Why David Gray loves Norfolk

Birds, the beach and the beer - David Gray loves Norfolk and he's looking forward to delighting the crowds at his forthcoming concert in the county. ANGI KENNEDY reports.

Birds, the beach and the beer - David Gray loves Norfolk and he's looking forward to delighting the crowds at his forthcoming concert in the county. ANGI KENNEDY reports.

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If you see a beer ready on the bar at a north Norfolk pub of a weekend - take a good look around. It might be waiting for David Gray, the Babylon singer-songwriter, who will be working up a thirst for his favourite tipple when he plays Thetford Forest next month.

The man who has three UK number one albums and a string of music awards to his name is looking forward to a good pint of Nelson's Revenge or a Wherry at any one of his three favourite drinking holes, the Anchor Inn at Morston, Ringstead Gin Trap and Titchwell Manor.

David is a great fan of Norfolk - he's had a second home in the county for years now and gets back here whenever he can - for the bird-life even more than the beer!

An avid bird-watcher, he is a member of the Norfolk Ornithologists' Association and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and a great supporter of Pensthorpe Nature Reserve near Fakenham.

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And he makes the most of his visits to the county to indulge that passion, heading out to the coast around Titchwell especially. He has spoken out passionately about this fascination, which has been with him since childhood, and is full of praise of the work of the wardens on the county's bird reserves.

'I really rekindled my interest when we bought the place in Norfolk,' he said, adding that he loves the insight that the area allows him into the natural world, such as seeing the flocks of migrating geese.

It is sights like that which touch David more deeply than any of the trappings of fame. If he wasn't so driven to make music, he would have loved a career in some branch of nature and conservation work.

Born in Manchester, David grew up in Wales, but he has long connections here too. Fifteen years ago he came to stay in a cottage at Blakeney with wife Olivia, long before the success of his major hit Babylon, which won him the prestigious Ivor Novello Award in 2001.

'We just fell in love with it,' he said. The couple bought a house in Stiffkey and now own a property further along the north Norfolk coast where they regularly stay with their two young daughters.

They spend as much time there as possible, but his busy schedule in the coming months is going to keep David away from his favourite bolthole for a while.

After his Thetford Forest gig on July 10, he will be out on the road for a hefty world tour, taking in America, Australia and Canada. Then it will be months of global promotional work for his long-awaited new album, Draw The Line, which is due out in September.

But a part of his heart is reserved for Norfolk and he will be back here as soon as he can be. He loves how he can be low-key and live a normal life here without the pressures of fame encroaching on his all-important family time.

'I do miss it when I'm away,' he commented. 'It's such a lovely place to switch off.'

David Gray is playing Thetford Forest, near Brandon, as part of the Forestry Commission Live Music programme, on Friday July 10. Tickets are �31.50 (subject to booking fee) and are available from the Forestry Commission Box Office on 01842 814612, online at www.forestry.gov.uk/music or at the venue.