We must stand our ground and keep Norfolk special

PUBLISHED: 11:36 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:36 10 August 2020

The Broads - or Britain's Magical Waterland. Picture: Archant library

The Broads - or Britain's Magical Waterland. Picture: Archant library


There’s a lot of rebooting, rebranding and reinventing going on to salvage something worthwhile out of this virtual summer’s frantic local tourism campaign, writes our columnist.

There’s a lot of rebooting, rebranding and reinventing going on to salvage something worthwhile out of this virtual summer’s frantic local tourism campaign.

Most hopes appear to be pinned on what a majority of indigenous remnants have been doing since well before the rise of Chelsea-on-Sea and other fashionable quarters – taking a break close 
to home.

If you’re lucky enough to be born and raised in an area blessed with so many natural charms, tasteful attractions and uncluttered paths, it makes sense to avoid all the hassle of packing, travelling and paying extra to find something you don’t need somewhere else.

Sadly, that shrewd sort of Norfolk logic goes missing when holiday hordes more accustomed to brazen Benidorm and Ibiza descend on genteel Cromer and Sheringham because their usual sun-decked avenues are blocked by ramifications of a global pandemic.

A human chemistry experiment fraught with dangers despite all good intentions behind plaintive cries to support your local economy in its hour of desperation. Vastly different locations cater for glaringly divergent tastes. Samphire and sou’westers don’t go with sangria and siestas.

A blanket invitation to all and sundry for a “staycation jamboree” smacks of panic to cram in as many “no place like home clichés” and extravagant claims inside the few weeks left before schools go back, a new football season takes hold and shops start shouting the Yuletide odds.

Oh, that grotesque invention “staycation” has spawned a rash of equally soul-battering labels to stick on an ever-expanding holiday trade at home and abroad. I gather ”glamping” is posh camping and “jetiquette” how to behave on a plane heading for Spain.

On first meeting, I thought “staycation” had to be a department from which discerning women could purchase old-fashioned underwear like liberty-bodices and whalebone corsets. I heard they were in fashion while I graced the post-war catwalk in short trousers.

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I remain convinced “grumping” breaks for petulant pensioners and “praycation” tours of local churches would be all the rage in Norfolk. Serious doubts remain, however, about combining a holiday with charity work and dubbing it “voluntourism”.

Perhaps I should have been ready for all this trendybabble after being rebranded several times since merely suffering dismissal as a rustic nuisance. “A pimple on the backside of progress” and “King Canute washed up at Cromer” are two of the more flattering tags pinned on me over years of some resistance to alterations for their own sake.

Even in Norfolk you must get used to change … although I occasionally arrange to meet a friend over coffee at Bond’s or for a gossip outside that Norwich Union building in Surrey Street. If they get lost, I just head for Britain’s Magical Waterland.

Remember ripples of dissent when that description splashed out as a slogan to elevate the Broads onto a global stage about a decade ago? Why, I thought, dear old Arthur Ransome would have swapped any number of boaters, blazers and wicker picnic baskets for a line like that!

I did make my pitch for a voice on this new marketing scheme, or “repositioning project” as it’s commonly known in and around Ranworth, only to receive a firm put-down for my clarion call to reluctant holidaymakers: “Dig Those Broads – For Peat’s Sake!”

This vain attempt to combine hep language with useful history will not deter me from rebranding as much of Norfolk as possible at no cost whatsoever to the places and people involved. I just want to give thanks for a chance to help keep a shine on the Gem Of The Norfolk Coast.

On a clear day I can head for England’s Nazareth (Walsingham) and Rider Haggard Country (around Ditchingham). Only a matter of time before others join the unmissable brigade – like Southwold Without The Water (Holt), Norfolk’s Most Mispronounced Place (Happisburgh) and Spot The Local (Cley, Morston, Blakeney. Stiffkey. Brancaster and a few more).

There are plenty of candidates for a Parish of Refinement prize when tourism moguls realise small is too beautiful to be left alone. Roxham, near Downham Market, could set the ball rolling with “What Magic Waterland?” on their village sign.

Only one proviso as my bold strategy demands unanimous support. Spots under siege from visitors must maintain the right to tear down “Holiday Here!” posters and replace them with “Full Up – Try Somewhere Else!”.

The main thoroughfare through Cromer in August is a clogged-up case in point.

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