Wensum, April 18, 2017

Fire at the Original Factory Shop premises in Upper Market Fakenham
Fire at the Original Factory Shop premises in Upper Market Fakenham
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The devastating aftermath of the fire in 2014 which left the Original Factory Shop premises in Fakenham gutted.

I could see and smell the smoke from our house less than half-a-mile away and my wife was part of the exodus from the parish church when the alarm was raised during the service on that Sunday morning.

The blaze and its aftermath became the main talking point amongst residents for a long time, especially when it was realised that nothing of the old building could be saved.

A substantial gap providing a fine view of the church tower became a daily reminder of what had happened and it was an age before plans were finally approved for the rebuild.

When the hard-hat brigade finally moved on to the site we all anticipated rapid development and there were optimistic noises about the new structure rising from the ashes of the old.

But here we are a year later and it’s hard to see quite what has been achieved.

Delays have been put down to the discovery of a basement area along with the need to consult with neighbouring owners, planners and conservation officials. Looking down from the neighbouring church garden I can see that a lot of concrete has contributed to the footings and much seems prepared now for building upwards.

Mention has been made of completing the project by the end of 2017 although this might be rather optimistic. The previous incumbents of the premises, the Original Factory Shop, have been trading with some success out on the Industrial Estate in the meantime. But by now they must be itching to get back into the heart of town again.

n Ever since being savaged by a dog whilst on a dustbin round as a student I’ve had a precarious relationship with our four-legged friends.

This was hardly improved after we moved here when I was once bitten on the leg when delivering the parish magazine.

The problem for me is not so much with the dogs but their owners.

So far as the cleaning up process is concerned, things have definitely improved but there’s no room for complacency.

As a regular walker in these parts I’m only too aware of the unhygienic realities.

Our district council is responsible for overseeing no-go areas for dogs and has recently upset pet owners with its extended restrictions.

So far as Fakenham is concerned it seems entirely reasonable that dogs should be banned from the play area on Hayes Lane, St Peter’s Garden adjacent to the parish church and the Trap Lane playing field.

The latter hosts cricket matches in the summer. Exclusion from the Goggs Mill picnic area may be a debatable case but the constant presence of wildlife in the shape of ducks, geese and cockerels by this riverside spot seems justification.

This has always been controversial territory and I’ve no doubt that the new measures will arouse more than their share of debate.

When my late friend Arthur Boyce was no longer able to get down to the betting shop each day I did

my best to ensure that his small daily gamble on the horses was continued. He became confined to

bed for a couple of years prior to his death so in addition I would visit to make him a snack and chat

for a while. Our shared love of jump racing was generally the main topic of conversation. You might

not be surprised, therefore, that it was easy for me to select my horse for this year’s Grand National.

It just had to be One For Arthur and win it did.