Odd names, but Nowhere is really Somewhere in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 11:52 25 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:42 26 February 2018
Hip hooray for Norfolk Day on July 27!
I have decided to dedicate the next few columns to reasons why I love Norfolk, although there aren’t enough words in existence to explain why I love the county where I was born and bred (let’s gloss over the times I moved away, I came back, didn’t I?). One of them will not be Norfolk’s ‘big skies’. On this note, can I urge you to start playing ‘Big Sky Bingo’, which means marking off squares on a card every time you see or hear someone eulogising about Norfolk’s Big Skies? Every time I hear that I just think ‘are you saying we have small scenery, then?’ Today: Why I love Norfolk – a list of Norfolk place names that inspire joy:
1) Anywhere can have a somewhere, but only Norfolk can have a trio of Nowheres. According to 19th century directories, Nowhere is a marshy area by the River Bure where the villagers of Acle produced salt for food preservation (I dread to think what this entailed: distilling the sweatiest person in Acle? Licking toads?*). The lane from Great Witchingham to Reepham is Nowhere Lane, which is a bit of a value judgment on both Great Witchingham and Reepham, and the area under the bridge at Wiveton is called Nowhere. This alone: the fact that Norfolk has a place where ‘the bit under a bridge’ has its own name, makes living here worthwhile.
2) Little London, six miles from Holt, is one of 27 Little Londons in Britain, none of which boast a small-scale version of the Houses of Parliament or their own underground system. The Little London in Norfolk doesn’t even have a Liberty. Rubbish.
3) Ironically, Great and Little Snoring are thought to get their names from the Anglo Saxon word “snear”, which means swift, bright or alert. This, Alanis Morrisette, is irony unlike rain on your wedding day (unless it was Ra, the Egyptian sun God, which WOULD make rain on your wedding day ironic).
4) It might not be the most savoury of addresses but four houses near Babingley, north of King’s Lynn, have the distinction of being in the old parish of Cat’s Bottom. Nowhere near as unpleasant as its name suggests, it’s believed the moniker arose from a farmer named Cat who wanted to mark the end of his field, although this is what I’d say if I was trying to sell a house in Cat’s Bottom, especially if the truth was less tasteful.
5) People in Norfolk created the place names Acle, Costessey, Happisburgh and Wymondham to keep visitors on their toes and to separate the ‘them’ from the ‘us’. Once your guests have mastered the basics, hit them with Tacolneston. If anyone is still standing, Hautbois and Heigham Street it is.
6) It may sound like a Shakespearean insult, but Hag’s Pits is actually a gravel pit close to Honingham. Marvel described the Hag of the Pits as a powerful sorceress who lives in the pits of Dinosaur World and who is able to teleport herself through space and time. She receives prophetic dreams of the future and is kept looking youthful by the magical properties of the pits. Based on several visits to Honingham and the nearby villages, I do not believe that Hag’s Pit in Norfolk holds the secret to eternal youth.
7) Fairy Yard Belt is at Narford in West Norfolk. It appears even fairies aren’t exempt from the obesity epidemic sweeping the UK and have joined the ranks of those who need to be washed with a rag on a stick.
8) In addition to the Cat’s Bottom, there’s also Cat Pits (Holt), Cat Wood (Aylsham), Cat’s Common (clearly they’re not) and Cat’s Corner at Skeyton. Dogs have to make do with just two Lanes and one Corner in Heydon, although Norfolk’s hounds do have the monopoly on lamp-posts.
9) Norfolk boasts a village that isn’t just angry, it’s Seething.
10) Thursford may sound innocent enough, but its Icelandic equivalent is the slightly concerning ‘ford associated with a giant or demon’. I don’t recall seeing one of those in the famous Thursford Collection or the Christmas Spectacular.