Wensum, by Jim Harding, Tuesday, June 21

The grass verges by the traffic lights junction and in particular at the Jack Richards memorial bench

The place looked scruffy. Not everywhere, of course, and I applaud those authorities both public and private who keep up to speed in maintaining appearances.

This sense of civic pride is always to be applauded and characterises so many of the coastal resorts both here and elsewhere. I can’t believe that were we to be ‘beside the seaside’ there would be such neglect of our grass verges. The rainy days have inevitably contributed to their growth but this is an annual occurrence and no excuse. Certainly the issue has come up before the council on numerous occasions in the past, the presumption being that it is a local responsibility. Up to a point, this is true. But from my understanding, the town council takes its obligations on this matter very seriously, either employing its own staff as cutters or putting areas such as Millennium Park and Aldiss Park in the hands of contractors. Sadly, verges bordering the main roads in and out of Fakenham are not its responsibility and neither are the roundabouts. These are primarily in the care of county highways although private companies such as Victory Housing do regularly tend the areas in front of their properties. Obviously complaints to the town council do get referred on to the county council but action on the ground is sluggish. A resident at last week’s town council meeting described the area around the traffic lights as a ‘disgusting mess’. I could hardly believe it when he added that there were stinging nettles growing up through the Jack Richards memorial bench there. I saw this for myself the next day with a mass of grass also spilling over on to the path. It really did look a mess. Town Clerk Linda Jennings took this one in hand and made arrangements for a clear-up operation out of respect for Jack Richards, even though it is not strictly a local obligation.

Another long-standing eyesore which refuses to go away is the triangle of land at the top end of Norwich Street. It’s as if nobody really cares enough to smarten up this corner even though a number of half-hearted attempts have been made over time. I recall a mini-garden of sorts and a couple of places to sit and rest but nothing at all impressive. I see that a couple of cars now get parked there regularly but otherwise the rough ground is no more than a cut through to the shops on Millers Walk. Rumour has it that the land owner would like to build there which presumably inhibits any other kind of improvement in the near future.

For the past seven years one of the most iconic buildings in the heart of Fakenham has stood empty and largely neglected. So it’s very good news that The Crown Hotel now looks set to reopen in the coming weeks. New landlord James Antcliff-Stone has experience in hotel management and is optimistic that the former coaching inn can be revived and restored as a traditional pub. I’ve experienced The Crown in a couple of incarnations, right back to the days when it had a number of ‘snugs’ blessed with welcoming open fires. It was always a popular watering hole right on the market place and there was much disappointment when its doors closed just at the same time as Woolworths shut up shop. That was a grim year for the town which spawned our Kick Start Fakenham group to help bring about a revival through community involvement and action. Anyway, let’s raise a glass to the new incumbent and wish him every success with this venture.