Highs and lows of 2015 – a year of achievements and new beginnings

MHLC-31-12-13 Warwick Races Dec77 ''Warwick Racecourse,New Year's Eve Meeting Tuesday 31st December 2013.the 32Red Novices'Steeple Chase.'Pictured,AP McCoy- Jockey'MHLC-31-12-13 Warwick Races Dec77 ENGNNL00220140201094808
MHLC-31-12-13 Warwick Races Dec77 ''Warwick Racecourse,New Year's Eve Meeting Tuesday 31st December 2013.the 32Red Novices'Steeple Chase.'Pictured,AP McCoy- Jockey'MHLC-31-12-13 Warwick Races Dec77 ENGNNL00220140201094808
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Wensum, by Jim Harding, December 22, 2015

Early in January my near neighbour Betty Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday in the Maltings Care Home. She may be confined to barracks these days but her cheerful demeanour was a tonic to experience.

The Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris prompted reminders of our town’s long and close associations with France through both school exchanges and the twinning links with Olivet. A letter of condolence and support was rightly sent to the mayor of Olivet by our town council. The death of former world champion weightlifter Louis Martin reminded me of Fakenham resident John Fulton who had died some four months earlier. John had coached Louis to some of his greatest triumphs and was himself a notable weight lifter, still pushing boundaries into his early eighties. An amazing man.

The legend that is Tony McCoy paid two farewell visits to our track before finally signing off his jump racing career with a 20th successive jockey ‘s championship. Thousands turned out to bid him farewell and give him a rousing send off.

In March two major building works got under way, the Aldi supermarket on Norwich Road and the Kinnerton chocolate factory extension down towards the river. Aldi has now been trading for a couple of months and seemingly is doing very well. Finishing touches are still being made to the Kinnerton project but it looks sure to be functioning very soon. Both these major enterprises have brought employment and solid business acumen to the town.

My personal fitness regime was rudely interrupted by an emergency bowel operation at Lynn Hospital after a 999 call had me blue-lighted there around midnight on March 17. The treatment from first to last was excellent with my recovery period on Leverington ward particularly simpatico.

Two regular annual presentations were made by then mayor Jeremy Punchard. The community volunteer award shield went to Tanya Abel for her generous commitment to First Focus. And the mayor’s cadet award was picked up by 16 year-old Mollie Banks, a long-serving member of 2534[Fakenham]Squadron of the Air Training Corps.

The first anniversary of the devastating fire which destroyed the former Aldiss building on Upper Market was marked by a sponsored bike ride. Members of the local brigade visited all 42 fire stations in Norfolk , covering close to 400 miles in four days. A terrific effort.

After a year’s interregnum, the parish church welcomed a new rector , the Rev Francis Mason. He was inducted with due pomp and ceremony in a service led by the Bishop of Norwich.

Talented young musicians from the Purcell School spent a weekend here, playing concerts in All Saints church, Kettlestone and the Old Chapel in South Creake. I was lucky enough to attend both and was suitably wowed by the brilliance of these vibrant teenagers.

There were two notable departures from our Junior school. Head Lesley Cook had decided to retire after 16 years at the helm and was joined by secretary Val Griffiths who had been running the office ever since 1990.

An impressive refurbishment of our community centre has made this important social centre a much more welcoming space for its many users. The foyer, the toilets and the main hall have all benefited to the good.

There was great excitement when the Tour of Britain included Fakenham at the start of its penultimate stage on September 12. Hundreds mingled with the riders out at the racecourse and lined the streets in the town as they pedalled through on their way towards Aylsham and Norwich en route to Ipswich.

A personal milestone for me was the completion of thirty years of Wensum columns in October. It’s been a pleasure to keep it afloat.

The fifteenth Christmas Tree Festival attracted its by now customary thousands to the parish church with some 70 decorated trees on display. The generosity of visitors to both the charities and the church was as good as ever.

A happy note, methinks, on which to conclude.