Wensum, by Jim Harding, August 2, 2016

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The reopening of The Crown Hotel signals another chapter in the revival of our town from a series of setbacks over the past six years or so.

This lovely old coaching inn has played a significant role in Fakenham’s history and there was genuine enthusiasm on display when its function as a favourite watering hole was finally restored to life on the market square.

New landlord James Antcliff-Stone beamed with pleasure in front of an eager crowd as his mum Andrea cut the ribbon and mayor Adrian Vertigan spoke with pride as the doors were opened.

They had been shut since 2009 and the neglected building somehow symbolised the general malaise which started to hit us from all quarters at that time.

The mayor described The Crown as one of the lifebloods of Fakenham, linking its restoration with the building work going on just across the square to replace the former Aldiss store which burnt down in May 2014.

That project should be completed by this time next year, enhancing the general sense of optimism which now surrounds the place. Like many others,

I was keen to see inside The Crown and join James for a welcoming drink. The main bar area, completely redecorated, continues to be divided into two sections.

About my only worry on this score was the open doorway connecting them which, despite the ‘Mind Your Head’ notices, might just prove a bit of an obstacle for anyone approaching six foot in height.

The general downstairs layout has been largely unaltered and it could well be that the empty function space at the far end will revert to its former role as a dining room.

As someone who remembers this venue with affection from thirty odd years ago, I was pleased to see that its revival still conforms to what I’d describe as the features of a ‘traditional old pub’. This is clearly what the new landlord is seeking to promote and for his sake and the good of the town I really hope he’s successful.

Watching men at work can be a mesmerising experience. For the best part of a week, I’ve had a close-up view of the ‘carriageway resurfacing’ works which have closed off more than a quarter mile section of Norwich Road.

It’s been an amazing eye-opener. Massive trucks and tractors and steam rollers have been trundling up and down for hours and those of us living adjacent to it all have had to adjust our travel arrangements to conform with all the diversion notices.

The first task to tackle in this £124,000 project was to remove the top layer of the existing road with the help of a behemoth nicknamed ‘The Doctor’.

This giant moved forward at less than walking pace, devouring the old surface one section at a time. It somehow managed to chew up the tarmac rubble inside before shooting it out ahead into the back of a lorry moving in tandem. This process went on for some three days.

There was a bit of a hitch on the second day with a burst water main bubbling to the surface just close to the fire station. Anglian Water dealt with that one.

Proceeding from its starting point at the junction with the Aldi supermarket, the cleared road was given its first layering of tarmac before getting the roller treatment.

By the third day this process had reached past the entrance to the Infant school. On and off we had to negotiate with the men in hard hats and yellow jackets regarding exits and entrances and I have to report their ready cooperation.

Even before completion, our end of Norwich Road already looks better than ever. Hats off to the boys from the black stuff.