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In August 2012, I wrote a post about Beetley Village, the place we moved to that year that gives this blog half of its name. In that post, I hinted that I would write about Dereham, our nearest town. I have now been here long enough to get to know the area a little better. For those of you who might be interested, here is an overview of Dereham, so that you can hopefully picture the place that often crops up on my blog. It is not meant to be all-encompassing, a definitive guide. It is just my view. I must give credit to Wikipedia and the Town Council website for some of the bland facts, and I apologise in advance for any personal opinions about the town, that others may not agree with.

Just over three miles south-east of my home in Beetley, lies the town of East Dereham. It is usually referred to as Dereham, but there is a West Dereham, a small village some thirty miles to the west. Dereham lies almost exactly in the centre of the county of Norfolk, and with a population of less than 20.000, is the fifth largest town in the county. It is an ancient Saxon town, and can trace its history back to around the sixth century. Sadly, most of the earliest buildings were destroyed by fires, so much of the town dates from the nineteenth century, with some notable exceptions. The name of the town comes as you might anticipate, from an association with deer-hunting, and it was historically a place where deer were easily found. This continues today, with a large population of those animals to be found around the area. There has been little industry in Dereham, with the outlying districts being part of Britain’s farming community, something that continues to this day.

With the expansion of the original town, it now incorporates many nearby villages and suburbs within its area of administration, and is part of the much larger district of Breckland. Our own home has a Dereham post-code, showing how the surrounding smaller villages have been amalgamated, and are considered to be a part of the town now. Despite my proximity to Dereham, I rarely go there. My wife travels in every day, as she works in the town’s Market Place. I usually go to the large supermarket on the edge of the town, and my only trips to the centre are normally to visit a restaurant, take Ollie to see the Vet, or to catch a bus to somewhere else.

Approaching the town from the south, you enter the area of Toftwood. This is a very large estate, built either side of the road to Shipdham and beyond. A few shops and food outlets front the road, and further inside the estate is a recreation ground, and some local schools. It began life as an estate of social housing, and was later developed considerably by the addition of more modern houses. There is a Gospel Hall, Methodist Church, and a Social Club, all of which are well-used for various events. I think even the most dedicated resident of the area would forgive me when I say that it is not the most attractive place to visit. Once inside the sprawling estate, you could be anywhere in the UK, and it has little identity. This is something that can be said of many places of course. A few thatched cottages on the main road give some idea of how long people have been living in the area, but there really is no good reason to go there, unless you happen to live there. Continuing into Dereham, you pass the home of the famous Gerlof Herd of beef cattle, and the local Vauxhall car dealer, before the overpass of the A47 trunk road indicates that you have reached the town.

This is the least attractive area in Dereham, as it is the location for such small industry that still exists, as well as new development of two large supermarkets, and two older industrial estates. They offer services such as tyre and exhaust centres, car washing, window and conservatory services, flooring and carpets, and a large dealership in motor caravans. There is also the well-concealed Council Waste Site, and further on, the modern headquarters of Breckland Council. By putting all these outlets in one small area, I believe that they made a good decision, as much of the town is not blighted by this industrial landscape as a result. This is also one of the few places where you might encounter some traffic delays, as it allows access to and from the main trunk road, to Norwich or Kings Lynn. It also shows how near the countryside is. A few minutes of driving will take you to Yaxham Waters Holiday Park, or the peaceful villages of Yaxham and Mattishall. In the blink of an eye, the busy town is but a memory.

Heading into Dereham on London Road, you will find the large sports centre and swimming pool. There is also a popular bowling alley on the same site, and a well-used gym. Opposite this development is the large town park, with open space, a play area, and a skate park. This is the location for travelling fun-fairs, and events like firework displays. As you continue, the road narrows near the Catholic Church, and you begin to see some of the older buildings in the town,  before entering the re-developed High Street, and passing the modern library. Like many rural towns, many of the well-known shops have deserted the centre. This leaves scope for many charity shops, estate agents, and a few quirkier, independent retailers. To the right, there is the shopping development of Wrights Walk, and some car parks that were once home to the livestock market. More small supermarkets, some food outlets and a couple of tea shops can be found, together with a nod to the countryside, in the presence of a gun shop. The High Street is home to all the major banks, more estate agents, and some much older retailers of home goods and shoes, that have been around since before the town was developed. There is an old cinema, updated to provide a few smaller screens within. This cinema was actually built inside the former Corn Exchange, and retains the impressive facade of the original building.

As the road opens out into Market Place, you will mainly be aware of the congestion caused by buses arriving and departing. The once-bustling market is still held on Tuesdays and Fridays, but is now little more than a curiosity. The few stalls that appear sell fresh seafood and fish, meat from the Gerlof herd, some fruit and vegetables, and cut-price clothing. There are also sellers of flowers and plants, and a mobile coffee bar, operated from a tiny Smart car. Despite the reduced size of the market, it still attracts a large following, and many people travel into the town on market days, reluctant to abandon the social aspects of a ‘day out’. The impressive War Memorial marks the end of the street, and some attractive Georgian houses opposite, now all converted into businesses; accountants, estate agents, and an Indian restaurant. On the corner of Swaffham Road is The George Hotel, a popular pub and restaurant that also provides accommodation. Head west here, and you will soon pass Sandy Lane, the road leading to another large estate development. Crossing a small river, you get to New Scarning. This is another more recent development of attractive modern houses, backing onto the busy main road, sadly lacking identity as an area. Further on, the village of Old Scarning shows something of the attractive rural location that once existed there.

Had you turned north instead of west, you would have been heading out of the town on Quebec Road, towards Beetley, and that was covered in my post on Beetley Village. So, we head east instead, past the main town car park behind the Cherry Tree pub, and Hill House Hotel, which always seems to be for sale. This area is rather shoddy-looking. It has a few run-down shops, a closed-down pub, and the well-used veterinary practice. To the left, the road leads up to the cemetery, the large Northgate High School, and the Water Tower, a local landmark. On the right, there is the old railway station. This is now the home of a railway preservation society. They refurbish old trains, and run services to Wymodham in the south. They also have open days, Christmas events, and attract a lot of visitors. This is a very popular attraction in Dereham, and people come from all over to see the old trains, and to ride on them. It also means that we have our share of old-fashioned level crossings, only used on special event days. Opposite the station is Norwich Street. This is one of the nicest old streets in the town. It is home to the recently renovated Memorial Hall, where plays, shows, and musical events offer a diversion for the local people. There are more restaurants, a quality butchers, and the delightful Palmers, an old fashioned department store. Entering this shop is like going back in time, with a personal service, and a strange array of goods for sale. It also has a popular small cafe/restaurant, and is all crammed into a remarkably small space.

Back over the road, behind the station, you head west towards Norwich. As this road opens, you pass the Fire Station, and Dereham Neatherd High School. Behind this school is  Neatherd Moor. This is a large open space of moorland fringed by woods. It is popular with dog-walkers, and families; it stretches for a considerable distance, and with many signed footpaths, is a delightful place to while away a few hours. Down a nearby side road, you can find the Dereham Windmill. After years of neglect, this has been completely restored, and will soon house a visitor centre. It is an attractive old building, of historical and architectural importance. It looks somewhat incongruous now, in the middle of a housing estate, and it could do with better signs and directions. However, it is a welcome feature of the town. The main road continues, fringing the moor. The houses here are substantial, and show that at least some of those living here are considerably well-off. The last thing you will see before the road connects with the A47 again, is Dereham Town Football Club. The modern ground and clubhouse is home to ‘The Magpies’, the successful and well-supported local team. The ground is named Aldiss Park, after a local businessman, and though they only play in the minor leagues, they are one of the better teams in Norfolk. Part of the land around the ground has been sold off, for the development of a huge housing estate of attractive homes, called Etling View.

I should mention some other notable buildings. Bishop Bonner’s Cottage built in 1502 still stands. This unusual small building is used as the town museum, though it opens only occasionally. Nearby is the Norman church of St Nicholas. In the grounds of this church is an ancient spring, and the church was said to once contain the body of St Withburga in Saxon times. The story is that the remains were stolen by monks from Ely. However, this is almost certainly a legend, devised to promote tourism and interest in the town.

There you have it. A market town in Norfolk. No doubt I will have missed something that others consider important. I might perhaps have given offence to some residents, though this was never my intention. It is just a snapshot of life in a semi-rural community, in modern Britain. I hope that it has generated some interest, and given you more information about the area where I live.

Top Tens: My view

I have had another article published on curnblog.com

It concerns films (again), and is about the difficulties of choosing top lists.

If you are interested, please follow this link. http://curnblog.com/2014/04/15/top-ten-films-mission-impossible/

Thanks for your interest. Pete.

 

To readers outside the UK, I apologize in advance. This may be of little or no interest to you.

I am an avid watcher of TV News. Ever since dedicated news channels arrived in the UK, I have been a fan. I like to be aware of what is going on, and to keep up with world events, and home news. This is even more important since I retired, as I do not have the benefit of chatting with work colleagues, and the usual discussions and opinions that are the result of general conversation. I can think of many occasions when constant news updates are important, and even some where it is acceptable for the coverage to be uninterrupted, as happened with the events of 9/11 in New York.

At the moment, there are many things going on around the world, and here in the UK, that are of interest or concern to me. The ongoing war in Syria, which could destabilise the whole region. The situation in Ukraine, that could lead to a limited war in Europe. At home, we have the forthcoming EU Parliament elections, the economic problems, and issues over benefits, and the NHS. So, what do the BBC News broadcasts offer us? Unlimited coverage of the trial of a South African man, accused of killing his girlfriend. This trial, and the murder that preceded it, may have been of more than usual interest, as the accused is a well-known athelete, who has appeared in the Paralympic Games. Perhaps a short overview, followed by news of the eventual verdict, would have been in order. However, the court ruled that parts of the trial could be televised, and the BBC jumped on the bandwagon, becoming part of the media circus that wanted to show us these proceedings.

For those of you that know nothing of the Pistorius trial, here is a brief outline of the events. On Valentine’s Day, 2013, Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, were together in his house in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. He shot her dead, as she hid in the shower, firing many times through the glass door. From the beginning, he admitted the shooting, but claimed that he believed that she was an intruder. Despite the fact that he realised she was not in bed, that an argument preceding the shooting was heard by witnesses, and that she could be heard screaming behind the shower, it never occurred to him to ask if it was her. He just shot through the glass. Surely one of the worst defences ever presented in a murder charge? It is so obvious that he killed her following some sort of jealous argument. Given that he had to put on prosthetic legs, get his pistol from the bedroom (all in the dark) and then shoot through the door of the shower cubicle, who could possibly believe that this was an accidental shooting, in fear of an intruder? If he was not a well-known athelete, and backed by substantial funds, this laughable case would have never been presented.

Trials in the UK are not allowed to be shown on television. Even photographs are not allowed, so we have long tolerated sketches of accused persons, and notable Judges, in our media here. From TV and Cinema, we are all well-aware how these trials proceed, and the technicalities that surround them. We are conversant with the system of defence following prosecution, how witnesses give evidence, and how juries make their deliberations. We do not need to see it played out in its entirety on TV news. It is just pointless. What makes the Pistorius trial even more ludicrous to show on news programmes, is the fact that he is not allowed to be shown. There is a delay in transmission as well, presumably to allow for ‘editing’. What we are left with, are views of the judge, the barristers, and an occasional witness who does not object to being televised. We hear the answers from the accused, as well as his crying and whining, but do not see him in the court. We are deprived of seeing for ourselves, being able to judge his sincerity, or otherwise.

Instead, we have a succession of journalists paraded before the camera, offering their interpretation of his behaviour, and their version of those parts of the trial we are unable to see. Pundits are wheeled on, to offer speculation, background detail, and such minutiae as how long a tea break will be, or what the accused had for lunch. I can see no justification for the tedious and blanket coverage  of this trial, other than the ‘excitement’ of being able to show events ‘live’ from a court. The BBC is a public service, funded by a licence fee which we all have to pay if we own a TV set, whether we want to or not. It should be more responsible with how it spends that money, and not waste it with this interminable coverage of a foreign trial, in a country thousands of miles away. For balance, I should add that Sky News also broadcasts exactly the same output, at the same time. But this is a satellite channel, and we do not have to pay for it.

Many of us, myself included, have written in to the BBC to complain. They defend their actions by stating that there is huge public interest in the case, borne out by visits to their website, and audience figures for the trial reports. What they conveniently forget to mention, is that if you turn on the news, or visit the website, this is the lead story at all times, so we have no other option but to unwittingly become part of those audience statistics.

The BBC was once an institution to be proud of. Compared to some other countries television, it still is, in some respects. Sadly, in seeking to be more populist, less intellectual, and to gather audience figures, it is now just playing the game of telling us what we need to see, instead of allowing us to make up our own minds. It needs to get back to reporting the news that is happening, instead of becoming part of the institution that creates news that they want us to watch.

I suspect that the film and TV rights have already been sold, and the book launch will quickly follow the verdict.

 

Last Friday, I had occasion to go to Wymondham. This is an attractive market town, and lies south-east of Dereham, about sixteen miles. I was not going to see the nice part of the town, as I had to visit one of the industrial estates on the outskirts. My mission was to purchase some parts for the wood burner chimney assembly, in the hope of finally solving the problems we have had with it since installation.

It was a lovely day. Blue skies, and unseasonal warmth that allowed me to wear shorts. It was nice enough to lower the car window and I set off, listening to a local station on the radio.  Once I had left Dereham, traffic was negligible. Heading out through Yaxham, past Yaxham Waters Holiday Park, I was surrounded by farms and fields, and with speed limits rarely more than fifty, I was able to take in the scenery, and enjoy the drive. I had chosen to take the winding ‘B’ road, and for much of the journey, I saw few other cars. I quickly passed through the small villages of Whinburgh, Garvestone, and Thuxton, some little more than hamlets. They must have problems with speeding traffic though, as there were many signs, stating ‘SLOW DOWN-CHILDREN PLAYING’, or ‘PLEASE DRIVE SLOWLY THROUGH OUR VILLAGE’.

Making the turn at the delightful village of Kimberley, I passed under old railway bridges, reminding me of a time when this area was better-served with local trains. Further on, I could see an enormous lorry coming towards me, on a very narrow stretch of road. We were not going to be able to pass easily, so I pulled into a farm gate recess, and flashed my lights, to tell him he should go first. As he slowed to pass me, he made sure that I could see his wave of appreciation, seconded by a hearty blast on his vehicle’s horn. This small incident could only happen in a place like this. Back in London, we would both have carried on, seeing who gave in first, or passing within a whisker, teeth gritted. On the last stretch of winding road before arriving at Wymondham, I reflected once again that I actually lived in this pleasant place. I wasn’t just visiting, this is where I dwell, and these are the places that I drive through.

On that sunny morning, with a sixteen mile trip accomplished, stress-free, in under thirty minutes, that was a good feeling.

This afternoon, still plagued by the back pain that I wrote about earlier this week, I was of a mind to have another decent walk with Ollie. Once on the move, as long as I don’t stand still too long, and get a few sit-downs along the way, it is manageable. I headed off on the familiar route, away from the meadow, and towards the large pig-farm. The sun was warm on the exposed areas near the blackcurrant orchards. These small bushes do not shield you from the elements, and provide no shade. The light breeze was amplified by the longs stands of trees fringing the fields. If you closed your eyes, you might believe that it was the sound of water rushing by, and not many leaves rustling. I noticed an unusual amount of red and black butterflies. They lifted from the path in advance of my footfall, their wings intertwining with those of others, as they flew off towards the bushes. I was also aware of the number of bees around. Not only workers busy on the beds of violet-coloured weeds in the verges, but huge bumblebees, as noisy as tiny motorcycles, and as big as my thumbprint.

Approaching the tin sheds of the open-air pig farm, I looked for the appealing gangs of piglets. They are older now, and though still tiny, were preoccupying themselves with bothering the huge sows for milk. If they failed to get their own mother to rise from her slumbers, they scuttled off to bother another sow, being told off with smacks from a large snout. The farmer has bulldozed a veritable mountain of manure into one area, forming a construction similar to the compounds seen on the news in Afghanistan. The last rains have left a fetid lake inside this mound, and the combination of this, and the smell from the manure, has attracted a lot of small flies. I decided to push on, to the Rabbit Field, so Ollie could try to chase some bunnies. It was not living up to its name today though. No long-eared residents were visible, and I saw a bird of prey hovering above, which no doubt accounted for their absence. I decided to cross the Holt Road, and revisit a walk from last summer.

It proved to be a good decision. Entering the path behind Gingerbread Corner, at the rear of the pretty cottage that gives the junction its name, we soon saw lots of rabbits, both in the woodland, and on the fields to the left. Ollie was off, chasing enthusiastically, oblivious to the couple in the parked car, who had no doubt sought romantic seclusion. No sooner had Ollie lost the trail of one rabbit, another appeared, and he was off again. Around the bend in the path, we came across the ‘deserted’ farm. This group of buildings around a substantial farmhouse appear to have been abandoned. The barn roof is almost gone, and weeds grown inside the store-rooms. An old broken bath and toilet are dumped unceremoniously just inside the small barn, and the nearby field seems, to my untrained eye at least, to be untended. There are signs that someone might still live there though. Broken glass in a lean-to has been boarded with wood, and the grass on the drive approaching the house has been cut short. In two of the upper windows, curtains are fitted, and the wheelie bin contains refuse for collection. I cannot imagine living in such style, in a house and land with so much potential.

I crossed the small country road, and took the path south-east, towards the back of Dereham, and the cemetery. This is overgrown, but has a good flat walkway, and I can cover a lot of ground this way. Ollie stopped for a drink at a remarkably clear-looking puddle, and we continued on to the end. The next option would have been to cross a busier road, and pick up the path across fields, to Swanton Morley. But we had been out a long time, and still had to retrace all our steps. By the time we got back, Ollie was hot and tired, and I was weary. We had walked around seven miles, in just under three hours. Allowing for a couple of stops, and a lot of contemplation, I didn’t think that was at all bad. In all that time, I only saw one other person, but lots of birds and insects, dozens of rabbits, and one very happy dog.

I must conclude that a rural life is a good one, and I really do appreciate it.

 

Grown-up Blogger

After all but crippling myself during a recent spell of over-enthusiastic gardening, I have not been doing a lot. Other than walking Ollie, I have found myself unable to undertake any physical tasks, at the risk of more back pain. This has also applied to my blog, with little written over the last few days. I have submitted articles elsewhere, but have been neglecting beetleypete, as there has been little inspiration for tales of everyday life that involve sitting around, and taking painkillers.

I came back to the blog this morning, to check on some posts, and have a look at comments; all the usual stuff carried out by regular bloggers. I was thinking about the absence of some of my favourite bloggers, wondering what had happened to them, and why they were not writing posts, and appearing in my reader. I don’t like it when blogging friends disappear. It makes me worry about them, watching the metaphorical tumbleweed roll across their blogs; no posts since January, perhaps even December. After almost three years, you convince yourself that you know these people, many of them in far-off lands. Your correspondence with them, even if only by to and fro comments on blog posts, assumes a familiarity and a connection. Then they are gone.

This slight erosion of that small community impacts far beyond its real importance. There is a family feel to blogging, a cosy feeling of togetherness, in an electronic world peopled by untold millions. Without that group dynamic, it feels not unlike throwing a message in a bottle into an ocean. But life goes on of course, and for some it is very busy. Blogging is a diversion, not the purpose, and those absent for whatever reason have their own stuff to deal with. It is pointless to assume the same connection is felt by everyone concerned. To some, the blog is an ‘as and when’ activity, to others it is a forgettable experience.

If you have ever expected crowds at a party you were throwing, and only a few turned up, you will have an idea what I am on about. I have written before about concerns for the blogger. Lack of followers, few readers, less and less views. Over the last few days, I have had few guests at my ‘party’. Despite a welcome increase in followers, for some reason daily views and the always welcome comments, have plummeted to an all-time low. When you are not being productive in your output, this is perhaps to be expected. As consumers, whether of entertainment, foodstuffs, or the written word, we all look for something fresh every day. Something to stimulate, to share, or just enjoy. It is up to us, as bloggers, to provide such fare.

Today marks a very good day for me. I used to worry unduly about views and likes, clicks in and out of the site, searches, comments, and statistics. I stopped worrying this morning. I don’t know why, I just did. It is like a weight off my shoulders, a burden removed. I am now a grown-up blogger, and it feels really good.

 

 

Another one…

OK, I know it’s getting boring, but I have had another article published on curnblog.com.

Films again of course, this time some of those about nuclear war! This may not be of interest at all, but if it is, here is the link.

http://curnblog.com/2014/04/08/big-bang-cinema-bomb/

If you are at all interested in film and cinema, please click, and have a look at the site. Irrespective of my own article, it is a great site for film fans.

Thanks in anticipation, Pete.

As most of you will know, I don’t post photos here. I don’t even take any these days, as I keep all the images in my mind.

One of my very good friends is a keen photographer. He doesn’t do it for a living, but he could, as he is more than proficient. He is well-travelled, and has taken some stunning photos in foreign lands, as well as many excellent portraits. He has also dabbled in wedding photography, and took some superb photos at my own wedding, in 2009. There are also some unusual abstracts,  and a range of architectural and cityscape images, that I admire greatly.

After years of experimentation with equipment, he now uses a top of the range SLR, and a compact camera, also of very high specification. He has a self-taught skill in Photoshop, and instinctively manages to manipulate photos in a very good way, without spoiling the themes or ideas behind them. His black and white and still life work is admirable as well.

Although he is a lot younger, and started out a little later in photography, there is much he has taught me, about good picture-taking, and choosing the right equipment. He has just launched a web site, to showcase his work. It is still new, and will no doubt be developed. But in the meantime, can I ask all of you with any interest in photography to follow the link, and have a look at it. There is a contact form there, if you want to comment, or ask questions, but it is not a blog.

http://antonykyriacou.foliopic.com/

And there is a great photo of Ollie there, for all of you who would like to see my dog!

 

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