It had, thanks to the redoubtable skills of craftsman Harry Carter, provided a fitting welcome to the Broadland village of South Walsham since 1975.

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But earlier this year the parish council was in a quandary when indignant residents began complaining about the tatty state of their village sign.

Council chairman Peter Crook, of School Road, South Walsham, said: “Harry Carter, who was an art teacher at Swaffham High School, made more than 200 hand-carved signs in Norfolk.

“We quickly discovered that to commission a replacement of equal quality would cost thousands of pounds, more than the council could afford.”

Mr Crook, the retired boss of a public relations company, decided there was only one solution - do it himself.

He said: “My neighbour Malcolm Steward agreed to help me and three months ago we went out and bought a set of tools.

“Measuring the sign, we thought that when we took it down we could use most of the existing pieces, but it was so rotten it just collapsed. Only two bits were re-usable.”

Learning from the mistake of using soft wood they went to North Heigham Sawmills in Norwich and selected a piece of kiln-dried European oak.

Mr Steward, a retired director of fruit labelling firm Sinclair International, said: “I had never tackled anything like it, but we saw it as a challenge.”

More than 150 hours of painstaking work later, a new sign, faithfully copying the original with its depiction of a Viking long boat, Saxon warrior, St Mary’s and St Lawrence churches and local windmill - all symbols of South Walsham history - is ready to take pride of place at the village’s Ranworth Road junction.

You can visit iwitness24.co.uk for a special feature on village signs in our local communities.

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