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Thursday, January 3, 2013
In the first of two parts Stephen Pullinger rolls back a year that will be best remembered for its glorious summer (and we are talking sporting triumphs and Diamond Jubilee festivities – NOT the weather)
It was a topsy-turvy year that started with a record-setting drought which brought dire warnings of hosepipe bans.
But dramatic images of cracked earth and alarmingly low reservoirs swiftly became a distant memory once it began to rain... and rain.
However, in a display of doughty British spirit, no one let the weather rain on their jubilee parades (even if the incessant deluge did little for Prince Philip’s delicate health).
Mercifully, the rain had almost stopped in time for the great British gold rush at the Olympics and Paralympics – and the sporting summer continued with crowds turning out across the region to cheer on their new hero Wiggo in the Tour of Britain cycle race.
But those dizzy highs were far in the distance when 2012 arrived, as 2011 had ended, with a saga as long and twisted as Coronation Street – the King’s Lynn incinerator.
The slow-burning row simmered into the new year with one government minister announcing funding for the scheme, but the flames were later to be re-ignited when another minister announced a public inquiry.
While the Duchess of Cambridge would dominate headlines at the end of the year with joyful baby talk, she began it with a generous show of support for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, becoming their Royal patron.
A little piece of history was disappearing in Great Yarmouth with the demolition of the dangerously dilapidated seafront jetty, once the landing place of Nelson after the Battle of Copenhagen.
And a memorable chapter was sadly ending in Norwich too with the announcement that ITV was closing its production base responsible for such iconic programmes as Survival, Sale of the Century and Tales of the Unexpected.
January was also the month that the Queen dropped in on Sandringham WI and – appropriately in a year dominated by weather – listened to a talk by BBC forecaster Carol Kirkwood.
A crowd of 3,000 people saw a lifetime of memories crumble in one thunderous instant with the demolition of the Campbell’s tower in King’s Lynn.
Another era came to a sad end with the death of Lord Somerleyton Savile Crossley – described as a “great Englishman” – at his home in Herringfleet, near Lowestoft.
EDP publisher Archant launched its exciting iwitness24 platform for readers to share their favourite photographs.
In February, a young otter with fish in mouth popped up on cue for our photographer Bill Smith at the launch of a new nature trail at the University of East Anglia.
And nature also provided a stunning image in Salhouse when water splashed by traffic and temperatures of -7C transformed a roadside hedge into a winter wonderland of icicles.
In a chapter of our democracy unlikely to be remembered for long, the race to become the first police commissioner started as it finished – with disinterest and bewilderment.
In a King’s Lynn care home, the peaceful death of Florence Green at the age of 110 had altogether more historical significance – a former 17-year-old recruit in the Women’s Royal Air Force, she had been the last surviving person to serve in the first world war.
Meanwhile, a cruel death at a far younger age was dominating the news with showmen leading poignant tributes to three-year-old Rio Bell, who was involved in a tragic road accident at the King’s Lynn mart.
Norfolk’s sugar-beet factories at Cantley and Wissington were celebrating as British Sugar announced record production of 1.3m tonnes in the centenary year of the home-grown industry.
March began with baby news that had nothing to do with the Duchess of Cambridge – the peregrine falcons had laid their first egg of the year in their lofty home on Norwich Cathedral.
Meanwhile, in a convoluted political saga to rival the incinerator, a High Court judge ordered a rethink on controversial plans for thousands of new homes around Norwich.
Great Plumstead plant breeder Howard Lupton announced that after a seven-year quest he had discovered the holy grail – a primrose with consistent speckles.
As the rain started, spirits were lifted by the heartening story of Royal Anglian soldier Ross Green, of Gorleston, who nearly lost his arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack –but was back fighting the Taliban after retraining as a dog handler.
In Yarmouth there was a stinging denouement to yet another political saga with news that the resort’s much pilloried big screens, bought for £800,000, had been sold for £16,000.
The excitement of London 2012 reached a new fever pitch with the announcement of the route through our region for the Olympic torch.
March was also the month when Mac was back in town – the cat had leapt off Stuart Emery’s narrowboat in Staffordshire in 2006 but was found on the canal side six years on, identified by its chip and finally reunited with his owner at his Downham Market home.
A new Latin name was entering the vocabulary of anxious anglers – dikerogammarus Villosus. In what could easily be a B movie script, killer shrimps smaller than a 20p piece were discovered in Barton Broad and threatening to spread and decimate the fish population of the Broads.
The county mourned the death of Yarmouth’s Jimmy Jones, titan of both the seaside entertainment and football industries.
In April, Environment Agency officials were praised for an extraordinary rescue operation, moving and saving 25,000 fish threatened by a deadly bloom of the algae prymnesium parvum on Hickling Broad.
The advance of the sea was poignantly brought home as houseowners stood and watched as the first of nine clifftop properties was bulldozed at Happisburgh.
A Yarmouth stag party ended in tragedy with Charles “Sam” Watson, 25, going missing for several days, only to be found on the riverbed at Haddiscoe, trapped in his car.
Meanwhile, Yarmouth’s Pleasure Beach boss, Albert Jones, pledged a 1,200 jobs bonanza as he was awarded the licence for the resort’s large casino.
The Broads boating season began with the launch of a “Wear It” lifejackets campaign in the wake of five preventable deaths on the waterways in 2011.
May brought more baby joy with the announcement that BBC presenter Susie Fowler-Watt and Anglia’s Becky Jago were both expecting in the autumn.
A charity football match at Bungay Town FC brought together 50 players from around the country – all called Bungay, to the bewilderment of commentators.
The month saw the passing of a Broads legend with the death of reedcutter Eric Edwards, the man who memorably told Mrs Thatcher she was “doing it wrong”.
In a ruling interpreted as a serious blow to the future of onshore wind, a High Court judge ruled out plans for a windfarm at Hemsby, near Yarmouth, insisting that government renewable energy targets did not override consideration of the environment.
June was dominated by the Diamond Jubilee with a host of parties and special events across the region – from a Great British garden party at the Assembly House in Norwich to a picnic stretching the length of the pier in Cromer.
Vessels from our region, including the independent lifeboat from Caister, were taking part in the historic flotilla on the River Thames under the watchful gaze of the Royal party.
A special jubilee garden party at Sandringham saw titled landowners mixing with volunteer charity workers.
When the jubilee partying was over, celebrations continued at the White Horse, in Upton, where villagers had reached their £100,000 target to buy the pub as a community venture.