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Try these delightful books with a very Norfolk flavour

PUBLISHED: 09:42 13 January 2018

The Rosary cemetery in Norwich, “a common lane many feet have trodden down the ages”. Picture: Tim Lenton

The Rosary cemetery in Norwich, “a common lane many feet have trodden down the ages”. Picture: Tim Lenton

Archant

Keith Skipper looks at a trio of local books which get to the heart of Norfolk.

I devoted all my wireless wanderings last year to the wonderful world of books, especially those blessed with that distinctive local flavour.

My monthly mardles on BBC Radio Norfolk’s Teatime Show with affable host Matthew Gudgin featured a flock of inspiring figures sharing their experiences, talents and homespun advice.

They included publishers, writers, book sellers and buyers, unstinting supporters of specific authors and local heritage enthusiasts from Bunwell shining a light on do-it-yourself production of a massive second volume on the history of their south Norfolk village.

It was clear from calls and letters received after each mardling chapter over the airwaves how many aspiring authors and publishers had their appetites sharpened for renewed efforts to make a bold mark in print.

As if to increase volume for a vibrant song of praise towards such a healthy market, my festive stocking revealed three recent releases demanding special attention at the start of 2018. Their common theme - along with local pride - is finding suitable paths to follow when choices call.

Daily Telegraph theatre critic and travel writer Clement Scott thought up the romantic name of Poppyland on taking one of the most fateful walks in the history of tourism. He travelled on the new railway line from London to Cromer in August 1883, but couldn’t find anywhere to stay in the busy town.

So, he turned his back on boisterous families and crowded sands to embark on a stroll southward along the poppy-trimmed cliff edge towards Sidestrand and Overstrand, destined to become potent petals at the heart of a remarkable Victorian flowering in both visitor and social terms.

Echoes of History by Overstrand resident David Thornton (Poppyland Publishing, £11.95) adds fresh layers of knowledge and intrigue to a fascinating saga starring Scott, his band of arty followers, the rich and famous responsible for a building boom and those “simple” folk already there when the London bandwagon came swaggering in.

Scott lived to regret the way his Poppyland transformed into Bungalow-Land. The inexorable rise of Chelsea-on-Sea around the Burnhams is seen by some as a modern equivalent of how purple prose can open fashionable paths to unlikely places. Culture vultures and culinary celebrities know the value of good walking shoes.

Norfolk Ways (Mousehold Press, £8) continues the delightfully creative partnership between Tim Lenton and Joy McCall, talking quietly to each other and their readers in an orderly and thoughtful fashion. Their poetry rooted in local soil grows easily into the pleasure of sharing.

Tim, a former EDP colleague, takes the photographs and pens a tanka, a five-lined Japanese verse form. Joy then responds to both picture and words with a tanka of her own. This latest collection embraces pathways as its theme in the broadest sense.

They range from remote Norfolk countryside ways to the enclosed route round Norwich Cathedral Cloisters, from seaside paths to city streets. Some will be familiar to readers, others arriving like stops along a mystery tour.

In his uplifting foreword, David Howe reminds us how Norfolk is so rich in tracks and trails inviting many a journey, a county of far horizons and sea-torn cliffs. He calls this illustrated tanka odyssey “a duet, a beautiful call and response to Norfolk’s Ways”.

My third home-made treat to kick off another reading year arrived with a modest hand-written letter from Pulham Market … “I started to jot down a few notes about my own history for my family, but they encouraged me to extend it and publish it”.

Life of Bryan (with a Y) is a delightful rural ramble, a labour of Norfolk love taking five years to bring to proud fruition. Farming man Bryan Chubbock was 87 when he started this journey down memory lane. He’s now 92 and a stirring example to all who sigh and wish they could find time and inspiration to write a book of their own.

Bryan’s extra spur came from son John, who died of motor neurone disease in 1997. He bowed out with publication of his Norfolk experiences in the memorably-named A Fair Bit of Truth (Plus a Little Bit of Squit). The charity for research into MND will receive all proceeds from sales of Bryan’s book.

Write to him at 23 Mill Lane, Pulham Market, Diss, IP21 4TN if you’d like a copy of his furrow-filled family story. It costs £8 (plus £2 postage and packing). Ask when the sequel might be ready.

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