Buttercross, February 20, 2015: Guns fall silent around Swaffham

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There has been a fair quantity of pops and bangs around the edges of Swaffham over these last few months, indicating that the shooting season was well under way.

With it now drawing to a close once again as the nesting season approaches, these noises will no doubt subside.

Older townspeople may well remember those days long ago, and probably when Geoff Harvey was landlord at the George Hotel, when its car park was full of plus-foured shooting parties complete with gun dogs milling around excitedly, all impatient to get going.

On one very windy day a lot of years ago, somewhere near South Pickenham, I stopped my car on seeing a line of guns on open ground and positioned beyond some poplar trees, all waiting for the drive to send birds over the 50ft poplar trees and into their sights.

There was a very strong wind blowing and eventually something like 30 pheasants came over the trees with the wind under their tails, flying high and fast over startled heads, just like fighter planes.

Hardly a feather was ruffled and no bird from that drive graced later dinner tables despite all those pops and bangs going off. That certainly was a score of pheasants one, guns nil.

On another occasion, and this time a sad one, a local landowner who was known to have an extremely short temper shot his gun dog dead when it failed to respond adequately to his shouted instructions and ever growing temper. Today, of course, such an occurrence would see the perpetrator in court.

My father hired a small rough shoot near Northwold and would have a regular walk around it, usually with friends. One day he was out with the local police inspector when they approached some scrub from opposite sides. A pheasant got up, flying low, and they both fired, only managing to pepper one another’s lower legs with shot.

That perhaps is one of the few incidents, at least in our region, where a member of the public has shot and injured a policemen, and an inspector at that, and not ended up in court.

While on the subject of our police, many people will be aware of the cuts that Norfolk Police, and indeed all forces nationally, are having to make.

Even with these cutbacks the police have still felt the need to raise their part of the general council tax we pay, or their “precept”. Not popular with many, and certainly not so when further considering that our local public office is to be closed at our police station before too long.

It is remarkable to think back only 50 years to when we had constructed at considerable public expense a new police station, courthouse, inspector’s house, sergeant’s house and four constables’ houses.

How times have changed. All are now in private hands with the exception of the police station, garages and outbuildings. Shortly there will be only access to summon help, or ask advice, from a wall mounted phone. The digital age is truly upon us.