A little matter of north and south, and east and west
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
Do villagers on our coast yearn to travel to inland hotspots? Keith Skipper wonders...
I completed a quirky double recently as moody April conjured a passable impression of Dickensian London out of swirling fog, fuzzy lights, damp streets, invisible skies and hunched shoulders.
Cheerful Norfolk missions found me entertaining South Walsham and District Ladies Luncheon Club one day and opening a new charity shop for EACH (East Anglia's Children's Hospices) in North Walsham the next.
Both Walshams are in Norfolk but a considerable distance from each other. I am assured by several luncheon club members that many people still think they are close neighbours. Like East and West Rudham, North and South Creake, East and West Raynham, North and South Pickenham and a few other happy couples.
Perhaps the munching mawthers add slightly to confusion by meeting regularly at Filby Bridge Restaurant as numbers have grown considerably since formation in 2000. Dynamic chairman Glenda Tooke, awarded a BEM a couple of years ago for services to her Rollesby community, sets the perfect tone for lively gatherings.
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Filby, of course, is renowned for displays of floral glories. Perversely, my fleeting visit might well have been scheduled under a 'Filby in Gloom' banner as weather plucked from high November did its worst to throw a smothering blanket over all that intriguing area known as the Fleggs. I'll make a booking to return when it's in high bloom.
That gap between the Walshams feeds into lingering claims of a 'North-South Divide' in Norfolk. Occasional missionary work in the likes of Blo' Norton, Dickleburgh and Kenninghall have underlined significant differences on the socio-economic front but I can't vouch for warmth of relations between Bodham and Burston, Sheringham and Shelfanger, Wells and Winfarthing.
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I suspect we get more holidaymakers beside the sea. Are there any second homes in Carleton Rode and beyond? Do they get celebrity chefs around the fleshpots of Tivetshall St Mary? Is there a posh hat shop in Brockdish? Can you get fresh crabs at Gissing?
Frankly, most people given a chance avoid the functional grimness of the A140 road, even when cowslips and primroses adorn its verges, and so deny themselves chances to be lured towards the fair Forncetts or pretty Pulhams. That ugly scar right down the middle must be a ploy to protect southern communities from excesses northern neighbours take for granted, especially on a packed holiday beat.
You don't spot many charabancs of Beeston Regis revellers pulling in for a pint at Fersfield. However, you can easily pick out a Thelveton or New Buckenham accent on a busy day in a Burnham Market bistro.
Be careful as there are lots of little spanners to throw in the geographical works before clear decision can be made about the size of any cultural gap. For instance, Northwold is in Norfolk and has little in common with Southwold, star of the Suffolk coast. North Elmham resides in Norfolk. South Elmham prefers Suffolk. At least Northrepps and Southrepps enjoy close diplomatic ties close to each other not far from Cromer.
Encouraging signs of peaceful co-existence – but what about the bigger picture? Does one part of the county really care about what goes on in another? Could Reepham give a hoot if Attleborough doubles in size overnight? Will Aylsham celebrate when Long Stratton gets a bypass?
My feeling is we are firmly locked into certain perceptions and it will take much more than another local government revolution, like calling time on district councils, to encourage a wider outlook.
North Norfolk has a superior air fashioned out of the well-heeled retired and trendy visitors who can read a menu in several languages. The epithet 'Chelsea-on-Sea' embraces a recession-proof belief in certain areas, and others are keen to bask in reflected glory when the going gets tough.
South Norfolk seems to carry a far more workmanlike approach to life, with Norwich jobs on one side and Ipswich delights on the other. Commuters to London compare notes at Diss and then return to their rural sanctuaries for real ale, allotments and amateur dramatics. A mystery outing to the seaside is an annual treat.
Cromer & Co will be perfectly happy to see a major share of the county's housing development plonked on rolling acres either side of the A140. Diss & Co will be equally pleased to count the whirl of new windfarms off Sheringham and other green waters.
That shouldn't affect the flow of fresh crabs into Gissing.