Wensum, Jim Harding’s Reivew of 2014

Fire at the Original Factory Shop premises in Upper Market Fakenham ANL-140525-173431009
Fire at the Original Factory Shop premises in Upper Market Fakenham ANL-140525-173431009

These clips from the past year jumped out at me when I skipped through the scrapbook of my weekly Wensums.

So please forgive this reflective mood which reminds me – and perhaps you – of what has been quite a 2014 for us all.

It was so wet and mild in January that, I wrote, “blossoms are sprouting here and there, the mallards are pairing up and I passed a young man in shorts sitting on a tree stump by the river whilst his dog jumped for joy.” National Grid ripped up lots of town centre roadways to replace old metal gas mains which obliged four sets of traffic lights to control drivers coming into and going out of the place. Snarl-ups ensued. “Perhaps this will encourage a few more of us to abandon four wheels occasionally. Not a bad habit to get into and it might even become life-changing.”

In March our biggest employer, Kinnerton, announced it planned to extend its Fakenham factory and close down its off-shoot in South Creake. The company “has a jaw-dropping turnover of £75m world-wide.”

Once we were known for our printing works. Now it’s more about chocolates.

Active Fakenham stopped the town over Easter with a potpourri of fun and games highlighted by the Shopkeepers’ Olympics featuring four energetic teams competing for the Brenda Coldrick Cup.

“I doubt the competition will be very Olympian but Brenda, a much-loved local resident and former mayor would have been delighted to be remembered in this way.”

No prizes for guessing the stand-out story in May. The devastating blaze which ripped the lovely old Aldiss building apart and burnt it to the ground was a huge shock to everyone. The emergency services were terrific in saving lives and containing the conflagration. “Given the magnitude of this disaster in the middle of our crowded little community, let’s be very appreciative of the professionals who did such amazing work. They were brilliant.”

Slowly we got going again. Every town needs its characters and Jack Richards was certainly one of them. His death at 90 drew hundreds of mourners to the parish church for his funeral. Jack’s fleet of bright yellow lorries carried Fakenham’s name right across the country and continues to do so with his son Anthony at the helm.

After 13 years here, parish church rector Adrian Bell bowed out into retirement at the end of June. When he, his wife Marian and their two sons first arrived they did so with an agenda of change in mind.

They did not disappoint. It became most evident in the fabric of the building with a new carpet, conversion of the old tower room into a kitchen and adjacent toilets and the building of the Trinity Room in part of the north aisle.

The worm-eaten north and south aisle pews were removed in favour of chairs. The renovations will continue as the church lives through a period of interregnum before the appointment of a new incumbent in late January 2015.

As if we didn’t have enough supermarkets in and around us, another one is due to appear next year. Aldi received planning permission to build on the former Peugeot garage site at the town end of Norwich Road. I didn’t particularly welcome the prospect – but I know Aldi’s reputation goes before it and the vast majority will applaud yet more shopping options. The Get Active programme in August persuaded hundreds of us to improve both mind and body with something for everyone.

It was a huge fillip for the organisers – and Fakenham – to be crowned both Village of the Year and Winner of Winners at the Active Norfolk Sports Awards night at The Forum in Norwich.

There was more but space is running out – a new skate ramp welcomed by enthusiastic youngsters on Millennium Park, familiar shops closing and newcomers living out their dreams, the loss of the fireworks display out at the racecourse and one of the most poignant Remembrance Sunday services around our war memorial I can remember. 2015 is almost upon us. A Happy New Year to you all.