Wensum, by Jim Harding, January 19, 2016

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WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Our flooded river.

There were reasons, of course. Firstly, the agenda included the co-option of two new members to fill the vacancies left by the resignations last December of Jayne and David Cubitt.

I’m happy to report the arrival of Tim Wilkes and Gary Thorpe to the ranks, bringing the council back up to its full complement of sixteen. As many of you will know, Tim is a long-serving teacher at Fakenham Academy and College. Apart from teaching, one of his roles has been to engage students with the town’s major employers so he very much has his ear to the ground on this territory. His breadth of experience seems bound to be an asset. The same can be said for Gary who has lived here all his life and has seen his children right the way through the local school system. Employed by the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service for over thirty years, the last ten as officer in charge at the Fakenham station, his heart is very much with the local community. None of us living here will forget the commitment of the brigade when the devastating fire destroyed the former Aldiss building 18 months ago. So for my money, two excellent additions.

The main focus of controversy on the night proved to be the district council’s decision to put a height barrier across the entrance to the Highfield Road car park. Resident of Church Lanes, John Cushion, wanted reassurance that he could continue to park his car there as there was really no alternative. Since the height limit will be three metres, at least this was quickly resolved. Not so the council’s fury at being ignored when it came to consultation. With all four district councillors present, there were angry exchanges with John Rest receiving the brunt. From what was said I cannot believe that this is the end of the saga. On a much less contentious note, another member of the public called for a cull of the cockerels at Goggs Mill. I walk out to this pretty spot quite often and the presence of wandering cockerels and hens, most of them seemingly left there by former owners, is a charming spectacle. But their numbers do need controlling and the council was quick to agree that the time was overdue for another cull. You never know what might turn up at council meetings...

In this topsy-turvey winter it was a pleasure to wrap up warm the other morning and venture out into the frost. There was even ice on the puddles. Because it had rained heavily in the run-up I was wearing wellies for my river walk in the expectation of high water. I was not to be disappointed. The trek out to Heath Lane was muddy but passable and I sort of knew what to expect as I headed down to the Wensum from there. It was a paddle to get across the little footbridge but I was in wading territory from then on. Turning right with the three brick arches bridge visible in the distance, the water was a foot deep and half way up my wellies. I pressed on slowly, holding on to the fence but it only got worse. Our normally quiet little stream was in full spate, spilling way over its banks and emptying into the neighbouring flood plain. Common sense prevailed and I headed back the way I’d come. It was the nearest thing I’ll ever get to a ‘walk on the wild side’ so close to home.