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‘Get them talking’ - Cromer stalwart reveals secret of making good things happen

Hilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Hilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

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Problems can be solved and communities built if you just get people talking to each other - as Hilary Cox well knows.

Hilary Cox walking from Lynn Minster to Yarmouth Minster in 2014. Picture: Matthew UsherHilary Cox walking from Lynn Minster to Yarmouth Minster in 2014. Picture: Matthew Usher

The 69-year-old from Cromer has spent her life helping others by encouraging communication in every environment from council boardrooms to pub counters.

Mrs Cox said that although this year had proven challenging for everyone, the community’s response to the pandemic had been nothing sort of inspiring.

She said: “What Cromer has done, and is still doing with the Cromer Cares group, has been absolutely tremendous.

“People have been out helping others that have been isolated, sharing things. Cromer has always had a strong community spirit, but this has led to different groups mixing together more, and has brought some issues to the fore that many people weren’t aware of.

Hilary Cox with her husband William and grandaughter Gabrielle. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANHilary Cox with her husband William and grandaughter Gabrielle. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

“That was always my ethos in the pub - if you can get that person who has sat there alone all night talking to someone else, then you’ve achieved something.”

Mrs Cox has spent much of her life in the pub trade, and was even named ‘East Anglia’s Ideal Barmaid’ at the age of 19, when she worked in Swanton Abbott.

She now works one day a week for the Marine Conservation Society, promoting the Cromer Chalk Shoal Bed and helping to balance the interests of fishing with the environment.

Mrs Cox said: “I learned to dive because I had to understand both sides of the story.

Hilary Cox shortly before heading off on the 250-mile Hike for Hearts around Norfolk in 2018. Picture: STUART ANDERSONHilary Cox shortly before heading off on the 250-mile Hike for Hearts around Norfolk in 2018. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

“Fishing is important for the future of the area, but it’s also important that we conserve this area of outstanding natural beauty under the sea.”

Mrs Cox is chairman of the Cromer Sea Scouts and the Cromer and District Royal British Legion, and she wants to see the branch’s women’s section merged with the main group.

She said: “The work the women have done over the years needs to be recognised and acknowledged, but it is time to look to the future.”

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Mrs Cox is also the deputy standard bearer for both sections of the branch, and was the RBL’s county standard bearer for Norfolk in 2013-14.

“I’m bossy and I’m good at organising people, I suppose,” she said.

Walking is another passion. Mrs Cox is chairman of Walk Cromer which helps keep footpaths clean and tidy, and encourages people to walk by creating new maps and routes around the town and to other centres.

She did a 250-mile ‘Hike for Hearts’ around Norfolk for the British Heart Foundation in 2018, five years after her husband, retired fisherman William Cox, survived a heart attack.

Hilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANHilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Mrs Cox said: “Working in pubs you are inside surrounded by people all of the time so it is nice to get out on your own in the fresh air and open spaces, listening to birdsong - it’s quite a contrast.

“You might be physically exhausted after a long walk, but mentally, you feel a lot better.”

She hiked to Everest Base Camp for charity to mark her 60th birthday, and conquered Kilimanjaro for another worthy cause when she turned 65.

Mrs Cox was planning to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to mark her 70th birthday next year, but these plans may be delayed.

Hilary Cox sporting a Cromer-themed hat at thje Crab and Lobster Festival. Photo: KAREN BETHELLHilary Cox sporting a Cromer-themed hat at thje Crab and Lobster Festival. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

She said helping people communicate was what led to her Member of the British Empire (MBE) nomination, an honour she received in 2018.

Mts Cox said: “I was partly responsible for getting all of the councils to work together to pay for the Felbrigg roundabout.

“It was the first time three tiers of council had all funded anything together like that.”

Mrs Cox said she was initially reluctant to accept the honour - her husband was made an MBE in 2002 for his many years of service as a firefighter and lifeboatman, and she did not feel her achievements could match his.

Hilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANHilary Cox at home in Cromer. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

But a friend convinced her to accept the MBE.

Mrs Cox said: “It’s quite humbling to realise that people see you in a different light to what you see yourself.”


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