Norfolk’s towns and villages fight for better days

People power and community passion: Members of the Blenheim Community Association in Carbrooke, near Watton, who are fighting for improved services on their new estate. People power and community passion: Members of the Blenheim Community Association in Carbrooke, near Watton, who are fighting for improved services on their new estate.

Sunday, June 15, 2014
12:06 PM

One of the great joys of my job is when I find time to drive around our wonderful part of the world – and “feel the pulse” of our communities.

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Back in business: six months on from the flood surge the stunning beaches of Bacton and Walcott are welcoming trippers once againBack in business: six months on from the flood surge the stunning beaches of Bacton and Walcott are welcoming trippers once again

I see beautiful, historic places, I meet and spend time with committed locals who love their county, town or village with a passion.

My personal crusade is to seek out towns and villages some might see as places better left off the beaten track and certainly never visited.

Thetford, gateway to the spellbinding Brecks, is one example.

In the last of many visits around Norfolk and north Suffolk this week I went there yesterday to fulfil a pledge made in December.

Shiny new eyes: ship under renovation on Blakeney Marshes starting to get a smile once moreShiny new eyes: ship under renovation on Blakeney Marshes starting to get a smile once more

It was that we at the EDP would have an office in the town before long.

Sorry it has taken almost six months, but now we have a superb facility in the King’s House, right in the centre of town.

Please do pop in and see our Thetford reporter, Andrew Fitchett, and his commercial colleagues, whenever you can.

Thetford, Breckland neighbour Watton and North Walsham, on the other side of Norfolk, are the sort of places I seek out… and all face the same challenges.

In many ways they are suffering birth pains as a new era is emerging – but there’s so much hope in the air if you spend a little time in these hidden gems.

In North Walsham – north Norfolk’s largest town – there are great prospects. What an exciting, historic, town centre awaits visitors.

St Nicholas’ Church has the grace and majesty of a cathedral and stained glass windows to make you gasp. But the town needs to “push on” to become an enterprise and tourism hub of excellence.

Between the Broads and the north and east Norfolk coasts is an incredible location in which to build an exciting future.

My first tip: North Walsham should form a cross-party, multi-skilled task force to prepare their vision and then very many of us will join in to make it happen.

My second tip: Some of the dated 1960s buildings, which put such a drab overcoat around the historic locations, should go – one by one.

Watton – see later in this column – shares some of the problems.

The two Norfolk Ws and Thetford share one further asset – the astonishing Norfolk people, many volunteers, who are striving for better facilities and better lives for their townsfolk.

What’s clear is that each of them is tantalisingly close to retaining all of the good and changing all of the poor – building new visions and, we hope, banishing horrid reputations to the scrapbook of history.

The EDP and the necklace of shining weekly titles, websites and mobile platforms, will stand foursquare with the productive process of change.

Watton folk love their town but need varying degrees of help and MP George Freeman and I met shopkeepers, town leaders and community groups yesterday. I will return to this topic next week – suffice it to say there are many great people looking at some serious community issues – but ones which can be solved with good spirit and collaboration.

• Follow my adventures at twitter @Nigel_Pickover



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