Harry Nudd retires as staithe warden in Hickling

The end of a colourful chapter in the history of a Norfolk village will be marked at a parish council meeting tonight.

Special tributes will be paid to legendary figure Harry Nudd whose retirement as staithe warden in Hickling, near Stalham, ends a family association with the post dating back nearly half a century.

However, while it is the end of a chapter it is certainly not the end of the story, as the sprightly 71-year-old will continue to be seen regularly on his quad bike with trailor in tow as he carries on his gardening business.

Harry also has no intention of quitting his other job as pump attendant at Stubb Mill in Hickling where his father and grandfather both lived as marshmen.

His father Billy had taken up his staithe role in 1965 when the parish council, of which he was an active member, took over responsibility for it.

Harry took over the duties of collecting launching fees and helping people launch and recover their sailing boats after his father's death in 1993.

His wife Hazel said: 'Harry made the decision to retire as staithe warden last summer when he decided the time had come to give up working seven days a week. We have our own small motor boat down there and now we hope we'll be able to get out on the broad a bit more often.'

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Harry, who was born in the cottage next to the mill and now lives in Staithe Road, recognises the seismic changes to rural life that have taken place during his lifetime.

He worked for the farming business HG Blaxell for more than 40 years - even remembering the era of horse-drawn ploughs - but has seen the numbers employed on the land dwindle alarmingly.

He said: 'That has affected the make-up of the village. When I was at school I knew just about everyone and there were a lot of people who had lived in Hickling all their lives.'

Over the years, however, a lot of villagers of his generation had been forced away to look for work and cheaper homes.

Harry, whose family association with recently-restored Stubb Mill dates back to the turn of the 19th century, also recalled the dramatic changes to the village itself.

He said: 'We are just celebrating the return of our village shop and a mobile post office to Hickling, but I can remember the days when there were seven shops, including a butcher's draper's and shoe shop.'

Harry's kaleidoscope of memories of Hickling dates back to the bitter winter of 1947 - 'when the snow was 7ft deep in the road and I learned to skate on the marshes' - and includes the memorable time when he was quanting a punt on a coot shoot alongside the Duke of Edinburgh.

Harry and his wife, who were married in 1977, never tire of the extraordinary Broadland wildlife.

Hazel, who is soon to host open days at Stubb Mill, said: 'In the early days I remember seeing a dozen swallowtail butterflies fluttering on buddleia near the mill. I was not even aware how rare they were at the time.'

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