Wensum, by Jim Harding, May 26, 2015

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The Wye Valley - reminiscent of Fakenham back in the early 1980s.

Picture: Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association

Our nearest town in the Wye valley reminds me of Fakenham at about the time we moved here in the early 1980s. There’s a small supermarket on the main street but none of the big superstores on the outskirts. Independent shops thrive with an emphasis on personal service. Half a dozen ‘ old fashioned’ pubs add to the appeal and it was refreshing to find just a single fish and chip shop – of justified renown – and little else of the take away variety on tap.

Whilst it’s a market town, the buying and selling once a week is all about sheep and cattle. Hill farmers from far and wide hitch up their trailers to do business at the lively auction.

I missed the attraction of a market place, the heart of the community being marked by a statuesque clock at the junction of four roads. Hardly a spot at which to congregate. We have been visiting hereabouts for the best part of 20 years and whilst the shops and pubs change hands, the landscape of the town itself is virtually no different. I still think of it as being in some sort of time warp and hope it continues to steer clear of too many so-called ‘improvements’ . Mind you, how we’ve appreciated its wonderful 20m swimming pool, acquired with the help of a substantial grant from the European Union back in the day when big amounts were being donated to rural communities. How Fakenham could have done with such largesse at the time as we continue to this day in the struggle to get such a much needed amenity here.

We have a new mayor who is no stranger to the role. In fact he is continuing to wear the chain of office he received about this time last year. Jeremy Punchard has picked up where he left off thanks to the overwhelming support of his fellow town councillors. Normally it’s the deputy mayor who steps up to the plate but for personal reasons, David Cubitt declined to do so at the annual meeting.

Jeremy, who was our youngest-ever mayor at the age of 27 back in 2011, has certainly thrived in the hot seat.

The meeting also decided to elect Adrian Vertigan, who was mayor in 2013, as deputy mayor. There was some discontent with this situation. The council’s longest serving member Mike Coates was obviously keen to see some new faces but was unable to persuade his choices to join the mix. Whilst it might be thought preferable to share this responsibility more widely I’m personally pleased that these two experienced individuals have joined forces. In so many ways they have already demonstrated their commitment to the community and there can be little doubt that they will continue to do so in the year ahead.

It’s hardly news that the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark has been patrolling the waters of the Med these past weeks searching for migrants in overcrowded boats fleeing from the north African coast. It has so far saved more than 600 lives. We have suddenly taken a much more personal interest in this campaign on hearing that our son has been transferred to the ship from his base at Culdrose in Cornwall in his role as a meteorological authority. Shared on the Navy’s Facebook page were various members of the crew, including our Joe, declaring to camera: ‘I’m proud to make a difference’.

We’re proud, too.