to put forward this strong case and get to where we are now.”

Barclays said the decision to close the branch on January 11 was taken because customers were increasingly using alternatives to branches. It said 107 customers used the Aylsham branch exclusively for their banking.

A Barclays spokesperson said it was “actively investigating a number of possibilities” to retain a presence in Aylsham. The branch has eight staff members and they will be offered alternative roles.

CAMPAIGN: Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew outside Barclays Bank in Aylsham.