Wensum, by Jim Harding, March 29, 2016

Lambs at Snettisham Park. ANL-140226-145035001
Lambs at Snettisham Park. ANL-140226-145035001
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ANIMAL MAGIC: Lambing time at Snettisham Park.

Whilst I still think the description applies, the commercial makeup of our townscape has radically altered.

I did a brief recce a few days back and even surprised myself with the results. Concentrating more or less on the shops and small businesses radiating from the market square I encountered no less than six devoted to charities with a seventh having closed recently, eight to hair care, three to antiques, nine to coffee and snacks with Honey’s on Millers Walk also recently shut, nine takeaways, seven estate agents and six primarily ladies fashions. Gone are the days when family-run butchers and greengrocers provided us with a number of options – one apiece still survive - but on the upside we can continue to delight in being spoilt for choice on market days. Without being too dramatic about it, which of us does not rely heavily on one supermarket or another these days for major weekly shops. This community and its environs – not to mention visitors passing through – now luxuriate in a Morrisons, a Tesco, a Lidl and an Aldi, the latter having just arrived on the scene last October on Norwich Road. With some of these including lots of household and clothing items along with the customary fare, the impact on the ‘small shop’ in town trying to make a go of it is unenviable. Opening hours also favour the big stores. As someone who doesn’t do coffee engagements of any kind I’ve been indifferent to the arrival of the new Costa on Bridge Street although it certainly seems to be attracting a steady clientele. Could its success have partly done for Honey’s just across the road? Maybe. The economic weight of all these big-name groups must give them a head start wherever they land. I take some encouragement from the fact that there are few empty premises in town at the moment. This is always a positive sign. Small shops in which personal service and experience count for much have always been the lifeblood of towns like Fakenham. We still boast plenty of them. So whilst our shopping habits may have been transformed by the supermarket regime whose influence runs nationwide, we must continue to patronise and cherish what is unique and individual and maybe even a little bit quirky on the local front. Vive la difference!

I have reason to be grateful to Snettisham Park – formerly Park Farm – which provided Saturday morning work for our middle son when his teenagerdom was going through a difficult stage. Admittedly it was quite a hike to get out there and back but the proximity of the coast was some compensation. Plus the fact that Trevor’s collection of animals and birds and the attention they required was just what the doctor ordered for the boy. He loved it and clearly relished the challenge, going on later to win prizes in local poultry shows. Fast forward to 2016 and a surprise renewal with the park during this lambing season. My wife knows a lot about lambs and has helped quite a few into the world on the mid-Wales farm we frequently visit. Out of the blue really she paid a visit to Snettisham and learnt that her services would be invaluable to help with bottle feeding the so-called ‘orphan’ lambs and also support the young children on official visits as they too held bottles for some of the woollies to suck. This she has embraced with enthusiasm. I’m not sure how long ‘the season’ lasts but it clearly has some weeks still to go. And over this busy Easter holiday period at Snettisham Park, someone else renewing acquaintance with the place will be our son, snatching a few days leave away from his Royal Navy base in Plymouth.