PICTURE GALLERY: Worstead Festival back with a family-friendly bang

Country lovers and the curious were among the thousands who flocked to check out Worstead's revamped village festival over the weekend.

This year's smaller event was a hit with many who spent a day at the picturesque village, south of North Walsham.

But there were rumblings from some who missed the larger-scale festivals of recent years.

Festival chairman Jon Lowe said feedback to him had been positive and people had enjoyed this year's sense of space coupled with a relaxed atmosphere.

New hands-on games, including welly wanging and egg throwing, had been hits as had a food hall which included cookery demonstrations from top local chefs. Norfolk and Norwich Medieval Association's village had proved another popular new draw and, as ever, festival-goers had flocked to old favourites such as the weavers, Starting Handle Club vintage farm machinery, and heavy horses.

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The festival took a break in 2010, after 40-plus years, and this year's programme followed a major rethink.

'We wanted to get away from a car-boot 'bring-stalls-in-for-the-sake-of-it' festival and put the emphasis on interactive activities for children, country and village pastimes,' said Mr Lowe, on Sunday.

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'The only thing I think we got wrong is that we under-estimated numbers! The car parks were nearly full by 1pm and we've had a very big crowd in today.'

But grandmother Janet Baker, from Happisburgh, visiting with her family, said she was disappointed.

'It's missing a lot of stalls and atmosphere,' said Mrs Baker, a festival regular for many years.

The Schofield family, from Swanton Abbott, disagreed. Siobhan and Paul, with children Oscar, four, and Jasmin , one, said they had been to a number of previous festivals and felt there was more to do this year for their children. 'Thumbs up - it's been well worth the money,' said Mrs Schofield.

Carl and Linda Brown, from North Walsham, with their son Ethan, 17, were also satisfied customers. 'It's brilliant,' said Mrs Brown. 'It's good they've got it going again - we like traditional things.'

And festival first-timers Jason and Simone Waller, from Thorpe St Andrew, were also impressed. 'There's a lot to do and it's quaint. We like quaint,' said Mr Waller.

The festival, which also included a full programme of live music, began on Friday evening with the annual 'Worstead 5' road race attracting 322 runners. It was won by Stuart Huntington, from the City of Norwich Athletics Club, in a time of 25mins 7secs.

** WEAVING PROJECT LAUNCHED: Free taster sessions aimed at tempting others to learn ancient spinning and weaving skills are part of a �44,100 Heritage Lottery Fund project launched at the festival.

Members of the Worstead Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers are planning the sessions, plus free masterclasses for more experienced crafts people, under the banner Spinning a Yarn in Worstead.

And they will be donating simple equipment to schools, such as peg looms, after showing pupils how to use them.

Guild patron Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, who officially launched the scheme, said he hoped it would rebuild some of the skills for which Worstead was once world renowned.

Chairman Brian Morgan said members currently met in the refurbished former football club building in Dilham,

But the guild, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, felt its roots should be in Worstead and its ultimate dream was to find a permanent home there. 'Worstead was a particularly significant centre in the production of worsted yarn and the cloth that resulted from weaving that yarn was of exceptional quality,' said Mr Morgan.

A book about the history of textiles in Norfolk, and particularly Worstead, is also planned as part of the project.

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