Celebrity heron’s take off to fame in Horning
It was an idea inspired by an apparently fearless heron which began hanging out at Horning Ferry Marina's poolside cafe waiting for customers to feed him morsels of fish.
Staff were quick to adopt their new 'customer' and name him Harry the Heron and then Hazel Funnell, wife of marina boss Len, had the brainwave of elevating their cheeky visitor's profile - meerkat style - in a new marketing venture.
First Harry was incorporated in the emblem of their 32 hire boats and then came a 15ft high steel statue of Harry which has become a striking landmark on the riverbank since its arrival earlier in the season.
The statue proved an instant hit with boating customers who have included him in countless holiday snaps over the summer, and the bird's popularity has even led to the poolside cafe - formerly Helska - being renamed Harry's Bar.
Now Hazel, 66, who lives in the village, has taken the brand even further by writing an illustrated children's book, Harry's Tales.
She said: 'I was inspired by the sort of bedtime stories I used to tell my daughter Ruth when she was small. I would see a picture and invent a tale around it; even I did not know where the story was going.'
Hazel collaborated on her book with North Norfolk artist Clifford Knight who has taught her painting at Horning art group.
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She said: 'I knew what I wanted and gave Clifford pen-and-ink sketches which he transformed into the colourful illustrations.'
The three charming stories, which it is hoped will entertain youngsters on Broads holidays, include one about Harry being a fidget, making it difficult for him to stand still and catch fish.
Clifford, 53, who lives in Eccles on Sea, said: 'This the first time I have done book illustrations. What I like about it is that there are lots of books on the Broads for adults to read but not very much for children. This gives them the chance to learn about the Broads in a fun, relaxed way.'
Hazel, who is already working on a sequel, dreaming up new story lines in bed, said: 'Part of the inspiration for Harry came from the fact that we inherited a steel statue of Eddie the Fish when we bought Waveney River Centre.
'My daughter Ruth and son-in-law James Knight, who run the centre, built up Eddie and even gave him his own website; we thought we can do the same with Harry.'
They fell in love with a steel heron statue that was on display at the caravan and boat show in Birmingham earlier this year and ordered 'Harry' from the supplier, Marche Industries in Shrewsbury.
Hazel said although the statue was granted formal planning permission last week it would be taken down over the winter to ptotect it from the elements.
However, she said Harry fans could take comfort from the fact he would shortly be making an appearance on the marina's website.
And if you want to see Harry in real life, Hazel said he is more likely to visit the bar at quieter times out of the high season.
Harry's Tales is available at �7.99 from local outlets including Jarrolds, Horning Ferry Marina, Wroxham Barns and Broads Authority visitor centres, including the authority's Dragonfly House headquarters in Norwich.